Prince Harry Was a ‘Reluctant Royal’ in the Past: Why Didn’t He Leave the Royal Family Before Now?

With Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s recent decision to exit the royal family now a done deal, it’s interesting to look back at some of the signs that Prince Harry might not have always wanted his royal life. He was once referred to as a “reluctant royal” and it’s clear now that he might have had the idea to quit for some time.

Prince Harry attends a Terrence Higgins Trust event ahead of National HIV Testing Week
Prince Harry | Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

Prince Harry considered leaving his royal life in the past

The decision to exit was the right call for the Sussexes, but the thought to leave the royal family wasn’t a new one for Prince Harry. In part, Harry rebelled against his royal status with his party boy lifestyle in the past.

In speaking with journalist Angela Levin, the Daily Mail recounted in 2017, Prince Harry explained: “I spent many years kicking my heels and I didn’t want to grow up.”

Prince Harry admitted that during those years of “total chaos” he was “very close” to a breakdown and seriously considered his role, noting, “no one in the royal family wants to be King or Queen.”

“I felt I wanted out but then decided to stay in and work out a role for myself,” Prince Harry added.

Prince Harry ‘was a reluctant royal’, according to biographer

Those moments when Prince Harry questioned his role in the family had some experts worried that he would at some point want to call it quits on his royal duties.

In the 2018 documentary Meghan Markle: American Princess, royal biographer Penny Junor shared that “Harry was a reluctant royal,” adding, “I think there was a real danger at one time that Harry might turn his back on his royal life and his royal responsibilities and go and live somewhere quietly.”

CBS This Morning’s Gayle King noted in the documentary that he decided not to leave his duties for the queen. “She, like the rest of us, forgave him,” King shared. He sorted out his role and purpose and that kept Prince Harry on board for quite some time, but when he met and married Meghan, the couple found the intense media scrutiny became a challenge they weren’t willing to endure.

Harry hoped for a more normal life

Daily Mail’s Rebecca English also shared her insight into Prince Harry’s history, noting, “Harry has never worn the mantle of royalty easily. He’s always just wanted to be one of the boys (albeit just one with deeper pockets and more houses than most).”

“Several times during our travels around the world… he has spoken to me about how he would just like to walk away from it all,” English noted.

She wrote: “Until he settled down with Meghan, his biggest wish was to go off and live in Africa. ‘I would love to just go and work as a tour guide, you know? Just go off into the bush and be me,’ he would say.”

“It was clear that his idea of ‘just wanting to be normal’ wasn’t anywhere near the same normality the rest of us experience. It was wanting to live his very privileged life without the irritation of public and, particularly, press scrutiny,” she added.