7 Things You Didn’t Know About Prince Harry’s Career Before Meghan Markle

Before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, the younger son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana had a long career in the British military. That career even took him to Afghanistan with the British Army.

If you’re curious about how Prince Harry rose up the ranks in the military before his marriage to Meghan Markle, read on to check out some lesser-known facts about the Duke of Sussex’s career.

1. Prince Harry began military training in 2005

Britain's Prince Harry, salutes after laying a cross of remembrance in memory of his friend Lance Corporal

He served in the army for a total of 10 years. | Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Prince Harry served in the British Army for 10 years. He rose to the rank of Captain. And during his time in the Army, he went on two tours to Afghanistan. Harry passed his Regular Commissions Board, the qualification necessary to train at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, in 2004. Then, he entered the academy in 2005. There, he began training as an Officer Cadet. He undertook a 44-week training course. And then in 2006, the royal family announced that Prince Harry would join the Blues and Royals. He was commissioned as an Army officer in April 2006.

2. His status as a royal posed some security challenges for the army

Biography reports that when Prince Harry began training for possible war zone deployment, his status as a royal posed “certain security challenges to the army.” The military debated whether he should be allowed to serve in a combat situation at all. (The press joined in with speculation, too.) Esquire reports that in 2006, the military announced that Harry’s unit would go to Iraq. The head of the British army agreed that Harry could go. But the military reversed the decision. Officials feared that Harry’s celebrity could put others at risk. Those fears proved valid, when it came to light that Osama bin Laden had taken an interest in the prince’s potential presence in Iraq.

3. Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan remained a secret

Esquire reports that for Harry’s next attempt at deployment remained a secret. In February 2008, Prince Harry began a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He served there for two months. His deployment remained a secret for 10 weeks, thanks to the cooperation of the British media. But an Australian magazine eventually broke the news. Harry’s role involved coordinating air strikes from the ground. And he also had duties like firing machine guns at Taliban soldiers. But not everything went smoothly. In 2009, Harry had to go through racial sensitivity training after using a derogatory term to refer to a Pakistani soldier.

4. Prince Harry trained as a helicopter pilot

Prince Harry makes early morning checks as he sits on an Apache helicopter at the British controlled flight-line at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan

Prince Harry makes his early morning pre-flight checks on the flight-line, at Camp Bastion southern Afghanistan. | John Stillwell/ WPA Pool/ Getty Images

From 2009 to 2012, Prince Harry trained as a helicopter pilot, according to Biography. He learned to pilot an Apache helicopter for the Army Air Corps. And he put those skills to use during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. That tour began in September 2012. Harry participated in several combat missions. Esquire reports that Prince Harry’s career in the military “was as much a way of serving his country as it was an escape from the public eye.”  Harry himself said at the end of a four-month combat tour in 2013, “You can only fit a certain amount of people in a helicopter, therefore no one can follow us.” By “no one,” the prince undoubtedly meant, “no press.”

5. Military service isn’t required for members of the royal family

Contrary to common assumptions, members of the British royal family don’t have to take part in military service. But as Esquire reports, the ability to step out of the spotlight by serving in the military holds a “strong appeal” for young royals like Prince Harry. Even Harry has commented on that aspect of his military career. The prince once said, “it’s very easy to forget about who I am when I am in the army. Everyone’s wearing the same uniform and doing the same kind of thing. I get on well with the lads and I enjoy my job. It really is as simple as that.”

6. Prince Harry’s career in the military attracted a lot of attention in the press

He might have preferred to step out of the spotlight. But Prince Harry’s career in the military “was subjected to as much attention, if not more, than his recreational exploits,” according to Esquire. The nature of the war in Afghanistan only increased people’s interest in keeping tabs on Harry. In 2015, the young royal ended his official military duties. But as Esquire reports, Prince Harry’s career in the military changed him. And he would continue volunteering to assist wounded service members.

7. He met Meghan Markle around the time of the 2016 Invictus Games

Prince Harry whispers in Meghan Markle's ear

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle | Ben Birchall – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle met in 2016 when he was in Toronto for the Invictus Games. (They met on a date set up by a mutual friend.) Harry created the Invictus Games, a Paralympic-style event for injured service members, after he returned home from Afghanistan. Town and Country reports that Harry got the idea from the Warrior Games, a competition for wounded service members organized by the U.S. Department of Defense. Prince Harry organized the first Invictus Games in 2014. Since then, he has attended every Invictus Games. And now, Meghan Markle goes with him.

Read more: This Is What the Royal Family Actually Does Every Day

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