Prince Harry: royal misfit now taking on 'The Firm'
Prince Harry (AFP)

Scarred by the death of his mother, Prince Harry has struggled in the royal limelight for much of his life, and his fears for wife Meghan have now put him at loggerheads with his family.

The younger son of the heir to the throne Prince Charles and the late Diana, princess of Wales, Harry, now 36, earned a reputation as a young playboy desperate to escape the royal straightjacket.

Having left his wild-child ways behind him, the prince appeared to have found his place in the family with Meghan and son Archie.

But it proved to be a temporary respite from the forces that he still blames for Diana's death.

Harry and Meghan last year made the bombshell announcement they were giving up front-line royal duties, despairing after repeated battles with the intrusive British media and fallouts behind the palace walls.

The couple relocated to Meghan's native California after a stay in Canada, and now rub shoulders with Hollywood A-Listers in leafy Santa Barbara.

They have scored lucrative commercial deals with Spotify and Netflix and recently announced they are expecting their second child.

But a year on from the split, the relationship with his family has soured even further with senior royals angry about a "tell-all" interview the couple gave to US chat show icon Oprah Winfrey.

In a preview clip, Meghan told Winfrey "there is an active role that 'The Firm' is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us," in reference to the royal family's inner circle.

The palace stripped Harry of all of his honorary titles and has launched a probe into allegations that Meghan bullied royal staff.

- Close to 'complete breakdown' -

Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales was born on September 15, 1984, the "spare" to his brother William, who is one day set to inherit the throne.

Both educated at the elite Eton school, their childhood was dominated by the messy breakdown of their parents' marriage and Diana's tragic death in 1997.

The young princes walking behind her coffin -- Harry only 12, his brother 15 -- was one of the most enduring images of Diana's funeral.

"Losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well," Harry said.

He caused outrage in 2005 when photographs of him in a Nazi Afrika Korps fancy dress outfit made front-page news.

That was the year he entered the army, a move he later admitted "was the best escape I've ever had" from the constant public attention.

After tours of Afghanistan, he left the armed forces in 2015 and began to focus on royal duties, rebuilding his reputation through charity work with wounded veterans and advocacy for mental health, an issue close to his heart.

Harry has said that Diana is always in his thoughts, and he has championed many of her charitable causes, including taking an HIV test to raise awareness.

But he has revealed that for a long time he struggled to cope with his mother's death in a Paris car crash, and sought professional help a few years ago.

In a remarkably candid interview, the prince once admitted he came "very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions".

- Media war -

A happier chapter in his life began in July 2016, when he met Meghan Markle, a mixed-race US television actress, on a blind date set up by a mutual friend.

Both were quickly lovestruck and bonded over their mutual interest in good causes, including his Invictus Games, a sports championships for wounded military personnel.

Harry and Meghan married at Saint George's Chapel in Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018, raising hopes of a more modern, diverse chapter in the royal story.

But they were increasingly on the receiving end of negative headlines alleging demanding behaviour from Meghan and a rift with William that he later did not deny.

Meghan recently won a huge victory over the media, successfully suing The Mail on Sunday for invasion of privacy over the publication of a letter from her to her estranged father.

It was the latest chapter in Harry's war with the tabloid press, which he has accused of peddling falsehoods and even racism against his wife.

Asked if Meghan was facing the same media pressures as Diana, Harry replied: "I have a family to protect.

"I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum."

© 2021 AFP