What Prince Harry's Life Was Like Before Meeting Meghan Markle

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's story has the makings of a modern fairytale — the Dame in shiny armor breaks into the palace walls to rescue the trapped prince, and they ride off into the sunset. A royal watcher would be quick to point out that theirs wasn't as simple and dreamy as we made it sound. There's a lot that has gone down since Harry and Markle wed, but here we'll adjust our focus on the "why" part of the trapped prince setting.

Harry has never been your typical British royal. Popularity came in a package deal with royalty, but blue blood didn't guarantee good press. In fact, It was quite the opposite in Harry's case. As a young bachelor, he frequently found himself at the center of scandals since he was constantly hounded by the media. He partied hard, making it to the front pages of newspapers for everything from wearing a Nazi uniform on Halloween to having that infamous wild time in Vegas. That is not to say he was merely a wild prince. The royal served in the military and upon the completion of his tenure, he founded Invictus Games to support the injured servicemen.

The Haz we know today is a lot different than the pre-wedding rebellious prince. Let's take a look at what his life was like before he met Markle. You may find that it's hardly a surprise that the "spare" decided to board that freedom flight.

Prince Harry romanced a bunch of famous ladies

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle hit it off after a friend set them up for a blind date. Well, that's what they initially told BBC, but in their Netflix docuseries "Harry & Meghan," Harry revealed the full story and said that he was first interested in Markle when he saw her posing with their mutual friend on Instagram. The rest, as they say, is history that everyone and their mother knows by now.

Harry had been in a series of relationships with notable women before Markle caught his eye. His longest relationship was with businesswoman Chelsy Davy. They publicly dated on and off from 2004 to 2011, per Daily Mail. Before her, Harry was rumored to be dating TV presenter Natalie Pinkham in 2002, as reported by The Telegraph. After his breakup with Davy, the royal was rumored to have dated Norwegian singer Camilla Romestrand for a while (via CBS).

"The Saturdays" singer Mollie King also confirmed that she briefly dated Harry in 2012, per the London Evening Standard. The same year, he reportedly started dating actor Cressida Bonas, per Marie Claire. They broke things off in 2014, and Bonas shared her experience of dating the prince in a BBC podcast.

Harry has also been linked with singer Ellie Goulding, model Florence Brudenell-Bruce, and Princess Beatrice's pal Astrid Harbord, per The Daily Mail.

He lived in Kensington Palace

After leaving their royal life in the U.K. behind, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle moved into their stunning Montecito home in Santa Barbara. While it is no palace, the $15 million mansion is fit for royalty. The Sun reported that the value of the sprawling property nearly doubled within the two years of their moving there. The oceanside home comes with nine bedrooms and 19 bathrooms, a cozy movie hall, a spa, a wine cellar, a game room, and a guesthouse.

However, long before he relocated to the United States, Harry was already accustomed to taking up residence in sizable mansions. Of course, as the second son of Diana and Charles, Harry spent many of his formative years at Kensington Palace (via Hello! Magazine). In 2003, the adult royal moved into Clarence House (via House & Garden), and it was nearly a decade before he relocated back to a one-bedroom apartment at Kensington Palace (via CBS News).

He moved into Nottingham Cottage within Kensington Palace after the Duke and the Duchess of Cornwall moved, Hello! Magazine reported. The property boasted two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and reception rooms. After Harry married Markle, they lived there for a brief time and moved to Frogmore Cottage prior to their first son Archie's birth, Express.co.uk reported.

He served in the military

The extravagant life of a royal is glamorized by many, but Prince Harry loved nothing more than when he got to live like everybody else when he was in the army. The royal admitted in Oprah Winfrey's mental health docuseries "The Me You Can't See" that he was the happiest when he served in the army for 10 years (via Parade).

He was a part of the military, sure, but that didn't mean he was no longer a prince, and his father King Charles would often remind him of that. "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," he once told The Guardian. During his time serving the British Armed Forces, Harry was the commander of a sophisticated attack helicopter and its operational tours.

After he left the army, Harry released a statement saying he would always be grateful for the experiences he had during his service. According to Sir Nicholas Carter, a senior British Army officer, Harry wanted to be treated like everyone else and provided selfless service.

His life wasn't as private as he'd like

After the release of their Netflix docuseries "Harry and Meghan," viewers have expressed all sorts of opinions about it. One of the things that have been the subject of heated discussion, and even confusion, among many, is whether the couple stepped back from being senior working royals due to a sincere and urgent need for privacy and protection. If getting away from the media is what they truly wanted, why use it as a medium to generate income now? "They spend endless minutes complaining about privacy. [Then] release a documentary on the biggest streaming platform in the world to remind people they're still around," a netizen commented in part after Netflix released the official trailer for the docuseries on Instagram.

As it turns out, the couple's departure from the royal family was never actually about privacy, at least according to what their press secretary Ashley Hansen told the New York Times. Harry and Markle previously filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit against U.K. tabloids, per Page Six.

Having grown up in the public eye, Harry has always resented the British tabloids. "If there's a story and something's been written about me, I want to know what's being said. But all it does is just upset me and anger me that people can get away with writing the stuff they do," he told The Guardian in 2013.

He received much of his annual income from his father

As a bachelor, Prince Harry used to receive most of his money from his father King Charles. According to Insider, the royal split roughly $5 million with the Prince and Princess of Wales between 2016 and 2017. Harry's mother Princess Diana left behind a $10 million fortune for him and Prince William, and they both received the full sum when they turned 30, according to a report by Forbes

While in the army, Harry reportedly earned between $50,000 to $53,000 annually. Senior working members of the royal family are not allowed to work regular jobs, per TLC. However, Harry once worked on a ranch in Australia during his gap year after graduation.

Since Harry and Markle stepped down from the royal family, they are free to work on the projects they are passionate about. The royal family no longer provides for them, per BBC's report. After leaving the palace behind, the couple has secured multiple lucrative media deals including a reported $25 million deal with Spotify and a nearly $100 million deal with streaming giant Netflix, per the New York Times.

He had a close bond with Prince William

The rumored rift between Prince Harry and Prince William was predicted to grow wider after the release of Harry and his wife Meghan Markle's Netflix docuseries "Harry and Meghan." Although the brothers seem to have grown apart since Harry's 2018 wedding, things weren't as bad in the past. In his 2019 ITV documentary "Harry and Meghan: An African Journey," Harry revealed that he didn't see his brother as much as he used to, adding, "But I love him dearly and a majority of the stuff is created out of nothing. As brothers, you have good days, you have bad days" (via ITV News).

In the same documentary, Harry said that although they are not on the same path, their brotherly bond will always be the same. Come March 2021, Harry and Markle's infamous Oprah Winfrey interview dropped during which the royal revealed that his relationship with William was still going through a rough patch. In light of the bombshell interview, a reporter asked William if he had spoken to his brother to which he replied that he would.

Fast forward to December 2022, royal expert Christopher Andersen told Us Weekly that William was "angry" at his brother, saying, "I mean, he tries to hide it, but it doesn't work." Who knew the royal family's affairs could be equally, if not more, interesting than the drama that unfolds within the Kardashian household?

His relationship with King Charles was healthier

When King Charles walked Meghan Markle down the aisle in 2018, royal watchers applauded him for stepping in to fill the void left by the absence of her biological father during the ceremony. Prince Harry himself had asked his father to do so, and the king was happy to oblige. Up until that point, their relationship seemed as healthy as could be. 

Harry spoke fondly of his father in the BBC documentary "Prince, Son and Heir: Charles," telling producers that he was thrilled that his father was able to step in during a time of need. "For him, that's a fantastic opportunity to step up and be that support," Harry said (via People). "He's our father so of course, he's gonna be there for us." Sadly, their relationship would dramatically change after Harry and his wife decided to resign from royal duties in 2020.

During his revealing interview with Oprah Winfrey, Harry revealed that his father wouldn't take his calls after he and Markle made their infamous royal exit (via Insider). Although the father and son duo have remained close, it seems safe to note that Harry and Megan's decision to leave the royal family was an inflection point in their relationship.

He partied heavily and experimented with drugs

In 2002, The Guardian reported that Prince Harry had to be taken to Featherstone Lodge, a rehabilitation center, in south London. The reason? The royal, then a minor, had been reportedly experimenting with substances including alcohol and cannabis. The news fizzled out with the palace not making an official comment on the matter (obvs).

After 19 years of silence, Harry finally opened up about his excessive use of alcohol and cannabis during his interview with Oprah Winfrey as a part of her Apple TV+ docuseries about mental health (via CNN). According to the royal, he was so disturbed by the circumstances that led to the untimely death of his mother that he resorted to numbing himself out with intoxicants.

"I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs. I would probably drink a week's worth in one day on a Friday or a Saturday night. I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling," he said, referring to his heavy alcohol use during this time in his life. According to Marie Claire, royal author Valentine Low suggested in his book "Courtiers" that the "wild" side of Harry died when he met his wife.

He silently dealt with unresolved grief

Prince Harry has always been open about the struggles that resulted from the unresolved trauma related to the death of his mother, Princess Diana. He struggled with panic attacks and anxiety issues throughout his adult life. "28 to probably 32 was a nightmare time in my life," he told Oprah Winfrey while discussing his mental health issues (via TODAY). He sought professional help to deal with the baggage of his troubled past afte a conversation with his wife Meghan Markle.

After losing his mother as a child, the royal didn't allow himself to feel his emotions. His brother Prince William tried to convince him to seek therapy, but he didn't take his advice for the longest time. When he finally sought help, Harry told The Telegraph that he started to feel better, saying, "And then [I] started to have a few conversations, and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the forefront, and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with."

Prince Harry was unsure about his future as a royal

Meghan Markle has borne the brunt of the negativity that ensued after she and Prince Harry jetted off to a different continent to carve out a new life for themselves and gain financial independence, but to say that Harry wanted out before she came along is not an unfounded opinion.

The prince has said in the past that the sudden death of his mother left him wondering how he will ever be able to have a family of his own because he was afraid that history would repeat itself. All he wanted to do was leave it all behind. During his appearance on Dax Shepard's "Armchair Expert" podcast, Harry said therapy made him recognize his privileges and ultimately led him to change his mindset. He decided that he would make the best out of the hand he was dealt because he knew that he couldn't just up and leave the palace.

It wasn't like his future as a royal was predestined like Prince William's. Their lives are vastly different because of where they fall in the line of succession. Their former advisor Sir David Manning once said, "He can be very much a central part of the royal family, a great inspiration to his generation and others, or he could just ride off into the sunset and do whatever he wants, whereas that isn't really an option for William" (via E! News).

And ride off into the sunset he did.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).