Prince Harry turns 35 today, but everyone's favourite royal rebel is at a crossroads. He has two choices, and one will change the monarchy forever.

The year Diana, Princess of Wales, turned 35 was momentous. It was 1996 and in August, she and husband Prince Charles finalised their divorce.

It was a sad bookend to a 15-year marriage scarred by acrimony, infidelity and a fair amount of misery all round.

Yet, it also marked the beginning of a thrilling new chapter in Diana's life: Released from the clutches and strictures of official royal life, the People's Princess set about carving out a thrilling role for herself as a global humanitarian.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, has just turned 35. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, has just turned 35. Photo / Getty Images

There is a spooky similarity now playing out with her son Prince Harry.

On September 15, he turns 35 and his life curiously mirrors his mother's at the same juncture.

After a decade and a half of being the cheeky playboy Prince, the booze-guzzling brave soldier and later, the charming third wheel to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, he has emerged as the most wonderfully surprising man.

At Harry's age, newly divorced Diana was rebranding herself outside of the monarchy. Photo / News Corp Australia
At Harry's age, newly divorced Diana was rebranding herself outside of the monarchy. Photo / News Corp Australia

With the launch of the Invictus Games, Harry proved he had the vision and the gumption to do big and bold things. Then, with his marriage to Meghan Markle last year, he confounded expectations with his choice of a smart, talented and wonderfully ambitious partner rather than some blonde British preschool teacher with a vast collection of fascinators.

While Harry has faced more than his fair share of bad press over the years — the Nazi costume, attacking the paparazzi outside nightclubs, getting sloshed and naked in Vegas — it was all largely written off as youthful misdemeanours.

However, this year he has faced an unprecedented onslaught of negative publicity and the birth of his son Archie aside, 2019 might go down as Harry's own personal annus horribilis.

Harry, like Diana, at 35 is on the precipice of a new chapter. Both Harry and Diana seemingly shed their old selves in front of our eyes, the key difference being the Princess did so to rapturous applause.

Harry has been staging a quiet revolution but the looming question is, will he continue to lean into his rebel tendencies or at some stage, will he toe the party line?


There was the brouhaha over $4.3 million of taxpayers' money being spent to renovate Frogmore Cottage; the ham-fisted way Archie's birth was announced; the seemingly petulant announcement they would not be revealing the names of the godparents; and the decision to bar the media from filming the royal family entering the chapel for the christening. (The actual ceremony is always private.)

This year, the Duke of Sussex copped a bashing from the press, who've only ever sung his praises. Photo / Getty Images
This year, the Duke of Sussex copped a bashing from the press, who've only ever sung his praises. Photo / Getty Images

And, have I mentioned the private jet situation? All that gallivanting about to enjoy ultra-expensive getaways via the 'PJ' really didn't bolster his image as an eco-conscious activist.

That's before we have even gotten to Harry's reported ongoing feud with big brother Wills which has been bubbling away, with the two couples' splitting their charity endeavours in what was widely seen as reflecting the depth of the relationship breakdown.

(Or his assurance that he and Meghan would only have two children reading as totally tone-deaf and kind of rude, considering Wills has three kids.)

Lastly, there was the tsunami of flak Meghan has received in her first 12 months as a member of The Firm for missteps that ranged from her wildly expensive New York baby shower to her decision to enjoy a "private" jaunt to Wimbledon where dozens of seats surrounding her were left empty.

Add in her decision not to appear on the cover of Vogue because she reportedly thought it would be "boastful" and you have all the ingredients for a whopping PR mess.

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We are proud to announce that Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Sussex is the Guest Editor for the September issue of @BritishVogue. For the past seven months, The Duchess has curated the content with British Vogue's Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful to create an issue that highlights the power of the collective. They have named the issue: “Forces for Change” For the cover, The Duchess chose a diverse selection of women from all walks of life, each driving impact and raising the bar for equality, kindness, justice and open mindedness. The sixteenth space on the cover, a mirror, was included so that when you hold the issue in your hands, you see yourself as part of this collective. The women on the cover include: @AdwoaAboah @AdutAkech @SomaliBoxer @JacindaArdern @TheSineadBurke @Gemma_Chan @LaverneCox @JaneFonda @SalmaHayek @FrankieGoesToHayward @JameelaJamilOfficial @Chimamanda_Adichie @YaraShahidi @GretaThunberg @CTurlington We are excited to announce that within the issue you’ll find: an exclusive interview between The Duchess and former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, a candid conversation between The Duke of Sussex and Dr Jane Goodall, inspirational articles written by Brené Brown, Jameela Jamil and many others. Equally, you’ll find grassroots organisations and incredible trailblazers working tirelessly behind the scenes to change the world for the better. • “Guest Editing the September issue of British Vogue has been rewarding, educational and inspiring. To deep dive into this process, working quietly behind the scenes for so many months, I am happy to now be able to share what we have created. A huge thanks to all of the friends who supported me in this endeavour, lending their time and energy to help within these pages and on the cover. Thank you for saying “Yes!” - and to Edward, thank you for this wonderful opportunity.” - The Duchess of Sussex #ForcesForChange

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As he hits the big 3-5 Harry faces something of an existential crisis — what does the next phase of his royal life look like? Will he repair and rebuild the relationships with his family and the press, which have taken a battering? Will he (and Meghan) pull even further away from royal standard operating procedure by, say, spending more time overseas?

Perhaps the biggest unknown is whether the British public tacitly approves.

Harry is still the second most liked member of the royal family after the Queen, who only pips him by one measly percentage point. Of the Britons polled by YouGov during June and July, 71 per cent had a positive opinion of Harry, compared to Prince William on 69 per cent and Kate on 64 per cent.

Diana understood that public appeal gave her enormous latitude to stray from the traditional royal path — maybe that's one lesson she has passed on to Harry.