Within a fortnight of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announcing that they would be "stepping back" as senior royals, it was agreed that the couple would, in fact, be stepping down from royal life entirely. For Prince Harry, it seems that things have not gone entirely to plan again.
Speaking on Sunday night for the first time since negotiations with the Queen and Prince Charles were finalised at Sandringham, he elaborated on what he had wanted from the "progressive" arrangement envisioned by him and his wife, one that would have left them "half-in, half-out" of the royal show, representing the Queen but free to live abroad and to pursue commercial interests. "We were excited, we were hopeful, we were here to serve," he said. "For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this."
"This" meant the couple being removed from all royal duties, Prince Harry – a former Army captain who has undertaken two tours of Afghanistan – being stripped of his military appointments and paying a market rent on Frogmore Cottage, their Grade II-listed home in Windsor, once they've repaid the £2.4 million cost of its refurbishment.
The Sussexes' plan may have looked good on paper – but it was something that Her Majesty could never countenance. If you take public funding and use the HRH title, you don't go round touting for private work – as the Duke so clearly did last summer, at the premiere of The Lion King, when he publicly lobbied the head of Disney for film voiceovers for his wife during a red carpet meet-and-greet.
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While the couple have ended up with the private arrangement that the Duchess of Sussex clearly craved – life in North America, earning a living as A-list professionals and free to take ambassadorial roles in support of charitable causes of their choice – it is unlikely to be the sort of privacy that the Duke himself has longed for for decades, ever since his late mother was pursued – to her death, Harry thinks – by the press.
The Duke must have been delighted that not a single photograph of the Sussexes was taken by the paparazzi while they were on their six-week break in Canada over Christmas. In fact, the only image from the holiday – of the Duke cuddling his son, Archie – was released on New Year's Eve on the couple's official Instagram site. Similarly, last week, the Duchess was meticulously careful to ensure that she controlled the release of photography from her visit to a women's shelter in Vancouver. But that may have to change when the Sussexes enter the next phase of their working lives. For their success will depend, to a great extent, on public exposure.
The registration of the "Sussex Royal" brand was another attempt by the couple to keep control over their commercial activities – although it's unclear whether this will survive their departure from royal life in the spring, and their inability to use their HRH titles. Last month, they sought to register "Sussex Royal" as a global trademark – covering merchandise such as clothing, stationery and the running of "emotional support groups" – but this was before negotiations with the Queen and at a time when Prince Harry still envisaged retaining his royal status.
Now that they've lost their official royal status, they also lose a strong degree of protection. Not literal protection – as public figures, they are bound to retain efficient security, whomever in the family pays for it. But the trapping of a well-oiled royal office, plus an inherent deference that goes with a royal position, will soon start to crumble away. Never again will the couple enjoy the extraordinary luxury, reserved for actual royalty, of being led along a line of Hollywood's most powerful players.
And so, yet again, Prince Harry hasn't got quite what he wanted from this. It is a theme that has echoed throughout his life. For decades, his happiness has been like an intermittent radio signal, crackling on and off, but rarely staying on full power for long. As a little boy, he was blessed with the natural larkiness of the naughty, younger brother, a foil to the more sensible, dutiful William. He has long made jokes about being ginger with an outspokenness born of a surefire confidence in his looks, rather than an insecurity about them.
In his twenties, he had no difficulties in attracting women; they were moths to his ginger flame. His happy-go-lucky nature was damaged – whose wouldn't be? – by two appalling hammer blows. First, the unhappy marriage, separation and divorce of his parents, all conducted in the full glare of global interest; and then, a thousand times worse, the death of his mother when he was only 12. His years spent at Eton were inevitably underscored by that tragedy. No one, least of all Prince Harry himself, would claim he was any sort of intellectual, but he failed to shine academically at school.
He did, though, develop deep, lasting friendships there and was sheltered by the school from the worst excesses of the press and public interest. His happiest time was in the Army, where he headed after school and stayed for a decade until 2015. There, he found a complete purpose alongside his brother officers, with sure control of and respect of – and from – his men. As the grandson of the nation's Commander-in-Chief, and in his position as a plum kidnap target, he was always going to be a special case.
But, all the same, he was delighted to be allowed on to the frontline in Afghanistan. Again, as with Eton, the Ministry of Defence managed to keep the press at arm's length – bliss for him. I met him in Turkey in April 2015, at the centenary of the commemorations of the Gallipoli campaign. He was just about to end his Army career, and you couldn't have met a more self-assured and happy young man.
With consummate ease, he chatted away to the descendants of those who had fought at Gallipoli (my great-grandfather was killed there); he kept a smile on his face, a joke on his lips and a sure knowledge of his brief. He was particularly tender to older members of our party in their eighties. Today, it is easy to forget that there was a long period where Harry could do no wrong. There were the natural wildnesses and excesses that came with being a young Army officer, a member of the privileged classes and someone who had been, at his own admission, so harmed by those early blows.
So there was the young Harry, stupidly dressing up as a Nazi; getting into scuffles with paparazzi; downing the Flaming Lamborghinis in nightclubs; playing strip billiards in Las Vegas. Those wild days are long gone thanks in part to the passing of time – and to his confronting his demons.
In 2017, in a watershed moment that kickstarted a national conversation about mental health, Prince Harry joined the Telegraph's Bryony Gordon on her Mad World podcast about how he sought counselling after 20 years of bottling up the grief over his mother's death. With the discovery of love, in the shape of Meghan Markle, he seemed truly happy at his 2018 wedding, when the pair were unequivocably taken to the nation's hearts on that sunny, hopeful day.
However, their honeymoon period was surprisingly short-lived. Confusion over his son Archie's birth last year, followed by the secrecy surrounding his christening, were taken as the first signs of petulance that have crept in to Harry's public appearances ever since. When the couple were followed around Africa by a documentary team last year, their sadness and irritation was palpable.
The sudden six-week holiday over Christmas showed that their unexplained dissatisfaction had reached breaking point. Not to go to Sandringham for Christmas was a mighty break with royal protocol. The illness and hospitalisation of Harry's beloved grandfather, Prince Philip, at the age of 98, just before Christmas, appeared to make little difference to the Sussexes; they were already semi-detached.
In their Canadian hideout, they must have put the finishing touches to the bombshell announcement that came after one day back as working royals. When Gordon visited the royal couple last year, she described how they "seemed subdued and sad. They lacked the energy or sparkle I had seen in them previously. All the hope that Prince Harry had expressed when we spoke about his mental health in 2017 appeared to have evaporated." She said it seemed like Harry was "living out the trauma he had experienced as a 12-year-old – walking behind his mother's coffin on global television – again and again and again."
That increasing lack of purpose seems to have gnawed away at him, just as his brother's destiny grew more and more substantial. Only last year, Prince William was on television learning the ropes of the Duchy of Cornwall, a hugely important role he will take over when his father becomes king.
Certainly, Harry's status as the "spare" to the heir makes him increasingly expendable, not least as the Cambridges have produced three children. Just as he gave up the Army, the only job he has ever adored, so he has moved further and further away from the Biggest Job – as a potential king. This gap has only been partly filled by his admirable founding of the Invictus Games for disabled veterans.
With the Sussexes' latest announcement, he has now created another huge gap where once his royal duties used to sit. While the couple's supposed move to North America may make the Duchess of Sussex happy – it seem inevitable that the former actress will be able to capitalise on her now-stellar international status – it may leave her with a problem: a down-in-the-mouth husband.
What will Harry do with all that spare time? He has always been happiest with a pint in his hand surrounded by boisterous mates, and he won't have ready access to that in Canada. With his latest gambit, the Unhappy Prince risks being unhappier than ever.