Prince Harry longing for Army life and 'desperate' to prove himself

Thumb_julie-etchingham

As the desert dust settles on his return from the frontline - and the storm dies down over the headlines - a Tonight special considers what's next for Prince Harry, as he steps out of the anonymity of an army uniform and back into the public glare.

Prince Harry seen in November 2012 racing off on another mission in Afghanistan
Prince Harry seen in November 2012 racing off on another mission in Afghanistan Credit: Press Association

We hear from the Officer who trained him to fly the elite Apache Helicopter - speaking to the media for the first time. Former Apache Squadron Commander Richard Youngs describes a dedicated professional who longs for a life in the army - who's been desperate to prove himself because of who he is:

I think what half drives him is knowing that the spotlight is very much on him... but he doesnt want to be treated any differently. There's no way you can bluff your way through an Apache conversion course in any regard.

Prince Harry seen in November at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan
Prince Harry seen in November at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan Credit: Press Association

Youngs also describes how Harry's colleagues would shield him from the photographers who were often hiding at the perimeter fence during his training here in the UK.

It would often be the case that... walking from the hangar to the aircraft there might be people lurking in the bushes with long lenses. The soldiers quickly realised that if they put their helmets on with their visors down they could mimic being Prince Harry - and it was a bit of a flood the market game we played with people trying to get their shot.

It's this cat and mouse game with the media which ultimately shapes how the public view Harry. At the moment he's carried on an apparent wave of affection by the British public - but as history tells us - this can ebb and flow.

Even Republican author Jonathan Freedland has sympathy with the Princes position:

It's a bit like that movie the Truman show, where somebody grows up on television - the audience pay for them but on the other hand they are kind of captives - we just watch them for our own amusement and entertainment.

There is a kind of cruelty about this institution. I think it's quite diminishing for the public but pretty diminishing for them too, that they are not allowed basic liberties and freedoms which we take for granted.

Harry watches the return from a mission of an Apache Helicopter
Harry watches the return from a mission of an Apache Helicopter Credit: Press Association

And what of a future wife? Some of his female contemporaries tell us (as Harry admitted himself this week) that the notion of a fairytale Princess marriage is a far cry from the brutal reality of the gilded cage. He may now be one of the world's most eligible bachelors but who would want to step up to the Royal plate, knowing their entire lives would be turned over?

So how does he shape an ancient Royal role - part soldier, part charity campaigner, part celebrity - never quite destined for the throne - which fits 21st century Britain?

Tonight: What's Next For Prince Harry, Thursday at 7.30pm on ITV