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How 'soldier prince' Harry tore up royal rule book

By Max Foster, CNN Royal Correspondent
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue March 27, 2012
Prince Harry meets fellow Sandhurst graduate Lieutenant Kayon Mills in Jamaica.
Prince Harry meets fellow Sandhurst graduate Lieutenant Kayon Mills in Jamaica.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prince Harry different to other royals, says veteran snapper Arthur Edwards
  • CNN's Max Foster says with Harry, anything can happen
  • Harry's recent Caribbean tour seen as a milestone in his public role
  • Prince's priority remains military career and possible redeployment to Afghanistan

London (CNN) -- Prince Harry tore up the royal tour rule book on his recent visit to the Caribbean, according to veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards. Edwards should know -- he has covered 200 royal tours, more than anyone.

And it was an extraordinary royal tour. The press coverage surpassed even the media's expectations. Harry was himself and it came across on camera. People around the world enjoyed getting to know Prince William's younger brother.

A royal tour is a series of engagements. Each event is planned months in advance and the press is briefed on what to expect. But with Harry you never quite know what will happen. You know he will arrive and leave, but there is no way to predict what might happen in between.

Watch Prince Harry talk about "emotional trip"

Prince Harry's tour 'an emotional trip'
The royal & the runner: Harry vs. Bolt

On March 6, I was in Kingston, Jamaica. The entire royal press pack had agreed that the main event of the day would be Harry meeting sprinter Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world.

The plan was for Bolt to give Harry some tips on how to come out of the starting blocks. We wanted to know if they would go on and race each other. The organizers said they didn't know.

When Harry arrived, he immediately hit it off with Bolt. They were laughing and goading each other which gave us some great images.

Watch Harry take on world's fastest man

But before we knew it, Harry had used a distraction technique to get a head start against Bolt and he raced off to the finish line. The image became front page news in the UK and in other parts of the world.

But while Harry is happy enough performing in front of the mainstream media, it's a relationship of tolerance.

A senior royal source told me he does have a problem with paparazzi photographers who have invaded his life in the past -- and tormented his mother, Diana.

After racing Bolt, Harry set off to meet Portia Simpson-Miller, the staunchly-republican prime minister of Jamaica. We expected a handshake, we got warm embrace.

Then, at an inner city school we were treated to a spectacular display of Harry's dancing skills to a track by Bob Marley, who he later impersonated at a state dinner. Harry even made it on to the fashion pages that day with his eye catching blue suede shoes.

Harry turns every engagement into an event, and that's what makes him unique as a royal.

Prince Harry and Prince William are a double act for the rest of their lives
Senior royal source

The royal source told me Harry didn't have a strategy for this tour. "He just went for it."

But don't assume he's just having fun. This is someone who puts duty first. It's a lesson he took from his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, I am told. It was out of duty that he agreed to go on the trip on her behalf.

While he enjoyed the tour, for him it is always about supporting the queen and only she would be the judge of whether it was a success.

So what did she make of his time in the Caribbean?

CNN has learned that everyone, including the queen and Harry's father, Prince Charles, "was very pleased and proud" of his performance.

The palace source was speaking to CNN for a documentary airing this weekend: "The Royals: Harry, The Soldier Prince." It's the first in a four-part CNN series to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

The source says the Caribbean tour was a milestone in Harry's life. It was the first time people got to see him as a whole rather than in a series of snapshots.

The public believe Harry is a special and gifted young man, the source said. He is particularly good at reading situations, and people saw that on display over a period of time.

Harry was seen as possessing a confidence and emotional intelligence that allowed him to move naturally from goofing with Bolt, to connecting with a young child to being a statesman. Harry, I am told however, would never see himself as a statesmen.

So has Prince Harry finally come of age? Is the man who once wore a Nazi outfit to a party and got into all other sorts of trouble now consigned to the past?

The royal source puts it like this: "The impulsiveness of Harry's youth has turned into the fun you saw on the Usain Bolt track in Jamaica. He has matured."

In another sign of his maturity, CNN has learned that Prince Harry has finally left home. He recently moved out of his father's residence, Clarence House -- where he had a bedroom and study -- into a small flat at Kensington Palace where his brother and sister-in-law live.

Harry wanted to have his own place, and the two brothers "wanted to be together," the source said.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his new bride Kate, are living in Nottingham Cottage at the moment but will move into a large apartment in the main building when renovations are complete. When they move, Harry will take over the cottage.

Watch more about William's palace upgrade

Harry recently referred to the Duchess of Cambridge as his "sister." It was a slip of the tongue but indicative of the closeness of their relationship, says the source.

But it is the relationship between the two brothers that looks set to define the future of the British monarchy most of all.

The source tells me: "Prince Harry and Prince William are a double act for the rest of their lives. They are very loyal and trust each other. Loyalty is key. Harry is very respectful towards William."

Prince Harry heads to Arizona
Prince Harry tours Caribbean
Prince William's palace upgrade

I am told the brothers are also aware of their different, but complementary qualities. William has gravitas. Harry is livelier.

William, second-in-line to the throne, is due to be king one day, but this could be decades away. When it does happen, the monarchy is likely to be a slimmed down version of what we see today. There won't be an array of siblings and cousins sharing official duties.

The two Princes know they will bear the brunt of responsibility for royal engagements, so it needs to be a partnership.

But Harry's current priority is his military career. His only official duties for the rest of this are likely to be occasional appearances to mark the queen's diamond jubilee and as an Olympic ambassador.

Harry came out as the top gunner on his recent Apache helicopter course. He wouldn't have accepted the award if he thought it was bestowed on him because of who he is, my source tells me.

Read more about Harry's helicopter training

The prince loathes being treated as anything but an ordinary officer. His military colleagues say they often forget his royal status. The army provides Harry with normality.

According to a friend who trained with Harry, he even has a nickname which goes back to his time at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst: Harry Potter.

The prince is currently preparing for redeployment to Afghanistan. His last military mission to the country was cut short when news leaked that he was on the ground.

The media strategy this time round is still being worked out, but news blackouts aren't seen as viable anymore in an age of social media, so this deployment may well be announced.

But if the Taliban knows that he is there, won't that make him and his regiment a target? It's a matter for the military but my senior royal source tells me: "The thinking is that being an Apache pilot is quite an anonymous job and the Apache is already a target. They can't be more of a target than they already are."

The palace doesn't see a need for Harry to have extra personal security in Afghanistan either because his military base will, by its nature, already be secure.

Harry says he has three hats: soldier, prince and 27-year-old with buddies. He endeavors to be himself whichever hat he is wearing, and that's what defines him.

At different points in his life one hat will be more important than the others, which is why right now, he is the Soldier Prince.

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