Humility and 'having a good time': Prince Harry brings his royal rapport to Toronto
Fifth in line to throne makes quick visit to Canada for official launch of 2017 Invictus Games
When a nine-year-old boy asked Prince Harry if he is ever going to be king, the fifth in line to the throne had a quick reply and a laugh.
"You'll be glad to know, probably not," he told the youngster in a widely reported moment in the U.K. a few days ago.
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The little boy seemed disappointed, but he soon got a high-five from the prince who will be bringing that same easy rapport with everyone he meets to Toronto Monday for the official launch of the 2017 Invictus Games.
Harry, a former Apache helicopter pilot who served with the British armed forces in Afghanistan, founded the Invictus Games, which is the only international adaptive sporting event for wounded, injured and sick soldiers and veterans.
A prince who used to make headlines for his partying ways, Harry has now found a focus in charitable work and seems especially intent on offering support for servicemen and women, veterans and their families.
"He is incredibly invested in this cause," says Michael Burns, the chief executive officer of the 2017 Invictus Games.
"He saw up close the horrors of war and the challenges and the struggles in what men and women are put through and that obviously struck a chord with him."
'Sense of humility'
Burns has met Harry a couple of times and was struck by his "real sense of humility."
"This is not somebody who is doing this because he needs attention."
Still, the 31-year-old prince will be getting lots of attention Monday when he makes a whistle-stop visit to Toronto on his way to Orlando for the 2016 Invictus Games.
It's a rare Canadian appearance for a prince who was here twice as a child and young teenager and then for military exercises in Alberta in 2007 and 2008.
Since then, he's left the military, worked on his charitable causes and developed a reputation as a royal with a very relaxed approach when he's out and about.
That easy charm is likely to be on display Monday when he meets with servicemen and women and their families, veterans and young people, among others.
"He has very good rapport with the people he meets," says Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal historian and author.
"If he's in Brazil he's kicking a soccer ball around with local children and he's trying the drinks in Belize and always just seems to be throwing himself into the activities wherever he is and having a good time."
Assuming a larger role
Sometimes in his younger years, those good-time antics landed him in hot water with the tabloids, but the salacious headlines seem to be behind him.
Harris notes that some of those headlines were interspersed with "really important public appearances."
Reports of nude romps in a Las Vegas hotel room in 2012 — which were shrugged off by Britons — came not long after he represented his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, at the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
"Even though Harry made headlines for his partying, he has been assuming a larger public role over the last few years," says Harris.
Along with visits to other countries, including Nepal in March, that role has a significant philanthropic bent, whether it's for the Sentebale charity he founded with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho or the Invictus Games.
"He has said repeatedly … that this is not about him," Burns says of Harry's interest in Invictus.
"When he's talking about this, when he's up there on stage, when he's in the public, he wants to be with the ill and injured and do what he can to help generate more awareness around the challenges they face as well as hopefully more support."
Burns has found Harry to be "smart" and "very friendly," a good listener who is "incredibly detail-focused" in his Invictus efforts.
Hints of Diana
"He weighs in. He's got good questions and he's very thoughtful," says Burns. "It's impressive to see how focused he is and how much he wants to make a difference for these military families."
In Harry's charitable approach, there are hints of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, with whom he was very close before her death in 1997.
"Prince Harry has spoken about his mother and wanting to make her proud and we see similarities to Diana's approach to philanthropy in Prince Harry," says Harris, noting the way he takes time to listen to people's personal stories.
Harry also takes a very hands-on approach, she says.
"He very much throws himself into the work he's done in the military, his charitable work."
Harry's royal role could well expand in the years ahead.
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012 seemed to signal a potential shift in the landscape for the House of Windsor, showcasing those members of the Royal Family who are in or close to the direct line of succession, rather than extended family members.
"When the Queen's cousins aren't able to take on as many charitable patronages … Prince Harry may face expectations that he expand his role even further," says Harris.
For now, though, Harry is front and centre with the Invictus Games.
And for Burns, that involvement is significant.
"I've gotten the question and I'll get it again, why Canada or why are we bringing these games to Canada?" he says.
"I said because there is nothing we could create or manufacture in this country that could possibly equal the kind of attention and awareness [of] these games with the prince and with this cause combined."
It is, he says, a "once in a lifetime" opportunity.
"This will be a catalyst for Canadians who are already predisposed to wanting to do something for our military to give them that outlet to do it."