The fifth in line to the throne, reflecting on the first nine days of a royal tour on which he has presented a new face to the world while formally representing the Queen, caught a glimpse of his future.
On his way to a five-star hotel in Grenada, where he was about to meet the country’s prime minister Keith Mitchell, a senior aide had just been chatting to him about the trip so far and how it compared with his previous overseas visits.
“It’s a very different tour for him, doing a lot of things on behalf of the Queen with many more formal bits. But so far it has exceeded his expectations about what he thought was possible,” the courtier said.
His defining tour of seven Caribbean countries in 15 days has proved to him that it can work: a more grown-up Harry, a statesman, meeting prime ministers and representing his grandmother at important state events in her 16 realms around the world.
He wants to combine that with his desire to retain what people love best about him: his relaxed, informal charm and, above all, his ability to connect with and enthuse young people.
“He thinks he can do these more formal duties on behalf of the Queen while retaining an authenticity in his work meeting a wide range of people from leaders down to young people,” the aide said.
It has become a cliché to say it but Harry wears his heart on his sleeve. What you see is usually what you get.
In the past, his tours were fun, unpredictable and full of zest and youth. On the rare occasions when he was asked to represent the Queen at important events, he often looked nervous.
Now aged 32, however, he is ready to move up a gear in his royal duties towards a kind of work that requires a more serious, skilled diplomacy.
As the Queen reduces her workload in her 90s, he and his brother William and sister-in-law Kate will be needed increasingly to help Prince Charles and Camilla in taking on the more significant burdens of state.
When Charles becomes King, Harry may even find himself one of only a small number of taxpayer-funded working royals if some well-placed sources are to be believed. Some think that, depending on if and when he accedes to the throne, King Charles III may well retire his siblings and leave only himself, Camilla, William, Kate, and Harry – plus a potential wife – on the public pay roll until Prince George and Princess Charlotte are in their 20s.
Whether Harry, like his older brother, will have a woman by his side to love and support him then remains to be seen.
After more than two years during which he has been, on the face of it, single, his relationship with the American actress Meghan Markle has been the elephant in the room during this tour.
Sources close to the couple say that after three months of friendship and fun dating followed by a couple of months of intense passion, theirs is a serious relationship that could eventually result in marriage, if Meghan is able to put up with the baggage that goes with being a royal girlfriend. Aside from issuing a controversial letter complaining about the public and media’s reaction to news of the relationship, those who work for Harry decline to be drawn on their boss’s romance and, like him, grow visibly tense if it is mentioned.
Yet he and they know that the revelation that one of the world’s most eligible bachelors is dating a glamorous actress who stars in the US legal drama Suits, has reawakened public and media interest in Harry, enabling him to get his message across to more people worldwide.
In the past 10 days, the Prince’s different sides have been on display while he has been touring the paradise islands of Antigua, St Kitts, Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Barbados before finishing in Guyana this coming weekend. When the prime minister of Antigua, Gaston Browne, surprised 300 guests at an official reception for Harry on the second day of the tour by suggesting that the Prince and Meghan were about to get engaged and should consider honeymooning in his country, the royal’s body language made no attempt to disguise his discomfort and distaste even if he held his tongue.
Fast forward to Saturday and a different, new diplomatic Harry was on display in St Vincent and the Grenadines, observing a potentially awkward moment’s silence for Cuba’s former communist dictator Fidel Castro at the request of his hosts.
Since he left the army in June 2015 after 10 years in which he served in Afghanistan twice, the Prince has often looked like a lost soul scrambling for a role.
Many royal watchers feared he had made the wrong decision in quitting the services but his focus on helping military veterans, those living with HIV/Aids, and on conservation efforts to save rhinos, elephants and other species at risk of extinction have earned him plaudits.
Now a fourth pillar of his official royal work, still vague and ill-defined, is starting to take shape – using the power of sport to empower young people across the Commonwealth. His aides say he will be fleshing out his thoughts on that in the coming weeks and months.
He may be hobnobbing more with world leaders but it seems clear that young people will remain one of his priorities.
“There is no better way to judge the future of a country than by spending time with its youth; listening to what they have to say and understanding their vision for the nation they will inherit,” he told an audience in St Kitts last Wednesday.
Already knocked down the line of succession to fifth after the births of George and Charlotte, Harry faces a battle to continue to be relevant in the 21st century but he has shown in the past 10 days that he still has much to offer.