The Queen Forced Prince Harry to Make a Heartbreaking Choice About What to Do with His Life

Prince Harry spent ten years in the military before dedicating himself full-time to royal work in 2015. The royal describes the decision to leave the service and take on royal duties from his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, as a "crossroads."

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Being royal looks like a great life from the outside, but living it can be a different story. Sometimes, members of the royal family have to make some pretty serious personal sacrifices in the name of duty. Prince Harry (opens in new tab) is just one of the senior-ranking royals who had to choose between the life of a working royal and, well, the life he wanted for a long time.

Way back in 2005, Prince Harry entered the Royal Military Academy (opens in new tab) Sandhurst. Harry spent a decade in the army, eventually working his way up to the rank of Captain (opens in new tab). In 2015, as Harry's grandma, Queen Elizabeth, was looking to delegate more of her royal duties to younger members of the family, Harry found himself at a "crossroads."

Ultimately, Harry realized that balancing the life (opens in new tab) of a working royal with the life of a career military officer just wasn't realistic and he made the difficult decision to give up his military career to dedicate himself to The Firm full-time.

"It is a crossroads," he said of the decision in 2015, according to Express (opens in new tab). "I’m in the same position now as most people in my year group or my rank would be in, and most of the guys I joined with have left for numerous reasons. It is the case that if we move on then more responsibilities come, and I suppose with wanting to take on slightly more of this royal role I don’t really feel as though I would be in the right position to take on the careers of more soldiers and to take on the responsibility to fly, for instance."

Harry admitted (opens in new tab) that he tried, for a while, to juggle both parts of his life before he realized that wasn't going to work long-term.

"So it is a balance, and I’ve been trying to get the balance right over the past six months to a year before I finished and it was getting hard," he said.

Harry went on to describe the realities of advancing further in the military—which would have meant a very different life than the one he was used to in the service.

"Inevitably what happens as you climb the ranks is that you will do more of a desk job," he explained. "A lot of guys that get to my age leave, and that is partly because a lot of guys join for the outside, for the excitement of running around in the bush with the soldiers."

According to Harry, the time investment was going to be greater the further he advanced in the military and, if he'd kept on that track and tried to balance the workload with his royal duties, some of his military work would have fallen to others to cover.

"And then there is a point where you have to take the next step and go to a desk and do Staff College and become a major and so on. With all that comes greater responsibilities and a lot of your time, which if I’m doing these royal duties doesn’t work," he said. "It doesn’t sit comfortably with me knowing that I’m off doing something while others are still at work looking after my soldiers. I don’t want people to cover for me—that was never going to work."

Now, of course, with his wife, Meghan Markle (opens in new tab), and newborn son, Archie (opens in new tab), at his side, Harry seems pretty content living the full-time royal life.

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Kayleigh Roberts
Kayleigh Roberts

Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.