I’m not sure exactly what was in my mind as I stepped onto the plane ten years ago to film some of Prince Harry’s gap year in Lesotho, but I guess I thought it might turn out to be a rather trying few days. He was, if you recall, best known at the time for having endured great tragedy and exhibited, perhaps as a result, consistently questionable judgement.
In fact, he was a delight to spend time with. His bond with so many of the orphans whose lives had been blighted by HIV and Aids appeared heartfelt. The connection with his mother and her work was there for all to see and when I asked him about her – well, a whole lot of emotion came tumbling out. He was a bruised young man with a lot to say.
Reflecting today on that time he says, “At that stage I had no mechanism to be able to start a charity or make any more of an impact than just literally being the ginger, white prince who has come to try to make these kids laugh. That’s what it was.”
But the resulting documentary, The Forgotten Kingdom, had a huge impact. It pulled in a big audience and viewers, moved by what they saw, gave generously to a fund set up within the Red Cross. You would not have imagined, though, he’d still be pursuing the issue a decade on.
But, whatever else you say about him, Prince Harry appears to be a very single-minded man. Pretty soon, the fund had been turned into a freestanding charity called Sentebale, and the Prince has been driving its growth ever since.
It’s perhaps no surprise that this return journey – a documentary looking at the charity’s work and its plans for the future – is even more moving than the original. You may recall Prince Harry’s encounter with an orphan called Mutsu, who wouldn’t take off the blue wellies the Prince had given him, but their relationship all these years on is as heart-warming as anything you will see this Christmas.
He tells me about his friendship with the charity co-founder Prince Seeiso, the brother of Lesotho’s king: “There’s obviously a connection of some sort. The fact that we have both lost our mothers, at different ages and in very different circumstances. But, his mother stood for something and my mother stood for something as well. To a certain extent, there is a lot of unfinished business, a lot of unfinished work that my mother never completed.”
Of course, with Prince Harry being a man who wears his heart very much on his sleeve, the film is also rather revealing about who he is and where he is in life. He talks candidly about the past, the present and his own future. But mostly he talks about how fired up he is about his position and what he can do with it.
There is, he says, too much focus on the bad news in life. It’s great to be good, he tells us, and boring to be bad. This Christmas we might all say a loud “amen” to that.
The Prince Harry Documentary airs on Monday 19 December at 9pm on ITV. For more information on Prince Harry’s charity, click here