Following in his mom's literal footsteps—Prince Harry traversing through the same landmine-riddled field in Angola that Princess Diana had walked more than two decades earlier—it'd make sense that memories of her would spring to mind.
Though that would also suggest they ever left.
"Being here now 22 years later, trying to finish what she started will be incredibly emotional," Harry told ITV's Tom Bradby ahead of that October 2019 walk, their chat captured for his and wife Meghan Markle's special Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, "but everything that I do reminds me of her."
The memories are mostly bad, truthfully, his line of work coming with the same occupational hazards his mom had struggled with after she joined the royal family in the early '80s when she was just 19.
"Being part of this family, in this role, in this job every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back," he said referencing his mom's horrific 1997 death in that Parisian tunnel surrounded by paparazzi, "so in that respect it's the worst reminder of her life as opposed to the best."
The good memories are in there, too, though: The secret trips to McDonald's, the outings to movie theaters, even Walt Disney World.
"She made the decision that no matter what, despite all the difficulties of growing up in that lime light and on that stage, she was going to ensure that both of us had as normal life as possible," Harry said in the 2017 documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, speaking on the good times he and brother Prince William were afforded. "And if that means taking us for a burger every now and then or sneaking us into the cinema, or driving through the country lanes with the roof down in her old school BMW to listen to Enya."
Taken together—his struggles with the spotlight and his eagerness to replicate the most banal aspects of his own upbringing—it's not hard to see how Diana's fingerprints are all over Harry and Meghan's sudden, but actually not all that sudden, step back from royal iife.
"I think she saw it coming," Harry shared with Oprah Winfrey in his and Meghan's bombshell March interview about everything that led to their exit. "And I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process. I'm just really relieved and happy to be sitting here talking to you with my wife by my side. Because I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago, because it's been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we had each other."
And now they're living the most relatively normal existence that can be afforded two mega-celebrities—a life that's light-years away from Harry's own childhood growing up within the Kensington Palace walls, every milestone happening in the glaring spotlight as he was raised by one future king, dad Prince Charles, alongside another.
"I don't think we should be pointing the finger or blaming anybody, but certainly, when it comes to parenting, if I've experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I'm going to make sure I break that cycle so that I don't pass it on," Harry reasoned while chatting with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman on their Armchair Expert podcast this past May. "It's a lot of genetic pain and suffering that gets passed on anyway, so we as parents should be doing the most we can to try and say, 'You know what, that happened to me, I'm going to make sure that doesn't happen to you.'"
As an adult he'd begun to uncover the admittedly challenging particulars from his father's own upbringing being groomed from birth to assume Britain's throne. "I never saw it, I never knew about it," Harry continued, "and then suddenly I started to piece it together and go, OK, so this is where he went to school, this is what happened, I know this about his life, I also know that is connected to his parents so that means he's treated me the way he was treated, so how can I change that for my own kids?"
The answer, of course, "was stepping back," as he put it in a chat with pal James Corden on his Late Late Show in February. "It was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health. I was like, This is toxic. So I did what any husband and what any father would do, is like, I need to get my family out of here."
So off they were—after giving notice to Queen Elizabeth in early 2020 and then painstakingly hammering out the details—Harry and Meghan decamped first to a private waterfront enclave on Vancouver Island, then a Beverly Hills mansion on loan from Tyler Perry and finally their new family home in Santa Barbara where "I can actually lift my head and I feel different," Harry told Dax. "My shoulders have dropped, so have hers, you can walk around feeling a little bit more free."
Amongst neighbors like Rob Lowe, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom and Oprah herself, the royal, marking his 37th birthday Sept. 15, can take 2-year-old Archie Harrison "on the back of my bicycle," he shared. "I would never have had the chance to do that."
And now that 3-month-old Lilibet Diana (named for both of the key matriarchs in Harry's life) has joined the party, he and Meghan, 40, have the fairytale they've been seeking since falling hard and fast more than five years ago. "To have any child, any one or any two would have been amazing," Harry told Oprah. "But to have a boy and then a girl, you know, what more can you ask for? But now, you know, now we've got our family. We've got, you know, the four of us and our two dogs, and it's great."
At their seaside compound, they certainly have enough acreage for Archie to chat up the birds in his Chick Inn and Lili to eventually take those first tentative steps in private. "Even after lockdown is lifted they plan to keep [Archie] away from the cameras," a source told Vanity Fair's royal correspondent Katie Nicholl last year. "They want him to have an ordinary childhood away from the cameras."
And though Harry and Meghan employ a team of professionals to see to just that, they have plenty of pals willing to pitch in as part of their security detail.
"Just two days ago, Orlando Bloom sent me a message, because he's just down the road and we sort of keep in contact because of the paparazzi," Harry shared on Armchair Expert. "He sent me a photograph which his security got of this long-haired guy with a beanie on, with his ear pods in, with his massive camera lying in the back of his 4x4 truck. A woman driving who did the peace sign sitting there as a distraction, and he is laid down in the back of this truck taking photographs of them out with their kid and whoever else is in that area."
Dodging cameras would have been a near-impossible task had they stayed put at London's Kensington Palace or even 20 miles away in Windsor.
But tucked into their new California digs, the pair are able to be selective about the parts of the lives they share, revealing Archie's first word ("Crocodile," Harry told James Corden, noting, "He's already putting three, four words together. He's already singing songs"), his favorite food ("Meg makes up a beautiful organic mix, in the waffle maker, flip it, out it comes. He loves it") and his growing list of interests.
Harry was having a particularly tough time sourcing Archie-sized rugby balls in the States, he admitted during an August 2020 video call with members of the Rugby Football League: "So, I need to get him playing some Rugby League. I'm just unbelievably fortunate and grateful to have outdoor space and see my son be able to be outside because I know that so many people just haven't had that opportunity in the last five months."
Raising two kids under 3 "is definitely a juggle," Harry told Ed Sheeran at the June 30 WellChild Awards in London just weeks after Lili's birth. However, "We've been lucky so far. She's very chilled and seems happy to just sit there while Archie is running around like crazy."
Of course, Mom and Dad are all too thrilled to witness Archie's toddler hijinks as well.
"We were both there for Archie's first steps, his first run, his first fall, everything," Harry said of the silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic while speaking with Malala Yousafzai for last fall's International Day of the Girl.
"In so many ways we are fortunate to be able to have this time to watch him grow, and in the absence of COVID, we would be traveling and working more externally," Meghan added. "We'd miss a lot of those moments. So I think it's been a lot of really good family time."
A lot a lot of good family time.
"There's a hell of a lot of positives that are happening at the same time and being able to have family time—so much family time—that you almost think, 'Do I feel guilty for having so much family time?'" Harry noted in April 2020 while speaking with parents affiliated with WellChild, a charity that supports kids living with serious illnesses that he's served as patron for since 2007. "You've got to celebrate those moments where you are just on the floor rolling around in hysterics. Inevitably, half an hour later, maybe a day later, there's going to be something that you have to deal with and there's no way you can run away from it."
While Archie and Lili are undoubtedly their top priorities, stay at home orders or not, "our work after that is the second priority," Harry noted while speaking with members of the Rugby Football League, "and we're just doing everything we can to try and play our part in trying to make the world a better place."
That drive has only grown stronger in the years since he became a father.
"I feel the pressure is even greater to ensure we can give our children the future they deserve, a future that hasn't been taken from them, and a future full of possibility and opportunity," Harry wrote in a foreword for conservation organization African Parks' annual review last summer. "I want us all to be able to tell our children that yes, we saw this coming, and with the determination and help from an extraordinary group of committed individuals, we did what was needed to restore these essential ecosystems."
In his twenties and thirties, his chief priority was to "make my mother incredibly proud," Harry told People in 2016. "That's all I've ever wanted to do." Now he's got a whole crew pushing him to be a better person.
Delivering a speech at the inaugural National Youth Mentoring Summit just two months after Archie's arrival, Harry began, "I'm struck by a few things today, most of which is the power of the invisible role model. The person who may be sitting here today that doesn't realize that someone looks up to them that—for that person—you inspire them to be kinder, better, greater, more successful, more impactful."
"Perhaps it's the newfound clarity I have as a father knowing that my son will always be watching what I do, mimicking my behavior, one day maybe even following in my footsteps."
Maybe even on the same path his mom once set out for him. "My mother, Princess Diana, was a role model to so many, without realizing the impact she would have on so many lives," Harry continued. "You don't have to be a princess or a public figure to be a role model, in fact it's equally valuable if you're not because it's more relatable. Being a role model and mentor can help heal the wounds of your own past and create a better future for someone else."
Or, in this case, two tiny someones.