Prince Harry Turns 32: A Look Back at His Big Year

Prince Harry has just returned from a summer in Africa.

ByABC News
September 15, 2016, 10:16 AM

— -- Prince Harry celebrates his 32nd birthday today.

As he turns 32, Prince Harry has matured into a man devoting his life to the military and veterans, raising awareness on mental health and AIDS issues, and using his voice for the voiceless.

'People's Prince'

His ability to connect with vulnerable children, his devotion to those forgotten in society and his never-ending commitment to those in need has made Harry the new “People's Prince” and drawn comparisons to his late mother, Diana, the Princess of Wales.

Last week, Prince Harry privately returned to Mildmay Hospital, his second visit in the past year to the London hospital that treats people with AIDS and HIV. Diana famously ended the stigma around AIDS when she visited the same hospital in the 1980s.

Prince Harry has become a tireless advocate in behalf of those with AIDS by seeking to educate young people about the threat. Harry underwent a finger-prick AIDS test in July that was streamed live on Facebook to show people just how easy it is to get tested.

Harry also spoke in July at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, beside Sir Elton John on behalf of his charity, Sentebale. In June, Harry enlisted Chris Martin of Coldplay to headline a concert at Kensington Palace to benefit Sentebale and raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.

Princess Diana's Legacy

Harry told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in March he is committed to using his birthright and name to make a significant impact and keep his mother’s memory alive.

"I hope that a lot of my mother's talents are shown in a lot of the work that I do,” said Harry, who formed Sentebale in honor of Princess Diana to aid the vulnerable African children of Lesotho, many of whom are struggling with AIDS.

"I hope she's looking down, you know, with tears in her eyes, being incredibly proud of what we've established, I suppose," Harry said, also referring to his older brother, Prince William. "I'm sure she's longing for me to have kids so she can be a grandmother again."

"I hope that everything we do privately and officially, that it makes her proud," he said. "I think losing your mother at such a young age does end up shaping your life massively. Of course, it does, and now I find myself trying to be there and give advice to other people who are in similar positions."

As Harry has matured, so too has he opened up in the past year about the most personal issues in his life to help others overcome depression, fear and mental health challenges. Prince Harry revealed in July that he had "regrets" about not opening up about his mother’s death sooner.

"You know, I really regret not ever talking about it," Harry told soccer player Rio Ferdinand at a barbecue he hosted at Kensington Palace for the "Heads Together" mental health initiative he formed and spearheads with his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Harry admitted it was only in the past three years that he has been comfortable opening up about his mother's 1997 death.

Invictus Games

Harry's highest-profile role this year was enlisting the president and first lady of the United States and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to promote the Invictus Games he founded for wounded military veterans to compete in sporting events.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama first laid down the gauntlet for Team USA to beat Team Britain at the Games in a video message shared on social media. The idea was conceived when President Obama challenged Prince Harry at a dinner at Kensington Palace with Prince William and his wife, Princess Kate.

"The president kind of egged you on, dragged him into it," Mrs. Obama said to Prince Harry in an interview last May with Robin Roberts.

Prince Harry got the last laugh and was able to "drop the mic" when Queen Elizabeth teamed up with her grandson to provide a hilarious retort to the Obamas’ challenge. Harry, who is known for his cheeky sense of humor, once again showed he's not afraid to use his profile for an important cause.

Conservation in Africa

Harry has just returned from a summer in Africa where he spent the past few months away from the cameras on the front lines of conservation efforts to save elephants from poachers on the hunt for their coveted ivory tusks.

Harry worked with the 500 Elephants initiative, helping to transport 500 elephants across Malawi. The initiative is one of the most highly regarded and significant elephant relocation projects in Southern Africa.

Nothing suits Harry more than to live his life far away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi who relentlessly pursue him, and Africa affords him that opportunity.

Harry though is increasingly taking on a more high-profile role on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. Last year he went on royal tours to Nepal, South Africa and LeSotho. Later this fall, Prince Harry will embark on another high profile royal tour in the Caribbean on behalf of the Queen.

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