Prince Harry turns 36 on Tuesday, and what a long, strange trip it's been since his last birthday.
Prince Henry Charles Albert David, the Duke of Sussex, who sometimes goes as just Harry now that he lives in Southern California, turns another year older following 12 months of tumultuous changes in his new family and lifestyle, his future work and his relationships with his royal relatives and the British public that has adored him for decades as Princess Diana's younger son.
In a bittersweet touch, Harry turns the same age as his mother when she died in a Paris car crash in 1997, sending Britain into paroxysms of grief and putting her 12-year-old son at center stage with his brother, father, uncle and grandfather during her unforgettable funeral.
Harry, now a royal duke, a husband and father of a 14-month-old son himself, could not be farther from his former royal life now that he's living in Santa Barbara County with his wife of two years, the former Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, and baby Archie.
What are his birthday plans? We don't know and Harry and Meghan's Hollywood public-relations team is not expected to announce anything, even though royal fans would love to see a picture of Harry with Archie.
Though Harry has been quiet about his birthday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated the day on Instagram by posting a photo of Harry running on a track with Kate and William not far behind.
"Wishing a very happy birthday to Prince Harry today!" they wrote.
But Even when he was still a working royal back in Britain, the palace press office rarely said anything on the record about the birthday plans of the adult royals. Ever since the couple pulled up stakes and moved away from the United Kingdom in March, their new spokespeople have been even more closemouthed.
Still, Harry and Meghan have much to be happy about as he starts another year, especially their transformation from far-from-the-throne young royals to Hollywood moguls-in-the-making as new partners to Netflix, in a multi-year deal announced two weeks ago.
The pair will produce scripted series, docu-series, documentaries, features and children’s programming for the streaming giant.
The price tag was not disclosed but it was enough for Harry to immediately pay off about $3 million in taxpayers' money spent on on renovations for Frogmore Cottage, their Windsor home, thus depriving critics of one of the strongest cudgels against them.
Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings said in an interview with CNBC last week that Harry and Meghan were "smart" to explore all their options by "shopping" themselves around to all the major Hollywood companies before signing with Netflix.
“It's gonna be epic entertainment," Hastings predicted. “I can’t tell you any more about it at this point, but I think it'll be some of the most exciting, most viewed content next year.”
Aside from producing, Harry and Meghan will continue their charity work, their speaking engagements, working with their remaining patronages in the U.K. and building their new non-profit, Archewell, but they are embarking on entirely new careers of the sort rare for royals.
In January, Harry and Meghan announced in London they were "stepping back" from their roles as working royals and moving to North America. That set off an explosion of shock and outrage in the U.K.; critics in the media and on social media blamed Meghan ("Megxit") for what was a joint decision. They were denounced for "betraying" his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, by turning their backs on royal duties and leaving a hefty renovation debt behind.
Weeks of recriminations ensued as Harry met with the queen, Prince Charles and Prince William to discuss the Sussex plans, and negotiated with palace officials about the terms of their departure, which included no longer using HRH in their titles and dropping the word "royal" from their social media.
In early March they carried out a few remaining engagements, including a last royal-family gathering in Westminster Abbey for Commonwealth Day. Then they were gone, off first to Vancouver Island in Canada, where they had been living since before Thanksgiving. From there, they hastily departed for Los Angeles just before the border closed due to the coronovirus pandemic.
In June, they moved into their "new family home," as they put it, in a sprawling estate in Montecito, near where their friend Oprah Winfrey lives in Santa Barbara County, about an hour northwest of Los Angeles.
Even before January, the seeds of the Sussex discontent were already planted soon after Archie Harrison Windsor-Mountbatten was born in May.
When Harry and Meghan declined to immediately disclose where he was born and never disclosed the identities of his godparents, complaints arose about their refusal to be as open as brother Prince William and Duchess Kate of Cambridge were about their children.
Meanwhile, anonymous palace sources whispered to tabloid reporters about Meghan's alleged "diva" behavior with staff and her alleged "feud" with Kate. And that didn't count plainly racist comments about her on royal social media platforms.
By the time the trio departed for southern Africa in mid-September for a 10-day tour, they had already been subjected to weeks of media mocking for being "eco-hypocrites" for taking gas-guzzling private jets for quick vacation getaways while advocating for environmentalist causes.
As their otherwise successful Africa tour wound up, they stunned the reporters traveling with them by announcing that they had filed separate lawsuits against three tabloids, alleging they were the victims of copyright infringement, invasion of privacy and phone hacking. Harry released an impassioned statement accusing the tabloids of a "ruthless campaign" of attacks on Meghan that left her "suffering" in private, and compared her treatment to what happened to his mother before she died.
A few weeks after their return from Africa, ITV aired a film about the tour which included an interview with the couple. For the first time on camera, Harry acknowledged that he and brother Prince William were on "different paths," although they still love each other, and Meghan talked, with tears in her eyes, about the difficulties of coping with a fierce and often critical media spotlight.
In November, Buckingham Palace announced that Harry and Meghan and Archie would not be spending Christmas with the royal family at Sandringham and instead would take "extended family time" from Thanksgiving through Christmas with her mother, Doria Ragland.
As it turned out, they spent it in a borrowed estate on Vancouver Island, Canada, where they worked on their exit plans.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Prince Harry birthday: He turns 36 with Meghan Markle after rocky year