Gay soldier recounts how Prince Harry protected him from homophobic abuse

James Wharton, an openly gay British solider, told Forces TV how Prince Harry confronted soldiers who "weren't very happy" Wharton was gay.

An ex-British soldier, who’s openly gay, has shared a heartwarming story about his former colleague, Prince Harry.

The Duke of Sussex acted as James Wharton’s tank commander in 2008 when Harry noticed his colleague was feeling off, Wharton told Forces News.

“I’d got myself into a bit of a situation with some soldiers from another regiment and, essentially, they didn’t like the fact that I was gay,” he explained. “They were sort of chest-poking me and making me feel quite uncomfortable.”

Wharton later became the first openly gay serviceman to grace the cover of Soldier magazine, and his sexuality was no secret to the other troops who were giving him a difficult time.

When Wharton reentered the tank where Harry was working, the royal stepped in to make things right.

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“I got into my tank where Prince Harry was doing something, and he could see that I was clearly affected by something and he asked me what the problem was,” Wharton continued.

“I told him that there were a couple of soldiers outside who weren’t very happy with the fact I was gay.”

The duke’s instinct to help didn’t stop there, though. Wharton said Harry felt “quite offended.”

“Prince Harry went out and saw these soldiers and spoke to them, and the problem went away,” he said. “He told them off and they left me alone.”

Wharton confirmed the story to Global News but declined to provide further comment.

Despite being a member of the Royal Family, the prince didn’t stand back from getting involved in the goings on of fellow servicemen.

Wharton recalled a time when Harry joined him and the rest of the Household Cavalry for a birthday party.

“I seem to remember one of the nights when we were in Canada and it was one of the boys’ birthdays and we all went out to have a steak dinner and a lot of beer,” he said. “Prince Harry came with us and put himself in the middle of that situation — it was natural as well, it didn’t seem to be a forced thing.”

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Prince Harry, who served in the military for a decade, seemed like just a part of the group. “It wasn’t uncomfortable, we weren’t being careful with what he said,” Wharton added. “He was just able to embed himself into our community.”

Harry has pursued many causes related to social justice and equality over the years.

His late mother, Princess Diana, was also well-known for reaching out to members of the LGBTQ community and was famously photographed shaking hands with a man who had HIV/AIDS, a radical act during a time when the disease was still heavily stigmatized.

Wharton recounted his story in the wake of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s controversial announcement that they’d be “stepping back” from their senior royal duties, and splitting their time between the U.K. and Canada.

The two made their announcement on Jan. 9 in a statement shared to their official Instagram.

This was followed by a statement from the Queen and a subsequent discussion that resulted in Her Majesty saying she is supportive of the couple’s decision.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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