Prince Harry will be happy with his 30th Birthday present of almost $18 million.

Photo: Getty

Afghanistan, January 2013: sitting in front of a television camera, Prince Harry decides to unleash a verbal missile attack on British newspapers, accusing them of writing "rubbish" which "hopefully nobody actually believes".

Fast-forward 18 months to Chile, June 2014, and the prince is a different man. Gone are the usual barbed comments towards the travelling British media, in their place a determination to make sure reporters and photographers get the words and pictures they needed.

At one point, during a visit to a slum near Valparaiso, the prince seeks me out to tell me about some mobile-phone photographs he has been shown by one of the slum-dwellers, showing what the place had been like before a forest fire destroyed 90 per cent of the homes.

Expensive: Prince Harry's two-night visit in October last year cost taxpayers $150,317.

Photo: Getty Images

Earlier, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he opened up to reporters about how affected he was by meeting children orphaned by drugs and violence, even going so far as to say the loss of his own mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was "nothing" compared with their suffering.

I must confess to having feared a frosty reception from him following his break-up with Cressida Bonas - a relationship that came under strain because of unwanted attention from the media.

Yet this was a more relaxed and happier Prince Harry than I have come across on any previous foreign tour.

Prince Harry and Cressida Bonas.

Prince Harry and ex-girlfriend Cressida Bonas.

Why the change? According to those who know him best, the prince has begun to come to terms with the media's interest in him.

He says he has "got over" the bitterness he felt towards the media over the pursuit of his mother in the moments before her death, though he still says he "doesn't understand" the public fascination with his private life.

A source close to the prince said: "He gets the media far more now than he did in the past. He understands that in order to make the most of the tours the media that come on the tours are an integral part of what he is trying to achieve in promoting various causes.

"Everyone noticed when he came back from his second tour of Afghanistan last year that he had matured. You can't imagine anyone doing a four-month tour like that and not coming back slightly changed, and it had a really positive effect on him.

"It was something he really wanted to do, he was able to see it through to the end [having had to cut short his previous tour when his presence was reported by a magazine] and it was a real achievement."

The prince's friendliness towards reporters in Brazil and Chile certainly suggested he has begun to make his peace with the media, though he still makes sure he sets us straight whenever he feels an inaccurate story has been published.

He upbraided one reporter for a story that suggested his engagements in Chile a week ago had been moved so that he could watch the Chile v Brazil match; in fact, the prince is no great football fan, and the engagements were moved so that his Chilean hosts could watch the big game.

In 10 weeks' time, on September 15, the prince will celebrate his 30th birthday, a pivotal moment in his life for more reasons than one.

The landmark birthday is usually an occasion when a young man takes stock of his achievements thus far and ponders his future goals.

As the fourth in line to the throne, Harry is not burdened with such proletarian troubles as how to get a mortgage on his first home or whether now is a good time to start paying into a pension. But questions of marriage and starting a family will weigh heavily on his mind.

Nor is he immune to agonising over career choices, despite his life of privilege.

On the question of what the future holds for the prince, one thing, at least, seems certain: there will be no reconciliation with Miss Bonas, from whom he split in April after dating her for two years.

Those close to the prince say the relationship had "run its course", while Miss Bonas' friends and family have made clear they felt she and the prince were not suited to each other. Miss Bonas, 25, certainly appeared to be in her element when she was pictured in wellies and with unbrushed hair at Glastonbury Festival last weekend, freed from the pressure of her royal connection.

The fact that the prince was so relaxed and happy on his tour of Brazil and Chile also suggests he has got over the break-up with Miss Bonas, though he became broody whenever he came into contact with small children, saying he wanted to "take them home" with him.

Harry is far more natural with children than his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, and is undoubtedly desperate to start a family if he can find himself a suitable bride. Easier said than done.

In the meantime, the prince has plenty of other things to contemplate. The day before his birthday will have seen the culmination of the Invictus Games, tickets for which went on sale last week, a four-day Paralympic-style event for wounded servicemen, which has been the prince's main focus for the past year.

A royal source said: "The games will be a defining moment for him in his personal life because he has been involved in the organisation over the past year, right from board level to choosing Coldplay to compose the anthem for it. It's one hell of a big deal for him."

The prince, who was inspired to organise the games after visiting the Warrior Games in the US, will sit down when they are over and reflect on their success or otherwise, deciding whether to make it a regular fixture.

His thoughts, then, will inevitably lead on to not only how much of his time the games will take up, but how that will fit in with his twin army and royal careers, and where each of those competing interests will go next.

Captain Wales is a staff officer in HQ London District, where his job co-ordinating ceremonial events such as Trooping the Colour has enabled him to organise the Invictus Games in his spare time.

The posting has no fixed term, meaning he may decide to move to a different role, assuming he stays in the army. Military sources suggested that if he remained in the Household Cavalry, he could take up a position as an adjutant, acting as assistant to a senior officer, or an operations officer, planning exercises and ensuring a unit is trained and ready for action.

The prince would love to return to flying helicopters, but as he works towards a promotion to major, he accepts there is no obvious way in which he could return to operational flying.

He must also consider the need to fit in his increasing royal duties, which will include First World War commemoration events this year.

As one of the seven "core" members of the Royal family, together with the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, he has been elected by the Queen to help carry the burden of the modern, streamlined Royal family.

He is also arguably the most popular member of the royal family (the Brazilians specifically asked for him when they requested a royal visit during the World Cup), with demand for public appearances far outstripping his ability to fulfil the requests.

Prince Harry knows that whatever the future holds for him, he will remain the subject of fascination, and, for many female fans, adoration, whether he likes it or not.

The Telegraph, UK