Prince Harry helped me woo my wife, says army buddy
Now Frankie O’Leary will ride at the front of the wedding carriage carrying the prince and Meghan Markle
When a young man from the Household Cavalry hoped to impress his date while strolling through Windsor, he could have had no better wingman than Prince Harry.
Leaning out of his car window to shout a friendly greeting, the prince left the object of Frankie O’Leary’s affection open-mouthed with shock and not a little impressed.
Fast forward to 2018 and that young lady is now his wife, with Corporal of Horse O’Leary to return the romantic favour as he takes a starring role in Prince Harry’s own wedding.
O’Leary, who got to know Prince Harry as his radio operator in Afghanistan in 2007, will be riding at the front of the carriage carrying the newlywed prince and Meghan Markle around Windsor, in a remarkable moment in both of their lives.
Describing the prince as “a man of courage, a man of honour, a genuinely honest, kind man”, he joked that he had “pulled a cracker” in Markle.
O’Leary joined colleagues on Wednesday at the Hyde Park Barracks, London, where the ceremonial regiment is preparing for their official role at the wedding.
They will provide a staircase party at St George’s Chapel and a mounted travelling escort for the carriage ride through Windsor.
Asked for his memories of serving with the prince, he said he showed the same love of a joke and trying to keep spirits up as any other fellow soldier, coping with being tired and hungry with “that touch of British officer class”.
On how his former superior, for whom he used to make sausage and beans for breakfast every day, had changed, he admitted: “He’s got a really untidy beard. If he was still serving he’d be in trouble.”
But none of his memories compared to how the prince accidentally helped while he was on one of his first dates with Niina, walking back to barracks in Windsor.
“He [Prince Harry] saw me walking with a young lady,” O’Leary said. “Unbeknown to me, he was driving on his own, just going for a spin like you do as an English prince.
“He wound the window down and said: ‘See you later, Frank.’ I was like: ‘See you later, sir.’ I carried on walking. The young lady was a few steps behind me with her jaw on the floor like: ‘ ... was that ... ?’
“I played it cool.”
Pressed on how the story ended, he disclosed: “She became my wife.”
O’Leary will be one of 24 soldiers and two officers in the travelling escort on May 19, with Corporal Major Dan Snoxell, who was in Prince Harry’s troop for more than a year, joining the cavalry lining the chapel staircase.
The commanding officer of the Household Cavalry Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel James Gaselee, whose sister was a bridesmaid at Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding and whose father trained Charles as an amateur jockey, will command the travelling mounted escort.
Prince Harry joined the Blues and Royals in April 2006 and served with the Household Cavalry Regiment, based in Combermere Barracks in Windsor, undertaking two tours of Afghanistan and rising to the rank of captain.
On the morning of the wedding, the serving soldiers will spend hours cleaning their breast plates, helmets, swords and the dreaded thigh-high jackboots they wear, which can take hours to turn from a dull surface to patent-like leather.
They will also have to make sure all the tack on their horses is in pristine condition and ready to be seen by the thousands of spectators who will line the wedding route in Windsor.
Snoxell, 32, told how the prince had remained in contact since he left the army, including sending a message of congratulations to a talented new recruit.
Asked whether Prince Harry’s experience with the Blues and Royals would mean he spots any mistakes from his former colleagues during the procession, O’Leary said: “He may well give me some abuse about my sword position or my riding position, who knows.
“I think he’ll be more excited by the fact he’s pulled a cracker and he gets to take her home.”
– © The Daily Telegraph