The Prince Harry Interview: On Meghan, Fatherhood and How the Invictus Games Changed His Life

"Life is full of extraordinary gifts and challenges," the Duke of Sussex tells PEOPLE in this week's exclusive cover story

Prince Harry is opening up about the transformative power of the Invictus Games — and his own journey along the way.

"Life is full of extraordinary gifts and challenges, many that can be seen as lessons," the Duke of Sussex, 37, tells PEOPLE in this week's exclusive cover story. "Over time, I've learned that how we mentally approach and react to the ups and downs — those gifts and challenges — is what helps to define our own outcome."

The Invictus Games, an adaptive sports competition for wounded warriors founded by British Army veteran Harry in 2014, takes its motto "I am" from the famous William Ernest Henley poem, which includes the lines, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." For Harry, "the poem is a reminder that you have the power to take control of your life."

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Harry, of course, has done just that: The current Invictus Games in The Netherlands, which run April 16-22, mark the first time he is attending as both a husband, to Meghan Markle, and a father, to Archie, who turns 3 on May 6, and Lilibet, 10 months – and the first time the self-described "proud papa" is arriving from his new home in California.

People Magazine Cover- Prince Harry

"Being a dad certainly adds another emotional layer to it," says Harry. "When I was in the Army, I promised myself I would be out before having a wife and kids, because I couldn't imagine the heartache of being apart for so long during deployment, the risk of possibly getting injured, and the reality that my family's lives could be changed forever if that happened. Every member of the Invictus community has experienced varying degrees of these things. I have tremendous respect for what they and their families sacrifice in the name of service."

Prince Harry
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Samir Hussein/WireImage

Invictus has also played a key role in Harry and Meghan's personal journey — the pair made their first public appearance together at the Toronto Games in 2017.

"There is nowhere you can feel more embraced and supported than with the Invictus family," he says. "The Toronto Games were our first time out and about publicly in an official way. We were dating at the time, so it was a lot to take in, but fortunately, we were with the perfect community for that.

"Now, five years later, here we are in The Hague at the fifth Invictus Games, as parents of two, and living in the US. I had always wanted to share these incredible moments with someone special, and to have Meg by my side means everything."

People Magazine Cover- Prince Harry

For the athletes who meet Harry at the Games, the connection to him as a fellow veteran is profound — along with the support they receive from their teammates and families.

"These games are what saved my life," says Mike Murphy, 31, a retired U.S. Army sergeant who lost his sight on a training mission in Greece. "I'm just so appreciative."

Michael Murphy and Joshua Connell of Team USA competes during the Men's IT6 1500m Final on day two of the Invictus Games
Mike Murphy (left) and Joshua Connell of Team USA compete during the Men's IT6 1500m Final on day two of the Invictus Games. Connell ran as a guide for Murphy, who is blind. Lukas Schulze/Getty Images for Invictus Games The Hague 2020

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Joshua Smith of Team USA competes during the Men's IT7 1500m Final on day two of the Invictus Games The Hague 2020
Josh Smith of Team USA. Lukas Schulze/Getty Images for Invictus Games The Hague 2020

Josh Smith, the Team USA co-captain who first met Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex at the 2018 Australia Games, shared time with them again in The Netherlands. "The Duke came over to me, shook my hand, gave me five. He said, 'It's great to see you again, Josh. Thanks for being here.' That's something that's really special coming from the creator of the Games."

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