No Conquering William, Harry Is Britain's Bashful Birthday Boy

updated 09/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Prince Harry turns 3 next week, presumably with a cake and a kiddie party, but don't expect his advancing years to change his reputation as Mama's boy. Henry Charles Albert David, the second son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and third in line for the British throne, unashamedly cuddles with Diana every chance he gets.

Palace observers describe Harry as quiet, vulnerable and of a decidedly sweet disposition. Unlike his more adventuresome big brother, William, 5, he does not flush shoes down the royal toilets, mug outrageously upon spotting a camera, or throw memorable tantrums in public. While Wills gabbed with Palace photographers and reporters at an early age, Harry has been slow to talk. His first public utterance came last July, and consisted simply of "horse"—a reasonable observation given that many of his weekends are spent watching Dad play polo. And, yes, despite his parents' disapproval, he still sucks his thumb. "They think that to try to stop it could result in a complex," says an insider.

Age, however, is forcing a measure of maturity on Harry. This week he will enroll at Mrs. Mynors' Nursery School, Wills's alma mater, where his class designation is that of a Cygnet. (Older children are known as Little Swans and eventually Big Swans.) And last month, while the family was vacationing in Majorca with the Spanish royal family, Harry showed bravery beyond his years when he rescued a puppy threatened by King Juan Carlos' large German shepherd. He scooped up the pup and kept the bigger dog at bay with a handful of pebbles.

Like other children his age, Harry spends his free time playing (in the Palace gardens with his cousins) and chasing his pet terrier, Tigger. Unlike other 3-year-olds though, he enjoys such majestic perks as limo rides and first dibs on Santa at Harrods, not to mention weekly teas with Grand-mummy, the Queen, at Buckingham Palace, and swimming lessons from Di at the Palace pool. From Dad, there are tips on horseback riding. Eight months ago Harry began riding lessons on his own Shetland pony though he still hasn't given up his nursery rocker.

In his short lifetime Harry has known his share of indignities. Last year William was discovered holding his baby brother out the Windsor Castle nursery window, 30 feet above a gravel courtyard. (Di immediately issued strict orders that her sons never be left unsupervised.) More recently Harry was chased by a wild cockerel through the garden of Highgrove, his family's Gloucestershire estate. A tearful Harry suffered minor bruises, and the aggressive bird's visitation rights were summarily withdrawn.

It is unlikely that Harry will be king, which is not to say that there aren't advantages to being the second born, even in royal families. Both Charles and Diana believe they have been more assured and relaxed as parents with Harry than they were with the boisterous Wills. "I think we were able to communicate an atmosphere of greater relaxation to him," said his proud dad of the birthday boy. "He's a thoroughly splendid chap." Hear! Hear!

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