09/21/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT
It was an occasion guaranteed to evoke memories of Princess Diana, who had beamed with pride three years before as Prince William
registered at Eton. "She stood out so strongly that day," recalls royals author Judy Wade. Prince Charles was at Prince Harry
's side when his turn came Sept. 2. But most of the boys arriving at the posh 558-year-old school "had their mummies," says Wade. "The only one without seemed to be Harry. It was sad."
Yet Diana's self-possessed younger son—who, along with William, released a statement that day asking the world to let their mother "rest in peace"—made it clear he wasn't living in the past. Bounding from the station wagon that delivered him and his father to Manor House, his new home, the 14-year-old (on Sept. 15) waved cheerfully to well-wishers and the press before disappearing inside for tea with housemaster Dr. Andrew Gailey. Later, as he prepared to enter his name in the school register—the book his brother signed on the wrong line in '95—Charles chided him: "Sign in the right place." Cheekily, Harry shot back: "Shut up."
After spending his first night at Manor House, Harry emerged from his 10-foot-by-7-foot single room pink-cheeked and perfectly pressed in Eton's traditional coat and tails, to lead his classmates to morning chapel. (To avoid stealing Harry's thunder, the press-shy William had arrived on campus separately.) For all Harry's confidence, he may be in for some rough months. "Most boys find Eton difficult their first year," says Majesty editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward. And William, who sealed his scholarly reputation by scoring A-pluses, A's or B's in three of his nine exams, is a tough act to follow.
Judging from his first day, though, Harry has strengths his big brother might envy. "Harry was smiling a lot the whole 24 hours," says British Press Association reporter Peter Archer. "He seems to enjoy being the center of attention."