Harry at the party in Las Vegas
London, Aug. 23: The British public will be relieved Harry has turned out to be as normal as he has.
Many still remember he was only 12 when Princess Diana was killed in a Paris tunnel in 1997. The image of her two sons walking, heads bowed behind their mother’s cortege, still remains fresh in the public consciousness.
Harry’s supporters acknowledge he has experimented with drugs; that he does like to drink — his tipple in Las Vegas was vodka and cranberry juice and in generous quantities — and that he does not resist when a succession of pretty girls throw themselves at him.
Sure, they think he was foolish to allow nude photographs to be taken with a camera phone in his hotel suite but the consensus is that no serious harm has been done.
There have been suggestions that his private detectives should have stopped the “strip billiards” game before his Royal Highness decided to take off his fetching shorts or, at least, relieved his new friends, including a clutch of girls he had just met, of their mobiles.
Someone took a couple of snaps and sold the images to TMZ website in America for $10,000.
But as Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, pointed out: “Royal protection officers are there to protect him for security reasons. They are not there to regulate his life.”
Last week, checking into the Wynn Resort — a gleaming black edifice that is part of the empire of the Las Vegas magnate Steve Wynn — the prince was said to have told a fellow guest that he had come for some “full-on partying”. Together with a large entourage, he was seen playing in the casino and drinking in the hotel bar. TMZ reported that the Prince and his friends had “met a bunch of hot chicks and invited them up to his VIP suite”, where they engaged in a game of “strip billiards”.
The following day the prince was spotted at the MGM Grand, occupying one of the private bungalows on the edge of the hotel’s large salt-water pools.
He wore a white panama hat and red Hawaiian shorts, he sipped Grey Goose cocktails. A Las Vegas television station shot footage of the prince chatting to a delighted group of young women in bikinis.
If the prince was able to keep a relatively low profile here, it was perhaps because he was sharing the scene with Hollywood royalty. A few bungalows away, the singer Jennifer Lopez was holding court with her young boyfriend, the dancer Casper Smart.
Many in the US appear to be delighted. Of more than 200,000 people who participated in an online poll, 66 per cent apparently thought his behaviour was “awesome” rather than “disgraceful”.
There are times when Harry resembles one of Bertie Wooster’s spirited friends in a P.G. Wodehouse novel. He certainly is not borne down with the responsibility of being third in line to the throne.
He was born Prince Henry Charles Albert David in London on September 15, 1984, but is known as Harry. His red hair, very different in colour from that of his brother, has given rise to speculation that his biological father is not Prince Charles but James Hewitt, an army officer with whom Diana admitted having a passionate affair.
Although some observers detected a resemblance between the red-haired Hewitt and Harry, the former has emphatically rejected the possibility. “There really is no possibility whatsoever that I am Harry’s father,” Hewitt has stated. “I can absolutely assure you that I am notů. I can understand the interest but Harry was already walking by the time my relationship with Diana began. Admittedly the red hair is similar to mine and people say we look alike. I have never encouraged these comparisons and although I was with Diana for a long time I must state once and for all that I’m not Harry’s father.”
It was Diana’s idea to send her sons to Eton, where she would be able to see them frequently, rather than the more austere Gordonstoun in Scotland where Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh had been educated.
Eton was a liberating experience for both William and Harry. They did well at sports. William went on to St Andrew’s University in Fife, Scotland, where he met Kate Middleton.
In June 2003, Harry left Eton with a grade B in art and a D in geography and decided wisely that university was not for him. After a gap year — very common today among the young — in Australia, Argentina and Africa, he entered the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, about 55km southwest of London, in May 2005. He successfully completed a 44-week training course as an Officer Cadet, before being commissioned in April 2006.
In February 2008, Prince Harry completed more than two months’ service with the British Army in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Prince Harry’s principal residences are at Clarence House in London and Highgrove in Gloucestershire. A new household office was set up at St James’s Palace, London, for Harry and for William, in January 2009 to reflect their growing public lives.
His personal life hasn’t always been free of controversy but his actions have been put down to the foolishness of youth. His on-off girlfriend was Chelsea Davy, a blonde whose parents came from the old Rhodesia. She does not even live in England these days. At one stage she enrolled at Leeds University to be near Harry. But last year Harry confirmed he was “100 per cent” single.
There have been occasions when Harry has behaved badly. In 2009, he was caught on tape calling a fellow Asian officer “our little Paki friend”. He was quick to apologise to the officer. It is noticeable that neither William nor Harry appear to have any non-white friends, preferring to move in the world of Hooray Henrys, including ones who were at Eton with them.
Another serious error of judgment saw him attend a friend’s fancy dress birthday party wearing a swastika armband in 2005 which caused widespread outrage. The incident happened in the run-up to the national commemorations attended by the Queen to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Clarence House quickly issued a fulsome statement saying the young prince was sorry if he had caused any offence.
Earlier this year, there were indications that he was maturing after he managed a very successful tour of the Caribbean to mark his grandmother’s diamond jubilee.
The point made about Harry is that he behaves like a “typical” 27-year-old, serious during the working day but inclined to go wild at the weekend. The only problem for him is that the Queen wants him to take on more royal duties.
Harry’s strength and his weakness are that once he has had a few drinks he tends to forget who he is. For better or worse, Britain will learn to put up with the partying prince.