Promising a big reveal is always a risky media strategy.
So when Prince Harry promised to open up about ‘a big secret’ yesterday as part of a World Aids Day campaign to help reduce the stigma associated with HIV--in Lesotho many children with HIV won’t seek help because they are too embarrassed to admit to having the disease, and prefer to keep their condition secret – there was perhaps always going to be a significant risk of disappointment.
While we never expected anything along the lines of the secret suggested by one veteran Harry watcher, “I hooked up with Kate, sorry Will”, the young royal’s subsequent revelation that he gets nervous before public speaking – an almost universal fear, let us not forget - can only be described as underwhelming.
It was purely co-incidental that the campaign went live just days after Prince Harry faced another round of negative headlines for his supposed party lifestyle, but still, Harry and his advisers might be forgiven for hoping that the new push on behalf of his charity Sentebale might move attention on from the recent spate of headlines asserting that Harry has been back to his partying ways in recent weeks.
A week ago Harry was in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina club celebrating with Lewis Hamilton and his partner Nicole Scherzinger, after the British driver won the Formula 1 championship. Harry reportedly stayed at the club till 5 am – long after Hamilton had left - and was twerking on the dancefloor according to fellow partygoers who broadcast the news on twitter.
A picture of him smoking a shisha pipe on board a yacht the previous night — the yacht had been turned into a pop-up of his former favorite nightclub, London’s Mahiki, and was being promoted by his pal Guy Pelly, and was open to anyone with £150 to spend on a ticket — also stirred up trouble, and did little to dispel the Party Prince image.
Anti-smoking organizations were quick to pounce on the pictures as evidence Harry was setting a poor example (shisha bars are becoming increasingly popular in Britain).
The British Heart Foundation, of which Prince Philip is president, claims that in one puff from a shisha, a user inhales the same amount of smoke as from an entire cigarette. The Daily Mail then calculated that using the bubble pipe for 15 minutes, as Harry reportedly did, is equivalent to smoking 25 cigarettes.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of smoking a hookah (and Harry is after all a smoker--even though he is never photographed smoking) the pictures undoubtedly represented a notable lapse of vigilance for Harry. Mindful of the persistence of the ‘Party Prince’ tag he earned himself in Vegas, Harry has been extremely careful not to be photographed in public doing anything that might be construed as ‘partying’ for many months now.
This is not to say he has been living a monkish life. Throughout the summer there were rumors circulating among the press that Harry’s lifestyle was in fact little changed – the only difference being that the act of letting his hair down was being conducted behind the doors of private houses rather than on the dancefloors of nightclubs.
The diarist Sebastian Shakespeare reported yesterday that sources were concerned that since Harry took up a desk job with the army in London he had “too much time for partying” and that there was a plan for him to “undertake training in the new year” enabling him to fly the Lynx battlefield-support chopper.
Harry served in Afghanistan as an Apache pilot but there is no current operational role for Apaches since Britain pulled out of Afghanistan.
In a Lynx, however, Harry could take part in reconnaissance missions and transport passengers.
But sources tell the Royalist that such ideas may be no more than flights of fancy, and it is improbable in the extreme to suggest that the British army would consider redeploying Harry to suit his personal development.
However there is little doubt that Harry has felt at his most happy and fulfilled when he has been active in his army life. Although his work organizing the Invictus games for wounded servicemen has been a source of great pride to him and his family, Harry is more of a hands-on type of guy.
He recently told another soldier at an official event that he would like to fly again.
There is little doubt that Harry has found life in a desk job frustrating – and those who know the prince well know that a frustrated Harry is a Harry who does silly things.
Bu the reality is that even in the unlikely case that a course could be charted for Harry back into the military cockpit, it won’t happen quickly. Nothing in the army ever does.
Harry will remain in his desk job for now.
And so with the Christmas party season just beginning in London, the combination of frustration and the insouciance in the presence of camera phones he displayed in Abu Dhabi could make for an interesting couple of weeks for those tasked with protecting Harry.