Prince Harry celebrated his 31st birthday today by embarking on day one of his new life as a ‘full-time’ royal in typically idiosyncratic style.
Sporting a full-face beard and wearing a flight suit to a Battle of Britain memorial flypast at Goodwood Aereodrome (rather than a formal army uniform as might have been expected while attending an RAF event in his official capacity), ‘Prince Hairy’, freshly back from his ‘life-changing’ anti-poaching sojourn in Africa, seemed determined to telegraph a message that he is going to do things ‘his way’ and will not be unnecessarily bound by tradition.
Harry didn’t just look laid back. He looked like he had just rolled out of bed.
Insiders detect the sure hand of the Kensington Palace PR supremo Jason Knauff, who has been on a mission to make the young royals less formal and more approachable, part of a master plan to ensure that the family continues to connect with citizens as the 21st century bounds onwards.
It is Knauff, attentive readers of the Royalist will recall, who was said to be behind the cakes sent out to loyal ‘superfans’ waiting outside the hospital for the birth of Princess Charlotte and he is also the prime mover in the palace’s attempts to bypass the traditional media via a massively increased social media presence in recent months. Knauff, an American, was also the signatory of the much-derided letter appealing directly to consumers not to support magazines that published pap pics of Prince George.
Odd as it may seem to foreigners, a hirsute senior royal is a truly radical prospect in the U.K. today.
Although we have had bearded kings throughout history, the Queen has enforced a strict ‘no beard’ policy throughout her reign. In the past 60 years, the corridors of Buckingham Palace have been little troubled by facial hair.
She is known to loathe beards, like much of her generation, seeing them as little more than the overt expression of a poor morning routine.
In fact, Harry’s grandmother has such an aversion to hairy-faced men that her staff are forbidden to sport them, and there was apparently much frostiness at Sandringham at Christmas 2013 when Harry declined to shave off the facial fuzz he grew on his polar walk.
Style-wise, one might well argue that Harry has missed the boat, as true hipsters are now shaving their beards off, but Harry has never really demonstrated an iota of interest in fashion.
And this is about something else, anyway. The remarkable thing is that, even in the era of peak beard, growing a little facial fuzz is still something of an anti-establishment statement. James Middleton—Kate’s brother—has a massive (some would say out of control) homesteader’s beard which serves to point up explicitly that he is not part of the royal troupe. The new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s beard is a visual reminder of his radical left-wing policies and actively messages his contempt for what he and his allies see as the toadying, clean-shaven David Camerons of the world.
The flight suit also seems a studied declaration of intent that Harry will be a different, more approachable genre of prince. Harry looks good in it, that cannot be denied, and the picture will definitely make tomorrow’s front pages, but it’s hard to imagine the old guard at the Palace delighting in the fact that the first picture of Harry in many months is so totally lacking in royal dignity.
British GQ’s Online Fashion Editor, Nick Carvell, told the Royalist, “Harry’s new facial hair is what I like to call a ‘starter beard’, one that hits approximately the 4mm mark and looks superbly smart when cared for properly.
“First-up he’ll need to trim it on a daily basis, so he should invest in a good beard trimmer (I use the Remington 5-in-1 and give it a once-over every day, making sure to clean-shave any strays on his neck. Second, he should rub a great beard oil into it once a week (I’d particularly recommend those from Tom Ford or Penhaligon) to condition not just the hairs on his face, but also the skin he’s now covering underneath.”
Carvell is too polite to say it but the truth is, today, Harry looked a scruff.
This may not be entirely accidental. For if there is one thing the Royals understand in their very core, it is the importance of visual symbols.
Today’s appearance by Prince Harry was rich in them, and might just herald an exciting new departure for the next generation of British royals.