The question of what to do about a problem like Prince Harry reared its ugly head again this morning, when photos of the third-in-line to the throne, butt-naked during a game of strip-billiards during his recent boozy trip to Las Vegas, appeared on the website TMZ.
These deeply embarrassing photos were not grabbed by a long-lens snapper. Almost unbelievably, Prince Harry and his mates simply went down to the casino at the Wynn resort when they arrived on Friday night, picked up a bunch of random girls, invited them up to his palatial suite, complete with pool table, and embarked on the game, which soon resulted in Harry and at least one other girl – the one he is pictured bear-hugging in one of the photos – stripping totally naked.
Although one assumes there was a request to leave phones at the door, and royal security officers were present, let’s face it, any Vegas girl with an ounce of cunning would have found a way to cash in on the biggest payday of her life, and one clearly did, snapping photos of the crown jewels on her phone and passing them on to TMZ. In another photo published by the website, Harry stands full-frontal, cupping his genitals and appearing to be glancing at the massive TV in the cormer of the room.
As one wit commented on twitter: “Poor Prince Harry. I don't know what the world's coming to when you can't trust some random girl you met in Las Vegas.”
The reaction to the pictures from the British corridors of power was one of stunned shock today. Rather panicky royal press officers were simply repeating the line that there was no comment to make, but there will undoubtedly there will be huge disappointment at Harry’s latest idiotic caper, which will undo years of good work on the part of him and his team.
One royal aide said they ‘didn’t want to get into’ the reaction in Harry’s office to the pictures.
In the UK, at least, royal spinners are now focusing on damage control, by attempting to keep the pictures out of the British tabloid newspapers’ pages. A source at St James’s Palace said, “Whatever went on, we are reminding members of media of Prince Harry’s expectation of a level privacy when photos are taken in this manner, in a private hotel room. Obviously, there is not much we can do about foreign websites.”
Indeed. Now, the royal family has to brace itself for a steady drip of further revelations, as the women at the party will inevitably be identified over the next few days. UK tabloid reporters and photographers are currently swarming British airports to get on flights to Vegas and track down the women.
The real horror, of course, would be a video of the strip party emerging.
So much for the motivation of the girls. But how could Harry - and the friends he was with including his old school pal Tom 'Skippy' Inskip - be so stupid?
It has been no easy job for the Prince’s team to rehabilitate Harry’s image, but, over the course of the past 18 months, they have done an amazing job, transforming him in the popular imagination from a drunken, over-entitled, upper-class fool who spends his time falling out of nightclubs and wearing Nazi fancy dress into a respectable if roguish younger brother.
Harry shone at his brother’s wedding last year, and then was a hit in his own right on his jubilee tour to Jamaica and Barbados. Although he danced in the streets with locals, and was pictured sampling local moonshine, he was actually very careful not to drink too much.
In May, he travelled to Washington DC to accept an award for his humanitarian work from Colin Powell.
The Olympics sealed the deal. It was a tremendous honour for Harry to be asked to officially represent the Monarch at the closing ceremony, a sign of the newfound confidence the Queen and his father, Prince Charles, who is increasingly calling the shots at the highest level of decision-making in the palace, had decided to place in him.
These pictures show, unfortunately, that all the confidence in Harry was hugely misplaced. He just can't help himself. 64% of TMZ users might consider his behaviour ‘awesome’ according to their online poll, but the queen, Charles and William will all rightly be furious at his appalling judgment. This is one mistake that cannot be laughed off. Harry clearly still has an enormous amount of growing up to do before he can be considered for a pivotal royal role again.
Some feel it had only been a matter of time until Harry embarked on a blow-out of the proportions witnessed in Vegas, which also saw him jumping into a swimming pool with his clothes on after a boozy night and challenging Ryan Lochte to a swimming race.
Despite maintaining a relatively sober public image, off camera, there have been hints that Harry’s wild ways have persisted, and his demons have remained unconquered. There have been innumerable late nights, and in June this year, he was sick outside the ladies WC in the Arts Club in Mayfair.
Some of his circle say that although Harry has been publicly appearing to grow up during the past year, it has actually been a time of immense personal turmoil for him, following his split with long-term girlfriend Chelsy Davy after the Royal wedding. Although she was sometimes described as ‘wild’ herself, she was actually a calming, anchoring influence on Harry. Since then there have been a string of passing romances, but nothing approaching a relationship.
Dickie Arbiter, former press secretary to the Queen, commented this morning that Prince Harry is 'a loose cannon and shouldn't be left alone.'
Harry has now left Las Vegas and is believed to be travelling around California before heading back to the UK later this week to resume his army training. His office at St James’s Palace said he may be attending some events at the London Paralympics, which kick off next week, but these have yet to be scheduled.
Chances are, he won’t be standing in for grandma though.