Fed up with the Playboy Prince narrative that Harry so effortlessly projects as he parties with David Beckham and other celebrities in London nightclubs, Clarence House press officers will no doubt be congratulating themselves today on an overnight rebranding of Prince Harry as a warrior and flying ace.
For the front page of Britain’s Daily Telegraph carries the news not just that newly qualified Apache helicopter pilot Prince Harry is to be deployed on active combat to Afghanistan, but is packed with enough jingoistic details to unsettle the most assertive Falkland Islander. Sources at the Ministry of Defense have gone to some lengths to emphasize to the newspaper that the prince will be getting blood on his hands: his job, we are told, will be to “kill insurgents” and he will be joining a team with one of the highest “kill rates” in Afghanistan.
“Killing insurgents is what the machine Prince Harry flies is there for, you cannot put it any other way,” a source told the Telegraph, whilst others added that Harry was “looking forward to doing his duty.”
The prince will not be deployed without the express approval of Prime Minister David Cameron, the paper reported. The Ministry of Defense has decided that no media blackout is necessary, as it was last time Harry served on the front line, in Helmand province, because as a helicopter pilot, “Captain Wales” is at considerably less risk of being targeted than he was as an infantryman. Harry’s last deployment was brought to a rapid end after six weeks, when his presence in Afghanistan was noticed by Matt Drudge who was unaware of the blackout.
The cut on his nose, Clarence House has once again taken the opportunity to point out, was incurred not by hard living but during a particularly rough kidnap-simulation exercise.
Whilst some might question the PR value of sending the third in line to the throne off to kill ragtag bands of fighters in a disastrous war the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom are opposed to, the managers of Brand Harry have obviously decided that this is the way to go. Enormous emphasis in the new Harry story is being placed on how hard it is to qualify as an Apache pilot, including the oft-repeated fact that just one in 10 of those who apply to fly the attack helicopters make it through the training to do so.
Whilst it would clearly be absurd to suggest that military rules would be bent for Prince Harry, it’s equally hard to see how the royal brand would have handled the inevitable humiliation that would have accompanied Harry failing to qualify. Furthermore, there is a feeling of déjà-vu about the claims of Harry’s genius in the air. His brilliance during his air combat training in Arizona (“One of the best young pilots the country has ever seen”; “Prince Harry ‘Top of Class’ in US helicopter training”), was the relentlessly promoted story during his time in America—until a photograph of him kissing a bottle-service girl at a live-music venue in San Diego was published by the website Rumorfix.com.
The weariness that some may feel at being presented once again with Harry the military action man when his day to day priorities seem somewhat divergent from that calling is alluded to in the Telegraph’s front-page cartoon, which refers to Prince Harry reportedly being put in charge of organizing the musical bill for his grandmother’s Jubilee celebrations. Standing outside a cave, one Afghan comments to another, “It could be worse. We could be getting a concert by Elton John, Cliff Richard, Tom Jones and Paul McCartney.”