Prince Harry touched down at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday afternoon, jumped into a royal car, and sped off into what seems likely to be a very long period out of public view.
Frankly, he’s lucky he wasn’t taken directly to the tower, but it seems highly likely that cheeky chappy Prince Harry will simply laugh the nude photo scandal off.
Although he will undoubtedly get a bollocking—English slang, appropriately enough, for a severe telling off—from his dad, the royal rogue quite clearly adores being at the center of attention and will doubtless have plenty of friends and media outlets telling him it’s no big deal and that it actually enhances his reputation.
Indeed, the only person in the royal circle apparently authorized to speak out in defense of Harry so far, Alex van Straubenzee—father of Harry’s friend Tom, whom Harry raced to assist after a mobile-phone mugging—has already done as much. The story is just “tittle-tattle” and it will all “blow over,” he told the BBC. It was all terribly unfair on poor Harry, he suggested.
A year or so hence, we predict, the prince will do a thoughtful interview with Tom Bradby, smile wryly, and reflect on what he learned, owning up manfully to his part in the debacle and then the re-re-branding will begin. Maybe he will be Prince Henry, this time.
It is interesting to ponder how very different the reaction to this story would have been were it a princess, say, Eugenie or Beatrice, who had been photographed naked in Las Vegas. But the fact is that in our inherently sexist society, a large percentage of people will say Harry was having fun, boys will be boys, and the haters are just jealous. Indeed, a TMZ online poll had almost 70 percent of respondents saying Harry was “awesome” as a result of the pics.
So, for Harry, the nude picture scandal may be a kind of blessing in disguise. For his dad, Prince Charles, however, Harry’s latest and most spectacular misstep is an unmitigated disaster.
Charles has made no secret of his desire to preside over a slimmed-down monarchy when he becomes king, and he has been allowed to start making some of his changes early. He has spent much of the last year effectively firing the family of his brother, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, from the firm. It’s not been so much a power struggle as a coup worthy of Game of Thrones.
The Yorks have been brutally squeezed out of the royal picture. Pudgy Andrew got sent to India for his Jubilee tour, accompanied by one lonely local photographer, and his daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, who had been expecting to spend their lives on the royal payroll, opening community centers and the like, have been stripped of their royal bodyguards and told to get jobs.
Prince Philip’s sudden turn for the worse during the Jubilee gave Charles a golden opportunity to present his changes to the nation. At the closing of the Jubilee celebrations, with no Philip to overrule him, Charles argued that only the new slimmed-down monarchy—the queen, himself, William, and Harry, plus spouses where applicable—should feature in the balcony appearance.
There’s no denying that Charles’s instincts are 100 percent correct on this. The British public won’t tolerate another round of hangers-on like the Duke of Gloucester, the queen’s cousin, who does plenty of good work but also lives at taxpayers’ expense in Kensington Palace.
It was all going swimmingly. And maybe all the success went to Charles’s head, for he then seems to have decided that it would be a good idea for Harry to assume center stage at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics, when clearly it would have been far more appropriate for him or William to do the job if the queen really couldn’t be dragged back from Balmoral.
But succeeding in having Harry officially representing the queen in front of a global audience of billions to close the Olympics must have been a moment as triumphant for Charles as it was galling for Andrew, who was recently, according to the Mail’s Richard Kay, overheard “angrily telling a senior figure how he and others in the family are being pushed to the margins of royal life…for Andrew, according to one close figure, being excluded from the balcony scene was a sudden and totally unexpected demotion from front-rank to peripheral royal. It was ‘like a dagger to his heart and he hasn’t got over it.’”
Of course, the internal logic of Charles’s surgery is that if and when William produces an heir, Harry and his children should be cut off by his brother, just as Andrew is being ousted now.
As Charles was making his cuts, that must have seemed like an argument for another decade. Now the tables are turned. Harry has made himself a far more volatile, if not toxic brand than Beatrice or Eugenie could ever be.
Harry will be out of action for at least 18 months in terms of royal duties. With Philip on his last legs and surely due a peaceful retirement too, it could be argued that Charles’s liposuction may have been too much, too soon.
In the aftermath of the nude pics, there is egg all over Charles’s face. Putting so much trust, confidence, and duty in the hands of his youngest son, a well-known “loose cannon,” as former press secretary to the queen Dickie Arbiter called him Tuesday, now looks like almost as bad a judgment call as asking a bunch of girls you just met in a casino Las Vegas up to your room for a game of strip pool.