Harry's night out turns into a battle royal with paparazzi

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The Independent Online

Having suffered a knee injury while teaching rugby to schoolchildren in the Midlands earlier this week, Prince Harry appeared to have found the ideal opportunity to indulge one of his other passions ­ a good night out on the tiles with his blue-blooded mates.

Having suffered a knee injury while teaching rugby to schoolchildren in the Midlands earlier this week, Prince Harry appeared to have found the ideal opportunity to indulge one of his other passions ­ a good night out on the tiles with his blue-blooded mates.

But by the small hours of yesterday, he found himself at the centre of a different kind of scrum, with the paparazzi on a pavement outside a London nightclub. Emerging with his bodyguards at about 3am from the Pangaea ­ an exclusive club off Piccadilly popular with high-rolling celebrities ­ the prince turned on a group of 10 photographers. According to witnesses, he was about to climb into his chauffeur-driven Mercedes when he dived back to the mêlée, pushing one of the paparazzi and cutting his lip, while swearing at the top of his voice.

Perhaps fuelled by alcohol ­ one photographer claimed the prince was "not on mineral water" ­ he may have been more combustible knowing that a girlfriend was about to leave soon after him.

Chris Uncle, 24, claimed his camera hit him in the face after Harry "lunged" at him and screamed: "Why are you doing this? Why don't you leave me alone?" Mr Uncle, a celebrity snapper, may press charges, while the rest of the pack have expressed doubt about the Prince's claims that he erupted only after being hit in the face.

The Prince had to have a doctor's check-up yesterday morning for a "red nose". One said: "There were 10 photographers there taking about 100 pictures ­ so how is it that there's none of Harry being hit? It would be worth a fortune."

The resulting pictures of the Prince, grappling with photographers and then being bundled by Royal Protection Squad officers out of harm's way, his face almost as red as his closely cropped hair, have dealt a blow to attempts within the royal estate to change his image as the black sheep of the family.

His behaviour has also prompted suggestions that after a difficult fortnight in which it was claimed he cheated to pass exams at Eton he had finally snapped when faced by his nemesis ­ the paparazzi whom he still associates with the death of his mother.

The allegations of cheating were made by Sarah Forsyth, an Eton art mistress who pursued an unfair dismissal claim by secretly taping him. "This has put him under added pressure," one royal observer said. "His background has been picked over again."

Some believe that his image as a wild man are at odds with the reality. During his rugby tutoring he has been commuting between the Midlands and his father's home in Highgrove, Gloucestershire, and has rarely been out. "The reality is that every time he goes out, the photographers are there and we all get to know about it," said the royal observer.

Summer had seen the PR department at Clarence House, headed by the former Manchester United spin chief Paddy Harveson, make the most of the 20-year-old's charity visit to Lesotho, where he was pictured cradling a baby in an echo of his mother's work, and his training role for the Rugby Football Union.

The message was clear: that as the third in line to the throne prepares to embark on a career in the Army at Sandhurst, he had largely overcome the wobbles of his teenage years.

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