Prince Harry: The Prince and the Paparazzi

Henry Charles Albert David (that's Sir to you, and Harry to the press) is a very angry young man. He has been hunted down by a new breed of press photographer and riled by accusations of cheating in his A-levels. Few would begrudge him a swing at his tormentors. But it will earn him still fewer admirers
Click to follow

Harry. It's a name that conjures up an image of naughtiness and naivety. It's not a proper grown-up name, but there's something rather endearing about it. And, true to character, that's how Prince Harry has always been portrayed by those who know him best: irrepressibly mischievous, daring and sometimes foolhardy. But always curiously lovable. This week his image changed.

Harry. It's a name that conjures up an image of naughtiness and naivety. It's not a proper grown-up name, but there's something rather endearing about it. And, true to character, that's how Prince Harry has always been portrayed by those who know him best: irrepressibly mischievous, daring and sometimes foolhardy. But always curiously lovable. This week his image changed.

"Oh, Harry?" people in the Palace would say to me with a knowing smile. "He's fine. He's just Harry - and he'll always be OK." Well, he isn't OK. He's riled and he's hurting. What's more - most unregally - he's letting it show.

His real name, of course, is Henry. In keeping with royal tradition, the infant prince was given a bewildering array of names when he was christened on 21 December 1984. In the grandeur of St George's Chapel, Windsor, the tiny tot was baptised Henry Charles Albert David - ample material to make any future bride comprehensively tongue-tied, just as Diana, Princess of Wales, was at her wedding. But, as Henry's dad let slip shortly after the Princess's death, his given name is rarely used. "Harry is only called Henry when he's been very, very naughty," the Prince of Wales said. I suspect that, after that now infamous fracas outside a London nightclub, "Henry" may well have been called into service.

There will, though, be enormous sympathy for him in royal circles - not least from his father and brother. For the 20-year-old prince has done what most of his family have been itching to do for decades: lashed out at the bane of their lives ... the press.

Years of careful training have gone into moulding Harry into what is generally required of a prince of the realm. From Mrs Mynor's Nursery School in west London, through his tender years at Wetherby School in Kensington and then, with his brother, Prince William, at Ludgrove - a boarding school near Wokingham for boys of good breeding - he has learnt that, however much he tries to fit in, he is different from his peers. Even at Eton, where the stupendous fees act as a selection process, royal princes were different. They were watched over by bodyguards 24 hours a day and the threat of prying paparazzi lenses was ever-present.

So Harry knew from an early age that the pressure on him to behave was greater than for his friends. His mother was aware of this, but she was determined to give her boys a chance to live as normally as possible. She arranged "play days" and "work days": times when they could don their jeans and baseball caps for a trip to McDonald's and times when, besuited, they would have to behave as royals.

However, as Harry discovered this week, the lines are not so neatly drawn. He might dress and act like any other clubber - drinking, smoking and, no doubt, flirting - but he's still different. He's not just a celebrity, he's a royal one. And as long as we choose to have a royal family then we, as a society, tend to demand certain standards of them. One is that they accept they are of legitimate public interest and that photographers have a job to do. Jumping out of your car and shoving a camera into a snapper's face, cutting his lip, is not acceptable. There's very little point in having a royal family who are invisible. They're always keen for their good works - of which they do many - to be properly publicised. Prince Charles used to get quite jealous when scores of press followed Diana around the world while he could muster only a paltry half dozen. But the other side of that coin is that, when they are off-duty but in a public place, they are of equal interest.

Diana was always concerned that Harry would have the rougher ride because, as the second son, there is no defined role for him. Being a member of a royal family is a bizarre and isolated existence - even for Prince Charles and Prince William, whose destinies are clearly marked out. Harry, though, is merely the official "spare" - as Prince Andrew and Princess Margaret were before him. Both earned reputations as wastrel party animals. Harry has got to make sense of a position in life that many of us would find pointless.

He is, of course, scarred by the sudden loss of his mother. He was only 12 when Diana died and, although he has always had a close and loving relationship with his father, he was cruelly robbed of his mother's tender, guiding hand. She wasn't there to help Harry through those difficult teenage years. She wasn't there to put his mind at rest when the gossip began about whether his father was in fact Prince Charles or James Hewitt, a rumour that most royal-watchers now dismiss.

She was ferocious in protecting her sons and Harry will remember how she, too, once got physical with the photographers. During a skiing holiday with the boys in Austria, Diana marched across the slopes and slapped her hand over the lens of one of the 80 or so cameramen. It hit the headlines, of course, but later the Princess told me she had no regrets. "I feel raped by it all," she said. "I have to protect my sons ... They don't like the cameras. I know they'll have to get used to them, but at the moment they're very sensitive." And that sensitivity remains - par- ticularly after the role they believe the paparazzi played in their mother's death.

Harry has had a lot to contend with in his young life. When, in common with many other lads of his age, he drank too much and dabbled in drugs it was splashed all over the News of the World. The Palace spin-doctor had done a deal: the story was about to leak, so he gave them chapter and verse. In return for what? Rumours abound that there was more to tell but it was hushed up. The Palace insists the rumours are wrong. Prince Charles took swift action. He sent his son to visit a rehabilitation clinic to see the effects of drug abuse at first hand. He also indicated that he'd do his best to keep a closer eye on Harry.

Harry was badly affected by the recent allegations that he cheated in his art A-level. He may not be the sharpest card in the pack - and he'd far rather be playing polo than studying - but he's muddled through his schooldays as well as many non-academic youngsters do.

He enjoys a life of enormous wealth and privilege; his father's houses are full of servants and his granny lives in palaces and castles. He never has to worry about the daily chores that concern the rest of us. Part of the package that goes with this status and privilege is that when he's in public he's on show. It might be tough - but that's the way it is. Harry says he wants to carry on his mother's work. With that in mind he spent part of his gap year in Africa helping at an orphanage. There we saw a gentle and mature side to his character that's often masked by the boozy, prince-on-the-razzle pictures.

As he was driven off from his posh nightclub this week, head in hands, he obviously knew he'd blown it big time. The next time he's out on the town, the paparazzi pack will be twice as big. Harry has upped the ante: he's made himself a highly marketable target. In the eyes of the press, he's now a story waiting to happen and everyone will want a piece of the action. Meanwhile, we can all play the nation's favourite parlour game: prurience, while the poor guy tries to come to terms with the extraordinary hand life has dealt him.

Fortunately for him, he'll soon be in the relative safety of Sandhurst as he begins his military training. The extra rope he's been allowed, as the spare to the heir, will doubtless be reined in by the rigours of military discipline. And that could prove his salvation. Because, as he is learning, he has no choice but to accept the price of his princely status. Next time, Harry, just pose for the goddamn pictures and don't let the bastards get you down!