Focus: Poor belittled rich kids - Prince Harry and his fancy-dress set

Harry's people love huntin', drinkin' and fallin' over. Cole Moreton reveals who they are and why they don't have to care what people think. And we ask Harry's peers what they make of his Nazi jape
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is just a shame his girlfriend was not there. Chelsy Davy may be a fun-loving 19-year-old Cape Town socialite but she knows what colonial means, post- or otherwise. Her father, Charles Davy, owns the biggest big-game hunting operation in Zimbabwe and does business with high-ranking members of the government led by Robert Mugabe, whose views on Britain after the empire do not amuse Her Majesty at all.

It is just a shame his girlfriend was not there. Chelsy Davy may be a fun-loving 19-year-old Cape Town socialite but she knows what colonial means, post- or otherwise. Her father, Charles Davy, owns the biggest big-game hunting operation in Zimbabwe and does business with high-ranking members of the government led by Robert Mugabe, whose views on Britain after the empire do not amuse Her Majesty at all.

At the very least, the wealthy blonde undergraduate might have asked her royal squeeze last Saturday why exactly he wanted to wear a fake German army uniform to a party themed "native and colonial". Or maybe she wouldn't have cared. The friends of Harry do not make a habit of doing so. The boys and girls that surround him at Highgrove or share his exotic holidays seem mainly interested in huntin', drinkin' and fallin' over. So maybe Chelsy would not have batted an eyelid if she had been at Maud's Cotswold Costumes in the village of Nailsworth last week, when the princes were looking for outfits.

Prince William, who has been portrayed as the caring, sensitive, good-looking one (the best of his mother and father, with the faults of neither), apparently asked for a Zulu costume. There were white people with blacked-up faces when he did get to the party, so one can only presume that going as a Zulu would have meant William blacking up too. Reports ambiguously described William wearing a black leotard and a "lion-leopard" outfit that he made himself, with "outsize furry paws". The paws could equally have been the footwear worn by those warriors who leap and dance in front of his grandmother every time she goes to Africa. They wear skins too. So it might all have been so much worse: if the boys had got what they wanted when they went into the shop, Prince William might have been photographed trying to look like a black man in primitive clothing, while Harry would have been posing in the death's-head uniform of the Waffen SS. Now that would have made the party swing.

Chelsy wasn't there, of course; she was back in Cape Town studying commerce, economics and (presumably) the heated international coverage of her man's antics. According to one friend, Harry admitted in an emotional late-night phone call to her that he had made a big mistake. But according to another friend she was about to dump him. And yet another friend says he is "out of control" surrounded by "hooray idiots" who cheer on his increasingly reckless behaviour.

"If there is a fountain at a party you know he will be the first in it," this friend of the family told the press. "He is not a bright chap. You have to be seriously academically challenged to come away from Eton with one A-level." With friends like Harry's, no wonder he's making enemies.

Chelsy has become a dominant figure in the prince's life since they met nine months ago, while she was a pupil at Cheltenham Ladies College near Highgrove. The couple have enjoyed a series of big nights out in exotic locations, including champagne and tequila at the Rhodes House club in Cape Town, where they spent 20 minutes locked in a lavatory together. Before Christmas they holidayed on the island of Bazaruto in Mozambique where her father Charles owns most of the fishing rights. He also has a huge safari park in Zimbabwe where you can shoot elephants, lions and buffaloes for £700 a day. That must appeal to Harry, who shot a water buffalo last year in Argentina, then posed with its head.

Hunting is a favoured activity among his circle. Last week's party was to celebrate the 22nd birthday of Harry Meade, the son of the Olympic gold medallist equestrian Richard Meade. The birthday boy was one of the protesters ejected from the Labour party conference in Brighton in September after heckling Tony Blair inside the hall. The Labour MP Gerald Kaufman accused hunt supporters outside the building of shouting anti-Semitic insults as he went in, including "You're an immigrant," and "You weren't born in this country".

Harry Meade likes dressing up: at a party during the 2001 European Junior Equestrian three-day event in Germany he wore a blonde wig, make-up and ladies' underwear. His tastes are obviously shared by another member of the Highgrove set - or Club H as they call themselves, after the cellar at Highgrove where Prince Charles allowed them to meet: Guy Pelly went to last week's party dressed as none other than the Queen. Guy, 21, is the son of a landowner from Kent. He was one of the Aggies, a boisterous crowd at Cirencester agricultural college, but left after wrongly being accused of introducing the young prince to cannabis. Harry admitted using the drug, and also confessed that he was an enthusiastic regular at pubs inluding the Rattlebone Inn in Sherston, Wiltshire, despite being under age.

Prince Charles said he regretted not spending enough time with his son (which may have caused him to reflect again last week: before the scandal he had apparently spent only three days with Harry in the last six weeks). A penitent Harry later visited a drugs rehabilitation clinic in South London with his unofficial minder Mark Dyer, 38.

The former Captain in the Welsh Guards, who was also equerry to the Prince of Wales, organised a successful gap year for William and was asked to do the same for Harry. Unfortunately the prince hit the headlines for partying in Australia and Dyer was blamed by Charles.

He appears to retain the confidence of the young princes, but was not around last weekend. That's another shame. Harry looks up to the straight-talking Dyer, the co-founder of a bar management company, and might have taken the older man's advice about his party outfit.

After the cannabis incident Guy Pelly was not ostracised from Club H, whose members recognise that he took a lot of blame on Harry's behalf. Pelly, who has a conviction for drink driving, once stripped to his boxer shorts and climbed to the top of a 40ft marquee at the Royal Berkshire Polo Club in Windsor.

Polo is as central to the social life of Club H as fox hunting, but at least one member does not drink during the polo season. Luke Tomlinson, 27, takes the sport very seriously, an attitude that has made him one of Britain's top players. The Old Etonian spends half the year playing in Argentina, and was there with Harry last year. Again, the prince's working holiday on a ranch was overshadowed by yet more reports of late-night binges.

Claire Tomlinson, Luke's mother, was once one of the finest female polo players in the world and now trains the princes. They are keen players - Harry being the more skilful - and regulars on the circuit. Harry was caught giving a one-fingered salute to a cameraman at a Cartier polo event last summer (which was at least friendlier than the split-lip he gave another snapper outside a Mayfair nightclub in October last year).

Luke made it on to Tatler magazine's list of the country's 10 most eligible bachelors; he was also one of the eight pro-hunting protesters arrested for breaking in to the House of Commons last year.

Such publicity-seeking stunts may now be very unwise for anyone who wants to remain a close friend of Harry, however passionate the pro-hunting campaign becomes. Or maybe, again, the members of Club H just won't care what anyone else thinks.

One friend who may be asked to help stabilise young Harry is Edward van Cutsem, the godson of the Prince of Wales. The 29-year-old City banker was asked to act as an unofficial older brother to the princes, and they were ushers when he married Lady Tamara Grosvenor, 24, in November. The van Cutsems organised a football match at Sandringham on Boxing Day between "the Household" - including William and Harry in union flag shirts - and "the Gamekeepers": friends, estate workers and detectives.

Harry had put his entry to Sandhurst for officer training back from January to May because of a bruised knee, but this did not stop him playing football. He was also seen smoking on a shoot. But after his Nazi jape, a gammy leg and a wheezy chest are the least of the ways in which the troubled young prince should be considered unfit for the army.

THE PRINCE'S PEERS: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HARRY?

Robert Jacobs, 20 (London)

The costume was distasteful, totally inappropriate. Prince Harry lacks respect and discipline. Hopefully, these will be instilled in him once he begins his army career.

Rosi Hunter, 20 (Leicester)

I think he's a bit fed up and doesn't want to be who he is, and he's just thinking: "Sod it, I won't be." You'd think his parents and advisers would try to stop him.

Chris Thorpe, 20 (Horam, Sussex)

He should still go out drinking and partying just like a normal lad. I would wear that outfit as fancy dress, to give people a chuckle, but my ideal outfit would be Superman.

Ayisha Winmai, 21 (London)

To dress as a Nazi could never be a tasteful choice for fancy dress. We all do reckless things but we have the luxury of doing it at university, where our parents can't see!

Hari Ashurst, 19 (Devon)

I felt sorry for him. There's always someone waiting to take a picture, and I don't think he has a grasp on what it means. I don't see how he can relate to the suffering at Auschwitz.

Joanne Millar, 22 (Glasgow)

Harry is supposed to be highly educated - why didn't he think about how offensive it might be? He's a Jack-the-Lad out enjoying himself, without a thought of any consequences.

Robert Davis, 22 (Radlett, Herts)

It is refreshing to see two royals with as much normality in their lives as they can get. This is the usual behaviour I would expect of someone of this age, if a little extreme sometimes.

Zanya Taylor, 19 (Ilford, Essex)

He is an arrogant fool with money. If I stepped out of my house dressed like that, I would be beaten up - and I would not blame anyone for being that angry with me.

Faaez Samadi, 19 (Nottingham)

Throwing him out of Sandhurst would be a harsh punishment: I'm sure lots of people his age have done incredibly stupid things, but their futures haven't suffered as a result.

Sally Knowles, 20 (Cornwall)

My peers just think Harry's a toff who's a bit dim, and probably inbred. The royal family seems to be a PR exercise gone wrong. I think Harry's perfectly fit for it.

Patrick Sebuchiem, 22 (London)

No one in this day and age would do that in all seriousness - not unless you've got a death wish. If you truly subscribe to what that represents you don't do it out in the open.

Lisa Hogg, 21 (Belfast)

He's immature and irresponsible, with no sense of propriety - perfectly fit to be a royal. He should give a public apology, but he'll have no problem getting into Sandhurst.

Comments