The court of Prince Harry

<preform>Who are the key figures surrounding him, and why did they fail to avert such a gaffe? Terry Kirby</b></i> reports</preform>
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The family

The family

Harry has found few advisors or friends within the dysfunctional yet stuffy Windsors. When Harry became involved with cannabis at the age of 17, Prince Charles said he would spend more time with his son.

Observers say this never really happened and one of the reasons why his son has veered off the rails is the lack of an authority figure in his life. On Saturday night, when Harry put on his Nazi uniform at Highgrove, his father was in Scotland.

Harry's older brother, William, apparently a sensible and intelligent man, has never attracted the same unfavourable attention. Although they do not always socialise - William being away at university - on Saturday they chose costumes together at a Cotswold fancy dress hire shop.

William clearly saw nothing wrong in his brother's Nazi choice - or at least there is no suggestion he attempted to dissuade him; he selected a leopard outfit.

Prince Harry counts his cousins, Peter and Zara Phillips, the children of the Princess Royal and her first husband, Mark, as his friends, although how close they are is not clear. Peter, 27, is seen as something of an older brother to William and Harry, while Zara, 23, is more in Harry's rebellious mould.

There is no suggestion Harry is particular friendly with any other of the older royals, although the Duchess of York leapt to his defence, telling American television that he "deserved a break".

The Highgrove set

The core are nicknamed "Club H" - after the basement room at Highgrove where they gathered when Prince Harry was younger - and part of a group of well-heeled, well-bred young people around the prince; they are intimately linked by family and schooling ties, royal connections and shared interests in hunting and polo playing.

Harry clearly feels most at home among them, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other.

Few would have expressed surprise at his donning of a Nazi uniform at the party last Saturday night in Wiltshire to celebrate the 22nd birthday of one of their number, Harry Meade, son of Olympic gold medal winner Richard Meade, himself a former boyfriend of the Princess Royal. The party took place at his Wiltshire estate. Harry Meade is one of six pro-hunting protesters who interrupted Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party Conference.

Other Club H members include Guy Pelly, the son of a landowner, who reportedly dressed as the Queen on Saturday night and who took the initial blame for Harry's experiments with cannabis when he was 17 and Emma, Luke and Mark Tomlinson, twentysomething children of Captain Simon Tomlinson, owner of the Beaufort Polo Club; he rides in the Beaufort Hunt with the Prince of Wales.

Prince Harry's current girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, the blonde, 19-year-old daughter of Zimbabwean landowners close to the Mugabe regime, who was educated in England, would clearly fit happily into this circle, but is studying in South Africa.

The detectives

Like most of the Royals, the only unchanging daily presence in Prince Harry's life are his personal protection officers. Members of the 440-strong Royalty Protection Group of the Metropolitan Police form a rotating squad around the Prince, although some will become more regular than others.

The officers are chosen from the ranks for their sharpness, discretion and social skills. They are given specialised training and are always armed.

Some have asked why these officers did not stop Prince Harry wearing his Nazi uniform. Or, indeed, why they have not steered him home earlier when he is out drinking.

Penny Junor, the biographer of Prince Charles, said that is a misunderstanding of their role: "They offer protection; they are not there as counsellors or sartorial advisers.''

They also have to enjoy the Prince's confidence: something he would find difficult if they began to act too much as moral guardians. Even so, many will wonder why a discreet call could not have been made to someone who might have been able to intervene.

The PR operation

The Nazi uniform gaffe is the biggest crisis yet for Paddy Harverson, the Clarence House Communications Secretary who was hired by Prince Charles a year ago following the departure of Mark Bolland, who masterminded the public acceptance of Mrs Parker Bowles.

Harverson, 41 and 6ft 4ins, is a former press officer for Manchester United, where he had the joys of dealing with Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham, the permanent centre of a media firestorm. He now lives in an apartment in Kensington Palace on a reported £130,000 a year.

A former journalist and robust operator in the Alastair Campbell mode, since his arrival he has had to deal with several of Harry's escapades, most noticeably the fracas between photographers and a drunken prince outside Pangea night club and rumours that the Prince's bar-hopping led to his early departure from Argentina the following month.

Pictures of the Prince cavorting with his girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, will also not have pleased him. The response to all this has been not to apologise for the Pangea incident and to stage a series of carefully managed photo-opportunities designed to emphasise the Prince's gap year activities and charitable work. But each bit of favourable publicity has been followed by another bout of the Prince's freewheeling behaviour.

Mr Harverson clearly hoped the one-line statement issued on Wednesday night in which Prince Harry expressed his apologies for the incident would be a sufficient response. But as demands have grown for the Prince to do something more substantial - such as a personal apology - Mr Harverson was undoubtedly considering his options last night.

The minder

Uncertainty surrounds the influence of Mark Dyer, the 38-year-old former Welsh Guards officer who was reportedly appointed by Prince Charles as mentor and companion to his youngest son during his gap year; he is not thought to have been around last weekend. Mr Dyer accompanied the Prince in Australia, Lesotho and Argentina and is apparently liked by Prince Charles. A former boyfriend of Tiggy Legge Bourke, the former nanny to the boys, Dyers' suitability has been questioned: his abrasive attitude towards the media, his apparent disregard for safety rules when he took the Princes abseiling in 1998 and his involvement with the fashionable Chelsea set, where he runs a bar.

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