Troubled life and times of Hooray Harry

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The Independent Online

Harry is a playboy prince who loves to drink, party and hang out with a bunch of wastrels. And he is an embarrassment to his family who hope a career in the military will put him back on the straight and narrow.

Harry is a playboy prince who loves to drink, party and hang out with a bunch of wastrels. And he is an embarrassment to his family who hope a career in the military will put him back on the straight and narrow.

Well, for one Prince Harry, the one immortalised as Prince Hal in Shakespeare's Henry IV Parts One and Two, it worked and he went on to reign as Henry V, legendary victor of Harfleur and Agincourt.

Whether a spell in the Army can bring the same transformation upon Hal's latter-day namesake, Henry Charles Albert David Windsor, remains to be seen. But some are not holding their breath.

"I think it's unlikely on present form," said Penny Junor, the biographer of his father, the Prince of Wales. "But it is a good idea because it will give him the discipline he needs and keep him out of the public eye. And it can't come too soon.''

Indeed, even before the Nazi uniform gaffe, the Royal Household was counting the days until the Prince's delayed entry to Sandhurst in May after a series of negative headlines.

Perhaps, given the precedents, it was tempting fate for the Prince and Princess of Wales to call their second son Henry when he was born in September 1984. But the Royal Family was still at a peak of popularity fuelled by Charles and Diana's glamorous wedding. Tales of infidelity and bulimia, separation, divorce and Diana's death in 1997, when he was just 12, were still a long way off.

One can only imagine how moments such as being forced to walk to church in public within hours of his mother's death affected his mental make-up. And he was also destined to grow up knowing he had no clear role: he was "the spare" to his older brother, William, the heir to the throne.

On top of that, there has been the unfounded speculation that, given the obvious physical dissimilarity from his father and brother, Harry may have been the product of the affair between his mother and the former army officer James Hewitt, whom he does, curiously, resemble. Although Mr Hewitt denies that their liaison coincided with Harry's conception, the gossip lingers.

The media agreed the princes would be left alone during their schooling, and stories were kept out of the headlines, which some believe created a feeling in them that they were untouchable.

But after Prince Harry, then aged 17, was reported to be experimenting with cannabis and alcohol in late-night sessions at a pub near Highgrove, the image of the louche Hooray Henry prince was born.

This has been reinforced by the Prince's frequent appearances at parties, polo matches and nightclubs, cigarette and vodka and cranberry juice in hand and, on one occasion, a Page Three girl on his lap. There were also the inevitable links to blonde, horsey girls from the shires, often part of the same Highgrove set.

This group, said to be known as Club H, includes such people as Harry Meade, son of Richard Meade, the Olympic gold medal-winning horseman, whose 22nd birthday party Prince Harry was attending when he was photographed in the Nazi uniform. Like many around the Royals, the young Meade is an ardent pro-hunter and was among those who interrupted Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party conference.

The Prince is, according to those who know, an amiable chap of the "nice but dim" variety, whose visits to the capital's fleshpots display all the bright-eyed eagerness of a country lad up for a night on the town.

On one such visit last autumn, clearly inebriated, he lashed out at photographers. Not long after, a former teacher at Eton told an industrial tribunal she helped complete part of his art coursework; the Prince gained a grade B in art and D in geography in his A-levels. Eton and the Palace denied the claims. His boisterous reputation was reinforced during a recent trip to Argentina, which was cut short amid reports of carousing in bars.

Nor has Harry's romance with Chelsy Davy, the 19-year old daughter of a controversial Zimbabwean businessman, helped his public image. When asked about her origins, he is said to have replied that she was "not black or anything".

Many wonder why there is no-one around the Prince to steer him away from Nazi uniforms and unsuitable friends. But Ms Junor says: "He's a 20-year-old man who does what he wants. It's not uncommon. And, inexplicable as it may seem, his personal protection officers are not there to act in loco parentis."

Ms Junor believes much blame for the Prince's errant behaviour must lie with his father. "Harry needed someone to give him guidance; the nature of his position means he cannot just make the same mistakes other young people can. And his father was just not there for him.''

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