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Harriet Walker: Harry is bringing the Royals into reality-TV era


What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, according to the adage, but the pictures that emerged of Prince Harry yesterday tell a rather different story. Right Royally starkers, he cups his crown jewels coyly by a pool. With one kingly shoulder, he valiantly saves the blushes of the naked woman standing behind him.

Is this the first time we the plebs have seen the constitutional body in all its glory? Harry certainly isn't the first prince to have disported himself in such a way – it's just that Nell Gwynn, Mrs Fitzherbert and Lily Langtry didn't have camera phones or a hotline to the celebrity gossip site TMZ, which is where the images first emerged.

In a nostalgic feat of noblesse oblige, the British press has heeded an exhortation from palace spokespeople not to publish the images. Thankfully, there are American websites less bound by such feudal codes of honour.

There's something odd about this though: why should we respect his position and his privacy, when he clearly doesn't respect it himself?

It's hard being a celebrity these days. Your life is not your own; you are pursued by packs of photographers and forced to hand out sacrificial publicity shots to the Gods of mass media so that they don't smite you entirely on a spiteful whim. This is as true of the Royals as it is of filmstars and X Factor winners, except there's less blackmail and even more simpering where our heads of state are concerned.

So to get your kit off in a fancy hotel on holiday in one of the most sordid and least discreet cities in the world is nigh-on imbecilic. The only thing more stupid, in fact, would be to go to a party all dolled up in Nazi clobber. Oh.

The Royal family has made an art form of public appearances since the annus horribilis and Squidgygate. We don't ask for much, we smallfolk – just proof that you're human. And these days, we don't even ask you to touch our scrofula.

These pictures will do Harry's reputation no harm. But it speaks volumes of his patrician dopiness that he thought he'd get away with it. It raises all manner of questions as to HRH's arrogance and hubristic sense of entitlement that he simply presumed he wouldn't be caught. Or that it wouldn't matter if he did.

After several decades of stiff upper lip and the Queen's implacable emotionlessness, we're living through yet another rehabilitation of the Royal family. They're turning away from Her Majesty's rather Victorian style of governance and towards something more medieval. Last year, we got our fairytale princess; now we have a roistering prince. Perhaps his least honourable hour could build the foundations for a truly modern, reality TV-era Royal family. I hope at the very least, he gets his own chat show out of it.