Harriet Walker: Prince Harry, a truly modern royal made flesh

This will do his reputation no harm - he's the most excitingly debauched Royal since Henry VIII

Share

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 table – having presumably lost (or won, depending on whether you grew up in a naked house or not) a game of Strip Billiards. 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 Lillie 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. Consequently, the story has been reported alongside tired old snaps of the Prince having fun in other, more innocent, ways – going swimming, chatting to an Olympian, on public duty during a tour of the Bahamas. It's like illustrating an article about the beast of Bodmin with pictures of a tabby cat.

Thankfully, there is always Google, and American websites less bound by such feudal codes of honour. But 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, whether you're born to the limelight or thrust into it after starring in a foully illiterate reality TV show. 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 film stars, pop singers and X Factor winners, except there's less blackmail and even more simpering where our heads of state are concerned.

Still, it's understood that your behaviour is always going to be scrutinised, so to get your kit off in a fancy hotel on holiday in one of the most sordid and least discreet (despite that famous catchphrase) 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, carefully throwing just a limb or two to the lions every so often in order to sate their hunger for anything more succulent. Give us a picture of Kate Middleton shopping at Waitrose, or of Wills giving her bony shoulder a little snuggle, or even of Harry playing at being a grown-up, and we'll leave you alone. 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.

The British love a bad boy, a cheeky chappy and a life-and-soul lout, so the fallout from these pictures will most likely be mirth rather than anything more Mary Whitehouse. These photographs will do Prince Harry's reputation no harm – he's the second son after all, and the most excitingly debauched Royal we've had since Henry VIII.

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.

But it doesn't really, because The Firm has consistently cast him as the adorable family blockhead. The clown who runs against Usain Bolt and, this week, too, challenges Olympian Ryan Lochte to a swimming match. Prince Harry is by far and away the most entertaining Royal we have, and his antics are proof of a further reversion to type for the Windsor dynasty.

After several decades of stiff upper lip, quiet and formal reserve and the Queen's own implacable emotionlessness, we're living through yet another rehabilitation of the Royal Family. Her Majesty's sensibilities may well be offended by these pictures, but her Machiavellian instincts will recognise them as something which will work in her favour.

The Royal Family seems to be turning away from the Queen's rather Victorian style of governance and towards something more medieval. Last year, we acquired our fairytale princess; now we have a roistering prince. I don't think we can expect Prince Harry to do a Henry V and reveal himself through base antics to be a competent and considerate leader of men. But 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.

twitter.com/@harrywalker1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...