A youthful indiscretion that illustrates how detached the monarchy has become

Share
Related Topics

What an idiot! What an abject fool! As Prince Harry swiftly admitted, his German army uniform, complete with swastika arm-band, was "a poor choice of costume". It was, in fact, about the poorest choice he could have made. It was misguided and crass. It took no account of his position as third in line to the throne; it was a symbol of thuggish bravado calculated to raise a cheap laugh. It was a joke in execrable taste that also misfired the moment the photographic evidence became public.

What an idiot! What an abject fool! As Prince Harry swiftly admitted, his German army uniform, complete with swastika arm-band, was "a poor choice of costume". It was, in fact, about the poorest choice he could have made. It was misguided and crass. It took no account of his position as third in line to the throne; it was a symbol of thuggish bravado calculated to raise a cheap laugh. It was a joke in execrable taste that also misfired the moment the photographic evidence became public.

The question is: was it more than this and how shocked should we be - if at all? First, the theme of this fancy-dress party showed the sort of society that the princes and their contemporaries move in - and not to its, or to their, advantage. Here were young people of privilege and considerable wealth invited to dress up as "colonials and natives". All right, so it was a night out with friends, a bit of fun, intended to be satirical, even. But the theme alone betrays a view of the world so outdated as to be hopelessly out of touch. It is to Prince William's credit that he arrived in a black patterned leotard accessorised with paws and a leopard's tail - an interpretation of the theme that was almost witty, and gloriously apolitical.

The same, alas, cannot be said of the younger prince's Nazi armband. Any symbol more likely to cause offence among broad swathes of opinion in this country is hard to imagine. And, yes, it makes a difference that he is a prince. This was a hugely insensitive form of fancy dress for a prince of the realm to adopt, even for a few hours. Not only did millions of Britons die fighting to defeat the Third Reich and the ideology that sustained it, but we are barely a week away from Holocaust Day and the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the Auschwitz death camp. Members of the Royal Family, the Queen included, will be helping to commemorate this bitterest of anniversaries.

At such a time, Prince Harry's costume strikes an especially discordant note and one that will do Britain no favours at all abroad, especially in those many European countries which suffered under Nazi occupation. Can one conceive of an heir to any European throne, a member of any leading foreign political family, even the rebellious daughters of George Bush, socialising with a swastika on their arm?

And yet, and yet ... There is a malign tendency in this country to take offence at almost anything. We have long grown used to seeing Nazis depicted as figures of popular ridicule or fun. From Fawlty Towers to the musical, The Producers, which is now playing to packed houses in London, the whole Nazi shebang - swastika, goose-stepping, rasping orders, straight-armed salutes - raises an easy laugh. Like it or not, laughter is a way in which the British have long belittled their historical enemy and defused the danger of Nazism.

Again, like it or not - and the same people will not - these humorous depictions are very different from the adulation of Nazism that ebbs and flows among adherents of the far right - in this country and many others. Were there the slightest suspicion that Prince Harry was wearing his swastika in anything other than Basil Fawlty or satirical mode, we would deplore it unconditionally and have no hesitation in questioning his suitability either to enter the army or inherit the throne. Whatever the younger prince's swastika meant, we are confident that it did not signify any sympathy for Nazism.

Most likely, what it meant was foolish, decadent fun, laced with a large dose of ignorance and insensitivity. For a newspaper such as ours, with deep misgivings about the monarchy, we find it hard to be either surprised or shocked by Prince Harry's behaviour. It is yet more evidence of how detached the next generation of royals remains from the lives of their subjects and how outdated a constitutional system we have. The bottom line is that this was a young man on a night out who should have known better and could have done with some decent advice. In the event that his armband helps to sap support for the monarchy, it may even have done some good.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Advisor - Automotive Parts

£16400 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading online E-commerce ...

Recruitment Genius: Automotive Parts Manager

£27300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a leading...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Customer Service Advisor

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...

Recruitment Genius: International Customer Service Administrators

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea