A series dedicated to explaining Britain's manufactured celebrities to an American audience.
It was an unforgettable scene: a wayward prince in virile command of a nubile gathering, booze and shrooms flowing, billiard cues brandished suggestively, gratuitous nudity set against an opulent backdrop. But enough about my “Game of Thrones” fan fic. Matters of even greater import summon our attention, such as the apparent inability of young British royals to keep their goodies concealed from the public’s prurient gaze—even though “not being photographed naked” falls fairly high on an unchallenging list of official duties, somewhere between “attending photo-calls with terminally ill children” and “accepting hospitality from Richard Branson.” But as the plebeian world slowly processes the shock and awe of seeing some bona fide fuzzily captured royal B-cups, and of witnessing HRH Henry Charles Albert David of Wales behaving like a particularly un-decorous “Jersey Shore” cast member—I for one have only just titrated my off-brand benzos dose down to a level where I’m able to type—let us spare a brief thought for the person Harry’s shenanigans will have upset the most.
I refer, of course, to Damian Lewis, aka Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, who is about to return to our screens on “Homeland.” Until last month, Lewis felt secure in the knowledge that he was America’s Favorite Ginger Brit, a truly impressive achievement given the unfathomably cruel prejudice endured by the Titian-locked in his country of origin. Yet alas, he’s been mightily upstaged by another freckled carrot-top and fellow old Etonian who, with one debauched and blurrily documented Vegas trip, has strode into that elevated rank of celebrity whose glory knows no parallel: an exposé on TMZ. Lewis’ Emmy nom, the dazzling reviews of his performance, President Obama’s avowed addiction to the show—what does it even mean next to the peerless imprimatur of a strategically placed red star? Or an eight-figure offer from esteemed adult film auteurs Vivid Entertainment? That Harry is also known to don a splendid soldier’s uniform from time to time (sometimes even for official duties) must only sharpen the sting. As for Sergeant Brody’s Al Qaeda allegiance, and those evil-doers’ attempt on Harry’s life last week—well, that’s one of those troubling collisions of art and life upon which it’s best not to publicly dwell, unless you want Mandy Patinkin to have you arrested for your own safety.
Captain Harry, who turned 28 last weekend and is an Army helicopter pilot now stationed in the Helmand province of Southern Afghanistan, has always insisted that regardless of the danger, he wants to serve his country in active combat. “There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst [Military Academy],” he once manfully asserted, “and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting.” Now, it is not this column’s place to pass judgment on the finer points of military strategy, but perhaps Harry’s brave stance would be more admirable if it weren’t for the financial and logistical burden entailed by safeguarding him, not to mention the increased danger his presence causes “his boys” and their American allies. Take Saturday’s bombing of a British base, one of the largest and most heavily defended in the region, which killed two US Marines: “We attacked that base because Prince Harry was also on it and so they can know our anger,” said Taliban spokesman Qari Youssef Ahmadi.
Indeed, Harry’s army nickname is “Ginger Bullet Magnet.” If only someone would sit him down and patiently explain that while co-piloting an Apache helicopter in a war zone is ripping good fun, drunkenly partying with naked girls in an enormous lavish hotel suite in the gambling capital of the world is also a perfectly valid means of fighting the Taliban—especially if photographic evidence is immediately forthcoming, thus supplying an incalculable financial boon to the Western infidel media. And look at the global gaiety sparked by Harry’s hijinks—if that’s not sterling public service, I don’t know what is.
Of course, as spare to the heir, dear Hazza can’t be blamed for committing to a respectable occupation, especially when his elder counterpart, Prince Andrew, is such a salutary reminder of the grimly disreputable potential his future holds. The third in line to the throne after his father, Charles, and his older brother, William, Harry will only become King if Wills dies without an heir. The fecundity of Kate Middleton’s womb is thus almost as personally relevant to Harry as it is to the editors of tabloid magazines, since ruling the land and adjusting his behavior to a standard befitting a monarch is not a prospect he finds in any way appealing.
Still, when he wakes sweating from a terrifying nightmare about hosting a Buckingham Palace garden party with no banging house tunes or pneumatic cocktail waitresses, at least he can comfort himself with the thought that he may not technically qualify as King, if longstanding rumors regarding his parentage are to be believed. The laws of succession state that the monarch must bear the blood of German Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover, the heiress to the British crown who died in 1714. But Harry, widespread speculation has it, is the son of Diana’s onetime lover James Hewitt and therefore a purebred Englishman. Prominent biographer Christopher Andersen, author of After Diana, found sources to confirm that Hewitt’s affair with the Princess had begun at least nine months before Harry’s birth—and that Diana and Charles' sex life was all but dead by then anyway—contrary to Hewitt’s previous claim that he first met Diana when Harry was “already a toddler.” That demonstrable lie simply proves the firm got to him, say supporters of the theory, who also point to the resemblance of Harry to Hewitt, and the similarity of their coloring. A rejoinder is that Harry’s maternal uncle, Charles Spencer (Boris Johnson’s old bestie, whom we last met in the context of high-society fisticuffs), also had red hair as a young man, albeit not quite as brightly-hued as Harry’s.
Royal true blood or not, Harry receives no salary from the British taxpayer for being a prince, although he does enjoy the perk of a rent-free apartment in Kensington Palace. As a soldier he earns about $60K a year, plus extra combat pay for when he’s in a battle zone, a combined sum that more or less covers the bar bills when he’s letting off some steam with the chaps. He also receives an allowance from Charles and interest from his late mother’s fortune, which is held in trust. Then when Harry turns thirty, he’ll receive his full Diana inheritance of about $10M, so whatever ups and downs fate thrusts upon him, he’ll probably manage.
And he’s always got his loyal chums to prop him up, some of whom are considerably richer than him. Close pal Arthur Landon, one of the Vegas contingent, is the son of Austro-Hungarian Princess Katalina Esterhazy de Galantha and the late Brigadier Tim Landon, from whom he inherited $300M. Arthur, a “model” and “filmmaker,” was good enough to share with the press his outrage regarding the leaked photos, which he lamented put “a real dampener” on the holiday. Well, quite. To have your complimentary stay in an $8,000-a-night hotel suite sullied after the fact by a scandal that anyone with half a brain would see coming a mile off—doesn’t your heart go out to him? Harry’s other travel buddy, his omnipresent wingman Tom “Skippy” Inskip, no doubt suffered comparably but, unfortunately, we must use our imagination to feel his anguish: Skippy, an old Etonian city banker whose moneybags father is friends with Charles, has maintained a discreet silence on the matter. We would expect nothing less from the man who once posted a Facebook photo of his entirely naked self driving a flashy convertible down a Californian freeway.
Harry’s current girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, who was present on the earlier Caribbean leg of the vacation, seems to be standing by her man despite prior reports of her “devastation” and “humiliation” over the nude romp pics. A 23-year-old dancer and aristocrat—her mother is Lady Mary Gaye-Curzon, a four-times-married debutante and former model—Cress’ blue blood isn’t what qualifies her to date Harry. Rather, it’s her adherence to a physical type from which the Prince’s romantic leanings have scarcely veered since his first serious relationship with Zimbabwean-born Chelsy Davy. To have a chance with Harry, you need to be golden of skin and coltish of limb with long blonde hair, a snub nose, and an outdoorsy aura; an exemplar of the species is Florence “Flee” Brudenell-Bruce, the stunning lingerie model and distant cousin with whom Harry dallied last year, but who reportedly dumped him over his wandering eye. Aspirants to princessdom are also advised to cultivate an interest in horses. Like his brother, Harry is a keen polo player, and regular participates in charity matches. (For abstainers of “RHONY”/the otherwise uninitiated: polo matches are basically the sporting event version of Joan Collins—anachronistic, Eurotrashy, champagne-soaked and sponsored by jewelry companies.)
Harry’s avid female fan base suffered a major setback recently, when to everyone’s chagrin his secret Facebook page, a vital stalking aid, was deleted in the wake of the Vegas brouhaha. “Spike Wells” had 400 friends, mostly well-known members of his and Wills’ upper-crust clique, and at one time had a profile picture of a redheaded child with the slogan OH MY GOD I’M GINGER. Around the time the account disappeared, Harry connoisseurs—among whom a leading light is 20-year-old Cornwall student Emma, the curator of the Very Prince Harry Tumblr (warning: music)—were being deluged with questions from journalists desperate to access his clandestine online existence, but woefully lacking the social-media savvy imprinted Lamarckian-style on Millennial DNA.
Harry’s own natural embrace of his generation’s defining values—warmth, openness, informality, zero concern over privacy or qualms about being stark bollock naked around camera phones—makes it pretty unlikely that he lost a minute of sleep over the dissemination of his jolly japes to all four corners of the globe. Not that anyone else, including the older royals, would have been genuinely perturbed; Charles and Camilla surely concurred with the summing up of Boris Johnson, viewed by many as Harry’s kindred gaffe-prone posho spirit: “I think it'd be disgraceful if a chap wasn’t allowed to have a bit of fun in Las Vegas. The real scandal would be if you went all the way to Las Vegas and you didn’t misbehave in some trivial way.”
Nevertheless, we can expect some vague gestures toward image rehabilitation to be made over the coming months. It won’t hurt for the public to be reminded of Sentebale, Harry’s charity for AIDS orphans in the small Southern African country of Lesotho, for which he has raised huge amounts of funding since its inception in 2006. Arguably more dubious an approach is a proposed official visit to China, “to improve tense British relations” with the country. Of Harry’s various talents, a knack for high-level foreign diplomacy hasn’t been significantly in evidence, unless you count the time—and I’m sorry to inflict this image upon you, but sometimes harsh, squirmy reality must be faced—he broke into Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” during a speech at a Jamaican state dinner. The Jamaicans politely humored the lovable scamp, but somehow it’s harder to envisage Hu Jintao, 69, Jiang Zemin, 86, and Xi Jinping, 59, (the three senior comrades of China’s Communist Party, or to use Charles’ affectionate pet name, those “appalling old waxworks”) falling prey to Harry’s particular brand of impishness.
In the meantime, as he sees out his deployment, the world’s paparazzi will be making extra sacrifices to Mephistopheles, in the hope that he pays a visit to a certain ambitious young woman with close familial connections to the prince. We’ll know if their efforts bore fruit by the time Pippa Middleton’s party-planning book comes out next month.
Related: How Kate Became A Princess