That’s one veteran royal-watcher’s take on Prince Harry’s latest scandal, one that saw nude photos of him partying in Vegas over the weekend leaked to the press. The blurry (but still NSFW) photos, posted by TMZ, caught the third-in-line to the British throne — and, by extension, the whole royal family — with its pants down.
The 27-year-old prince has a long history of embarrassing the monarchy with scandalous misbehavior, from being caught drinking while underage to smoking pot to, most notoriously, wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party. Over the past two years, he seemed to have cleaned up his act. But his improved reputation only made this incident seem that much more shocking and inexplicable. And he may find the resulting fallout especially harsh.
What kind of trouble does Harry face over the nude photo scandal?
“He’ll have to face the music from a number of different camps,” Victoria Arbiter, ABC News Royal Contributor, told Celebuzz.
One camp is the military. Harry is, after all, an Apache helicopter pilot in the British army, and he and some fellow servicemen were reportedly in Las Vegas for a final blowout before their likely deployment to Afghanistan this fall.
“Boys get into a lot of high jinks,” noted Arbiter, especially boys in uniform, but for this incident, Harry may face disciplinary action from his commanding officer.
“He could be asked to an ‘interview without coffee,’ as it is called, because his behavior has brought the service into disrepute,” said Robert Jobson, the award-winning author of Prince Harry’s biography, Harry’s War.
The prince is also not supposed to do anything that would jeopardize the army’s investment in him. “It costs a lot to train an Apache helicopter pilot,” Arbiter said.
“Personally, I think he is just a young bachelor blowing off steam as many others have done in the past,” Jobson told Celebuzz. “He is also a serving military man set to go back to the front line in Afghanistan soon, so perhaps we should cut him some slack. It is fair that he enjoys partying with his friends and the company of young attractive women before he is deployed again to the front line as an Apache Pilot.”
Nonetheless, Jobson added, “as third in line to the British throne, his antics in Vegas have attracted headlines, and his actions may have an impact upon the wider monarchy, which can be dangerous to the image of the royal family.”
That’s the other camp that may show Prince Harry some tough love. Especially his grandmother. No one wants to be on the receiving end of what Arbiter said will be “stern words” from Queen Elizabeth II.
“If she sees something she doesn’t like, she steps in very quickly. She will probably remind him that he’s going to be 28 next month and tell him, ‘Enough’s enough,'” Arbiter said.
Already, there’s a reaction from his big brother, Prince William, according to Us Weekly, which cites a royal insider as saying that the elder prince has seen the photos. With classic understatement, the insider said of William’s response, “He’s not impressed.”
Reactions across the pond have been mixed, Arbiter said. Some fans are tweeting, “Harry’s so cool,” while others are beating their heads against the wall and wondering, “How could he be so stupid?”
The prince seemed to be backsliding to the scandal-prone Harry of years past, away from the straight-arrow Harry who had spent the past couple years serving in the military and acting as an ambassador abroad for his grandmother during the recent jubilee marking her 60th anniversary as queen. “For this to tarnish his reputation is a real shame,” Arbiter said.
It’s worth noting that the Prince of Wales is a 27-year-old bachelor, currently unattached.
“He’s not married, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he didn’t break the law,” Arbiter said.
His real offense here is his lack of judgment. Not just in allowing himself and an unidentified woman to be photographed during their naked horseplay, but also in surrounding himself with strangers who couldn’t be trusted not to leak the photos.
“It is an inherent part of his character to associate with risque people,” Jobson said, “and he has done so throughout his early adult life.”
“In England, Prince William and Prince Harry surround themselves with a tight, loyal circle of friends. That’s why you don’t see anything like this in England,” Arbiter said. She added, “Where were his protection officers? There’ll be a lot of debate on how things were handled on the protection side.”
The photo flap isn’t likely to have any long-term impact on the royal family, though Harry will probably have to lay low for at least a couple weeks, Arbiter said. Nonetheless, he’ll have to shape up.
“He’s a fun-loving prince that everyone wants to be around,” Arbiter said. “But he’s going to have to be careful who he’s partying with. I don’t think anyone wants him to stop being who he is, but when you’re a prince and your brother is a future king, there has to be a certain amount of decorum.”
“He will probably ride out the media storm yet again as he has done in the past, particularly as he did with the Harry of the Nazi photograph scandal,” Jobson said of the photo leak. ” However. it will raise questions about his suitability to play a significant central role in the new-look, slim-down monarchy going forward.”
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