At 21, Prince Harry Stands at Ease

Britain's Prince Harry, left, with older brother Prince William, says about Camilla in a birthday interview,
Britain's Prince Harry, left, with older brother Prince William, says about Camilla in a birthday interview, "William and I love her to bits." (By Mario Testino -- Clarence House Via Reuters)
By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 16, 2005

LONDON, Sept. 15 -- Prince Harry doesn't think Camilla is a "wicked stepmother," couldn't bear to have an office job behind a computer and is "very sorry" he dressed up in a Nazi uniform. In interviews marking his 21st birthday Thursday, the younger son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana also said his future career will likely be in the army.

In fact, Prince Harry, in interviews earlier this week, said he expected to be spending his birthday in a trench. Currently enrolled at Sandhurst, the prestigious British Army officer training center in Surrey, he said he had no champagne birthday bash planned, despite his reputation as the "party prince." Rather, he said, he would be doing military exercises with the other lads. Red-haired Harry, third in line to the throne, said he could "easily see" himself spending 35 to 40 years in the army: "I do enjoy running down a ditch full of mud, firing bullets. It's the way I am. I love it."

Harry, using more colloquial language than is usually heard from the royal family, said he had no intention of being an army officer if he couldn't be deployed to active service. "I hope I would not drag my sorry arse through Sandhurst . . . I would not have joined if they had said I could not be in the front line. The last thing I would want to do is for my soldiers to be sent away to Iraq and have me held back at home twiddling my thumbs, thinking what about David, what about Derek or whatever."

Harry's year started off badly, when he was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform at a party. He was roundly criticized at the time and apologized again in interviews with the Press Association, BBC radio and Sky News that were distributed to other media outlets. "Looking back on it now and at the time as well, it was a very stupid thing to do and I've learned my lesson, simple as that really," he said. He said he was "very sorry" and that he hoped he could put that mistake behind him. "What's done is done. I regret it," he said.

Interviewed in a wrinkled blue-and-white shirt and green khaki pants at Highgrove, his father's estate, with horses in the background, he appeared much older and taller than the shy youth years ago filmed clinging to his mother at amusement parks and McDonald's and much more serious than his more recent wild man image.

"I'm not going to be some person in the royal family who just finds a lame excuse to go abroad and do all sorts of sunny holidays and whatever," he said.

Mark Bolland, a former royal aide who has known Harry since he was a youngster, said his media image has been that of a "brash, party person" but that in the news interviews he comes across as "very gentle and sweet young man." He said Harry is making it clear he "wants to be treated like anybody else -- something that came from his mother."

There has been much speculation in the British media that Harry did not get along with Camilla Parker Bowles, whom his father married this spring, eight years after his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash. But in his rare public comments, he said Camilla was a wonderful addition to the family.

"To be honest with you, she's always been very close to me and William. . . . No, she's not the wicked stepmother. I'll say that right now." He said everyone has to understand that it's very hard for her. "Look at the position she's coming into. Don't always feel sorry for me and William, feel sorry for her."

He added that Camilla was a "wonderful woman and she's made our father very, very happy, which is the most important thing. William and I love her to bits."

Asked by one of the interviewers if he was a party prince or a caring prince, he replied: "I am both of them. If that's a problem with anyone, then I'm very sorry. What, does everyone expect me to be just the caring person and not to have a cigarette, not to have a beer?"

After graduating from Eton, where he was said to be more of an athlete than an academic, he did not go on to university but went to work in an AIDS camp in Lesotho, South Africa. He said he would like to return to Lesotho and carry on some of the charity work that his mother, who died when he was 12, was known for.

Several times, including when asked about his girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, the 19-year-old daughter of a millionaire hunting safari operator, Harry referred to the relentless heat of media coverage. "You can't really deal with it," he said about being in the public eye. "There is no way of dealing with it. You just hope that the next day that it isn't in the papers, whereas when my mother died it was in the papers for whatever it was -- 16 weeks solid."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company