Britain's leading (occasional) royal hedonist - mostly known as Prince Harry, sometimes Captain Harry Wales, British Army, and quite probably now, the Viscount of Vegas (not a real title but I'm hoping it will catch on) - has managed to extend his strenuous summer watching sport by inventing one of his own, "strip billiards".
This is in addition to his admirable day job flying heavily armoured attack helicopters and snogging posh blonde heiresses in London nightclubs. Talk about living it large.
The revelation that Harry was partying hard in Las Vegas this week and ended up in a threads-free game of pool may be causing discomfort in certain circles of the British establishment, but let's face it, his ancestors - especially his namesakes - were known to do far worse. It's just that they didn't have smartphones and the Internet to contend with.
Until Harry's very own reenactment of The Hangover came to light, he was being lauded by the press for his infectious charm and easy-going nature, as demonstrated during his spring tour of Central America and the Caribbean as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
During the Olympics he - along with his brother and sister-in-law - won credit for being a prominent and fervent patron of the London Olympics. However, even this didn't prevent one or two snide pieces along the lines of "isn't it about time the royal gooseberry found a girlfriend?". I can't vouch for whether Harry's opponent across the billiard table this week would be classed as a girlfriend, but, really, he should be admired for the sterling effort to acquire one.
The British media's obsession with marrying off royal offspring is nothing new: every time his father, as a younger man, was photographed with a bikini-clad nubile in the Australian surf, she was immediately installed as a future bride. Harry's uncle Andrew, on the other hand, provided a more obvious template for his nephew to follow, squiring an assortment of fun-loving types, including a soft-porn actress, until he met and married jolly aristocratic fun's ultimate exponent, Fergie.
Harry has had to endure a more aggressive, more intrusive, and more competitive media. But this cheekiest of semi-orphaned royal scamps, with that mischievous grin and shock of ginger on his bonce, has successfully eclipsed any other member of his family for having a laugh, perhaps because of, perhaps in spite of the magnifying glass that has hovered above him from the day he was born.
Ever since his mother died - 15 years ago, a week tomorrow - Harry has put up with speculation about where that ginger hair really came from, the continuing attention to his dead mother from an unhealthily obsessive media, and his role in the modernisation of a royal family, a modernisation partly prompted by its reaction to Diana's death.
I would hardly consider myself a card-carrying royalist, but on the other hand, I'm frankly amazed that Harry has grown up as normal as he has. Yes, he was caught smoking a joint and being drunk at school, but these could all be regarded as rights of passage many teenage boys go through (though the Nazi uniform was, however, an unforgivable error of judgement). It's just that some don't get caught, and most don't attract some sleeze with a cameraphone and an e-mail address for the picture desk of a website that has played more than its part in the voyeuristic intrusion of celebrities' lives.
|Note: the Express's two front page lead|
stories are not necessarily related.
Although they've got an argument, that the pictures of Harry racking up for his nude break are only a few clicks away online, they are being sanctioned by royal lawyers threatening the big stick of the Press Complaints Commission. And few newspaper editors appear willing to risk their future knighthoods for falling fowl of this apparatus of self-policing, a governance system partly put in place due to the handsome profits newspapers have enjoyed over the last 30 years from the lives of Harry, his brother and his parents.
Still, I don't know what would be worse - newspapers whining about not being able to run the nudie shots of H in action or them using the lurid photographs as an excuse to fill columns with moralistic pontification about what is and isn't appropriate behaviour for the third in line to the throne.
He may be third in line, and I'm sure his immediate family will not be best pleased by the attention he has created so soon after the summer love-in we've all had with British heritage. But has he done anything wrong? Is he not entitled to have fun like everyone else?
After all, even his granny spends here time jumping out of helicopters with James Bond, and no-one seems to wonder what that is all about...