Flash Harry: Prince's 'strip billiards' photos spark a right royal row

"He's a lad, for God's sake".

Photos of Prince Harry buck naked during a party in his Las Vegas hotel suite don't appear to have diminished the young royal in the eyes of the British public.

But the grainy mobile phone photos, posted on the American gossip website TMZ, have raised concerns about his right to privacy, his security and whether a private game of "strip billiards" will do lasting damage to his royal and military image.

"Breach of privacy"

Late on Wednesday night, London time, St James's Palace said it had contacted the Press Complaints Commission about the images, warning that any publication would be a breach of privacy.

The British press had not published the photos before the palace's announcement - the media were reportedly warned not to - and The Sun newspaper even recreated the photos using a redheaded stand-in.

On the streets of London the Associated Press asked members of the public what they thought of the 27-year-old's escapade.

Many royal subjects simply laughed it off.

"He's the prince. He can have any bird he wants!" 38-year-old construction worker Craig Martin said.

Shirley Ashard, a 59-year-old caregiver, said: "I've got kids. They do things like that. He's a lad, for God's sake."

But the palace was not alone in thinking the photo scandal was not funny, with some commentators pointing to the prince's right to a private life.

Washington Post celebrity blogger Jen Chaney linked to tweets from America's National Public Radio blog, Monkey See, that raised some serious points among the online guffawing.

"I'm sorry to be a wet blanket, but I don't actually find somebody partying with friends being sold out to a tabloid all that funny.

"Like, 'How hilarious that this guy who lost his mother in a chase with paparazzi can't trust anybody not to sell pictures of him. TEE HEE.'"

A royal pain

The photographs, which emerged after months of Prince Harry directing focus from his "party prince" past to his military and royal duties, sparked some debate in the British press about his public role.

A blog by The Guardian's Emma G. Keller suggested Prince Harry should give up his royal title.

"He'd still have a job. He has a real job in the army already that has nothing to do with being royal. You have to give him credit for it.

"He's a captain in the Blues and Royals and has served in Afghanistan – at his own behest.

"But if you remember, he had to be pulled out because of publicity over his royal status.

"So being royal is nothing but a pain for him.

"It's nothing but a pain for the rest of the family, either."

London's Daily Telegraph blogger Jenny McCartney wrote Harry should avoid ending up like his unclePrince Andrew.

"Prince Andrew – also the younger brother of an heir to the throne – has lost a great deal of standing due to the sense that he never really found a suitable public role, and the general perception that a penchant for self-indulgence has led him unwisely to accept friendship and financial favours from some very dodgy characters indeed, from Kazakh tycoons to the billionaire American sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

"He is, in some ways, a melancholy illustration of what happens when youthful hedonism gives way to something that looks rather more sleazy.

"That is a fate that Harry should seek to avoid, and he has sufficient personal qualities to do so.

"To everything there is a season, and the season for widespread indulgence of Harry's youthful antics might be gradually drawing to a close."

Many British media outlets reported that Prince Harry would face a slap on the wrist from army chiefs and face "an interview without coffee", military speak for a small reprimand.

"Every idiot has got a camera phone"

The Telegraph also reported that royal protection sources said the two Scotland Yard officers assigned to look after the prince were in the room but would intervene only if his life was at risk.

Mark Borkowski, who runs a PR company, said he would always warn his clients, who have included Mikhail Gorbachev and Diego Maradona, about people armed with camera phones.

"I have seen at close quarters how Prince Harry handles the paparazzi and he's totally aware of what's happening around him," he said.

"Whether or not he was given advice from Clarence House, he has been stitched up, there's no two ways about it."

But the images raised questions about the people allowed access to the Prince and the potential risk they may pose.

"You can't blame the media this time, you have to blame camera phones," said Judy Wade, the royal correspondent for Hello! magazine. "Harry is a victim of the change in technology that means every idiot has got a camera phone.

"He's with people he doesn't know very well; you don't know if you can trust them. You have a few drinks and you have to expect that something can happen."

smh.com.au with agencies

The story Flash Harry: Prince's 'strip billiards' photos spark a right royal row first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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