Prince Harry Becomes the Butt of Jokes, Raises Serious Issues for U.K. Media

A naked Prince tests the new spirit of press restraint after the hacking scandal that shuttered Murdoch's "News of the World"

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DANIEL SORABJI / AFP / Getty Images

British daily newspapers in London show the front-page headlines and stories regarding nude pictures of Britain's Prince Harry on Aug. 23, 2012

It’s not so hard to get to the bottom of the controversy roiling the British media. Type Prince Harry into any search engine, and you’ll find yourself one or two clicks from a low-definition image of one of the Windsor family’s prominent assets. In recent years Prince Henry Charles Albert David, third in line to the British throne and a lieutenant in the Household Cavalry, has gained respect and a considerable cadre of admirers. He’s served in Afghanistan, built up a Lesotho-based voluntary organization dedicated to assisting children orphaned by AIDS and performed an increasing number of royal duties with charm and apparent enthusiasm. True, he has not always covered himself in glory — there was the crass choice of fancy dress costume, the teenage toking — but he has always covered himself. At least, until now.

Blurry snaps of the pink-skinned blue blood at the tail end of a game of “strip billiards” in a Las Vegas hotel room first published on the U.S. gossip website TMZ on Aug. 21 gave the world its first sight of the Prince in his birthday suit since Princess Diana emerged from the hospital cradling her newborn son in 1984. In one image, the royal, wearing only a necklace, cups the portion of the male anatomy known colloquially as the crown jewels; in the second, he moons the unseen camera as he embraces a naked female. The photographs are the stuff of paparazzi dreams, guaranteed to set tabloid picture editors hyperventilating with their A-list star and R-rated content. Across the globe, websites relegated worthier subjects to give them pride of place and newsrooms resounded to cries of “hold the front page!”

(MORE: Prince Harry: Naked Photos Surface Online)

In Britain, alone, the response was muted. Tabloid editors were just as keen as their counterparts in other countries to splash on Harry’s hijinks, but their ardor to do so was tempered by an intervention from palace aides, who warned the industry self-regulator, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), that publication would constitute an infringement of princely privacy. The PCC is living on borrowed time after its efficacy at policing its own ranks was called into question by its complacent response to allegations of hacking and bribery at Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday tabloid News of the World. Lord Justice Leveson, who headed an eponymous inquiry into the scandal, is expected to deliver a report later this year that will determine a new architecture for press regulation in Britain. There is widespread acknowledgment within the industry that the old system is flawed, but this is matched by widespread fears that a new system may stifle legitimate investigation. Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth, delivering the keynote MacTaggart address at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Aug. 23, declared “the right outcome … must be the fierce protection of a free press and light-touch media regulation.” Editors are anxious to prove a capacity for self-regulation and self-restraint that the exploits of the Murdoch press and Britain’s wider media culture called into question.

And so a bum note in the Queen’s harmonious Diamond Jubilee year has become a test case in a much bigger story, about the changing relationships between the British press and the institutions it covers. With the Vegas photos already so widely circulated, some commentators have criticized Harry for not turning the other cheek, as it were, to let British media join in the fun. But Harry, his brother William and their aides were among the first victims of hacking to prove their case against the News of the World, back in 2007. The princes’ mother died with the paparazzi in pursuit, and their formative years were spent as tabloid quarry. There’s understandably little appetite for appeasement in royal circles.

Initially the Sun, the News of the World’s surviving sibling, fell into line with the rest of the U.K.’s mainstream press by refraining from running the photos. Its front page on Aug. 23 unveiled a creative response to the new era of editorial caution, drafting one of its picture editors, Harry Miller, and, in a broad interpretation of what work experience might reasonably be expected to entail, Sophie Henderson, a 21-year-old intern, to recreate the naked poses. “Harry Grabs the Crown Jewels,” proclaimed its banner headline. But later that same day, the newspaper performed a U-turn, a maneuver one of its legendary former editors described as a “reverse ferret,” trumpeting its decision to “publish the naked pictures of Prince Harry that have swept the world.” “This is about our readers getting involved in the discussion with the man who is third in line to the throne. It’s as simple as that,” explained Sun managing editor David Dinsmore in a video on the red-top’s website.

With or without visuals, the story seems unlikely to subject the royals to what the Queen once memorably termed an annus horribilis, even if the term anus horribilis is trending on Twitter. Harry has become the butt of jokes, but they’re largely affectionate. Yet the royals and the tabloids are locked in parallel struggles for survival, no longer certain of the fealty of the masses and their role in modern Britain. Both institutions have been laid bare by recent events. Which may explain why neither camp is laughing with the rest of us.

MORE: Top 10 Royal Family Gaffes

53 comments
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WilliamBarnes
WilliamBarnes

Hail, Hail Harry! 

Hail, Hail Harry! 

Hail, Hail Harry! And I'm a big fan of your mom. If things go right, you'll be king, one day. Then the shiit will hit the fan.

HunterST2
HunterST2

Should have had the sense to go to one of Nevada's legal bordellos. Many have VIP entrances amp; cameras are forbidden.  Sex is NEVER free but in the bordellos while it may be expensive your privacy is assured

swift2010
swift2010

P Harry walks about in the nude people are going to report it 

worldwide 

now people can just look on the internet /so just stupid to say oh we should not have it reported in the British papers 

Also his Military CO is going to have a quiet word and suggest he donates 1400 UKP to charity /now this is a multi millionaire who lives in several palaces 

Also his Father is in overall command of the Army Navy and Air Force /so if they upset Harry they will not get the Honors normally awarded 

In this case it is not the fault of the papers but the stupid antics of a pissed Prince a drunken toff /an idiot we are susposed to look up to

ShowDecency
ShowDecency

Decency of new media has gone.. It is a person's pleasure/relaxing night and media should not make a big deal. Kate has to deal with it (naked dance with orther girl) not the WORLD.

Kimsbenn
Kimsbenn

I find it horrible the photographer would probably have been a friend. The picture was taken from within the room it appears. Not much of a "friend" to take the photos, presumably unknown by Harry, and then sold. That's the person who should be getting the most negative attention.

Quirkyquara
Quirkyquara

What's interesting here is the parallel between the tabloid response to this and the British press leading up to the abdication if Edward viii. In 1936 the British press totally censored the scandal, even cutting out the headlines from imported us papers. The consequences of this scandal are much more limited, but it's interesting to see it again.

Trajan Saldana
Trajan Saldana

naked white dude needing a tan BADLY...i like Harry but come on now...next story please

Firozali A.Mulla
Firozali A.Mulla

Privileged spoils brats I thank you Firozali A.Mulla DBA 

MACDONALDBANK
MACDONALDBANK

HRH Prince

Harry could been at Ram Ranch with over 90 naked young cowboys … where the

saying is: “Ya Sure Are Hung!”  www.RamRanch.com

 

lokiii
lokiii

Who honestly cares.  What were most of you single folk doing at that age?

jason024
jason024

Let him live.....it is not like he is a family man who has two kids and a wife. He is single  and enjoying life. It would be one thing if he flaunted his partying like Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan but this is a case where a photo (which should have never been allowed) was leaked rather than him grabbing the spotlight through public drunken escapades (DUI/Disorderly Conduct/Public Drunkeness etc.) 

Sinfulislam
Sinfulislam

See now the young female muslims want to see the old arabian king naked

when taking a bath likes a new arabian sex video. Badness only produces

badness.

CPMurdock
CPMurdock

Catherine Mayer, please leave Prince Harry alone.  Let him have his fun.  You don't get it because you're a woman (and a woman who doesn't have a wild side).  Being a Royal must be a royal pain for a young guy like Harry; and if once in a while he needs to cut loose, I say the more power to him.  Get off his back.

Reading your article was like drinking caster oil.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Catherine doesn't have a wild side? Do you know who she's married to?

18235
18235

and then there's the olde photo of the queen of england picking her nose...

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Catherine, thanks for your work as always, especially the wordplay (butt of jokes, laid bare, bottom). Of course, to achieve Murdoch's "fair and balanced" reporting as his FOX network brags about in the US, we'll need to see Kate's bottom as well as Harry's. But welcome to Las Vegas, Royal Family. Things like this happen there all the time, but the rule is, "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Seriously, it's interesting that a minor media incident like this snowballs from the larger, more threatening phone hackery. Perhaps the caution and introspection will be good for the media, though there's no doubt YOUR quality of work will remain high, Catherine.

MACDONALDBANK
MACDONALDBANK

HRH Prince Harry should check out Ram

Ranch with over 90 naked young cowboys … where the saying is: “Ya Sure Are

Hung!” www.RamRanch.com

October Rain
October Rain

who cares? oh yeah, HM and the Palace. This humanizes him.  Who wants to hear of the lurid details through the grapevine? Out there is much better. He'll probably never be  king anyway. Many before him were worse, so I hear.

Deadarab
Deadarab

The arabian prince can be a porn star too after their sorrowful islamic business suffer Deep Bankrupt. Their young female muslims want to watch the old arabian king naked too when taking a bath that is more sexy than their sorrowful islamic business.

htpatty
htpatty

Scuse me, but the prince is supposed to be representing his country and, frankly, he ought to get his butt chewed by the Queen rather than a group of naked girls looking to lay a prince!  You can't tell me that there wasn't a bunch of sexual activity in a room full of naked, drunk 20-somethings!!  It would be very naive' to think differently.  The royals should be worried about a few little royal 'bastards' popping up here amp; there with their mama's looking for some fame amp; a bunch of royal dough!  The prince isn't stupid and I'm sure he's been photographed many, many times by cell phones before.  I'm guessing he knows that game pretty well and knew he would be getting his pictures plastered in every gossip rag from here to China, he just didn't care!  After all his daddy wasn't exactly 'princely' with his behavior so why bother!!  I think he enjoys his little digs into the royals dignity!!

Dawn Kirkman
Dawn Kirkman

I really wonder what people would be saying (including the royal family) if this had been princess Harriet instead of prince Harry.  Would you still say you "respect princess Harriet"?  That she is "young and single and can do what she wants, she isn't hurting anyone"?  I doubt it.  This double standard is sickening.  Either it's OK for both sexes, or it's not not OK for either of them.  I don't care which was you choose, just remember, whats good for the goose.... is good for the gander.

Rethink_Everything
Rethink_Everything

I don't think everything needs to be turned into a gender debate. When female public figures do things like this, the public reation is more or less the same. Some people say: "Good for her!" others say: "Grow up!" Where is the double standard?

j_600
j_600

Gender issues aside - haven't the royals outlived their usefulness?

Harry's rear end is just the latest royal headline in the ongoing tabloid farce we've come to expect. British royals with their aristocratic hangers on and celebrity sycophants provide a circus distraction from the very real problems facing the UK.

Royalty and the system of patronage that goes with it re-enforces class based prejudices and the "them-and-us" mentality. The crowds of flag waving commoners who dutifully throng the route to Buckingham Palace are cheering on a unity predicated on privilege. It supports a dated establishment that still sits like a deadweight on British society.

The entertainment value the royals serve up definitely provides ongoing laughs. Boat launchings and charity events just wouldn't be the same without a duke or duchess to wonder around patronizing the ordinary "Mr's" and "Mrs's" - but seriously... isn't it time the UK moved on?

Sardonic_Soul
Sardonic_Soul

I think I'd worry if my Prince Hal WASN'T out and cavorting about!!!   What I think 's going to be fun is in 20 years when some cute young person walks up to Harry and says "Hi Dad!  Can I stay in the castle??"    Wow, at least the young man's got SPUNK!!!!!  GO GET 'EM HARRY!

TobeyGal
TobeyGal

When I was 27, I was married, working and in a Master's program.  My husband was a CPA, MBA and MST by age 27 and making a career in the petroleum industry.  Neither of us would be caught dead in a room full of naked people.  We like to have fun, but that is poor judgement

Joe Mushroom
Joe Mushroom

 petroleum? at that age? you guys must have had connections or were rich to begin with

Blah_Meh
Blah_Meh

Whereas Prince Harry has merely qualified as an army officer, served his country in Afghanistan, qualified as a helicpoters pilot, founded and supported  an AIDS charity and performed a whole host of Royal duties in the interim. He may not have followed your life path, but it would be wrong to classify him as a slacker just because he doesn't have an MBA.

Zing Om
Zing Om

to each his own, others would find your lifestyle a deathly bore at age 27

Isabella Heart
Isabella Heart

Prince Harry is young and is single and can do what he wants. Pictures were taken without him knowing and it's embarrassing for him I'm sure. But, unlike his dirty father Prince Charles who cheated on his mother several times then after her death married his "Ho". Prince Harry is a better man and enjoying his life and not hurting anyone in the process. I have a lot of respect for Prince Harry and if anyone should be banished from royal status it should Prince Charles and his "Ho" and not Harry!

Sinfulislam
Sinfulislam

See now the young female muslims want to see the old arabian king naked when taking a bath likes a new arabian sex video. Badness only produces badness.

Harry Kuheim
Harry Kuheim

Nobody cares about Harry...we want to see Kate and Pippa naked.

Sinfulislam
Sinfulislam

See now the young female muslims want to see the old arabian king naked when taking a bath likes a new arabian sex video. Badness only produces badness.

htpatty
htpatty

Speak for yourself!

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

I second Harry K's motion. We need to see all sides of the story. Fair and balanced!

Margaritae
Margaritae

Richard answered I am dazzled that someone can get paid $6152 in four weeks on the network. did you look (Click on menu Home)

bk80
bk80

I say we start a "free Prince Harry" petition. He didn't hurt anyone. He has nothing to be ashamed of.

MACDONALDBANK
MACDONALDBANK

HRH Prince Harry is and will always be a super-cool guy!

Io Tu
Io Tu

He has a body of a transtestical! lol - My 13 year old son has a more masculine body. He looks like a little girl! hahahaha

 

James
James

What the hell is a Io Tu? Crawl back under your rock knuckle dragger. 

TennisMom3
TennisMom3

Sure, he's a young guy having fun.  This, however, is sleazy 'fun'.  Penicillin, anyone?  

James
James

Hey TennisMom3, So what, you have a big house with no furniture. If playing strip billards is sleazy what is pulling a train with your high school football team called?

TennisMom3
TennisMom3

I wouldn't know, James, why don't you enlighten us?

Ted Sebern
Ted Sebern

It appears that the young prince needed a little time to kick back. I've known those times and I can comiserate with him. It seems a shame that the photographers are always around to bother him. He's a young gentleman an not needing the meddling of others.

That being said, my younger brother and I stripped to the skin and went swimming in the Pacific Ocean one evening after his wedding rehearsal.  The mother of his wife to be stood and applauded our nude performance. It was an important moment in our lives.

I respect prince Harry and hope that others are able to give him a little slack.

Sincerely,

Ted Sebern 

NoSpinAmerican
NoSpinAmerican

Seriously do work for the Royal Family, how much did they pay you to write that!

JAFOM
JAFOM

 Seriously? Do you really think the paparazzi were invited to his strip pool game and snapped the pictures?

Io Tu
Io Tu

 That's cause just like him, you're a closet case! lol - Weirdos!!