Photographers' Blog

The party Prince

March 16, 2012

By Suzanne Plunkett

You could be forgiven for thinking photos of Prince Harry’s recent tour of the Caribbean showed the young royal living up to his reputation as a high class carouser. There he was slurping enormous cocktails, dancing the night away and kissing a young woman on the cheek.

Splashed across newspapers and website with headlines like “Prince Harry gets the party started” or “Harry dances in the street,” these images appear to show a boozy extrovert who will take any excuse to shake his stuff in public.

I spent more than a week tailing the third-in-line to the British throne on a whistle stop tour of Belize, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Brazil. Though I photographed him in many of these situations, it was pretty clear Harry isn’t quite the party animal he’s often made out to be.

On tour, at least, Harry is heavily stage-managed. He and his press secretaries know the photographers want to see the “fun” prince dancing and drinking. But whether he wants to be photographed drinking and dancing is another matter.

In fact I only saw Harry — who was traveling as an ambassador for Queen Elizabeth as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations and a representative of the UK government — dance three times and drink twice. And he didn’t seem to be having that much fun.

On his first night in Belize he danced with two local women at a street party. He looked deeply uncomfortable as he accepted an invitation from the first, a much older woman, with whom he danced a few steps before happily being upstaged by a dancer in a deer costume.

When he danced with the second woman, who was very attractive and closer to his age, he kept his back to the press, sheltered from view by an enormous security guard. Both dances together totaled about 60 seconds.

At this same street party, I photographed him with a Belizean rum, from which he took a single sip before making a face indicating its strength.

He then tried to make polite excuses to leave, but a pushy bartender persuaded him to try his specialty hibiscus rum punch. Harry clearly wasn’t comfortable, asking, “are they ready yet?” and glancing back at his press secretary.

After some feverish mixing, the drink was served. Harry again took just one sip, complimented the bartender, set the drink on the bar, and moved on.

Although you wouldn’t know it from some of the rather colorful press coverage using the drinking photographs of Harry, this was hardly a wild bender. At least one paper got rather carried away with its reporting and had to issue an apology.

After Belize, the “party” prince must have been pooped. We traveled though the Bahamas without a dance or drink incident and it wasn’t until our first day in Jamaica that Harry was propositioned again during a visit to a youth center.

Possibly resigned to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to resist dancing to Jamaica’s reggae beats, Harry was wearing a pair of Blue suede shoes when he was invited by an indisputably attractive young woman to throw a few shapes to Bob Marley’s “One Love.”

But again the situation was clearly uncomfortable for the prince. As she approached, he blushed awkwardly and a panicked look swept across his face. To his credit, he quickly overcame his reticence and showed some smooth moves.

You would have thought Harry’s next stop, the Brazilian Mardi Gras hotspot of Rio de Janeiro, would have been the perfect place to let his hair down. But even though I saw him with a pair of samba dancers, they kept their distance and the prince didn’t join in.

And that was it. No more drinking (sipping) and no more dancing. So while the trip was widely seen as a success and Harry praised for his easy-going approach, the “party” was over before it ever really began.

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