Is Harry ready to put the 'Party Prince' to rest once and for all?
22 AUGUST 2012
For years he was known as the 'party prince'. But that side of Prince Harry's persona seemed far away as he undertook the most important official engagement of his life so far, representing the Queen at the Olympics closing ceremony.
The Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Anne and Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence looked on, but it was Harry who took centre stage as millions of people saw London 2012 draw to an end.
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It seemed a stronger indication than ever that Harry was moving away from the wild child image he had gained during his early 20s, to a new, more mature role.
Yet days later he jetted off to Las Vegas for some rest and recuperation, showing he wasn't about to turn his back on his fun-loving side any time soon.
Quite the opposite in fact, as stories soon surfaced of him taking part in pool parties surrounded by admiring women in bikinis and compromising pictures of the youngster in a state of undress surfacing on the internet.
The leaked images show the difficulty of protecting a young member of the royal family, Dai Davies, former head of royal protection at the Metropolitan police, told the Telegraph.
He says that looking out for the interests of the young guard can sometimes be a "nightmare" but added that the Prince was such a "lovely man" that his team would probably forgive him immediately.
"He's a young man with lots of testosterone but there is a balance and occasionally that balance slips."
The stories may be a setback to the work he has done to distance himself from the 'playboy' tag which he gained for his love of partying.
But it's more than likely that the public will forgive him for any perceived indiscretions. Out of all the members of the royal family, it is Harry who seems to be a winner in the likeability stakes.
He has a certain boyish charm and an easy manner with people, just like his mother before him. He has always had an informal, unbuttoned approach to royal duties – and this came to the forefront during his hugely successful Diamond Jubilee trip to the Caribbean – his first royal tour.
He set the tone immediately on his arrivalas he attended a street party in Belmopan, the capital of Belize.
And he had a 2,000-strong crowd eating out of the palm of his hand after joking that the Queen could not come and "you're stuck with me".
The royal even worked the crowd during the speech by telling partygoers on one side of the street they were not as loud as the other, and urging them to make "a bit more noise" before telling them to "Mek wih go paaty" – or "let the party begin" in the Creole dialect.
Harry also put the fancy footwork skills he's honed in London nightclubs like Mahiki and Boujis to good use, joining in with a Creole dance demonstration, skillfully twirling his partner around.
Later he told attendees at a black tie gala that he was sorry the Queen couldn't be there, but not to worry, "every little ting's going to be all right", much to their delight.
The whole tour was a real coup for the Prince – a chance for him to step out of his brother's shadow and show the world a more mature, sober side to his personality. He did just that, without losing his sense of fun along the way.
Whether his antics in Las Vegas have damaged that image remains to be seen.
But any criticism which comes his way is unlikely to upset the Prince too much, however, unless it comes from William or the Queen.
Those who know him say that apart from his brother and his grandmother, he doesn't pay much attention to anyone. Quite the opposite, he becomes irritated if given uncalled-for advice.
His confidence has been evident since an early age. Royal biographer Ingrid Seward recalls a childhood incident: "When he was about seven, he climbed on to the parapets of Kensington Palace to pelt snowballs at the police sentry below.
"He was oblivious to the danger and it took a great deal of anxious pleading to get him down."
Growing up, Harry seemed the more easy-going and laid back out of the two brothers. His mother Princess Diana noted: "Harry is the naughty one. He is willing to try anything."
Even after his mother's death he retained his happy-go-lucky nature, seemingly unphased by being labelled "the spare" to his brother the heir, instead focusing on building his own life while leaving the more serious side of public duty to his older brother.
By his own admissions he "isn't brilliant academically", but he developed a fascination with the military and thrived in the ranks of an army career.
He qualified as a combat pilot by 2012 and was awarded a prize for being the best gunner in his class. Most importantly though, he was able to serve on the front line in Afghanistan, after his insistence that he should be treated like any other serviceman.
The only element missing from his life at the moment is a significant other – as was painfully evident during the Olympics, when the media remarked he seemed to be playing gooseberry to his brother and Kate, joining them to take in sporting events.