Published : 2013-01-30 20:16
Updated : 2013-01-30 20:16
LONDON (AFP) ― Britain’s Prince Harry may be home safely from Afghanistan after five months as an army helicopter gunner ― but he has swapped the crackle of gunfire for the clicking of countless paparazzi cameras.
In a series of surprisingly candid interviews before he left Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan, the third-in-line to the throne spoke not just of his passion for army life, but of the escape it offered from Britain’s hungry press.
With a hint of sadness, the 28-year-old said that for him, life in Afghanistan ― sleeping in a shipping container when he wasn’t targeting Taliban insurgents from his Apache attack chopper ― was “as normal as it’s going to get.”
“He felt he could be private at Camp Bastion in a way he could never be on the streets of London,” royal author Kate Williams told AFP. “He felt he could do his job in peace.”
Captain Wales, as he is known at work, spoke to reporters just three times during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, on the condition that the interviews were only released once he left the war zone.
But the media assault restarted in earnest this week as the famously fun-loving prince returned to more familiar terrain ― London’s swanky Fulham district ― and was snapped, bleary-eyed, leaving a party long after dawn.
The images will not have pleased the prince, who surprised reporters in Afghanistan by peppering his interviews with digs at them. “I never wanted you guys to be here,” he told them flatly.
Flame-haired Harry has struggled to shake off a “playboy prince” reputation, especially after images of him partying naked in a Las Vegas hotel were splashed around the world last August.
But public relations experts say footage of the prince in Afghanistan ― performing weapons checks in his helicopter cockpit, queuing in the army canteen and making tea for fellow pilots ― has helped to rehabilitate his image.
“He came across as a hard-working royal who has been putting his life on the line,” said Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief of the Brand Republic group of marketing magazines.
“It’s a nice counter to last summer, when he was caught out in Vegas. He’s positioned himself as one of the lads and as a gritty soldier. Generally I think it works.”