Royal officials say no decisions about Prince Harry’s military deployment have been made — but that’s not stopping the buzz over reports he will soon be sent to Iraq.
British newspapers are filling their pages about the security headache that a war zone assignment for Harry could bring for the British army. The prince is third in line to the throne.
The Ministry of Defense described the reports “entirely speculative.”
The 22-year-old prince has insisted in interviews he won’t sit home while his military school mates are in harm’s way.
“Harry’s always wanted to be treated as an ordinary soldier,” the Daily Mail quoted an unidentified army source as saying. “He’s not an ordinary soldier, of course.”
When Harry, 22, left Sandhurst Military Academy last year, he became a second lieutenant and joined the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry. At the time, the defense ministry said he could possibly be deployed to Iraq, but that there might be situations when the presence of a member of the royal family could increase the risk for his comrades.
'One of the lads'
Harry himself was having none of it.
“There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst, and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country,” he said in a television interview to mark his 21st birthday.
“It’s entirely understandable that he should want to go,” said William Wallace, a professor emeritus of international relations at the London School of Economics and a British defense expert. “There’s not much point of being in the army unless you experience the same things as your men.”
Harry went to the elite all-boys school, Eton, and has been described as “one of the lads” by celebrity gossip magazine Hello! Harry is considered more impetuous than his elder brother Prince William; he has often been seen leaving posh London nightclubs — and once scuffled with a photographer.
Harry has also acknowledged drinking underage and smoking marijuana, and in January 2006, he apologized after being pictured in a national newspaper at a costume party dressed as a Nazi, including a swastika armband.
But he’s also been photographed working with AIDS orphans in Africa during a year spent abroad. And while Harry has been pictured with a beer or a cigarette in his hand, stories about his possible deployment to Iraq were accompanied by more dignified shots of the prince in battle gear.
Royals in the military
Harry and William — who graduated from Sandhurst late last year and is also with the Blues and Royals — join a long line of royals in the military. Their uncle, Prince Andrew, served in the Falklands war as a Royal Navy pilot; Prince Philip, their grandfather, had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during World War II.
Even Queen Elizabeth II, their grandmother, served — she was trained as a driver in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.
Amyas Godfrey, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank, said Harry could do a number of jobs in Iraq. As a junior officer, that might mean patrolling the streets of Basra, working inside the command headquarters, or training Iraqi police officers.
“It would be untrue to say he will be like everyone else — and he’ll want to be like everyone else — but he won’t be able to because he is Prince Harry,” said Godfrey, a former Army officer who has served in Iraq. Godfrey said that one of the biggest obstacles to the prince serving in the field is his recognizability, which could make him vulnerable to attack.
The Ministry of Defense said William technically could be deployed to Iraq. However, it was highly unlikely that the second in line to the throne would be placed in harm’s way.