Britain’s royal family fired back Friday at a newspaper columnist who had branded Prince Harry “a national disgrace” for allegedly wasting his time during a year off in Australia and Africa while allegedly harassing girls in nightclubs.
The office of Harry’s father, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, sent a furious letter to the Daily Express saying Carol Sarler’s attack on his son was “unfair” and “nonsense.”
“I understand that columnists are paid to express their opinions vigorously and with style, but the piece entitled ’Spoiled and lazy Harry is one of a kind”’ was grossly inaccurate and ill-informed,” Charles’ new communications secretary Paddy Harverson wrote.
Harry, 19, is no stranger to controversy after dabbling in drink and drugs a couple of years ago. The youngest son of Charles and the late Princess Diana, he is currently in Lesotho following three months in Australia on a transition year after school.
In an extraordinary tirade against the prince, Sarler began her column on Wednesday saying that news that Harry was a disgrace "is scarcely news."
She continued: “His exploits have been making headlines for years: the drinking, the drugging, the yobbing, the waste of the costliest education in the land, the explicit disdain for the lower orders, the increasingly sexual public romps -- we’ve seen it all, we’ve heard it all.”
Calling him a “thoroughly horrible young man,” Sarler said Harry “has rarely lifted a finger unless it’s to feel up a cheap tart in a nightclub or shoot some harmless critter.”
The columnist said Harry spent his time in Australia slumped in front of a TV waiting “to behave badly” at the next rugby match, while in Africa “he has reluctantly agreed to spend a bit of the trip staring at poor people.”
Newcomer takes on tabloid point-by-point
A newcomer to the frequent spats between the royals and Britain’s feisty tabloid press, having just been poached from Manchester United soccer club to run Charles’ PR efforts, Harverson took on the Express point-by-point.
In Australia, Harry spent most of his time working long days in high temperatures on cattle farms, where “his employers found him to be a hard and conscientious worker,” Harverson wrote. He took a “deserved break” to see England win the rugby world cup.
In Africa, Harry has insisted on working on projects for disadvantaged children and their families rather than just making VIP-style visits, Harverson added.
“Like any other 19-year-old fortunate enough to be able to spend time travelling and working abroad, Harry should be allowed to enjoy and benefit from his experiences without being subject to the kind of ill-informed and insensitive criticism made in your paper by Ms Sarler,” he wrote.
The Express column was a rare piece of vitriol against Harry who, like his older brother Prince William, has been treated relatively kindly by the media since an appeal for sensitivity following Diana’s 1997 death in a Paris car crash.