By unfortunate coincidence last week, British upmarket magazine Country Life had a cover story called "How Prince Charles is Saving the Red Squirrel," then rhapsodized inside over his efforts to re-introduce the red squirrel to Cornwall. Some might think that HRH's time might have been better spent saving his wayward, red-haired son, Prince Harry!
This week, a documentary, Harry’s Mountain Heroes, showed Harry lending his support earlier in the year to injured soldiers who were attempting an expedition to climb Everest. Harry joined in their UK training but was not allowed to accompany the men on their trip to the Himalayas, which they eventually had to abandon due to bad weather.
Between these two pieces of carefully planned palace public relations the Las Vegas pictures of Harry playing ‘strip billiards’ fell and went viral. Harry returned home to face his concerned father, who reportedly wanted a face-to-face discussion with him.
But not so fast, Charles. On Sunday it emerged that in 1974, against British Embassy advice, Charles made a secret trip himself to Vegas — to meet Frank Sinatra, who was suspected of having mob connections. "Vegas Lured Prince Charles Too," screamed the headline.
People also recalled that Charles was caught displaying his ‘crown jewels’ in 1994, gazing forlornly from a full-length window at a Provencal chateau, with a towel draped over one shoulder. The British press didn’t publish the paparazzi pics, but the continental media did. A German tabloid said Charles looked "hunky like a Greek statue." French magazine Paris Match declared, “His whole pride and joy is on display. He looks magnifique. You can be proud of him.”
Whatever Harry has done, Charles did much worse. As far as we are aware, single and carefree Harry has had a string of single girlfriends, and enjoyed a long off/on romance with Chelsy Davy, but has not fallen into the ways of his father, who conducted secret relationships with unsuitable women, including the wives of some of his friends. Camilla Parker Bowles was just one of them. The late Lady Tryon told anyone who would listen about Charles’s private visits to her country home and about the royal letters she treasured.
That much is well known. What has been all but forgotten is that there were other girls who were paid off to prevent embarrassing disclosures. The main source of this information is a book, Behind Palace Walls, by the late and much lamented diarist Nigel Dempster and co-author Peter Evans, both highly dependable writers.
They said that besides his blue-blooded girlfriends, Charles was "capable of occasionally straying into less salubrious and dependable company." The writers continued: "In late1973, when Charles was 25, Mountbatten set up a slush fund, administered by an august British lawyer through a private bank in Nassau . to ensure that potentially troublesome conquests could be swiftly and handsomely paid for their silence. Certainly two, and possibly three, six-figure dollar contracts were signed between December 1974 and July 1979."
Dempster and Evans concluded that the payments "explain the flawless and sometimes paradoxical discretion shown by his lovers, often in the face of substantial tabloid inducements to tell all.”
Lord Mountbatten, Charles’s elderly relative and mentor, had a home in the Bahamas, where the fund was set up, and a stately home, Broadlands, in England. The latter was the setting for many of Charles’s trysts with Camilla and a host of other women. It was also the place he chose to spend his wedding night with Diana — hardly a good way of starting a marriage!
Harry was still a 12-year-old boy when he lost his mother 15 years ago this week. He is a great soldier, a staunch supporter of injured service personnel, and can be a terrific ambassador for the Queen. Maybe he has a need to let his hair down occasionally. Harry has a long way to go before he matches his father’s shady past. He just needs to make sure that there’s nobody with a camera in the room when he does.