Prince Harry’s Diamond Jubilee tour of the Caribbean, writes The Daily Beast, “has undoubtedly been the most successful undertaken by a member of the British Royal family since the Diana era.”
Even if some might dispute the use of the superlative in this particular instance – what about the Queen’s trip to Australia earlier this year, or William and Kate’s boffo Canada/U.S. visit last summer? – the young prince has received widespread praise for what Cristina Odone, writing in the Telegraph, called “one impressive royal debut.”
The trip won Harry, Odone wrote, “a huge number of new fans; and rekindled, for Britain, the bond with former colonies. This was a prince coming into his own.”
Grabbing the most attention was perhaps the photo-op track meet with Usain Bolt, in which Harry “beat” the champion Olympic sprinter not once but twice. The first time, Harry was able to sneak off on a mad dash across the finish line after getting Bolt to look the other way. The second time Bolt displayed his own noblesse oblige by letting Harry win.
The Jamaica Observer reported that Bolt said of his sprints with Harry: “I think he knew that he wouldn’t beat me, and he wanted to make sure that he went back to London and say that he actually beat me, but for me, it was fun.”
Bolt added: “I told him, when I get to London, he better make time for me, because it is on.”
“It was pure laughter and fun,” wrote the Jamaica Gleaner.
But there was a more serious side to the event’s impact, said BBC News royal correspondent Peter Hunt.
Harry’s Jamaican races “could generate longer-term beneficial consequences for the trainer wearing prince,” wrote Hunt. “When, in dubious royal fashion, Prince Harry seized the title of the World’s Fastest Man from Usain Bolt, he injected fresh global interest into an ancient institution that can, at times, seem terribly out of touch.”
In other royal related news about Prince Harry’s Diamond Jubilee trip to Jamaica:
• Some observers had wondered whether Harry’s meeting with Jamaica’s prime minister, an outspoken republican, would be an awkward moment. In fact, shortly before meeting with Harry, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had reiterated her call for Jamaica to “achieve full independence” and said her country would accept a British apology for slavery.
“We came on a long journey from slavery to adult suffrage to our independence,” Simpson Miller told BBC News, adding that Jamaica’s “maturity” as a nation means “that we should look to a form of government that would, at this time, take full charge of our destiny.”
Turning to the legacy of slavery, the prime minister said: “No race should have been subjected to what out ancestors were subjected to. It was wicked and brutal.”
She added: “If Britain wishes to apologize, fine with us, no problem at all.”
But Simpson Miller took pains to emphasize that a move towards becoming a republic should not be read “in the context of us getting rid of the Queen.”
“It’s not about getting rid of the Queen,” she said. “But in terms of our history, we have some things to do. It’s no disrespect at all to the Queen.”
And disrespect was the furthest thing one could imagine after seeing the actual meeting as it took place on Thursday, perhaps the result of the prime minister’s precise political distinctions combined with Harry’s newfound personal and diplomatic savvy.
“When he met Mrs. Simpson Miller for the first time today, the Prince cut through any potential frostiness by grabbing her for a hug and kissing her on both cheeks,” wrote the Telegraph. “The meeting was more like a mother greeting her son than a politician greeting a visiting dignitary.”
• Harry, no stranger to partying, attracted favorable attention when he danced in the street at a block party in Belize earlier in the week – and he took to boogieing in Jamaica as well. Wherever he went, the Prince was sure to invoke the king of reggae, Bob Marley. When he addressed an official state dinner, he apologized that the Queen couldn’t be there, but told the gathering, echoing the Marley song, “Don’t worry, cuz every little thing’s gonna be alright.” He even met Rita Marley, the reggae musician’s widow, who gave the Prince a scarf her husband wore on tour.
“Prince Harry’s visit is a blessing,” Marley said. “I am giving him a letter in which I tell him how we will all see his beautiful mother again one day.”
• But the Prince also marked a more somber note on Wednesday, when word reached him of the death of six British soldiers in Afghanistan. Harry had been scheduled to take part in a wall-climbing exercise at a Jamaican military base, but declined to do so, feeling that it would distract the day’s focus on “looking after the bereaved of those tragically killed in Afghanistan,” a palace spokesman told the Associated Press.
However, Harry did take part in target practice, where he joked with photographers covering the event: “You’re at the wrong end,” he told them, asking, “Anyone with a camera want to stand at the other end?”
• Harry was apparently able to catch up with an old army buddy. Lieutenant Kayon Mills of the Jamaica Defense Force trained with the Prince at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England in 2005 and 2006. The men were friends but had lost touch – last week, they managed to catch up again, and the Jamaica Gleaner then caught up with Lt. Mills:
• For a Prince who has been known mostly for his late night drinking, partying and serial dating, the Diamond Jubilee trip offers a very different image of a young royal coming of age, one who is learning how to balance the high-born and “regular” aspects of his personality.
Perhaps Harry has been following the example of his namesake, Shakespeare’s Henry V, giving up his hard partying to take on the responsibilities of the realm. Of course, it was all of the carousing that helped to make Henry a man of the people and not just a stiff, distant royal – and perhaps the contemporary Harry has learned similar lessons from his own wild youth.
Harry may also be getting some of those lessons directly from his older brother. According to the Daily Mail, Prince William has been acting as Harry’s “secret advisor,” giving him tips on the right blend of informality and dignity when representing the Queen. The two spoke at length before the trip, said a source, and they’ve been in touch via cell phone and texting.
“The relationship they have is full of banter and humor,” said the source, “but Prince William is deeply caring of his younger brother and wants his younger brother succeed.”
The paper also cited an unnamed source who said that Prince Harry received a call from his father, Prince Charles, who is “hugely proud” of his son’s Caribbean performance.