Prince Harry's next visit to the United States: More prince, less soldier

(CNN) -- Prince Harry's last visit to the United States, in August 2012, did not end well, after photographs of him romping naked around a Las Vegas hotel suite were published worldwide -- just weeks before he began his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

"I probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down," he said in an interview a few weeks later. "It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince." Harry argued at the time that it happened in a private area and that he should have been able to expect a certain amount of privacy.

Expect him to redress the balance then on his next visit to the United States, which begins on Thursday. And he won't be stopping in Las Vegas.

His Private Secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, has reassuringly confirmed that the prince will "fulfill his duties with his inimitable style in all he does."

He has a point. No-one does royal tours quite like Prince Harry, and he's clearly fond of the United States, visiting several times during the years, both in official and private capacities.

This is the prince who dispensed with handshakes when he met Jamaican prime minister Portia Simpson Miller in March 2012 and gave her a hug instead (he said he had heard that she liked hugs.) On the same day he also challenged Olympic multi-medallist Usain Bolt to a race and then went on to impersonate Bob Marley during a state dinner.

If there is a Usain Bolt moment in the U.S., it will be on a baseball diamond In New York on Tuesday. But striking a baseball isn't as easy as it looks -- has Harry been practicing? He is competitive and will at least be on more of a level playing field when he captains a polo team during a match in Connecticut on Wednesday. It's a sport he excels at, but such events are as much about socializing -- and Harry's presence is fast turning it into the society event of the year. This is, after all, the man who ultimately has the power to turn women into princesses -- or at least duchesses.

But Harry isn't coming to the United States to find a wife, officially at least. Instead, he's carrying out a dual role: representing the interests of his charities and those of the United Kingdom. He's a big asset for the British government, able to attract A-list political, corporate and showbiz guests to receptions at tour stops in Washington, Denver and New York.

A royal source has described his visit, which also includes a visit to a community devastated by Hurricane Sandy, as "gentle diplomacy." The source also tells me one core element of the tour will be the weekend Warrior Games in Colorado, which are best described as the Paralympics for injured and wounded war veterans. Lowther-Pinkerton, himself a former special forces officer, describes Harry as a "soldier's soldier" who wants to highlight the commitment and sacrifice of "our wounded warriors."

Like any serving officer, Harry will have at the back of his mind that one day he could be wounded in combat. Expect then to see a very sombre and thoughtful Prince Harry/Captain Wales in ceremonial uniform when he lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday. For Prince Harry is a soldier and a prince: both will be on duty for this tour, if a bit more prince than during his last visit.

And those lucky enough to meet him shouldn't forget to ask if his pregnant sister-in-law Kate -- the Duchess of Cambridge -- is expecting a girl or a boy this summer. That would create headlines -- and for much happier reasons than last time.

 

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