“Party boy” Prince Harry made the news this month when photos of the royal cavorting naked with a woman were released in the media. According to The Sun, the photos were taken in a VIP suite in the Wynn Hotel, Las Vegas during a game of strip billiards. The Telegraph UK reported that the 27-year- old, third in line to the British throne was holidaying in Vegas at the time with a group of friends during a break from his recent Olympic and military duties. The photos, which were taken on a mobile phone by fellow ‘party goers’ were initially published by The Sun despite an appeal by St James's Palace not to run them. According to the Herald Sun, it had been argued in this appeal that ‘Harry has a reasonable expectation of privacy since he was on a private holiday.’ However, the newspaper went ahead with the publication arguing freedom of the press.  It was also stated that the photos had been sold to a US celebrity gossip website prior to their publication in The Sun, and were therefore in the public domain already. The Royal Family has not commented formally on the incident. In an article in the International Business Times, however, it was reported that older brother Prince William ‘called Harry straight away and gave him a bit of a telling off.’  Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, however, has according to the same article pledged her support for Harry and has offered to assist him in recovering his public image.

In today’s world of smart phones, social media and easy access to the Internet, risks to privacy are real and significant. This is particularly the case in relation to high profile individuals. As a consequence, despite the private context in which they were taken, the Vegas photos had the potential to bring Prince Harry’s reputation into disrepute.   This followed considerable charity work over recent times and his public role as the Queen’s representative during the London Olympics Closing Ceremony; all in part done to resurrect his image after several well publicised incidents and negative media involving the young prince.

In this case however, according to the Daily Mail, Prince Harry was able to laugh off the incident when he made his first public appearance since the release of the photos at a charity event in London. The article reported that an applaud-winning banter took place between Harry and a six-year-old beneficiary of the WellChild charity who promised his TV audience he would say: ‘I’m glad you’ve got your clothes on Prince Harry.’  He has since gone on to a well publicised deployment in Afganistan as a helicopter combat gunner.

While Prince Harry’s charismatic personality appears to have exonerated him from shame, the incident is a reminder of the wide reach of gossip publications and the reputational risks associated with celebrities being constantly in the public eye.