With Queen taking salute, Prince Harry embarks on army career
CAMBERLEY, England – To the strains of “God Save the Queen” and a sergeant-major barking orders, Prince Harry, the red-headed party animal of the British royal family, formally embarked on his army career as he graduated from the elite Sandhurst military academy.
His grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, who turns 80 on April 21, and father Prince Charles were both present for the passing out ceremony on Wednesday where Harry and 218 other officer cadets in crisp blue uniforms, each carrying thin silver swords, received their commissions after 44 weeks of gruelling training.
“Many of you will deploy on operations within months or even weeks. I wish you every success in your chosen career,” said the monarch in remarks to the newly minted officers which made no reference to her 21-year-old grandson.
Harry — who, true to character, joined army buddies last week at an upmarket lap dancing club — has chosen to join the Blues and Royals of the Household Cavalry regiment, serving in an armoured reconnaissance unit.
As Second Lieutenant Harry Wales, he will train to become a troop commander, in charge of 11 enlisted men and four light tanks — a job that could soon see him on front-line duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“He’ll be looking forward to commanding a troop of soldiers and being responsible for their well-being and indeed their lives,” said Major General Andrew Ritchie, the commanding officer at Sandhurst, near Camberley, southwest of London.“We train all cadets here to be ready for operations, but as far as where the cadets go in the world, that’s a matter for others.”
For Queen Elizabeth, it was the first time in 15 years that she had attended a passing out ceremony at Sandhurst — known as a Sovereign’s Parade — staged in the forecourt of the world’s oldest military academy.
She passed through the lines of cadets, stopping to chat to some of them, and gave a beaming smile to Harry — which he returned with a big grin, his cheeks flushed red.
Harry’s older brother Prince William, is also at Sandhurst this year. He is expected to join the Welsh Guards when he leaves, overtaking Harry to the rank of captain thanks to having first got a university degree.
Not present was Harry’s girlfriend Chelsy Davy, though she was expected to join him at a gala passing out ball in the evening after flying in to London from her home in South Africa on Tuesday.
In an interview to mark his 21st birthday, Harry said: “The last thing I said was there’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.”
“That may sound very patriotic, but it’s true.”
The Household Cavalry is among the British regiments in line to be deployed in Kandahar and the restive southern Helmand province in Afghanistan where multinational troops are led by Canadian forces.
Past members of the regiment have included James Hewitt, who gained notoriety when he became a lover of Harry’s mother, princess Diana, several years before her death in 1997 in a Paris car crash.
Known for his party antics, Harry is said to have relished life at Sandhurst, after a spate of controversies which included punching a paparazzo outside a London nightspot and dressing up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party.
But he should feel at home in his new regiment, which has a reputation within the British army as being a natural refuge for the polo-playing scions of the aristocracy.