After the Nazi costume, the animal cruelty allegations, the paparazzi brawls, a weakness for the Ginger Prince was nothing to admit to. But now that he's Eligible Bachelor #1, some people say he's growing up.
So, we all know the bad stuff —that is, as much as one is allowed to know about a royal. The question is whether the un-royal we (that is, popular opinion willing to pass uninformed judgment and to engage in casual crushes) can forgive this as youthful folly, or whether Harry's destined to go down in the books as an oblivious jerk.
His defenders (not least this editorial in the Daily Beast) point to two things: his military service and his charity work in Africa. Writes Jacob Bernstein,
In the last couple of years, the younger prince has receded from view somewhat. In that time, he went into the army, served in Afghanistan, and saw death firsthand. (Last weekend, he attended the memorial of a comrade from his unit, where he was visibly choked up.) When his superiors determined that having him on the ground was too risky, that he was a high-profile target for terrorists, he transferred to the Army air corps, a long and arduous program, where he's been a model student.
And then there's his charity, Sentebale (founded with Lesotho's Prince Seeiso), which gives aid to orphans in Lesotho. Although he's kept a low profile, film of Harry engaging with children has shown him to be genuine and engaged — not to mention playful in a way his older brother doesn't tend to be for the cameras. Talking about a trip to Africa this summer with his brother, Harry said, "We had a fantastic opportunity for me to show William what Sentebale is all about - the vulnerable children. Things are going in the right direction and I'm really proud of Sentebale." In this video of a visit to New York, he seems serious and committed when he talks about AIDS in Africa.
Of course, we don't really know these people and never will: we form opinions based on gossip, speculation and rare bits of information. The truth is, their lives are so completely different from ours that it's probably impossible to infer anything at all based on our own experience, which is what makes all the recent coverage so risible. But it's always interesting to see how public opinion wavers based on these sparse clues — and what the public verdict will be now that he's going to be all the more in the media's glare.