IF PRINCE Harry believed the old maxim “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” he knows better now.
Pictures of the 27-year-old prince cavorting naked with a young woman in a Las Vegas hotel were published on an American entertainment website yesterday and quickly became the centre of a row.
The photographs, taken on a mobile phone at a private party, first appeared on TMZ, famous for its diet of celebrity gossip, before being published on websites across the world.
The pictures were reportedly taken last Friday when Prince Harry was on a private break in Nevada, before returning to Britain to resume his duties in the army.
Last night, a spokesman for Clarence House confirmed that it was Prince Harry in the pictures and that he was “on a private break”.
A source in Clarence House said the prince was simply “letting off steam”.
In the first photograph, Harry is shown wearing just a necklace and a wristband with his hands around his genitals as a seemingly topless woman stands close behind him.
The prince, apparently naked, is shown in another picture shielding himself behind an unknown woman.
Although the pictures were circulated widely on foreign websites, many British news sites and newspapers chose not to use them as it was believed publication would constitute an invasion of the prince’s privacy.
Dr John Jewell, a media commentator from Cardiff University’s school of journalism, said the decision was based on a “loss of confidence” following the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.
He said: “It has certainly had an effect on how newspapers present issues of public decency and how that plays with the public.
“What we have seen is a loss of confidence among newspaper editors.”
Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former press secretary, described Prince Harry, third in the line to the throne, as “a loose cannon who should not be left alone”.
He told The Scotsman: “After this episode he’ll rein himself in, more so after his commanding officer has had a go a him.”
The prince, who has served in Afghanistan, has run into trouble before when he dressed in a Nazi uniform at a fancy dress party.
More recently, he played a prominent role representing the royal family at a host of Olympic events.
In the run up to the Games, he went on a successful tour of the Caribbean.
The TMZ website claimed that the Las Vegas pictures were taken after the prince and his entourage met some women in a hotel bar and invited them up to the prince’s suite. According to the website, the group played a stripping game and someone in the party is thought to have captured the image of the naked prince on a camera phone.
The pictures have also raised questions about royal security.
Labour MP Steve Pound said: “This is a first for the royals and a new low for the royal protection team.”
The photographs come at the end of an eventful break for the prince who visited Los Angeles before he arrived in Las Vegas.
He is reported to have met the actress and singer Jennifer Lopez as well as challenging the American gold-medal-winning swimmer Ryan Lochte to a race across a pool.