A culturally sensitive defense of our era’s Prince Hal.
Prince Hal isn’t very good at pool or in the pool. That’s what we learned from the third-to-the-throne’s what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-on-the-Internet vacation.
But as the parade of bikinied sweethearts crowning the British prince their Vegas king demonstrates, Harry excels by the poolside. Isn’t that the only game that matters? So primed by fairy tales overflowing with royal romance, young women forget to act like princesses when they meet an actual prince. Perhaps that’s the prince’s cue to stop acting like royalty.
When Harry challenged Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte to an impromptu race in the pool at the appropriately named “XS” nightclub, he forgot to remove his jeans. When he played pool with an anonymous but obviously attractive female companion, the prince forgot to keep on his jeans. The folkways of foreigners are confounding.
Englishmen, perhaps as a clever ploy to divert eyes from their teeth, love to publicly remove their garments. From Page Three Girl Samantha Fox to organ-playing Python Terry Jones, Brits just seem more comfortable in the buff. It’s their natural state, one might say. Even David Niven appeared unperturbed by that streaker who crashed his Academy Awards presentation.
We don’t get the English. We barely even speak it, which is why when Prince Harry gets buck naked TMZ, the Huffington Post, and E! report on the prince’s butt naked antics. Americans can’t hope to understand their culture before we understand their language.
I grasped our ignorance of the mother country while serving alongside British Royal Marines for three weeks at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, during the summer of Prince Harry’s mum’s death. News of Princess Diana’s passing crushed the Brits, which struck me as strange given that she was a stranger to them. This proved to me that I was a stranger to them, too.
The Marines’ Captain — the same rank that Prince Harry now holds in the British Army — forfeited his credit card so his charges could call home. They appeared more dejected by the event that rocked their homeland than by the humidity rolling us. The motley martial mob used their day of liberty to blow off steam at a bar in Nowheresville, Mississippi, where one of the Royal Marines called “naked bar.” This drinking game/dare required his cohorts to disrobe and imbibe their beers atop the bar.
In America, naked is for the bathroom and the bedroom. For British servicemen, who perhaps cannot help but go native defending all those colonies, naked is for the barroom, too. The backwoods barkeep kicked them out.
Can you believe the cultural insensitivity?
Americans don’t get nudity. Americans don’t get royalty. Prince Harry’s Vegas adventure, and the Royal Marines’ in Mississippi, each proved a perfect storm of American Anglophobia.
The one aspect of English culture that Americans understand is Shakespeare. Perhaps this is because Shakespeare so understands us, i.e., human beings. If we feel as though we’ve met Prince Hal before, it is because Shakespeare introduced us to him 400-or-so years ago.
In literature, Prince Hal was that fun-loving dauphin who cavorted with raconteurs, thieves, and ne’er-do-wells. But princes grow up to become kings, so Henry V ditches the “misleaders” who played “the tutor and the feeder of my riots.” He coolly washes his hands of the condemned church looter Bardolph in Henry V and at the conclusion of Henry IV, Part 2 bade Falstaff adieu.
Presume not that I am the thing I was;
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn’d away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company.
Alas, in fairy tales princes have actual obligations. Real life is more of a fairy tale than the fairy tales. This Prince Hal has more money than that Prince Hal. But he doesn’t have a slither of the power. Why act responsibly when you don’t have any responsibilities?
The similarities between King Henry V and the would-be King Henry IX only go so far.
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