The decision by the British military that Prince Harry is not to go to Iraq will be a great disappointment to the Prince. Coming on top of a series of what can only be described as errors of judgement by the authorities, including the later regretted decision to allow the sailors who were taken hostage by the Iranians to sell their stories, the circumstances in which they were taken, and the surprising comments to the media about the Iraq war made by the Chief of the General Staff, this suggests that all is not well. (We have received a letter from a reader, which we will shortly publish, putting a well argued case that the Chief of the General Staff’s media intervention was justified. Our point was not that it was made, but that it was made to the media, and in our view, in breach of established the constitutional conventions.)
As to the reversal of the decision to allow send Prince Harry to Iraq, surely if this is too dangerous, and not only to the Prince but also to those in his command, this was always so. The Prince’s uncle, Prince Andrew, was certainly in danger in the Falklands, and his presence was well known to the enemy and the subject of vicious campaign in some sections of the Buenos Aires media. Prince Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip, was exposed to all the dangers of war, as was Lord Mountbatten who died at the hands of the most cowardly terrorists who showed no mercy for the children and the women and the elderly who were with him. Prince Harry’s determination to be with his men is noble, and was commented on favourably in the United States. There the nobility of the Royal Family was contrasted unfavourably, and some would say unfairly, with that of the republic’s patrician families.
The knowledge that Prince Harry, who is third in the line of succession, is not to go to Iraq, will come as a relief to many and as a great personal blow to the Prince. But like any soldier he is subject to orders, but it will probably make him wonder whether a military career is open to him.
He emerges from this sorry affair with no stain on his character, having acquitted himself well.