Take a good look at this fresh-cheeked young man in his Sandhurst dress uniform.
He is H.R.H. Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, dit Prince Harry, third heartbeat in line to the British Throne, and as of yesterday, is awaiting DEFINITIVE transportation to the Iraq theatre of war.
His regiment, The Blues and Royals (motto: Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense -- Shame on him who thinks it evil), are part of the Regiment of Guards, which are the most socially, and militarily elite regiments in the British Armed Forces.
Of course, Old Etonians, later Sandhurst graduates, are a dime a dozen in the Guards. He doesn't stand out for that, one whit.
Even my father, an old Wykhemist, later Oxford grad, went into the Coldstream Guards (motto: Nulli Secundus -- Second to None), which had been his father's and his father's father's regiment, since before the turn of the last century. Like him, his brothers are all medical doctors who served in either the Senior Service, the Royal Navy, or in other regiments.
Now, we are not aristocratic, but our family share one thing in common with the Royal Family.
An unwavering dedication, not just in code of honour, but in practise, to preserve the Realm and to keep its subjects safe from invasion or worse, subjugation.
As Nancy Mitford once said of this warrioring breed:
"Say what you want about this class, but they have never failed to put their money where their mouth is, when it comes to fighting for England."
And today, that dictum was borne out yet again by this young man's decision to stay put with his regimental comrades.
Now, you may be asking yourself, does this make Harry more worthy of being admired because of this decision?
No, it doesn't.
- Does this make him a more decent guy than he has been proved to be, before?
- Should we care about this situation in the great scheme of things?
You can also ask, will Harry's military duty eradicate visions of him admitting to having smoked pot, of dressing up as a Nazi for a fancy dress party, or of drinking and carousing with his mates in stripper clubs, or of this decidedly poor choice of T-shirt?
Chances are, it may not for you. Or for me, come to that.
But I will tell you one thing.
Prince Harry easily could've resigned from his regiment, as his uncle Prince Edward did when the Royal Marines got to be too much for his delicate personality.
Indeed, the Royal Family could have insisted that he be transferred out of The Blues and Royals, due to their scheduled deployment to the most dangerous place on earth -- Iraq.
But they didn't.
And you know why that is?
Because after you strip away all the royal palavah, with the funny hats, the stuffy protocol, and oft-ridiculous customs, they have never shirked their duty when it comes to being front-and-centre in times of military action.
Obviously, the monarchy and the military are intertwined and in fact, are indissoluble from one another -- a once and forever link to their feudal past.
The Queen is the Supreme Head of the Armed Forces, and holds the highest rank in all its branches.
She herself served, as millions of other girls did in Britain at the time, in the A.T.S. during World War II, and not just for show, either.
As the film, The Queen, showed so vividly, she is a mean car mechanic when push comes to shove.
In doing so, she and today her grandson were following the natural course of service any member of the Royal Family is expected to give, during their lifetimes.
In fact, rare is the Royal personage who HASN'T or DOESN'T serve in some military capacity.
And though most people do not know this, rare is the Royal generation who hasn't given to his country the ultimate sacrifice, of giving his life for it.
Below is a list of men in the immediate Royal Family of their time, who have all died in action, often in pitched battle.
1. Prince Henry of Battenberg: Son-in-law to Queen Victoria, daughter of her youngest daughter Beatrice, Prince Henry died during the Ashanti campaign, in 1895.
2. Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein: Grandson of Queen Victoria, son of her daughter Helena, Prince Christian Victor perished in Pretoria in 1900 whilst serving with his regiment the 4th King's Royal Rifle Corps, a victim of the Second Boer War.
3. Prince Maurice of Battenberg: Son of Prince Henry, Prince Maurice was killed in action whilst serving with the 60th King's Royal Rifles in 1914, one of the very first victim's of the First World War.
4. H.R.H. George, Duke of Kent: Son of King George V, the Duke of Kent was killed when his R.A.F. plane hit a mountain in Scotland in 1942, en route to Iceland during military service.
Then there are male members of the Royal Family, who served valiantly during the course of their military careers.
George, Lord Lascelles (future Earl of Harewood): Grandson of King George V, Lord Lascelles was captured by German forces, whilst serving with the 60th King's Royal Rifles, and held in notorious Colditz prison. He escaped...TWICE. His mother, Mary, the Princess Royal, had been notified twice of his death, but she later said she never believed it.
H.R.H. Edward, Duke of Kent: Grandson of King George V, son of George, Duke of Kent, who served in Northern Ireland, when his regiment the Royal Scots Greys, were deployed to Belfast at the height of the Troubles. When there was a suggestion by his Colonel-in-Chief that he perhaps resign his commission, rather than to subject either he or his regiment to unncessary murderous attention, his battalion threatened to resign EN MASSE, if he were not allowed to serve with them. He stayed.
H.R.H. Prince Andrew (future Duke of York): Served as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy and saw heavy action during the Falkland Islands campaign, in Port Stanley.
Since the 1890s at the very least, members of the Royal Family have been in the thick of action, wherever the Union Jack was hoisted during battle.
This list is by no means exhaustive, since I have failed to include many, many other extended members of the Royal Family, who died or served in the military, not all of them for the British cause.
Princess Margarethe of Prussia, sister of the last Kaiser of Germany (yet another grandchild of Queen Victoria), and mother of the only two known sets of royal twins in history, lost FOUR of her six sons fighting for their country.
Why even Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry's blustery granddad, won a row of medals for his participation in battle as a Royal Navy lieutenant in WWII, and was even present on a British cruiser during the Japanese surrender, in Tokyo Bay.
But perhaps most tellingly of all, for our purposes to highlight royal duty in the field of warfare, the future King who abdicated, Edward, Prince of Wales, put his life in danger during his visits to the front line, during World War I.
This despite the fact that he had been categorically refused from serving with his regiment, the Grenadier Guards, in battle.
When he went in person to protest to Lord Kitchener, the man whose very image of outstretched hand and pointing finger, was the focus of the most successful recruiting programme in British history, told the naive princeling...
"Sir, if I could be assured that you would be killed in battle, I wouldn't hesitate to authorise you to join your regiment in the front-line. You have four brothers living, after all.
But we cannot take the risk of you being a propaganda tool by falling into enemy hands."
Years later, I remember putting down the Duke of Windsor's memoirs after having read this paragraph, and saying to myself, Lord Kitchener was right.
As horrible a thing as it is to be able to tell a young man, eager and willing to fight as part of his chosen career path, that his death was not so much important -- it's as nothing as the embarrassment his capture by his sworn enemy, would be to his country.
Besides, the times of the ransoming of kings, are long since over.
No, Prince Harry isn't notable amongst his royal brethern for his stance in wanting to serve in Iraq.
Nor is he particularly noble because of it, because it's expected of him by tradition, and by conviction.
But nevertheless, Prince Harry is one brave young man.
He is worthy, at least, of our respect for his decision...not to be killed, so much as to the possibility of his being captured by dozens of men, who then would parade him happily on Al-Jezeera.
Let's hope this never comes to pass for this spirited young officer.
Give 'em hell, Harry!
UPDATE: My blogger colleague, and Sundries commenter, Ron points us to this link -- which gives the young Prince's military minders a few pointers on how to best protect the prince in Iraq. It's very interesting!