The last time we heard about (or more aptly, saw) Prince Harry was last August, when TMZ Magazine obtained and leaked naked pictures of the Prince during a vacation-gone-wrong to Las Vegas. On June 8, however, Lance Corporal James Wharton wrote an article in the Daily Mail, claiming that Prince Harry defended him against homophobic threats and saved his life, thus presenting an image of the Prince that stands in stark contrast to his previous party-boy image.
According to Wharton, Prince Harry defended him against a homophobic attack in a training exercise in Alberta, Canada in 2008. He wrote in the Daily Mail that he was "on track for a battering" at the hands of six soldiers from a rival regiment. Openly gay in the army at 21 years old, Wharton claimed he felt threatened for his life and he asked the [rince, his tank commander, for protection. According to Wharton, Prince Harry responded "Right. I'm going to sort this s--t out once and for all." Wharton said he "will always be grateful to Harry." Since leaving the army in early 2013 after a 10-year career, Wharton proceeded to recount his experiences in a memoir titled Out in the Army.
Wharton's extolling account of Prince Harry stands in contrast to the prince's scandalous, party-boy image that is commonly reinforced by the media. In fact, Prince Harry has been attempting to patch up his public image and royal reputation ever since last August, when the royal bachelor's vacation in Las Vegas took a wrong turn and his naked pictures were leaked to the media. According to People.com, the naked photo scandal "was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough prince." In addition, Town & Country named Prince Harry the Top Bachelor of 2013 among the top 50 bachelors in the world.
But according to CNN News, Prince Harry is putting the past behind him and "rebuilding his image as a professional royal and serving soldier." According to TMZ, the Royal Family was furious in reaction to the Las Vegas incident, and Prince Harry’s four-month tour in Afghanistan was a chance for him to escape off the radar, untraceable by the public eye. According to Wharton's article in the Daily Mail, "the remarkable incident reinforces the view of Harry as an officer with unfailing commitment to the troops under his command."
It is impossible to say whether Prince Harry truly believes in the gay rights that he defended according to Corporal Wharton's account. Regardless, the prince's alleged actions sends a loud and unforgettable message against homophobia. Wharton's account also provided the Prince with the perfect opportunity to patch up his reputation through defending gay rights, a position which has not gone unnoticed. According to the Daily Mail, "Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said that "The whole country will applaud Prince Harry," and Colonel Bob Stewart commended the prince's leadership. In Out in the Army, Wharton writes that Harry claimed he and his brother, Prince William, consider themselves to be "gay icons," an image that has earned Prince Harry applause by the gay and lesbian society of Stonewall.
While gay rights are gaining support in the wake of an upsurge of marriage equality laws, homophobia is still an ever-present reality. And although the U.S.'s "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy was revoked in 2011, to be openly gay in the military continues to constitute a cultural taboo. As a world-renowned and respected figure, Prince Harry is an important example and and his stance against homophobia a rally-cry. His message that discrimination on account of sexual orientation will not be tolerated is one of hope. I can only hope that Prince Harry's defense of gay rights will reverberate and prompt similar action throughout the military and in all realms of society.