An officer and a gentleman

Observations on royalty and the Nazis

Prince Harry may well be a stupid young man who was foolish to wear any kind of Nazi regalia even to a fancy-dress party. Yet what nobody seems to have looked at closely is the uniform itself and what it meant in the kind of circles Harry moves in.

Harry dressed up as a soldier of the Afrika Corps, General Irwin Rommel's army in North Africa during the Second World War. Even during the war, Rommel was admired by the British ruling (and commanding) class not only as a military tactician, but also as a gentleman, who treated British prisoners of war so well that he supposedly returned personal effects that had been stolen by Italian soldiers. He has just about retained this reputation among historians, and we can safely assume that the drawing rooms of aristocratic military families resound with the same story. To them, he is a Nazi to be admired.

The royal family is, in essence, a military family. In May, Harry will enter Sandhurst, following a long line of royal soldiers. So to Harry, his friends and his family, the uniform was probably acceptable because, even with the swastika, it symbolised an admired military expert and all-round good egg - something very different from, say, an SS uniform.

For most people, however, a Nazi uniform is a Nazi uniform, no matter what corps it represents, and media and public outrage duly followed. Once again, the royal family has shown that it lives in a different world from the rest of us.

And once again, the argument for abolition of the monarchy looks conclusive - if only for the sake of British royalty themselves. If Harry was stupid to wear a Nazi uniform, we are nearly as stupid when we condemn him so roundly just for being who he is.

Like the doges of Venice, our royalty are isolated and tortured by the people they are supposed to be ruling.