LONDON -- Now surely we've all faced this problem: We've been invited to a fancy dress party at someone's country estate and nothing in the closet is quite right. What to wear? For Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, here's the answer that came to mind: dress up as a German soldier, complete with Nazi armband.
Unfortunately for Harry, a redheaded 20-year-old with an ever-expanding reputation for bad judgment, someone at the party Saturday night took his photograph and sold it to The Sun, Britain's most carnivorous tabloid. The result was splashed across its front page yesterday: "Harry the Nazi," screamed the headline, superimposed upon a photo of Harry, second son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, in which he sported a cigarette, a drink, and a swastika.
Clarence House, Charles's official residence, immediately issued a statement in Harry's name -- "I am very sorry if I have caused any offense or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologize."
Still, the apology wasn't enough to head off a storm of criticism. Leading politicians weighed in, calling on Harry to appear personally and apologize more fully.
Members of the Jewish community were stunned.
"People are genuinely surprised and offended," said the weekly Jewish Chronicle's editor, Ned Temko. "Some people will excuse him by saying he's just 20, but he is, after all, part of an institution seen as embodying what it is to be British."
Harry's timing was impeccably bad, coming exactly two weeks before Europe solemnly commemorates the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland by Soviet troops.
Temko said Harry's statement of contrition was sorely lacking. "It implied this was a wardrobe problem. . . . There seems to be an utter lack of awareness of the context of the Holocaust and the war."
But royal biographer Robert Lacey pleaded for time and patience. "Give him a break," he said. "We all make mistakes when we're young -- the difference is our mistakes aren't photographed and sold to The Sun."