Naked Prince Harry photos published online

Prince Harry Prince Harry was on a private break from his military duties when the pictures were taken

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Pictures showing Prince Harry and a young woman naked in a Las Vegas hotel room have been published on a US website.

The two photos of the 27-year-old royal, on gossip website TMZ, were taken on a private break with friends over the weekend.

The site reported that the prince was in a group playing "strip billiards".

St James's Palace has confirmed the prince is in the photos but has made no further comment about the images.

The two pictures of the prince are thought to have been taken on Friday.

The website claims the pictures came after the prince, who is third in line to the throne, invited friends back to his hotel room for a private party.

Analysis

There was a time when he was known as the partying prince, falling out of nightclubs in the early hours, getting himself into scrapes and generally showing a lack of good judgement.

In more recent times, Harry has transformed his image. His military service has played a big part in the change. He served in Afghanistan with his regiment, and said he was keen to return.

And time and again during his royal duties he's shown the caring instinct that his late mother demonstrated. Harry has become a huge asset to the Royal Family: committed, but with a sense of fun and mischief to which people have warmed.

So this latest episode will surely be both an embarrassment and a disappointment to his family and, most particularly one imagines, to Harry himself. His friends say he was just "letting his hair down", a young officer having a few days of relaxation before returning to military duties. But it can never be quite as straightforward as that when that "young officer" is third in line to the British throne.

It is not clear how the photos were taken, but it is presumed they were captured on a camera phone.

The pictures have since been picked up by much of the American media, but as yet have not been printed by any British newspaper.

The father of one of Prince Harry's closest friends told the BBC's The World at One the prince was "a very easy target" for the press.

Alex van Straubenzee, whose son Thomas has known the prince since childhood, said that "more than anything [Harry] is a British soldier".

"He has a very, very good qualification in the job he does for the Army and I think this is what people will look at," he said.

The emergence of the pictures is the latest colourful incident in Prince Harry's life.

In 2005, there was widespread outrage when an image of the prince attending a friend's fancy dress birthday dressed as a Nazi emerged.

And in 2009, Prince Harry was forced to apologise for using offensive language to describe an Asian member of his army platoon after video footage emerged.

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