Harry's Mountain Heroes, scheduled for broadcast before the ginger prince's recent quiet city-break caused such a global storm, was a reminder of what a unique position he occupies in British life.
Prince Harry with two of the soldiers determined to overcome their injuries to ascend Everest
His role as the patron of Walking with the Wounded meant he supported five determined soldiers in their quest to climb Everest, and it was clear from the outset that it was a job he took very seriously.
Charm and authority
Because he is a prince and Diana’s son, he can attach himself to a cause and bring it unlimited publicity. Because he is a serving soldier, he can speak with sincerity about the trials of war, and move effortlessly between the men, finding something to say to all of them. Harry's unforced, uncontrived occupation of the middle ground in this Venn diagram gives him authority and power of communication that PR companies would spend millions to harness.
The men themselves didn't need any PR - their resolve was message enough, especially when it was most tested as their mission had to be abandoned in the face of bad weather.
“What these guys are proving, is that no matter what your injury, no matter whether you’re military or civilian, you can overcome injuries,” said Harry, and you got the feeling that his presence, like his mother’s, did as much as any medicine to boost morale.
Prince Harry on a preparatory walk with the group, ahead of their trip to Everest
Of course, you could argue that it is all this unique potential to do good, to help worthy causes, that Harry has seriously undermined or at least distracted mightily with his recent mission to boost the tourism economy of Las Vegas.
On the other hand, it is to men like the five we followed in this programme that Harry has most to answer, and you got the impression that all five would have merely raised an eyebrow and a chuckle at hearing of the recent exploits.
It was a case of mutual respect kept in check by squaddie humour. “There isn’t a soldier, injured in some way, that I wouldn’t want to be like,” said Harry, obviously humbled by the climbing group’s efforts, before adding as an afterthought, “And to see Martin struggle with altitude sickness would entertain me.”
It was at these points where the prince in him worked in harmony with the working soldier that Harry revealed more of himself than he ever has before, whatever the papers might tell you.