Duchess Kate sparks baby boom and maternity fashion makeover

Life in royal circles hasn't been the same since the engagement announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton on Nov. 16, 2010. The blue Issa dress became an immediate sold-out item. Now a maternity version is available. (Getty Images)

This 'Kate Effect' thing is reaching the wacky level -- hitting both the bedroom and the closets of Britain.

The Clearblue company, which manufactures home fertility monitors and test stick packs in the UK, says it has seen its sales jump 60 per cent since Will and Kate announced in early December that their bun was in the oven.

"We’ve never seen an increase like this before," said Clearblue UK brand manager Hugh Ayling. "We were pretty stunned when the stats came in and we wondered why it was. Then we worked it back and saw the spike came after Kate made her announcement.

"It would seem that women are trying for a baby in the hope of experiencing their pregnancy alongside Kate."

DressTo be fair, at least some of the credit/blame for this boom is shared with some non-Kate-ish events, like the feel-good experience of the London Olympics and the publication of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

And now that the baby bump is all the rage, the Kate wannabes can join the maternity fashion hunt, opening up a whole new category for some of the duchess's designers.

Now for sale -- and get 'em while they're hot -- Issa has come out with the maternity version (right) of the dress Kate wore when the couple announced their engagement in November 2010. The price has risen a bit since then (plus the extra material) -- $827.


Charles subway
Charles and Camilla try out the train from Farringdon to King's Cross on Wednesday, a one-stop, three-minute journey. The London Underground is marking 150 years of operation. (Getty Images)

Now, there's a sight you might never see again ... Prince Charles riding the subway (or Underground, as they say in London).

Given that the only other time he reportedly was on a subway car was 1979, the chances of another royal commuter ride are pretty remote.

Charles and Camilla got the VIP commuter experience on Wednesday as they took a token ride on the transit system that is celebrating 150 years. Arriving by limo to Farringdon Station, they were given an Oyster travel card with $16 credit (destined for the shelves of the Royal Collection).

CamillaAfter some instruction on how to swipe a card, Charles cleared the barrier with Camilla right behind, boarding one of the brand new Bombardier cars that was, according to the Daily Mail with sarcastic zeal, "unusually clean." And, wonder of wonders, there was no waiting on the platform.

Regular commuters, caught by surprise with the appearance of the extra passengers, were kept at a safe distance in the other cars, doing their normal run-for-a-seat routine.

Charles and Camilla, of course, had their choice of seats in the first car -- where transit officials and the media gathered -- and seemed to enjoy their three-minute journey to King's Cross. "Just one stop?" Charles asked when the train pulled into the station.

Charles was last a passenger on the Tube in 1979 when he opened the Charing Cross station, but fortunately his wife has had considerably more experience with the form of travel.

At King's Cross, the couple stopped at Platform 9&3/4 (above), named in honour of the departure point for the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter books.

Then it was back up to street level, a tour of the station, and into their waiting Bentley, where the seats are a little more comfy.





Should Queen Elizabeth be next for royal retirement?

Charles queen
Queen Elizabeth shakes the hand of her son Prince Charles  at the end of the Queen's Jubilee Concert in front of Buckingham Palace last June. Charles has been in line for the monarch's role for 61 years, longer than anyone in British history. (AP Photo)

The word 'abdication' has a pretty bad reputation in the UK, unlike the Netherlands, where it is viewed as a natural succession process.

Queen and beatrixStill, it was hard to avoid the obvious question of when Queen Elizabeth would abandon the throne after Queen Beatrix, a woman 11 years her junior, announced she was stepping aside for her son this week. (Right, the good friends in Rotterdam in 2007)

The British newspapers couldn't help themselves from giving heir-for-life Prince Charles a little dig in the ribs. "Queen Gives Up Her Throne to Son," said the Daily Mirror, followed by the addendum: "Easy, Charles ... It's Queen Beatrix of Netherlands."

"Queen abdicates in favour of her middle-aged son!" wrote the Daily Mail, followed by the punch line: "(no sorry, Charles, not THAT queen ... the one in Holland)."

The fact is the only certain thing that will force Queen Elizabeth off the throne is death. Anything else would be considered a scandal, akin to the 1936 throne crisis when Edward abdicated for "the woman I love," Wallis Simpson.

In the Netherlands, abdication is handled like a pleasurable retirement party. Beatrix's mother Julianna retired in 1980 at age 71, and lived another 24 years. Julianna's mother, Wihelmina, gave up the throne in 1948 when she was only 61, dying in 1962. In fact, Beatrix is the oldest serving monarch in the country's history.

The royal tradition in Britain is much different, though occasionally debated. There, it is a job for life, and the Queen is not about set a precedent.

As Lord Norton, a professor of government, told the Guardian, the thought of abdication is "completely alien to our system, and it's also alien to our law, which stipulates who will succeed -- so the Queen remains the queen until such time as she dies, and then the succession is automatic."

But even that simple formula has been called into question, with people wondering if grandpa-to-be, 64-year-old Charles, should just let the throne skip his generation and go directly to his son Prince William. That notion, too, is far-fetched (and a relief to the not-ready-for-prime-time William).

So, Charles will get the throne at some point and have one of the shorter reigns. That will not be a tragedy, because he is likely accomplishing much more through his Prince's Charities than would be possible time-wise if he were king.

In the meantime, the Commonwealth has a Queen blessed with good health and a sense of duty second to none. She will rule till her deathbed and no one's in a hurry to get her there.

What's your opinion?



The BBC documentary featuring Prince Harry in Afghanistan has had its airing in the UK this week, which will do nothing to improve the humour of the Taliban.

HarryIn "Prince Harry: Frontline Afghanistan," the viewer is presented with the prince as the swashbuckling soldier, filled with a deep thirst for action as he battles the boredom of waiting for the phone to ring.

"As soon as we get a shout, whatever it is, we all run to the aircraft, and at that point you have the taste of blood in your mouth," he says in one of the wide-ranging interviews done during his four-and-a-half month deployment to the war-torn country.

A Palace spokesperson tried to take a little bit of the edge off Harry's battle cry, telling the Telegraph: "He was describing how he copes with the adrenalin of a call-out, so it's important to understand the context in which he was speaking."

Here's that full BBC documentary:



Representatives of Canadian companies meet with Prince Charles in the Royal Dining Room at Clarence House on Tuesday. (CNW Group/Prince's Charities Canada)

A dozen heads of Canadian companies sat down with Prince Charles in Clarence House on Tuesday to undergo a little royal arm-twisting.

The CEOs were in London to hear about the prince's Seeing is Believing program, where business leaders step out of their comfort zone and go into the community to put their skills to work solving grassroots social issues.

"CEOs solve problems for a living," said Amanda Sherrington, President of Prince's Charities Canada.  "The goal is to see both the companies and the communities they serve transformed for the better."

Some of the Canadian companies represented were George Weston Ltd., RBC, Daniels Corp., Xerox Canada, Borden Ladner Gervais and Ground Efects Environmental Services.

The Seeing is Believing program has been running in the UK for 20 years and is now taking its foothold in Canada. The Tuesday session ended with a promise to the prince to start recruiting fellow business leaders across the country to join in the venture.

"We've started something powerful here," Pavi Binning, president of George Weston, said after the meeting with the Prince.  "Now the real work begins."

Prince Charles meets members of the local community after a visit to Circle Sports in north London on Tuesday in London. The prince led a group of senior business leaders on a visit to Circle Sports, which is a business supported by one of the prince's charities, Seeing is Believing. The charity aims at helping unemployed young people become successful in business. (Getty Images)


They're back! Prince Harry on party trail; pregnant Kate hits the shops

Prince Harry, wearing a Santa hat outside the VHR (very high readiness) tent at Camp Bastion last month, is taking full advantage of his time off now that he's back in the UK. (Reuters)

After several months of hibernation, the streets of London are once again alive with Harry and Kate sightings.

Between Afghanistan and morning sickness, the royal watchers must have started to suffer withrawal as two of the favourites were dealing with issues a little more pressing than shopping and drinking.

Harry tableSo the last few days must have brought some comfort, with Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge emerging onto the public streets to return some normalcy to their lives after some life-altering experiences.

Prince Harry was first of out the starting game, having returned to the UK from his four-and-a-half months battling the Taliban from his Apache helicopter in Afghanistan. With four weeks off from military duty, the 28-year-old Harry didn't waste much time before getting into the party mood, which was standard operating behaviour pre-deployment.

Ditching his fatigues for jeans and a ball cap, he joined friends on early Saturday evening at the upscale Brown Cow pub in southwest London. Later in the evening he was discovered at the Sainsbury supermarket, perhaps picking up a few supplies before he headed to a friend's house nearby.

As his protection officers kept vigil in their car, the prince kept the homecoming party going at a above average volume, according to the Daily Mail. It was not until 10:30 the next morning that Harry emerged, climbed into still-waiting Range Rover with his guards, and headed back to his Kensington Palace flat.

Just like old times.

His sister-in-law, meanwhile, must be feeling a lot better into her fourth month of pregnancy. She was spotted over the weekend haunting the racks at the Gap in Chelsea. The Telegraph reports that the duchess was looking over the maternity jeggings before checking on what the baby section had to offer.

Definitely not like old times.


In a move that should surprise no one, the Australian radio station 2Day FM has announced that the Hot30 Countdown show hosted by Mel Greig and Michael Christian won't be returning.

RadioGreig and Christian (right) are the DJs that pulled the phone prank of impersonating the Queen to try to reach the Duchess of Cambridge while she was being treated for morning sickness at King Edward VII Hospital in December.  Three days after the hoax, the nurse who answered their call committed suicide.

The outrage over Jacintha Saldanha's death prompted the radio station to pull the hosts off the air. Clearly devastated, Greig and Christian went of several shows expressing their regret over the turn of events. They have been on leave ever since the incident.

The station is now permanently replacing their countdown show with a new offering, and a new host.

Greig and Christian, though, are not being fired.

“We look forward to Mel and MC returning to work when the time is right, in roles that make full use of their talents," said Rhys Holleran, boss of the network that controls the station. "We will discuss future roles with them when they are ready,” he said.

An inquest into Saldanha's death reopens at the end of March.


Royals: The best of the not-at-their-best pix of the week

One of the lessons about being royal is the ability to take advantage of photo opportunities.

Sometimes it works, sometimes they should have thought twice, sometimes you just make the best of an awkward situation.

This was a week of plenty of royal-type photo-ops. Awkward? Well, they certainly begged for punchlines. You be judge on how well the royals fared:


Prince charles(Getty Images)

What is that ditty they used to sing on Sesame Street? ... 'One of these things is not like the others'?

It's not too hard to guess the odd man out in this photo, though Prince Charles tries his royal best to at least pretend he can bring his own sense of hip to this group of young people. The occasion was his visit this week to the Kennington neighbourhood in London. A group of teens in the area take advantage of The Prince's Trust, which helps out disadvantaged young people with personal development programs. As the group posed for a photo, they struck their poses. Charles laughed and joined in with a little finger pointing of his own. Losing the tie might have helped.



You never can be too careful .... This isn't as sinister as it looks, but it's an awkward way for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall to chat with her hots at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Primary School in London. Eventually, the duchess joined the kids behind their schoolyard bars for some reading sessions as she checked on the progress of the Beanstalk charity, which promotes literacy. The children were obviously aware of her importance. One 6-year-old asked: "Are you going to be Queen?" Camilla coyly replied: "You never know."


(AP Photo)

Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck assumes the greeting pose as he inspects a guard of honour in New Delhi, India, on Friday -- though that unsmiling soldier with the raised soldier seems somewhat menacing. Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema are on a seven-day official visit to India.



Recipe for errie .... Put together one headless little boy's suit circa 1953 and put it in a dimly-lit throne room at Buckingham Palace. Who says the place isn't haunted? This is actually the outfit worn by a then 4-year-old Prince Charles on June 3, 1953, the day his mother, Queen Elizabeth, was officially crowned monarch. The clothes worn by the royals on that day are being exhibited this summer at the palace. This week, curators went deep into the Royal Collection to haul out the 60-year-old clothes for a photo-op preview. Apparently there were no decent Charles look-a-likes available to model the clothes. Or no one wanted to be caught dead a frilly shirt.



The Queen usually is at Sandringham in January, but that doesn't mean Buckingham Palace can be without guards. None of those big bearskin hats, please. A simple bowler with a Union Jack theme does nicely, and it keeps the tourists happy in the middle of snowstorms that blanketed the UK this week. Unfortunately for this chap, the work is purely seasonal.


(Getty Images)

Princess Stephanie of Monaco and her daughters Camille and Pauline found themselves surrounded by some odd looking characters this week in Monte Carlo. Lucky for them, they discovered the circus was in town and these people were not just some jet-setting weirdos.


The king wannabe bears only a fleeting resemblance to Charles, but that didn't deter Camilla from assuming as regal a pose as she could next to the pint-sized royal imposter this week at St. Mary's school in London. No sense wasting an opportunity to sit next to a king, whatever the vintage.


Welcome to the royal bedroom .... Prince Harry shows off his sleeping area in the VHR (Very High Readiness) tent that served as home he was on duty at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. His tale of his life on deployment was told this week, but apparently it did not include episodes where the bachelor prince made his bed. Also, his attempt to camouflage himself behind a Santa hat with pigtails did not fool anyone. Fortunately, it was not required headgear on the Apache helicopter.


Prince Harry video turns crisis into ice cream run

Prince Harry conducted numerous interviews at Camp Bastion before Christmas under an agreement that they would be aired until he had left Afghanistan at the end his deployment. (Reuters)

The beauty of technology is that it can turn anything into a viral joke.

With the multitude of video released this week featuring Prince Harry being interviewed in Afghanistan, you had to figure there were going to be a few liberties taken.

One of the clever ones comes out of the dramatic moment when, mid-interview, Harry turns to see his army mates scrambling to their helicopters in an emergency call and he immediately tears off his mircophone and joins the chase.

A YouTube contributor, "producertom85," twisted the reality just a bit to re-create the drama into a run for ice cream. Not everyone thought it appropriate in a serious situation judging by comments, but it became a hot item on Reddit pretty quickly. Some actually believed it was real, though, as one post noted, it was more of a "Dessert Storm" moment.

You be the judge:



Queen june3
The gaze of young Princes Charles is directed toward an oncoming flight of jet planes by his mother during a fly-past over Buckingham Palace on coronation day, June 3, 1953.

One thing about royals -- they are the ultimate hoarders.

Throw out old clothes? Wouldn't think of it. Someday, somewhere, they'll come in handy.

That day comes this summer when Buckingham Palace opens up its door to an exhibit marking the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Charles-anneFrom deep in the Royal Collection's closet, curator Caroline de Guitaut dug out many of the garments worn by the royals on that June 3, 1953 day, right down to the page boy shoes worn by 4-year-old Charles (right, with sister Anne). All are in "really good condition," said de Guitaut.

"This show, because it is such an auspicious anniversary, will be on an unprecedented scale," she said. "It will be the first time that these outfits have been brought together since 1953."

The most elaborate of the costumes, of course, was the Queen's jewel-encrusted satin gown by Norman Hartnell, accompanied by the robe of estate, which measures 6.5 metres.

Princess Anne, then 2, wore a silk and lace gown. Charles had silk shirt with lace-trimmed cuffs, which would remind those of a certain age of Jerry Seinfeld's 'puffy shirt.'

The exhibit is part of the summer opening of Buckingham Palace, running from July 27 until Sept. 29.

A Palace employee poses in the Throne Room with the outfits worn by the Prince Charles and Princess Anne at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. (AP Photo)

The golden coach arrives at Buckingham Palace after the coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 3, 1953. (Royal Collection)




Prince and Pippa given a reality check

In the wake of recent reports, perhaps it's time for a reality check on two of the planet's more famous 20-somethings.

We'll give you some hints -- one's a royal, one acts like one. One likes to write books, one would rather fly.  Both like to party, both are looking for love ....


Harry homeThe safe return of Prince Harry to UK soil (right) on Wednesday -- and "looking forward to .... seeing my family" -- did not come without a price.

In an age of an insatiable thirst for celebrity insight, real or imagined, Harry made up for a four-month absence in Afghanistan with some revealing interviews about what makes this royal tick. It was unprecedented in its scope and honesty, though his dad Charles would not necessarily approve. This much became abundantly clear ....

1) He doesn't like the media. There were at least a half-dozen references over the course of his interviews that suggested he wouldn't think twice about pointing his Apache helicopter weapons at media types. The scorn came through with almost every topic he tackled, even blaming the media for Will and Kate's early pregnancy announcement. He only conducted the Afghanistan interviews to fulfill a deal made by his defence bosses to keep him out of the media while he was deployed for security reasons. The media did its part, now Harry was doing his, albeit reluctantly.

But he draws the line about what his privacy expectations. When he landed back in Britain Wednesday, he remarked about how much he missed his family and how he was "longing to catch up with people behind closed doors -- you guys (media) aren't invited."

2) Normal is not normal. As he landed in snowy Oxfordshire on Wednesday after a few days of decompression in Cyprus, Prince Harry had some reflective words for the assembled media: "I don't know what normal is anymore and never really have done. There's nothing normal about what we've been doing for the last four and a half months. In the last day that I was there a 7-year-old girl got shot down by insurgents. Normality is a very ambiguous thing. I will continue being myself. I will enjoy being a soldier."

3) Harry's right ... he's way more 'army' than 'prince.' He used the comparison to explain his naked romp in Vegas last year, but it can be extended to the rest of his life. Four months away from the spotlight, doing a singular results-oriented job, acting like one of the boys, free from royal duty, where downtime is swallowed up by PlayStation and kitchen duty ... this is where Harry can be Harry. The prince stuff, well, that's to be tolerated, if only for the sake of family and the charities that profit by association with royalty.

4) The truth can hurt. The world according to Capt. Wales made for captivating sound bites and probably endeared him to the hero-hungry folks back home, but his common-sense talk about having to engage and kill Taliban has raised security concerns. "Purely from a protection point of view, I think it was highly unadvisable for Prince Harry to draw attention to himself," Dia Davies, former chief of the royal protection squad, told the Daily Mail. "It may be the reality that he killed insurgents, but saying this publically just increases the likelihood of some lunatic trying to take revenge on him." Word is that his security detail may have to be beefed up.

5) Harry's still a fun guy. One of the stories that came out of Harry's time in Afghanistan was from former Apache squadron commander Richard Youngs, who told ITV News: "My favourite Harry moment is when we went mountain flying in France and landing at Le Touquet airport and a big entourage coming out to meet him.

"The French officer walks up to him -- we were taking our immersion suits off and refuelling the aircraft -- and the officer asked him when Prince Harry would be arriving and he, quick as a flash, looked back at him and said 'he's on the next aircraft in', quickly smiled at me, gave me a wink, got back in the cockpit and we flew off. He's very quick." 


PippaEver since word leaked out that Pippa Middleton was writing a book, she became a target. She was cashing in on her royal sibling connections -- to the tune of a $630,000 advance -- and potentially embarrassing the palace occupants.

The fact that she became one of the most photographed women in the world over the last few years only heightened the talk that she was due for a fall. Then her party-planning book, 'Celebrate,' came out and the critics pounced.

It looks like she may have the last laugh, though. The book paid off its advance to Pippa before it even hit the shelves with foreign and serial rights. And it has sold, according to The Bookseller, 37,900 copies in Britain and another 15,400 copies in the U.S. Even at discounted prices of anywhere from $10 to $25, the book has made back its advance.

There were reports this week that the publisher, Michael Joseph, was so disheartened by the book's reception and the palace's handcuffs on Pippa doing more publicity tours, that he cancelled plans for two more books by Pippa.

Not so, he told The Bookseller. In fact, it's claimed there was no plan for more books.

"'Celebrate' was a one-book deal," said a spokesman.

Perhaps Pippa should leave it at that -- one less thing on the bucket list.


Prince Harry has 'mental' problems, Taliban says


Prince Harry didn't gain any fans among the Taliban for the revealing reports of his just-finished four-month stint as an Apache helicopter co-pilot gunner.

With catch-phrases like "take a life to save a life" and crediting his Xbox with helping his trigger finger, Harry has predictably drawn the scorn of the enemy, who is suggesting he has developed "mental problems."


"There are 49 countries with their powerful military failing in the fight against the mujahideen, and now this prince comes and compares this war with his games, PlayStation or whatever he calls it," said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in an interview with AFP.

In the wide-ranging interviews the royal gave media before Christmas -- in exchange for not releasing anything until his return to Britain -- Harry talked about his duty to protect the ground troops as he showed off some of the weaponry in the Apache.

"It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful," he said. As for using the guns and rockets, the logic was quite simple: "If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game."

Mujahid was quick to dismiss both Harry (a "coward") and his remarks.

"We don't take his comments very seriously, as we have all seen and heard that many foreign soldiers, occupiers who come to Afghanistan, develop some kind of mental problems on their way out," he said.

The Taliban made no secret of their desire to do harm to Prince Harry while he was in Afghanistan, and there were attacks on his home base, Camp Bastion.

"We have always wanted to capture or kill this prince, but he was mostly kept inside, safe, and in guarded places underground," said Mujahid. "At one point when our mujahideen attacked the airport, we were aware of his presence there but he was hastily flown away."

NATO troops have a been a constant presence in Afghanistan for more than a decade, but are due to pull out sometime in 2014.


The trouble with being an artist is that everyone else is a critic.

Paul Emsley found out just how many -- and how harsh they can be -- a few weeks ago when he unveiled the official portrait of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. The reviews were largely devastating -- from "rotten" to accusation it turned Kate into an "elderly spinster."

KateEmsley has a thick skin, but even he had a tough time with the feedback, describing it as a "witch hunt."

"Some of the words written about it were so personal," he told Hello! magazine. "I'd be inhuman if I said it didn't affect me. When you take on commissions like this it is hazardous and you expect a bit of flak, but I expected nothing like the criticism I have received. I didn't expect it to go to the levels it did.

"It felt like a bit of a witch hunt and people who have not even seen my portrait joined in with what quickly became a circus. The worst thing is it was not only destructive to me, but particularly upsetting for my two daughters and my wife."

Emsley has tried to put it all behind him by heading back to his studio and "getting on with it."

"At first the attacks were so vicious that there was a point where I myself doubted that the portrait of the Duchess was any good. But now I've had time to reflect, I am still happy with it."

As for the critics, he suggests that their opinion may have been formed by something of an optical illusion. "I believe half the problem is the portrait doesn't photograph well and I would encourage people to go and see it (at the National Portrait Gallery)."


It was just another Monday royal engagement, with Prince Charles presiding over the opening of the Florence Institute, a community centre in Liverpool.

Appropriate words said and handshakes all around, the next monarch started to climb back into his car when a voice called out across the street: "Charlie, come over here for a pint."

How could he resist?

Pub"He just started laughing and then walked over and came in," Gaynor Jones, barmaid at The Wellinton Vaults (right), told the Daily Mail.

While Charles is more of a wine guy, he didn't hesitate to ask Jones for a half of Guinness, which he shared with Denise Bernard, chairman of the Florence Institute.

"Oh my God, Prince Charles is going to be bevied because of me," said Bernard. "This is the most exciting day of my of my life since having my baby."

Barmaid Jones, along with the rest of the pub regulars, were equally entranced by the presence of the prince.

"This is the first time I’ve served royalty and it’s the first time they’ve been in this pub," said Jones.

No word on who picked up the tab.


Prince Harry's war: The royal talks about life on front lines, family and Vegas

Prince Harry shows a television crew his flight helmet as he makes early morning checks on an Apache helicopter at the British controlled flight-line at Camp Bastion. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry has left Afghanistan, leaving behind Taliban casualties and enough wartime experiences to last a lifetime.

The prince was interviewed on a wide variety of topics by newsmen in the war-torn country, on the condition that it not be publically released until his four-month deployment officially ended.

Harry1The embargo was lifted Monday as the 28-year-old Harry took off for England for the first time since last September. During media interviews before Christmas, the Apache helicopter co-pilot gunner covered a lot of topics, from shooting Taliban to his Las Vegas romp to Kate pregnancy.

Some of the highlights:

►On shooting at Taliban targets: "Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron's been out here. Everyone's fired a certain amount. Probably a little bit more than this time last year, to a certain extent, but that's just the way that its balanced out. Mainly due to weather, well whatever the reasons, I don't know.

"We fire when we have to, take a life to save a life, but essentially we're more of a deterrent than anything else."

►On having his home Camp Bastion being attacked by insurgents: "Obviously the papers back home were like 'this is all against me'. No one really knows yet. But either way, this camp is in the middle of Afghanistan and it should be expected to be attacked at any point ... and it was on my birthday (Sept. 15), so it was a bit of a reality check."

►On the wishes of his brother William, who is an RAF search and rescue pilot in Wales, to be part of a military action: "Obviously he'd love to be out here and I don't see why, to be honest with you, I don't see why he couldn't .... No one knows he's in the cockpit.

Harry2"Yes, he'd get shot at but, you know, if the guys who are doing the same job as us are being shot at on the ground, I don't think there's anything wrong with us being shot at as well. People back home have issues with that, but we're not special -- the guys out there are. Simple as that."

►On switching gears between life as a royal and life as a soldier: "You've got to be able to flick the switch all the time.

"I think I said a while back there's three 'me's, as it were. One in the army, one socially -- my own private time -- and one sort of with the family and stuff like that. So, you know, there is a switch and I flick it when necessary. And I like to think it's measured and balanced .... Army comes first. It is my work at the end of the day."

►On the Las Vegas party last year where he was photographed naked in his hotel room: "At the end of the day I probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down.

"But at the end of the day I was in a private area and there should have been a certain amount of privacy that one should expect. It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much Army and not enough prince. It's a simple case of that."

Harry11►On his sister-in-law Kate's pregnancy: "Obviously I'm thrilled for both of them. It's about time. I can't wait to be an uncle."

However, he was also dismayed at the early release of news because of fear it would be leaked following her hospitalization for morning sickness. "I think it's very unfair that they were forced to publicize it when they were, but that's just the media for you.

"And I literally am very, very happy for them, but I just only hope that she and him, but mainly Catherine ... gets the necessary protection to allow her as a mother-to-be to enjoy the privacy that that comes with."

►On life at Camp Bastion for a helicopter pilot: "For me, I hate it out, being stuck here. I'd much rather be out with the lads in the PB (patrol base). The last job (in Afghanistan as a soldier in 2007) was, for me personally, better."

However, he admitted life inside the heavily-armed Apache helicopter was not without danger. "You can't get a free pass in this tour; you can't get a free pass on anything in the army really. As soon as we're outside the fence, we're in the thick of it."

In this image released on Monday, Prince Harry celebrates as he scores a goal during a computer football game with his fellow Apache helicopter pilot Capt. Simon Beattie, during their 12-hour VHR (very high readiness) shift at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion on Nov. 3. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry wears a Santa Claus hat as speaks with media at the VHR (very high readiness) tent at Camp Bastion on Dec. 12. (Reuters)

Prince Harry  relaxes during a computer football game with fellow Apache Helicopter crew members, during their 12 hour shift at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry races out from the VHR (very high readiness) tent to scramble his Apache with fellow pilots in Camp Bastion. The prince served as an Apache helicopter pilot/gunner with 662 Sqd Army Air Corps from September until January. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry makes early morning checks as he sits on an Apache helicopter at the British controlled flight-line at Camp Bastion a few weeks before Christmas. The media was allowed to document his experiences at war on the condition they don't release the information until after his deployment was over. (Getty Images)

Harry 6
Prince Harry looks out as an  Apache helicopter at Camp Bastion. (Getty Images)

Captain Wales, as he is known in the British Army, does a pre-flight check of his Apache helicopter. (AP Photo)

Prince Harry prepares his Apache helicopter before a night mission from Camp Bastion in this photo taken Dec. 11, 2012. (Reuters)

Banned portrait of Queen with long neck is back ... after 61 years


The Queen in 1952 ... in real life, left, and as seen by artist John Napper.

There were many thumbs-down grades for the official Kate Middleton portrait, but that was nothing compared a Queen Elizabeth portrait in 1952.

Back then, the painting by John Napper was considered so embarrassing that it was almost immediately removed from public viewing in Liverpool and banished to a vault.

Now, 61 years later, it is seeing the light of day once more as a tribute to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year.

The painting, which had been commissioned for the Queen's coronation, will hang in the city's historic St. George's Hall, though it's doubtful opinions on the will have changed much since its unveiling.

Even the artist was not enamoured with his work, once declaring  that it's "a beautiful painting of a queen, but not this Queen."

The neck, clearly, is much too long. Napper later painted a second portrait of the monarch, which was accepted by the local politicians and still hangs in the town hall. Napper died in 2001 at age 84.

"I remember the painting well," his wife Pauline told the Telegraph. "He was disappointed with the angle at which he painted it, he only had one sitting.

"I was due to be hung up high so that you would look at it from below. If you looked at it from that angle it looked normal. Then when they showed it they didn’t put it up high and then it didn’t look like the Queen."

Today, the city's politicians -- after very long, sober second thought -- have decided there is merit to the portrait being among the first to commemorate Elizabeth as Queen, and are "very proud" to take it out of mothballs.


KateThe Duchess of Cambridge is resorting to some mind games to keep her stomach from revolting at the sight of food, according the one of her friends.

Jessica Hay -- one of the few Kate acquaintances who spills details of her life -- told Australia's 'New Idea' magazine that the duchess still "feels nauseous" at the sight of food.

"She's been plagued with that feeling you have when you've had food poisoning and your stomach's shrunk," Hay told the magazine.

The solution? Hypnotherapy.

"The hypnotherapy is taking away any negative thoughts connected with food from the morning sickness, and replacing them with cravings for healthy, nutritious food," said Hay.

While keeping her stomach at peace, Kate is also exercising, keeping up with Pilates sessons three times a week.


Prince Harry hasn't yet stepped back on British soil, but already there is talk that he'll be returning to the field of battle with UK troops abroad.

HarryOf course, it's also likely it won't be to Afghanistan, where the 28-year-old Apache helicopter pilot is finishing off his four-month tour of duty. Britain is due to pull out 4,000 troops this year and be out of the country entirely in 2014.

A British Ministry of Defence official told the Daily Star that the prince has been "earmarked for a possible recall."

"Veterans like Harry know their stuff and are sure to be called on again," the Star quotes the spokesman.

It was also noted, however, that it would be a minimum of 16 months before Harry's Apache squadron would be rotated back into action.

In the meantime, once Harry gets back on home turf, he can continue his pursuit for Mrs. Right. Cressida Bonas has remained at the top of his date book since he left for Afghanistan, the relationship seemingly having survived Harry's infamous naked romp in Las Vegas.

His list of unattached former girlfriends is rapidly depleting. Long-time love interest Chelsy Davy was pictured over the weekend with her boyfriend of four months, Matthew Mills, in South Africa. The match, according to reports, is in full bloom. And Florence Brudenell-Bruce, who had a summer fling with the prince, is now engaged to one of her other former boyfriends, Henry St. George.


Prince William is adding his muscle behind a fundraising campaign for the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

William has been president of the hospital since 2007, picking up the torch left by his mother Diana, who had been patron of the hospital until her death in 1997. In a video message (below), he extols the merits of its cancer research as the hospital embarks on a campaign to raise $160 million over the next 10 years to continue its work.

The prince and Kate and were at the hospital in September 2011 to open its cancer clinic for children.



Will and Kate given a head start on baby toys

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge received more than a hundred gifts during their royal tour of southeast Asia and the Pacific. (Getty Images)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got on early start on their baby's toy chest before they even knew a child was on the way.

The official list of gifts received from their nine-day trip to the south seas in September was released on Friday and among the well over a hundred gifts given to the couple were a teddy bear, children's games, a doll, several soft toys and -- if the infant turns out to be musically inclined -- a set of bamboo flutes.

Future mom Kate wasn't left out with 10 handbags or clutches, six pairs of shoes, three dresses and a couple of saris to go along with jewellry and South Seas pearls.

HockeyLists of gifts received from 2012 tours by Prince Charles and Prince Harry were also released by Clarence House. The presents all become the property of the Royal Household and are either stored or given to charities. If the royals chose to keep a gift for themselves, they must pay tax on the item.

Prince Charles and Camilla covered the most territory in 2012, making stops in Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. Among the items they took home were a few for Will and Kate, including some toys and a pair of baby booties.

Canadians were quite generous during the three-day whistlestopping by Charles and Camilla in May, filling up the regal suitcases with more than 60 gifts that included everything from hockey jerseys to baseball caps to a dog lead to a canoe paddle.

Official gifts included a framed flag from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an eReader from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, a saddle pad from the RCMP and an eagle feather from the First Nations.

Prince Harry's haul from his Caribbean jaunt last March included several offbeat items -- a mounted cow horn from Jamaica's Chief of Defence staff, a slate Mayan calendar, several masks, a wooden wine rack and two bottles of rum (one for him, one for William).


City ahll

Princess Beatrice and her sister Eugenie continued their two-day of Germany on Friday, their first foray into international diplomacy on behalf of the British government. Above, Prince Andrew's daughters pose as they arrive at Hanover City Hall . Below, they are presented with gifts by Mayor of Hanover, Stephan Weil. The royal sisters are on the second day of a two-day visit to support GREAT, the British government's initiative promoting the UK abroad. (Getty Images)


Beatrice and Eugenie feed a horse with a heart condition called Ben as they visit the Equine Clinic at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover on Friday. (Getty Images)

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