03/02/2012

Prince Harry joins in the party for first solo royal tour

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Prince Harry is quick to get in the party mood for his royal tour as he dances  at a street party in Belmopan, Belize on Friday. (Reuters)

Prince Harry took his first giant step in royal life on Friday, landing in Belize to kick off his first solo foreign tour as a representative of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth.

2012-03-03T030502Z_01_SLP11There's no working with a net on this trip to mark the Diamond Jubilee; no other family member to fill in the awkward pauses at dinner parties, or to shake all the hands on the parade stand. This is Harry's one-man show (well, with four royal aides).

Harry was quick to get the party mood after landing in Belize as he attended a street party (right) in the company of Governor General Sir Coleville Young. He was taught a local folk dance and then sampled some local rums, fruit wines and beers.

By the end of the night, the prince had worn off any jet lag and had worked up a good sweat.

Earlier, he liberally diverted from a speech to urge the 2,000-strong crowd to make "a bit more noise." He passed on good wishes from the Queen, adding "I'm only sorry she can't make it and you're stuck with me."

The prince has a full day in the Central American country on Saturday, visiting a Myan pyramid, launching a canoe at the Macal River, visiting the Belizean Defence Force and laying a wreath at a British WWII memorial.

074e2eb188ec4849bfe2Then it's on a plane for the two-hour flight across the Caribbean to The Bahamas, where he will spend two days and deliver his first speech, extolling the history of the Queen and her connection to the islands. She first visited the islands in 1966 and has been back three times.

Harry's final official Caribbean stop is Jamaica, where he'll stay until Thursday. This may prove the most diplomatically sensitive area of the trip. Earlier this year, the new prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, announced her intention of turning the country into a republic. She repeated that intention this week, saying "it's time for us to sever the ties."

Harry will be breaking bread with Simpson Miller at a state dinner. Talking about dumping your guest's grandmother is probably not a great conversation-starter.

Then it's off to Brazil for several days of sporty-type engagements, including a polo match, before a few more days of 'private' time in the country's interior.

Harry isn't the only royal kicking around the Caribbean. His uncle, Prince Edward, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex have been on a 15-day tour of the West Indies, though it has not drawn much attention in the UK press.

Harry, on the other hand, has more than 40 international media following him on his freshman tour for the Queen's Jubilee.

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Prince Harry drinks a hibiscus rum punch at a street party in Belmopan, Belize. (Reuters)

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Prince Harry meets enthusiastic local people during a walkabout at a "block party" in the newly named Queen Elizabeth II Boulevard, in the capital Belmopan, Belize on Friday night. (AP)

 

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