Screaming women greet Price Harry at start of buttoned-up U.S. tour
Solemn subject lightened by presence of prince
The arrival of Prince Harry on Capitol Hill Thursday prompted what appeared to be a mass exodus of women from their congressional offices, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the third-in-line to the British throne.
Harry's visit to the Russell Senate Office Building was the first official stop on his nearly week-long tour of the United States, which will highlight the military charities that the prince, himself an Army helicopter pilot, has chosen to patronize.
On Capitol Hill Harry toured an an exhibit on clearing landmines alongside Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who himself is a hero of the Vietnam War. The solemn subject was made somewhat lighter by the occasional hoots from the crowd of mostly female spectators snapping a picture of the prince on cellphones. The hundreds of young women were kept at bay by security personnel.
Afterwards, McCain said Harry had what he called a "normal" reaction to the women there to greet him.
"I'm sure it's not the first time that he's had that experience," said the Arizona Republican, who added that Harry seemed genuinely interested in the landmine exhibit.
"He wasn't just asking cosmetic questions," McCain said. "He was asking in-depth questions."
He spent roughly 20 minutes viewing the informational posters and assessing the mannequins set up to display specialized suits worn by landmine detectors. He chatted with McCain and Guy Willoughby of the HALO Trust, and inquired about various aspects of the mine detection equipment, including its cost.
After the prince left Capitol Hill, McCain said he found the prince "a very attractive young man, and I think he's very serious about this issue. I was very impressed."
Eliminating landmines was also a cause championed by Harry's mother, the late Princess Diana of Wales. One of the most enduring images of the princess shows Diana walking through a minefield in Angola wearing a protective vest.
That vest bore the logo of the HALO Trust, the same organization sponsoring the exhibit Harry visited Thursday. During a dinner held Thursday evening at the Embassy of Britain in Washington, Harry said his mother would be "proud" of the work HALO continues to do on eliminating the weapons from nations around the world.
Harry also stopped Thursday at the White House, where first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, were hosting a tea honoring military moms.
"Surprise!" Mrs. Obama said as Harry entered the room. The prince helped children at the event prepare gifts for their mothers, who were gathered in the State Dining Room.
The visit to Washington was the first stop on Prince Harry's trip to the United States, during which he'll also pay a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and Walter Reed National Medical Center. He'll fly to Colorado Springs to attend events at the Warrior Games, held for injured servicemen and women, and tour damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy on the New Jersey shore with Gov. Chris Christie.
His last engagement in the United States comes next Wednesday, when he'll play in a charity polo match in Greenwich, Connecticut.
What isn't on Harry's schedule is much leisure time -- a marked difference from his last trip to the U.S., after which photographs of him cavorting naked in a Las Vegas hotel room were splashed on newspaper front pages around the world. The incident came just weeks before Harry deployed with the 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps to Afghanistan.
Harry later said he had "probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down" with the nude photos.
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