Published January 13, 2002
LONDON – Britain's 17-year-old Prince Harry was taken to a rehab center after he admitted he had smoked marijuana and illegally drank alcoholic beverages, the first public embarrassment involving one of Princess Diana's children since her death.
The story, broken by Sunday's News of the World tabloid under the headline "Harry's Drug Shame," and all but confirmed by the royal family, dominated British news reports all day.
It also led to widespread speculation about what it will mean for the royal family and for Prince Harry, who could conceivably be expelled from Eton, the prestigious private school.
But given how many parents have faced similar problems with their teen-agers, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles won praise for the way he had dealt with Harry, who is third in line for the British throne after his father and brother.
Blair, whose son Euan, then 16, was arrested when police found him drunk and vomiting in London in July 2000, said Charles had faced a difficult situation.
"I know this myself," Blair told the British Broadcasting Corp. "I think the way that Prince Charles and the royal family have handled it is absolutely right and they have done it in a very responsible and, as you would expect, in a very sensitive way for their child."
The problem drew comparisons to the one that President Bush had faced last year, when one of his twin teen-age daughters was charged with using someone else's identification to try to buy a drink at a restaurant in Texas.
The charge was eventually dropped after Jenna Bush showed proof that she had performed community service, attended alcohol awareness classes and paid a $100 fine.
Marijuana use is illegal in Britain and the United States. The legal drinking age is 18 in Britain, and 21 in Texas.
Harry drank with friends at a pub last summer near Charles' Highgrove country estate in western England and smoked marijuana with friends, according to the media reports.
After learning of his son's drug use, Prince Charles sent Harry, then 16, to a drug rehabilitation center in south London for a day.
Harry — who was 12 when Diana died in a car accident in 1997 after divorcing Charles — did not need therapy at Featherstone Lodge, but spent the day talking to recovering addicts.
Asked about the reports, Charles' office at St. James's Palace said: "This was a serious matter which was resolved within the family and is now in the past and closed."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the spokesman also told The Associated Press the royal family did not dispute the reports about Harry's drinking and marijuana use or the guidance he received at the rehab center.
Bill Puddicombe, chief executive of Phoenix House Treatment Service for Drug Dependency, which runs Featherstone Lodge, said Harry had visited at the request of his father, a patron of the center.
"As we understood, it was an opportunity for the Prince of Wales to teach Prince Harry about our work and the consequences of taking drugs," Puddicombe said. "He came for a couple of hours on a day in late summer and talked to several people in recovery — heroin and cocaine addicts mostly."
Charles was alerted to his son's behavior by a Highgrove staff member, who noticed a strong smell of marijuana, the newspaper reported. When Charles confronted Harry about his drinking and marijuana use, the boy confessed, the paper said.
On Sunday, a commission that established rules to protect the private lives of Harry and William from media intrusions reminded the press that it must obey them now that the boys are back at school.