LONDON – After a weekend of embarrassing tabloid headlines about her 17-year-old grandson's experimentation with alcohol and marijuana, Queen Elizabeth II said Monday that she was pleased with the way Prince Charles had handled his son's scrape.
"The queen shares the Prince of Wales's views on the seriousness of Prince Harry's behavior and supports the action which has been taken," Buckingham Palace said in a statement. "She hopes the matter can now be considered as closed."
Charles sent his younger son to a south London rehabilitation clinic for a day so he could talk to recovering addicts and see the dangers of drug use. Harry, then 16, admitted last summer that he'd drunk with friends at a pub near his father's Highgrove country estate and smoked marijuana with friends, according to press reports confirmed by a royal source.
Marijuana is illegal in Britain and the drinking age is 18.
Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Charles' actions as "absolutely right" and Peter Martin, chief of Addaction, Britain's largest drug and alcohol treatment group, said the heir to the throne "has acted with deep sensitivity and very quickly, which is exactly what is needed."
Harry returned to the prestigious Eton school Monday after spending Sunday at his father's Highgrove estate. But the story of his smoking and drinking remained on front pages and at the top of news broadcasts.
Adding to his headaches, police refused to rule out legal action. Superintendent Mandy Evely of the Wiltshire police said Harry would be treated "exactly the same way" as any other teen.
"One of the newspapers have said they have some sort of dossier of evidence against him," Evely said. "We will be looking at that and if there is any evidence on which we can act, then of course we will do that."
Eton headmaster John Lewis said the school had a strict disciplinary policy calling for the expulsion of any student who possesses, uses or sells drugs on campus.
When drug use occurs away from school, parents are expected to deal with it themselves, Lewis added. The school said it had dealt with Harry's case but would not comment on it specifically.
The young prince could be forced to take a urine test — or may have already.
"In cases where concerns exist about a boy's possible involvement in drugs, he will be counseled and warned and urine tests are sometimes used to clarify the situation and if possible to put a boy in the clear," Lewis said.
Royal infidelity, divorce and drinking have often made for headlines.
But with sympathy from parents and the widespread praise for his handling of Harry's drinking and smoking, Charles may emerge from the latest scrape with his public image nicely buffed.
He did not comment on Harry's troubles Monday as he made his first public appearance since the story broke, endorsing a campaign to save the albatross.
Much news coverage has mentioned the awkward position that Harry — who was 12 when his mother, Princess Diana, died in 1997 — occupies within the royal family. As the "spare not the heir," commentators point out that Harry may be destined to remain in the shadow of his older brother, William, who is in line to become king after their father.
"At least if you are the heir there is a very good reason why you have to be responsible at all times," Penny Junor, who has written a biography of Prince Charles, opined in the Daily Express tabloid. "Being No. 2 is very difficult."