Page last updated at 03:34 GMT, Sunday, 31 May 2009 04:34 UK

Prince gets out and about in NYC

By Laura Trevelyan
BBC News

Harry and Kiara Molina
The prince described his trip as 'fantastic'

Prince Harry is returning to Britain having finished his first official overseas engagement, in New York. But how successful was it?

Ten-year-old Kiara Molina chatted intently to Prince Harry in a community education centre in Harlem. He smiled, asked encouraging questions, and after the third-in-line to the throne left, she was beaming.

The prince was similarly at ease with Kiara's classmate Khalil Davis, who had cooked an elaborate dish with anchovies.

"Urgh," said the prince, much to Khalil's amusement. But he ate the fishy dish anyway, all on camera.

Harry showed he was a good sport, joining in an obstacle course the children had designed, which culminated in him sitting on a balloon and making it pop.

'Common touch'

Royal minders beamed with approval. The New York Daily News declared that Harry had "conquered Manhattan with his caring manner, good looks and common touch".

Only 24 hours earlier ABC News had heralded his arrival in Manhattan with a jokey, "lock up your daughters" introduction. What a difference a day makes.

Harry's carefully-choreographed appearance at Ground Zero, where he laid a wreath and paid his respects to those who lost their lives on 9/11, was a poignant image, which also served as a coming of age moment.

Instead of tabloid headlines showing the partying prince coming out of nightclubs, there he was, head bowed, at a place Americans regard as sacred ground.

It is the media that stamp an image on me that really isn't me

Prince Harry

Harry talked to relatives of those who died that day, including Paula Berry, whose husband David was killed. Her three sons lost their father, something Paula told me she felt Harry empathised with, as he too had lost a parent.

Visiting a veterans medical centre in Manhattan was another important encounter for Harry, as it underlined his own army service in Afghanistan.

"Ouch," joked the prince as one of the veterans gripped his hand with an artificial limb. A lighter moment in a visit where Harry showed himself to be a sympathetic listener.

Palace officials say this visit achieved Harry's twin objectives of paying tribute to New York and working on behalf of his children's charity in Lesotho.

It also drew parallels with his mother Diana's visit here 20 years ago, and her charity work. She captivated New Yorkers, cuddling children with Aids in Harlem and charming her audience at a banquet.

Fantastic trip

At a polo match in Governor's Island, to raise money for the charity, Sentebale, he founded with the Prince of Lesotho, Harry said: "Prince Seeiso and I both lost our mothers when we were young.

"We set up Sentebale in their memory, and because my mother loved this city, it makes this occasion all the more poignant for me."

Harry said his trip had been "fantastic".

Asked if he thought it had changed his public image, he replied: "I do not know what the public image is of me, there's always the image that has been given to me, but you know, it is the media that stamp an image on me that really isn't me."

So Harry heads back to Britain after what has been a successful visit.

His priority now, say palace officials, is training to be an Army helicopter pilot. Future overseas visits will have to fit around that schedule.

Seasoned royal watchers say if the Royal family is to maintain its position in British life, then the younger royals will have to have a public profile, as that will keep the institution alive and relevant.

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In pictures: Prince Harry visits New York
30 May 09 |  In Pictures

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