Pictures of a naked Prince Harry, grandson of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, cavorting with a nude young woman in a hotel room in Las Vegas were published on TMZ.com on Tuesday night, in a potential embarrassment to him and the royal family.
A royal source confirmed to Reuters that it was Harry in the photos.
One photo published on the celebrity gossip website TMZ shows Harry, an Apache helicopter pilot in the British army, covering up his genitals with his hands while an apparently naked woman hides behind his back.
The other shows the 27-year-old prince, third in line to the British throne, pictured from the back hugging what appears to be the same naked woman.
The blurred pictures were taken in the a VIP suite of a hotel in Las Vegas where the prince was enjoying a private holiday with friends.
According to TMZ, the pictures were taken after Harry and his friends went down to the hotel bar and invited some women, who have not been identified, back up to their room.
The photographs of Harry were taken after the group started playing a game of strip pool.
"We are not commenting specifically on the photos," a spokesman for the prince said.
Harry, son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his late ex-wife Princess Diana, earned a reputation when he was younger as a royal wild child after he admitted in 2002 dabbling in marijuana and under-age drinking. Three years later he made headlines when he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party.
However, in recent years Harry, who served in the army in Afghanistan four years ago and has spoken of his desire to return to frontline action, has shed much of this earlier playboy image.
He recently embarked on a highly successful solo royal tour of the Caribbean and Brazil as part of celebrations for the queen's 60th anniversary on the throne, and stood in for his grandmother at the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games earlier this month.
The prince appeared on the front pages on British newspapers on Wednesday — not because of the naked pictures but over reports of a race he had with double gold medal winning U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte in a pool at a Las Vegas resort.
However, the love life of the single prince, whose elder brother William got married last year to Kate Middleton in a ceremony that attracted huge global interest, continues to attract great media attention.