Prince Harry stood tall with saber drawn Wednesday during ceremonies marking his graduation from Britain’s elite military academy, marching proudly in front of his beaming grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, as he completed 40 weeks of training.
The 21-year-old second son of Prince Charles entered Sandhurst military academy in May 2005 and trained to become an army officer in the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry, one of the British army’s oldest units.
He will be eligible for future military service in Iraq or Afghanistan. The prince has spoken of his determination to take a place on the front line alongside his colleagues if called.
Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke of Edinburgh looked on with pride as the cadets paraded around the academy’s grounds about 40 miles southwest of London. The queen, in a peach overcoat and matching hat, delivered a short speech of congratulations — and advice.
“If you look at the careers of successful officers, you will find that, no matter how clever they have been, what really matters is how they related to people under their command,” she said.
She noted that preparing to be an officer is more than learning some basic military procedures — but rather the first step in becoming a leader.
“It was not by chance that the motto chosen for the Royal Military Academy is ’Serve to Lead,”’ she said.
About 450 cadets took part in the ceremony, including around 220 officer cadets who — like Harry — are receiving their commissions. Following the ceremony, Harry becomes a 2nd lieutenant.
Harry will serve in an armored reconnaissance unit and train to become a troop commander, in charge of 11 men and four light tanks.
The prince’s girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport on Tuesday, but a Buckingham Palace spokesman declined to comment on reports she would attend Wednesday’s graduation ball — the grand centerpiece of the celebrations.
In the days before the end of training events, two newspapers reported that Harry joined friends at a strip club. The Daily Mirror and The Sun claimed Harry watched dancers at the Spearmint Rhino nightclub on Friday in Slough, near Windsor Castle west of London.
Prince Charles’ office at Clarence House declined to comment on the report.