IT WAS THE SORT OF SCHOOL BREAK his mum might have planned: a Botswana safari, choice seats at a Spice Girls concert and a lively visit to a Zulu school. But with Prince Harry clad in a navy blue suit or a blue blazer for much of his just-completed African sojourn, it was clear that Dad was in charge. "There's no way Diana would have dressed him in a suit to go to a [pop] concert," says Anthony Holden, author of eight books on the royals. "It makes you wonder how much the royals are going to heed Earl Spencer's words about bringing up the children in ways the 'blood family' would like."

Still, Charles was obviously trying. Originally scheduled as a solo visit, the prince's nine-day southern African excursion-his first official overseas tour since Diana's death-was retooled last month to include his younger son, whose weeklong break from Ludgrove, his Berkshire boarding school, began Oct. 24. (Fifteen-year-old William, whose half-term break came earlier in the month, remained at Eton.)

While Charles met with Nelson Mandela and performed other official tasks, 13-year-old Harry-accompanied by former nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke, 32, and by a school friend, Charlie Henderson, 13-spent three days at a safari park in Botswana's Okavango Delta before joining his father in Johannesburg on Nov. 1. There, an upbeat Harry carried out his first official foreign engagement: helping Charles preside over the opening of a Hilton Hotel. "Charles was very much the attentive father," says one observer. "He was always looking over his shoulder to see Harry, who was slightly behind." And who-happily-was acting his age. "Every now and again, Harry would look at his school chum and have a giggle," says another witness.

But the real fun began later that day when the young prince was greeted outside the Johannesburg Athletics stadium by throngs of girls screaming "Harry! Harry!" Heading backstage, he watched his father kiss each of the five Spice Girls-pals since they pinched Charles's bottom at a Manchester concert in March-and blushed as he got a cuddle of his own from Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton. "Once Harry got through the ordeal of posing for more than 40 journalists," says British Press Association royals reporter Peter Archer, "I think he enjoyed himself."

Next came a day with Dad at a historic Zulu battlefield, and then a visit to Ubuhlebemvelo School in rural Dukuduku, where Harry maintained a poker face during a tribal dance performed by bare-chested girls. Despite Harry's jam-packed itinerary, however, there was one conspicuous omission: a visit with his outspoken uncle, Earl Spencer, at his Cape Town home. (After Harry departed on Nov. 3, Charles and Diana's brother attended a state dinner where Spencer told a reporter: "I have an understanding relationship with the Prince of Wales. My family is united in doing everything we can to help in the raising of William and Harry")

For Charles-who has struggled to lighten up his fuddy-duddy image since Di's death-the trip was less than an unqualified success. The British papers pounced on his public posturings with the Spice Girls, which included introducing them to a delighted Nelson Mandela. Read one London Observer headline: "Charles turns on the charm. Scary, isn't it?" But the trip was a success in the way that would have mattered most to Diana. Says Charles's press secretary, Sandy Henney: "Harry had a fantastic time."

KIM HUBBARD
SIMON PERRY in Durban

  • Contributors:
  • Simon Perry.