Featherstone Lodge, a drug rehab center in a gritty south London neighborhood, is the sort of place a charitable royal might visit to offer choreographed handshakes and sympathetic nods. But when Britain's Prince Harry arrived there on July 30, it was without the usual fanfare and flashbulbs. Instead, the prince, then 16, slipped quietly into the redbrick building for a tour by a recovering addict. Later, taking a seat among a circle of five patients gathered in a bare, sunlit room, Harry spent an hour at a patients' question-and-answer session. "He asked several residents, 'How did you come to be in rehab?' " says Featherstone staffer Wilma Graham, who attended the meeting. "And I think he was quite shocked to hear that you can be using 'soft' drugs and that suddenly you're moving toward hard drugs. I think it was quite an eye-opener for Harry."
Six months later, news of Harry's own drug use has left much of Britain wide-eyed. On Jan. 13, Sunday newspapers revealed details of Harry's pot smoking and under-age drinking during his summer break from school-partying that was evidently so hardy it prompted his father, Prince Charles, to send Harry to visit Featherstone for a dose of reality. According to the papers, Harry drank alcohol with pals at the Rattlebone Inn, a pub in Wiltshire near the family's Highgrove estate, and smoked dope in the Rattlebone's backyard shed; he also reportedly enjoyed "lock-ins," the common practice in which a pub owner locks the door at closing time but continues to serve drinks inside. Sometimes Harry, third in line to the throne, would invite friends to party on at "Club H" -- the young princes' basement rec room, now featuring a fully stocked bar, at Highgrove. Should he spot a young English rose he'd like to know better, Harry, according to the News of the World, would approach her at the Rattlebone with the line, "Do you want to come back to my palace for a drink?"
On the day the reports appeared, St. James's Palace, the name of both the official residence and office of Prince Charles, shocked royal watchers by confirming the gist of them. "The essential core of the story is true," says a Palace source, while taking exception to the News's account that Harry was out of control. Says the source: "It was more like experimentation."
Either way, Harry had clearly crossed a line. The prince, whom Princess Diana playfully called "the naughty one," is not known for concealing his emotions. His older brother William, 19, "is very controlled, whereas Harry will let loose and be more volatile," says a family friend. Yet the 12-year-old boy who publicly cried at Diana's 1997 funeral may have grown into a young man who let loose a little too much.
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