Britain’s Prince Harry, in full military uniform, reviewed a global armada of warships in a day of pomp and ceremony watched by tens of thousands of people on Sydney Harbor yesterday.
Captain Wales, as he is known in the British military, was on his first official trip to Australia to take part in a nautical extravaganza on the centenary of Australia’s emergence as an independent sea power.
The prince, in a white tropical dress uniform of the British Army and a blue Army AirCorp beret, boarded Australian survey ship HMAS Leeuwin to review the fleet alongside the Queen’s representative, Governor-General Quentin Bryce, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Ayesha Sweeney, 19, traveled 460km from the rural town of Albury to see the prince and she managed to catch a glimpse of him as he saluted officers at Sydney naval base Garden Island.
“His uniform was really cool, his salute was awesome,” Sweeney said.
“He’s a bit of a cutie, I think everyone has a crush in him — all of the ladies were wooing and whistling when he came out,” she said.
Victoria McRae, 20, was towed out of the way by Water Police after she paddled a kayak too close and waved a flag saying: “I love you Harry” with her mobile phone number on it.
“I just wanted to see Harry on the boat really,” McRae said.
“He’s an eligible bachelor, I thought I might be in with a chance,” she said.
The prince, 29, who has served in Afghanistan and is an Apache helicopter commander, is one of the most sought-after men in the world, although British newspaper reports suggest he is dating English aristocrat Cressida Bonas, 24.
In brilliant sunshine, the Leeuwin reviewed an armada of warships from 17 countries, along with as many Australian vessels, watched by huge crowds of onlookers cramming vantage points around the harbor and an estimated 5,000 spectator boats.
The flotilla is part of celebrations to commemorate 100 years since the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet first entered the city’s waters.
It was on Oct. 4, 1913, that seven Australian warships, led by HMAS Australia, first steamed into Sydney to be met by a rapturous welcome, heralding the country’s independent sea power and emergence as a modern nation. Until then, the Australian colony had been watched over by British vessels.
The prince also held a meet-and-greet with the public, having changed into a suit, then attended an official function with Abbott at his Sydney residence Kirribilli House, on the harbor opposite the Opera House.
At the soiree he met two of Abbott’s children, Bridget, 20, and Frances, 22.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph had recently warned the prime minister in a headline: “Lock up your daughters Tony Abbott, Prince Harry is heading Down Under to party.”
The prince was expected to remain at the house to watch a fireworks and light show before heading to Perth for a brief visit today.