Prince Harry, the people's polo player, in New York

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated May 30, 2009 at 4:11 PM EST

Britain's Prince Harry on Saturday capped his first trip to New York with a celebrity polo match played in front of an adoring crowd of stars and ordinary folk.

The prince, 24, spent most of his two-day trip to the city on a somber schedule, starting with wreath-laying Friday at Ground Zero, site of the 9/1l terrorist attack against the World Trade Center.

The polo match, held to raise money for Prince Harry's Lesotho children's charity Sentebale, returned the famously high-living aristocrat to more glamorous territory.

Under hot sunshine, two teams thundered across a pitch on Governor's Island in the Hudson River, Manhattan's skyscrapers looming in the background.

Prince Harry, in white with the number one on his back, joined team Sentebale against Black Watch, led by Argentine model and professional polo player Nacho Figueras.

Well-heeled guests and celebrities in sunglasses, suits, tiny dresses and large hats watched from white pavilions, sipping Veuve Clicquot champagne, which sponsored the event.

The "mwah mwah" of air kisses mingled with the shutter snaps of paparazzi cameras and thud of galloping polo ponies.

Just before the game, Figueras told AFP that his royal rival was a "good player."

He said he'd come for a "real match" and would not spare the prince when it came to direct clashes.

"When we're on the polo field we are all equal. That's the way he'd like it," said Figueras, whose appearance caused exclamations of admiration from several female journalists, including one who gushed: "You're so tall!"

The undoubted star of the event was the red-headed prince, who is notorious for his late nights out and occasional PR gaffes, but is seen as one of the world's most eligible bachelors.

Even in a city awash with celebrities, he has clearly made a mark.

Invitees to the polo match included Madonna, Chloe Sevigny and fashion designer Marc Jacobs. Meanwhile, several hundred members of the public roasted under the sun, sitting on the grass on the opposite side of the field to the pavilions.

"It's very cool he came over from London for it," said rapper LL Cool J, accompanied by an enormous bodyguard in a black suit.

The rapper, sporting diamond ear rings, said there was "a certain mystery" about royals.

The closest he'd got to royalty, he joked, was Queens -- a decidedly down-to-earth area of New York City.

The New York visit was the first abroad for Prince Harry, third in line to the throne and a British army lieutenant, as an official representative of Buckingham Palace.

The trip appeared tailored to project a more serious image for the younger brother of the more quiet Prince William.

Prince Harry has earned a reputation for frequenting expensive nightclubs in London and has occasionally run into scandals over statements criticized as insensitive, but brushed aside by supporters as merely colorful.

However, the son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana helped turn around his frivolous image when he joined an army deployment last year to Afghanistan.

On Friday, he went on from Ground Zero to meet with veterans at a military medical center and named the British Garden in honor of the 67 Britons who died on September 11, 2001.




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