By Maria Puente, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - He's the new most-eligible royal bachelor in the world, and on Thursday he arrives here for a week-long visit in what is proving to be Prince Harry-friendly territory.
The third-in-line to the throne, 28, will make public engagements here and in New Jersey, New York, Colorado and Connecticut.
As in his boffo tour of the Caribbean and Latin America last year, he'll be attending receptions, meeting and cheering wounded warriors, laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, promoting British tourism and playing polo for his African charity at the Greenwich Polo Club.
Even Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who's not easily impressed, is eager to meet Harry, and he'll get his chance when he escorts him on a tour of Hurricane Sandy damage next week.
"I don't think Harry has the star power here that (brother Prince) Will and (his wife) Kate have, but I think the young women in the places he's going to go are excited because he's a handsome, charming guy," says Bonnie Fuller, editor of HollywoodLife.com. "We're prepared to cover him but don't see it as big story - unless he runs into trouble, or kisses a girl or accidentally reveals the (royal) baby's sex."
What accounts for the Harry interest? British Ambassador Peter Westmacott observes the irony that Americans, having violently dismissed the monarchy in the 18th century, still retain affection for descendants such as Harry in the 21st century.
"He is a young prince who is doing a tremendous job representing the country and the monarchy," Westmacott told a USA TODAY editorial-board meeting recently. "When he was last (in Washington), he gave an excellent speech in front of 700 people flawlessly and he engaged with utter sincerity with a bunch of wounded warriors. He relates in particular to those who have been in this theater of war, as he has, and come home damaged by it."
And not just that. If you go strolling in London's Green Park near the royal palaces, you might come upon Harry hanging out, playing with his dog, says royal biographer Chris Hutchins, author of Harry: The People's Prince, just published in the U.K. You would never see his older brother.
"Harry differs enormously from his other royal relatives, particularly William, who's shy and retiring and has to be because he's going to be king and can't get up to the same things Harry does," says Hutchins.
Hutchins thinks Harry is popular in the USA because he's the son of the beloved late Princess Diana, and because "he's interesting and does interesting things."
"He fights on the front lines and fights in nightclubs, he gets (drunk) like rest of us," he says. "To be a member of that family and do normal things like play with your dog in Green Park is quite an achievement."
Embracing little kids in Africa, he comes across as a good guy, says Fuller. "He doesn't act like a privileged jerk or a snobby twit," she says.
Even that goofy photos-of-Harry-nude-in-Las-Vegas scandal from last year turned out to be more blush-inducing than shameful for the young Prince Hal.
Do not expect a repeat of that on this trip: For one thing, Christie says he'll be keeping him out of mischief. (And you don't want to cross him.)
As the spare to the heir, Harry has always been more party-hearty than his brother, which has occasionally gotten him into trouble. "He makes mistakes, he never repeats one," says Hutchins.
Another reason for Harry interest is the possibility that he's actually available. Does he or does he not have a serious girlfriend? Harry himself has lamented to reporters that it's hard out there for a prince.
We know he split from his longtime love, Zimbabwe-born London lawyer Chelsy Davy. He's been seen lately with another blond beauty, English aristocrat Cressida Bonas, 24, but the British press report that she's leery of the royal lifestyle and doesn't want to get married so young.
William married a beautiful commoner, the former Kate Middleton, and that's worked out spectacularly well, so no doubt there are attractive American girls thinking they could do the same with Harry. Since he's not likely to become king (Will and Kate's first baby, a future monarch, is due in July, when Harry will drop to fourth-in-line), the pressure to pick a wife deemed suitable by stuffy royal bureaucrats is less intense.
Is it likely he'll hook up with a Yank? Maybe not, but girls can dream.
"I think people like the freshness, the energy, the next generation thing," says Westmacott. "I think we are just very lucky that all generations of the monarchy attract a lot of affection here."