All alone ... Prince Harry at the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Photo: Reuters
Poor Prince Harry. On Sunday night, he performed the most important official engagement of his life, representing the Queen at the closing ceremony of London 2012. Yet as he walked to his seat, he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights of the estimated one billion people watching.
Now 27, he has spent years playing the role of sideshow joker and playboy prince but this time he knew our eyes were fixed on him - and we saw that something was missing. No, not the trusty Locog lanyard that had hung around his neck for the previous two weeks. Not a tie - he looked dashing in a pale blue one - nor his brother, away on RAF duties in Anglesey. Not his father (although where was he?). No, what was missing from the VIP box at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday night was this: a girlfriend.
For over a year now, he has had to play gooseberry to William and Kate, at times looking as if he is simply tagging along.
Oh, Harry. Where was your date? Although the Duchess of Cambridge was there to hold his hand, this seemed almost touchingly tragic. For over a year now, he has had to play gooseberry to William and Kate, at times looking as if he is simply tagging along. Then, on Sunday, he turned up to the biggest party in the world, one that he was essentially hosting, with his sister-in-law as his plus one. No man should have to suffer such an indignity (however well he gets on with her).
Potential wife ... Florence Brudenell-Bruce.
And what this momentous occasion could really have done with - to lift it from George Michael's flat vocals, to cheer us all up once the Olympic flame had been extinguished - was a significant other to help the Prince shoulder the weight of responsibility.
Because that's what the country needs right now: another Royal wedding to look forward to. Given that the past two years have been chock-a-block with anticipation and excitement - William and Kate's magnificent wedding; the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend, during which the country almost combusted with love; the Olympics, when the country did combust with love - we now have a depressingly empty national calendar.
There's the Paralympics, but they will be over by the middle of September. There's the Rugby League World Cup next year, but, well... There's the Commonwealth Games, though they're in Glasgow. In 2014.
Royal gooseberry ... Prince Harry with his brother's wife at the closing ceremony. Photo: AP
In short, there is absolutely nothing to get us through each working day, nothing to distract us from the depression of sovereign debt. If Prince Harry were to take all of this into consideration, he would see that it is practically his duty to find himself a wife.
Granted, two years ago he was forever being photographed falling out of nightclubs, covered in sweat and booze. But today we have a new Harry, one who has witnessed the domestic bliss enjoyed by the Cambridges, one who allows himself to be called by his official title of Prince Henry, one who (whisper it) is said to be almost teetotal. Take, for example, his response to the Canadian kayaker Michael Tayler, who asked him where the best place in London to party is. "I don't go out any more," Harry is said to have replied. "I'm too old, I'm too old."
Serving in the Army Air Corps, where he recently qualified as an Apache helicopter pilot, has apparently been the making of him, and he is almost unrecognisable from the boy who, in 2005, turned up at a party dressed as a Nazi; the boy who was sent by his father to visit a rehab centre for a day in 2002 after he admitted to smoking marijuana.
And it's not as if he can't do commitment. He had a seven-year relationship with Chelsy Davy, a lawyer who is supposed to have felt unable to take on everything that goes with being the wife of a Royal. He is not short of lady suitors, and there is an abundance of "Harry Hunters" who stalk the streets of Kensington and Chelsea in the hope of bumping into the third in line to the throne.
The Prince himself has bemoaned his lack of a girlfriend. During his tour of Brazil earlier this year, he told the American ABC anchor Katie Couric that the overseas engagement "would probably be easier as [part of] a couple. I don't have anyone. I wasn't allowed to bring anybody with me.
"I'm waiting to find the right person," he continued. "Someone who's willing to take on the job." Come on then, Harry, do it for your country. We're waiting.
HOT CONTENDERS FOR THE PRINCE'S HAND
The Tatler cover girl who once dated Jenson Button has posed in her underwear and starred in a Bollywood movie. Harry's relationship with "Flee", as friends know her, hit the rocks last autumn, though there is still hope that they could end up together. A descendant of the seventh Earl of Cardigan, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade, Flee is made to be a princess.
A singer with the girlband The Saturdays, Miss King was spotted with Harry at the Bunga Bunga bar in Battersea earlier this year, though they met long before on the polo circuit. Blonde, gorgeous and a pop star, they are said to have been set up by Harry's cousin Zara Phillips. Rumoured to have enjoyed a string of dates in the "private homes of a very few close friends they trust".
Spotted together at the recent Batman premiere, and then afterwards at Le Salon nightclub, where they were "kissing in a corner". Miss Bonas is the daughter of four-times married Lady Mary-Gaye Georgiana Lorna Curzon, a Sixties It-girl. A Burberry model, Cressida went to Stowe school and Leeds University (just like Ms Davy). Once described by Tatler as "really pretty" and "really nice". Perfect, then.
They sat next to each other at the Beach Volleyball final last week, and looked like ideal couple material. Then Laura's new boyfriend turned up and ruined our fantasy of the Olympic golden girl nabbing a prince. Oh well. Is it naughty to hope that she tires of cyclist Jason Kenny and runs off with Harry instead? After all, there'd be nothing wrong with adding extra sporting DNA to the royal gene pool.
It's the relationship everybody has longed for since they stood next to each other on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the wedding of their siblings. Yes, they may be in-laws, but if they got together, the Royal Family wouldn't have to go through the tedious process of background-checking a potential bride's family for suitability. Go on. You know you want to.
The Daily Telegraph, London