It wasn't so much the blowing of his cover that was the problem, but the prospect that it might actually have led to the blowing up of Prince Harry and his mates or at the least marked them out as prime targets for the Taliban.
That was the thinking behind the tacit agreement between the British Ministry of Defence and various UK and US media organisations to keep the three-month Afghanistan deployment of Prince Harry, Prince Charles' and Princess Diana's second son and Britain's third in line to the throne, a well-kept secret.
This week, the Drudge Report, following two earlier stories that appeared in an Australian women's gossip magazine and a German newspaper, released details of the royal tour of duty with the result that Harry has either now been pulled out of the combat zone and flown home to London, or soon will be.
The story is big news, but as some astute commentators have noted, why didn't everyone realise something was afoot when the British tabloids suddenly stopped running front-page photos of the Queen's grandson (yes, he calls her "grandma") staggering out of London pubs and clubs in the middle of the night where the paparazzi invariably waited in a disorganised scrum on the footpath?
Be that as it may, this story is probably less about a young Royal determined to do his duty than it is about a young man who has been hounded by the tabloid press and who wants to have at least a modicum of normality in his life.
There will be some (me included) who think that a posting to Helmand province, one of the most dangerous areas of southern Afghanistan, as an army forward air controller operating out of a frontline firebase with the Gurkhas, might not quite rank up there as a normal, everyday life experience.
But as Harry (known in the British Army simply as Cornet – or Second-Lieutenant – Harry Wales and in training initially a reluctant soldier, by all reports) himself has put it, he wasn't going to go through the trouble of graduating from The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Britain's equivalent of West Point, just to sit around in England while his cavalry soldiers went off to war without him.
Good on him. At least he wasn't content to sit at home behaving like a prat and enjoying the kind of lifestyle most of us can only dream of while other Britons were out there putting their lives at risk in a war his government has decided is worth fighting.
And cleverly, he wasn't allowed to go to Iraq. Probably a very good move, as it would have put the people he was serving with at even greater risk – and can you imagine the drama over the capture and/or internet beheading of a British prince should that grim scenario have arisen? The other problem: As it is in the US, Britain's inolvement in the Iraq conflict could be described as controversial, at best.
Americans may wonder why the royals would allow one of their own to risk everything like this, but Britons know why: the royals and the aristocracy have traditionally served in the armed forces, and not at the rear either, going back to at least, well, 1066.
The sons of the nobility and upper classes were virtually wiped out in World War I, and many more gave their lives in World War II. In terms of shouldering their terrible burden in defence of the freedoms we all enjoy today, especially in the Great War, they probably sacrificed as much, if not more, than anyone.
There's a precedent in the modern era: Prince Andrew, Harry's uncle, was a Royal Navy helicopter pilot during the Falklands War in 1982. He flew helicopter picket duty in the South Atlantic and one of his jobs was to use his helicopter as a diversionary target to draw Argentine missiles away from the British fleet. So Harry is not the first of the modern Royals to stick his head above the parapet for Queen and Country.
I for one don't believe this is a publicity stunt designed to boost flagging recruiting numbers for the British Army, or a bit of PR guff orchestrated by the British Government to encourage Britons and their allies to stay the course.
It's more about a young man who didn't want to let his down his mates (who call him the "bullet magnet") by not going, which is where the normal bit of this comes in.
He'd only have had to whisper the word and he could have stayed behind. Instead, he swapped unimaginable splendour and a very privileged life for the dirt, dust and Taliban bullets of Afghanistan.
At least the headlines have him portrayed as a hero come of age this week, instead of a clueless young twerp with a penchant for foolish behaviour. Which might at least convince many sceptical Britons and those of us in what's left of the empire that there IS still a place for the monarchy in a robust constitutional democracy, provided the royals can at least give the appearance of leading, even if only as figureheads.Powered by Sidelines