Prince Harry visit Washington DC (Getty Images)
First Lady Michelle Obama and Prince Harry
Maria Puente, USA TODAY
Washington-- Ladies, grab your Union Jacks: Prince Harry, the world's most eligible royal bachelor, is here.
Rarely has such squealing been heard in the corridors of the Capitol when the 28-year-old third-in-line to the British throne turned up for a visit today.
And then more squealing when he appeared at a White House tea party for an unexpected drop-in with a crowd of stunned military moms and grandmoms.
"Well, surprise!" exclaimed first lady Michelle Obama, co-host with second lady Jill Biden at the party, as tables of women and kids clapped and cheered and Harry blushed and grinned beside her.
Harry arrived at Dulles International Airport this afternoon on a commercial flight from London for the first day of a week-long visit to the USA to promote Britain, raise money for charity and cheer on wounded veterans.
He headed first to Capitol Hill to see an exhibit on clearing land mines (a cause dear to heart of his late mother, Princess Diana), accompanied by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (His wife, Cindy McCain, is on the board of Halo Trust, the anti-land mine charity that organized the exhibit in a Senate office building, but she was unable to make it due to an injury.She was "heartbroken," her husband said).
As Harry entered the Capitolcheering and squealing erupted from a crowd of women, mostly Senate staffers, gathered to catch a glimpse. While touring the exhibit, Harry was interested and animated and flashed many broad smiles. Every time the crowd outside of the rotunda caught a glimpse of him through the arches, cheers echoed in the space.
McCain was impressed. He told reporters later that Harry was charming, funny and genuinely interested in land mine clearance (he's now the royal patron of the group). He asked in-depth questions, not just "cosmetic" ones, McCain said. He said he and Harry joked, in the time-honored way, about rivalries between Army and Navy (Harry is a British Army aviator and McCain was a naval aviator and POW during the Vietnam War), and compared notes about their respective aircraft (Harry flies the same Apache helicopters as McCain's son, the senator said.)
McCain was especially amused at the reaction of the crowd to Harry. "I've never seen in all my years here such a one-gendered crowd," he joked.
Next Harry made a surprise visit to the White House where he met Mrs. Obama, who was co-hosting a Joining Forces event in honor of military mothers. As has Harry, the two women have made supporting military families a signature cause.
"Prince Harry wanted to be here to personally thank you for your service," she told the moms and grandmoms at the party. He was planning to greet as many as possible before leaving for a reception and dinner at the British Embassy in the evening, where he was to give a speech on land mines.
On Friday, Harry will lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and visit wounded vets at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He'll then fly to Colorado to cheer on veterans at the Warrior Games over the weekend in Colorado Springs. Next week he will tour Hurricane Sandy damage in New Jersey with Gov. Chris Christie, promote British tourism and attend a charity fundraiser in New York, and play in a polo match in Greenwich, Conn., to raise money for his African children's charity.
Some parts of the Twitterverse were all aflutter awaiting Harry's arrival Thursday.
"The definitive guide to stalking Prince Harry during his visit to America," read one tweet. "My Prince Harry senses are tingling. Happy that the world's most eligible bachelor is in the good ol' US of A," read another.
Harry's visit comes as his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, 87, has finally started cutting back on her busy round of public appearances and turns to her heir, Prince Charles, and his sons, Harry and Prince William, 30, to take up more royal duties in her place.
It also comes in the wake of Harry's hugely successful tour of the Caribbean and Latin America last year, and those embarrassing photos of him playing pool while nude in a Las Vegas hotel room that he and the rest of the Windsors would love to forget. Chances of a repeat on this trip? Zip.