Prince Harry Hits New York ... Quietly

Prince makes stop at Ground Zero in first trip abroad as royal ambassador.

March 29, 2009 -- He has been a celebrity since the day he was born. But, at age 24, Britain's Prince Harry set out this week for the first time to officially represent the British royal family abroad.

The prince's first stop today: Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.

"It was just very nice to see all the people who lost their loved ones here," he said.

He also met with New York City firefighters and other emergency rescue personnel who responded on 9/11. Word was that Prince Harry -- who served in Afghanistan with the British Army until media reports of his presence there compromised his security and cut his tour short -- had insisted that his trip to the city start at Ground Zero.

He has grown up before our eyes. From the tragic little boy who walked behind the coffin of his mother, Princess Diana, to the dashing young officer headed off to war.

There's a twinkle in his eye he got from his mother. And, lately, a reputation as a party animal with an insensitive streak that has caused him some embarrassment. He was photographed at a 2005 costume party wearing a Nazi armband. Earlier this year video surfaced of him calling a fellow soldier "Paki" and other derogatory terms.

"Yeah, he's a bit of a bad boy," said Roseanne Krylowski, who got up at 6:30 a.m. to drive from New Jersey in hopes of catching a glimpse of the prince.

Prince Harry: Bad-Boy Persona

Does his bad-boy persona make him more intriguing?

"Oh yeah," Krylowski said. "If I do meet him, I will just disregard that I have a boyfriend," she added, laughing.

It's his first big trip as a royal ambassador, but the prince isn't traveling in the luxury the post might warrant. He flew British Airways, business class. No royal charter for him.

"It's costing the British taxpayer nothing, because the queen is paying for the whole trip," said Duncan Larcombe, a reporter with the U.K. newspaper The Sun.

Is the queen too cheap to spring for first class?

"I think she was hoping her grandson would have an upgrade, perhaps," Larcombe said, laughing. "I don't know."

As the prince planted a tree in a garden dedicated to the British victims of 9/11 today , the London press corps called him "Sir."

'Yo, Harry!!!!!!'

New Yorkers, however, were a good deal more familiar.

"Yo Harry!!!!!!" screamed one bystander.

"This way! This way, Harry! Over here, Harry!" called another.

The prince took it all in stride.

"You gotta be happy with that," he said. "C'mon."

No doubt the queen would be proud.