AP National Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Britain's Prince Harry wound up his first official visit to the U.S. by reminding New Yorkers how much his mother loved their city and climbing onto a pony for a rousing game of polo to raise money for impoverished children in Africa.
Harry flew back to Britain Saturday night. Earlier in the day, the 24-year-old prince drew a crowd that included celebrities like Madonna, actresses Kate Hudson and Chloe Sevigny, and rapper LL Cool J, but also lots of ordinary New Yorkers out for a rare sight: a polo game in the city.
"You see this out in the Hamptons, but not so much in the city," said Vincent Hodgins of Manhattan, who brought his two sons to watch the prince play the match on a brilliantly sunny day on Governors Island in New York Harbor,.
The Veuve Clicquot Manhattan Polo Classic was a fundraiser for Sentebale, the charity that Harry has set up with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to help poor children and AIDS orphans in that small African nation surrounded by South Africa.
"Prince Seeiso and I both lost our mothers when we were very young," Harry said in brief remarks before the match. "We set up Sentebale in their memory, and because my mother loved this city, it makes this occasion all the more poignant for me."
His team, named after the charity, proceeded to defeat the opposing Black Watch team 6-5. Harry assisted on the winning goal in the last seconds, drawing the biggest cheer of the afternoon. Both teams included prominent polo stars like Argentine Nacho Figueras, also a Ralph Lauren model, who played for Black Watch.
It was the second and final day of Harry's first official visit to the United States, which began with a sober visit Friday to the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. On Saturday morning, the prince toured Harlem's Children Zone, a community organization that offers families social and educational services. He and Prince Seeiso chatted with students preparing for a statewide exam for high school students.
"Who's the best pupil?" Harry asked the ninth-graders. "I was always the worst!"
Harry, the son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, is third in line to the British throne, after his father and older brother, William. He's been dubbed the "party prince," and his New York trip seemed designed partly to counter that image with a focus on his charity work.
"I won't bore you with statistics, but please believe me when I say that Lesotho is a mere microcosm of what is so wonderful, but also so tragic about Africa today," he said before the polo match, reading from notes. "This beautiful kingdom has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS and poverty, leaving thousands of children without their parents."
The event was free to the public, but guests in the VIP tent on the opposite side of the field had paid from $50,000 a table down to $500 a head to picnic on the lawn. In true polo-watching fashion, there were more hats than at an Easter parade; for the women, they were topped by flowers, feathers and even butterflies climbing up a wire trellis.
Harry, though, was casual before the match in a navy blue blazer, open-collared shirt and white jeans, and loafers. And Madonna, accompanied by her sons, Rocco and David, was positively dressed down: She wore jeans and a denim jacket as she chatted with designer Marc Jacobs.
In the bleachers, Mike Hallman, visiting the city from North Carolina enjoyed the match with his family. "My kids have never seen polo before," he said. Added his 9-year-old son, Jason: "It's pretty exciting. I have never seen a prince."
Another spectator who'd never seen a polo match was LL Cool J.
"Hopefully, it'll be quite good," Harry told the singer during the reception.
"Are you going to win?" LL Cool J asked. "Mmmm. I don't know. Hopefully it's fixed," joked Harry.
The prince also said his visit had been "wonderful."
"It's been a whirlwind," he told The Associated Press. "I haven't had a chance to let the jet lag set in, and it's time to go already."
But his trip wasn't over after the match: Leaving Governors Island, the prince took a Coast Guard cutter up the Hudson River for an unannounced visit to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Manhattan's West Side.
He inspected the World War II-vintage aircraft carrier and checked out the cockpit of a retired British Airways Concorde jet. Museum president Bill White said the staff presented the prince with a section of the 1943 carrier's original wooden flight deck. Also present was a British Marine commando, Joe Townsend, who lost both legs while on duty last year in Afghanistan, while Harry was commanding troops nearby.
The prince's visit began Friday morning with a prayerful stop at ground zero. There, he spent about 15 minutes quietly speaking to a half-dozen relatives of 9/11 victims.
Harry then attached a wreath to a chain-link fence overlooking the Sept. 11 memorial under construction, bowing his head in silence for a few minutes. He also visited the firehouse across the street that houses Engine 10 and Ladder 10, which lost five members on Sept. 11, talking and laughing with firefighters there.
Later Friday, Harry formally named the British Memorial Garden in Hanover Square downtown to honor the 67 British victims of the terrorist attack. He also visited Manhattan's Veterans Affairs Medical Center, touring a clinic that treats veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and the prosthetics facilities.
Associated Press writer Alicia Quarles contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.