Invasion of the Harry Hunters

Article excerpt

Byline: McKay Coppins

With Prince William off the market, wide-eyed American girls descend on England to win the heart of his younger brother.

As she squeezes through the crowds of inebriated young aristocrats at London's Mahiki nightclub, Courtney Fleming tries to stay focused. The men are enticing, the beach music is infectious, and the "treasure-chest cocktail" foisted upon her by well-bred clubgoers is plenty strong. But she has come tonight on a mission that brooks no distraction.

The objective: find, seduce, and eventually marry Prince Harry.

This is no schoolgirl whim. The California Anglophile spent days before this trip poring over British gossip blogs to identify the hottest royal hangouts. And when she packed, she made sure to include the black floral dress with the plunging neckline that was sure to catch her prince's eye. After all, she'd have plenty of competition.

Fleming is part of a small but resolute group of American "Harry hunters," aspiring princesses who are crossing the ocean in hopes of capturing the redheaded royal's heart (and the tiara that comes with it). Some rely on semesters abroad to lend an air of social normalcy to their excursions, while others simply count their pennies--or lean on their parents--to fund extended vacations in Britain. But the goal is always the same: to live happily ever after with a prince of the realm.

These days, their mission has taken on a distinct sense of urgency. Next month Harry's older brother, Prince William, will wed Kate Middleton--a commoner herself, the Harry hunters note optimistically. But even as these earnest, young crown chasers devour royal-wedding news, the nuptials are a source of serious anxiety. When it comes to available slots on the Windsor family tree, explains author Jerramy Fine, whose 2008 memoir recounts her own unsuccessful efforts to marry into the monarchy, "Harry is now their last chance."

This reality is not lost on Taylor McKinley, a sweet 21-year-old George Mason student who recently began a semester abroad at the University of Leicester (two hours outside London). McKinley takes her princess prep seriously. She reads magazines with names like Majesty and Royalty. She studies the historical monarchy. And in high school, she even abstained from dating, figuring she would "hold out for royalty." Now, she spends her weekends dragging classmates to Harry's favorite restaurants and waiting for fate to strike. …