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Prince Harry passes Army test

Harry excelled as leader of his school Eton's cadet corps.
Harry excelled as leader of his school Eton's cadet corps.

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Should taxpayers pay $1m on Prince Harry's protection during his gap year to Australia?

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Prince Harry has passed initial tests to join the British Army as an officer but is likely to take at least a year out before beginning his service.

Harry, 19, who is third in line to the British throne, passed the Army's Pre-Regular Commissions Board assessment with flying colors, royal officials said.

That means he has cleared the first hurdle towards enrolling at the elite Sandhurst Military Academy which boasts other royal ex-pupils including Jordan's King Abdullah.

As the 19-year-old British prince headed for Australia, royal officials hinted at a double gap year, saying he may decide not to start at the top military college southwest of London until September 2005.

"Prince Harry has successfully passed his pre-RCB with a Category 1 pass and is hoping to start training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in the next two years," officials at the royal residence Clarence House told CNN.

He now has to pass a three-day Regular Commissions Board assessment to complete his entrance qualification.

Most of the 700 recruits accepted for Sandhurst each year are graduates and therefore aged at least 21.

The UK's Press Association reported that Harry -- second son of Princess Diana -- could be too young at 20 should he be selected for next year's intake and could benefit from delaying his entry.

Prince Harry got a B in art and a D in geography in his final school exams or "A" levels -- reportedly the worst in his year at his top British school, Eton.

While at school, the prince excelled as a leader of Eton's cadet corps and impressed the Army's "top brass" as officer material.

Royal aides said the teenage prince would spend the first of a possible two years off on a "structured program" of activities, starting in Australia where he is due to land at Sydney airport early Tuesday morning.

"We have worked out a program for the prince up to next summer," said a Clarence House spokeswoman. "But there are also thoughts about what he would do if he does an additional gap year."

"He hopes to do some traveling -- broadening his knowledge and experience," the spokeswoman added.

$1m for Harry's protection

The initial leg of his time in Australia will let Harry indulge his twin passions for polo and rugby.

As well as playing polo during his three-month stay, he will watch England and the other home nations bid to lift the Rugby World Cup which kicks off in Australia next month.

Details of his work program while in Australia are due to be announced by Clarence House Tuesday at an official royal photocall in Sydney.

As Harry jetted to Australia, politicians and media pundits began considering his visit.

Australia's Tourism Minister Joe Hockey said the prince's decision to spend part of a gap year in the country "sent a fantastic message to the world that the No. 1 destination for young Brits is Australia."

But prominent republicans attacked the spending by local police forces of an estimated 250,000 ($400,000) of Australian taxpayers' money on Harry's security.

"This is a waste of money," professor John Warhurst, Australian Republican Movement leader, was quoted by PA as saying. "The cost should be borne by the British government or the royal family."

Sydney's Sunday Telegraph newspaper commented: "As a nation we have always welcomed visitors from overseas, but we are understandably wary of those who arrive from abroad expecting to be financed by the taxes we have all worked hard to provide."

British taxpayers will bear the estimated 600,000 ($980,000) cost of Scotland Yard royalty protection officers traveling with Harry to provide an around-the-clock armed guard.

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