Nude photos of Prince Harry are genuine: Palace

The British royal family said Wednesday nude photographs of Prince Harry cavorting with friends on holiday in Las Vegas were genuine.

The photographs, published in the United States by celebrity news website TMZ.com, show the third-in-line to the throne standing naked in a hotel suite.

In one of the two photographs, the 27-year-old is pictured, apparently wearing only a watch and a necklace, covering his genitals with his hands while another person, who also appears to be nude, stands close behind him.

In the other, he is bent over bear-hugging a second person, who also appears to be naked. It is not clear if the person is a man or a woman.

Clarence House confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that the images were genuine.      "At this time we don't have a comment," a spokesman told AFP, adding: "We may do later."

It is rare for Clarence House to confirm the validity of such images, which raise questions about security surrounding the British royal.

The two images were taken at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas after a game of strip billiards last weekend, according to TMZ.

Video has also been released from the same trip that purports to show the prince racing US Olympic swimming gold medallist Ryan Lochte in the pool of a nightclub in the hotel.

Lochte, who was in Las Vegas belatedly celebrating his 28th birthday, told Britain's Daily Mail newspaper that he was "surprised" Harry had challenged him to the race, which the swimming star won.

"He's a great guy, and it was a huge honour to meet him," Lochte was quoted as saying, adding: "I definitely wasn't going to take it easy on him!"

It is not the first time Harry has taken on one of the world's top sportsmen -- during a Caribbean tour in March, he managed to beat the world's fastest man Usain Bolt in a joke race.

Harry was in Las Vegas after hosting a charity event in San Diego.

Known for his playboy reputation, the prince has tried to distance himself from that lifestyle.

A trained army helicopter pilot, he has expressed a strong interest in returning to serve in Afghanistan. His first stint there had to be cut short in 2008 when a media blackout was breached.

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