This overbearing gala felt like bursting Harry39s bubble but it

This overbearing gala felt like bursting Harry's bubble… but it was hard not to feel just a twinge of sympathy for him – Caroline Graham recalls her evening at the sensitive Living Legends of Aviation awards in Los Angeles

Oh, Harry! How come? From a royal highness who inspired respect and affection to a celebrity jewelry paraded in front of paying guests at a tacky Hollywood awards show…

The only crown I saw on Friday at the Living Legends Of Aviation gala honoring the Duke of Sussex was a plastic and rhinestone crown perched atop Miss California's elaborately coiffed head.

And the only other “royal” in attendance was a German who goes by the ridiculous name of Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe – although his right to use that title is hotly debated – who once appeared in a saucy web series called Travel Boobs.

With such a decidedly D-list event, it's no wonder the audience was in a frenzy as they awaited the arrival of their guest of honor – although his faded royal stardust wouldn't be enough to salvage the deeply unremarkable evening.

Organizers had promised that the Duke would attend what was supposed to be the couple's first red carpet appearance together in Hollywood with his wife Meghan, but a PR lackey suddenly announced that Harry, 39, would be alone and that he had just crept in through a back entrance.

It was later reported that Meghan, 42, had decided to stay at home because one of her two children was ill. Perhaps a smart move from the picture-savvy former actress, considering so many of us were wondering, “What the hell is Harry doing here?”

Harry is pictured with Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe at the awards ceremony in LA

The prince is seen arriving at the event on Friday in Los Angeles

The prince is seen arriving at the event on Friday in Los Angeles

With his father about to undergo prostate surgery and his sister-in-law Kate, with whom he was once so close, in hospital for treatment of an abdominal problem, old Harry would surely have taken such an opportunity to publicly wish them both good health.

Of course, he may have done so in private, but the omission here was as painful as a wasp sting. Instead, here was a man – still fifth in line to the throne despite “Megxit” four years ago – mingling with some of Hollywood's most frivolous personalities and sycophants with yet another meaningless trinket at an event that cost £1,100 a head It was so lackluster that one older participant admitted to oversleeping most of the time.

A fellow guest told me: “We all assumed Harry would say something kind about his father and Kate before he gave his acceptance speech. “But he didn't say a word about it, which was strange.”

Before dinner, Harry posed for a selfie with Prince Mario-Max, whose website boasts connections going back to William of Orange, which would make him a very, very distant cousin of the British royals.

But his royal connections have been described as a “beautiful illusion” and are disputed by the family, who accuse him of using the title to make money, bringing the name into disrepute.

The head of the family, Prince Alexander von Schaumburg-Lippe, told The Mail on Sunday last night: “It's very painful for me, this guy has used our name for his personal gain.” Prince Harry can't stoop any lower than that to appear with him. I would advise him to stay away from this man. '

Mario-Max – who claims he has the right to use the royal title after being adopted by a distant relative of the family at the age of 23 – has been criticized in the German press for his appearance on The King of Trash TV the “King of Trash TV” refers to the local version of Big Brother and the sale of products on shopping channels, including a so-called “elixir of wealth”.

He is also a regular visitor to America, where he has been photographed at parties and red carpet events with celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Liza Minnelli and Ivana Trump, and where he once dated one of the Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills.

Decorated with a meaningless trinket by frivolous sycophants

On Friday, he immediately posted the photo of himself with Prince Harry – as seen on our front page – on social media. It drew comments including: “So frightening.” “Two irrelevant middle-aged men with no serious prosecution using their titles to gossip in superficial Hollywood,” and “I'm ashamed of you both.” This has to be a joke be.'

Speaking about meeting Harry, Mario-Max told The Mail on Sunday: “We had a personal conversation and he was fabulous, very humble, very sweet. 'It filled me with joy.'

Before the party, questions were raised about whether the Duke deserves to be called a “living legend of aviation”.

Harry's award ceremony described him as a “humanist, military veteran, mental health advocate and environmentalist” and added: “He has dedicated his life to causes close to his heart that create lasting change.”

Prince William and Prince Harry are pictured laughing after a game of polo in May 2014

Prince William and Prince Harry are pictured laughing after a game of polo in May 2014

Harry is seen working as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan in December 2012

Harry is seen working as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan in December 2012

Harry is pictured standing in front of an Apache helicopter in March 2011, a few days after the king passed the half-decade milestone to become a captain in the British Army

Harry is pictured standing in front of an Apache helicopter in March 2011, a few days after the king passed the half-decade milestone to become a captain in the British Army

Mario Max was called the “King of Trash TV” in the German press

Mario Max was called the “King of Trash TV” in the German press

Before the party, questions were raised about whether the Duke deserves to be called a “living legend of aviation”.

Before the party, questions were raised about whether the Duke deserves to be called a “living legend of aviation”.

Organizers had promised that the Duke would attend with his wife Meghan, but a PR lackey suddenly announced that Harry would be alone

Organizers had promised that the Duke would attend with his wife Meghan, but a PR lackey suddenly announced that Harry would be alone

But while the duke served in the military for ten years – rising to the rank of captain and completing two tours in Afghanistan as a forward air traffic controller and Apache helicopter pilot – a former Royal Navy chief had viewed the award with disdain.

A pile of broken glass to burst Harry's hypocritical bubble…

Lord Alan West said: “He is not a living legend of aviation.” To suggest that he is is pathetic. It makes the whole thing seem a bit nonsense.'

And Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired British Army officer, said the ceremony was about “celebrities massaging each other's egos”.

As he accepted his award, Harry talked about his pride in his military career – and as he did so, I couldn't help but think that perhaps it was finally dawning on Harry that he was devastating his family for Netflix's millions and a life full of… Service in the UK for a “career” pandering to the whims of rich Americans might have been too high a price to pay.

When he talked about his “old” life, it felt meaningful and honest in a way that so many of his psycho-babble interviews in Hollywood and his kamikaze memoir Spare didn't.

He said: “For me, flying was a transcendent experience.” A close encounter with magic, an invitation to both protect freedom… and feel free; and, strangely, an opportunity to ground yourself without actually being educated.'

He spoke movingly of his earlier career, saying: “I had respect for the Apache in hover and was in awe of its night flight… so many moments as a pilot when you feel like you're walking through the air.”

“And with every flight throughout my military career, the one constant has always been trust.” Trust in the aircraft, trust in my fellow soldiers, trust in my many mentors and, most importantly, trust in myself.

“Flying has taught me the power of discipline, the power of patience and, beyond that, the power of trusting your gut.”

One guest noted that Harry may be shortlisting Bezos, the world's third-richest man, when the £63 million deal he and Meghan have with Netflix expires next year

One guest noted that Harry may be shortlisting Bezos, the world's third-richest man, when the £63 million deal he and Meghan have with Netflix expires next year

Prince William and Prince Harry attend the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017

Prince William and Prince Harry attend the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017

It was later reported that Meghan, 42, had decided to stay at home because one of her two children was ill

It was later reported that Meghan, 42, had decided to stay at home because one of her two children was ill

Lauren Sanchez, 54, has also been hailed as a living legend for her work as a helicopter pilot who runs a company that provides aerial photography

Lauren Sanchez, 54, has also been hailed as a living legend for her work as a helicopter pilot who runs a company that provides aerial photography

Harry attended the awards ceremony without his wife Meghan Markle

Harry attended the awards ceremony without his wife Meghan Markle

Prince Harry accepts his Living Legend of Aviation award at the glittering awards ceremony in Los Angeles

Prince Harry accepts his Living Legend of Aviation award at the glittering awards ceremony in Los Angeles

Those soulful words prompted a mandatory standing ovation from the audience, which included Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos and his fiancée Lauren Sanchez, 54, who was also hailed as a living legend for her work as a helicopter pilot who runs a company that produces aerial photography offers.

Accompanied by her own television crew, she wore a black strapless bodycon dress and wore her engagement ring, reportedly worth £1.6 million, over her black opera gloves.

One guest noted that Harry may be shortlisting Bezos, the world's third-richest man, when the £63 million deal he and Meghan have with Netflix expires next year.

This was a valid point, as the couple has yet to truly prove themselves in Hollywood and their efforts attract no small amount of ridicule.

Meghan's podcast contract with streaming service Spotify has ended, they were mocked on the TV show South Park and the Hollywood Reporter, considered Tinseltown's “Bible,” recently wrote: “In 2020, the royal duo fled a life in public service to make money.” her celebrity status in the States.

“But after a whiny Netflix documentary, a whiny biography (spare, even the title is a pout), and a lazy podcast, the Harry and Meghan brand swelled into a sanctimonious bubble just waiting to burst.”

In many ways, this swaggering gala felt like the bursting of Harry's bubble. But it was hard not to feel a twinge of compassion.

During my three decades as a journalist in Hollywood, I've been to numerous high-profile events, including almost every Academy Awards, but Friday's event was a low-rent mess.

Other than Ms. Sanchez, none of the big names, including John Travolta and Morgan Freeman, walked the red carpet. Other promised guests, including musician Kenny G, didn't show up.

Artist Mimi Stuart showed a bright yellow portrait of Harry in his Apache cockpit. “He’s got a magnificent big helmet,” said Mrs. Stuart tastelessly, eliciting awkward giggles from the crowd.

At some point, the Beverly Hills Fire Department showed up with emergency lights flashing. Paramedics rushed in with a stretcher, only to leave ten minutes later, saying it was a “false alarm.”

However, it must be said that many were thrilled by the Duke of Sussex's appearance.

Businessman Shane Lundgren, 62, said: “It's fantastic to have someone of his notoriety involved in something like this.”

Fellow guest Nita Epps said: “He has excelled in his service in Afghanistan.” “It's wonderful that he is being honored,” and Miss California Tianna Clark agreed: “There's a lot of love here for Harry.”

As Harry left the room the way he came – slipping through the back entrance into a waiting Range Rover – I couldn't help but think about whether this event was a hint of what the future held for him. Will he have to limit himself to giving speeches alongside Mario-Max at gala chicken dinners to fund his £11m Montecito estate and the estimated £1.6m a year on security?

For his sake, I sincerely hope that's not the case.