Matthew Hicks says he felt bad lying to the girls on the reality show by pretending to be Prince Harry (inset). I went through this week of 'Harry school' where I had to practise all the skills he's got, like horse-riding for polo. I must be the only bloke who dyes his hair ginger.Matthew Hicks Pictures / AP

Matthew Hicks insists that until he went to university it never occurred to him that he looked like Prince Harry.

"It was a bit of a running joke among my uni mates," he said. "But after graduating, I travelled to Asia and I had people stopping me in the street and having photos taken."

But his resemblance to the Prince has now won him fame and controversy in equal measure, as he stars in a reality television programme in which 12 American girls are led to believe they are competing for a royal suitor.


Mr Hicks, 24, who lives in Exeter and works for an environmental consultancy, was spotted by the Fox network for the show - called I Wanna Marry Harry - after he signed up to a lookalike agency.

Fox hired the Englefield Estate in Berkshire, the family home of the former Environment Minister Richard Benyon, where the contestants were given rooms and introduced to Mr Hicks, who hinted at his possible identity without ever stating he was the Prince.

The show's first episode was screened in the United States this week and it is predicted to be a ratings hit, but Mr Hicks has admitted to having misgivings. "As it went on, I did feel bad, because I got to like the girls more and more," he said. "And it was a bit weird lying to them about who I was, because they were opening up to me but I couldn't exactly open up to them.

"I think anyone that is questioning the ethics of the show is just taking it far too seriously. It's a reality TV show, it's a bit of fun. It was all just an absolute barrel of laughs for six weeks. Hopefully no one's emotionally scarred from it all."

Mr Hicks was born in Papua New Guinea where his father, Roger, worked as a computer programmer. He grew up in Codicote, Hertfordshire, and studied geology and oceanography at Southampton University. He said his father, his mother, Jennifer, and brother Andrew, 26, who works as a cricket coach in Australia, supported his decision to appear in the show. "They thought it was hilarious," he said. "Well, my brother thought it was hilarious, my dad couldn't really get his head round it and my mum was like, "Aw, that's my little boy'."

Mr Hicks, a keen cricketer and hockey player, previously had only a handful of bookings as the Prince, including an appearance at a nightclub and a Diamond Jubilee episode of Come Dine With Me.

He was groomed by the producers to maximise the resemblance: "I went through this week of 'Harry school' where I had to practise all the skills he's got, like horse-riding for polo." One issue to overcome was his blond hair - he jokes that "I must be the only bloke who dyes his hair ginger".

Mr Hicks admits, however, that not everyone is fooled. "Hardly anyone mistakes me for Harry in the UK," he said. "They have a more exact idea of what he looks like."