Finding true love can be difficult, even for a Royal. While Prince Harry's youth was full of romance, one girl, in particular, briefly stole his heart - and captured public attention in doing so. Here's why…
Prince Harry has always been transparent about how he deals with fame. Particularly, he could do without the constant cameras and tabloids. Specifically, his worldwide status has made it difficult to let people into his life.
As part of the Royal family, it is vital to be weary of who they let get too close. With regard to revealing personal information and flourishing relationships, it's not the typical route that one would expect. Instead, trust comes first before anything. And this royal has been through the wringer to find 'the one.'
The Duke of Sussex has never been one to have a name or status affect his feelings. It seems he follows his heart no matter where it takes him. Though, before he ended up a married man, the then-bachelor's focus was keeping everything under the radar.
His modest nature led him to try and keep himself - and anyone close - protected from the life he was born into. But considering he was born into the spotlight, his dating history was hard to hide. In fact, it is no secret his younger years were wild, spent as Britain's most eligible bachelor… until he met someone that changed everything.
Meet Cressida Bonas. Formally an aspiring actress, the beauty appeared in Tulip Fever while also dabbling in the modeling industry, where she worked with Burberry and Mulberry. She is the daughter of Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon and entrepreneur Jeffrey Bonas, so she already possessed a sense of high status.
While Cressida was out living her youth years wild and free at Leeds University, she never expected to come across someone like Prince Harry. But, it wasn't exactly a night out on the town that had the two meet eye-to-eye. In fact, the pair were introduced by a surprising mutual friend.
It turned out that Prince Harry's cousin, Princess Eugenie, attended the same classes as Cressida at Leeds. It is uncertain how close the girls were, but close enough for Eugenie to know Cressida was a good catch. With that in mind, she couldn't help but play cousin cupid - though it wasn't all her doing.
According to People, Princess Eugenie's now husband, Jack Brooksbank, formally set the two up on a double date. While Cressida studied during the day and hit the social events at night, Harry was finding a balance between enjoying his youth and serving his Royal duties, including the army.
Nowhere To Hide
Prince Harry didn't choose the life he grew up with, so perhaps it's understandable he didn't always have a liking for the cameras. While some heirs might not have minded the constant media attention, Harry opted to keep things low-key. Well, at least he tried to.
As he later revealed, the "toxic" British media was inescapable. So when he finally met Cressida, he had a lot to consider. With the two of them from different worlds, it was all about finding a happy medium. Was this the right girl for him? And would she be able to adjust to his reality?
When it comes to finding a spark with that special someone, most folks don't have millions of eyes on them. But in cases like these, a royal bachelor and a blonde socialite, it was all about getting to know each other - and not what the rest of the world thought they knew.
As the two continued to spend time together, it seemed this was a match like no other. According to Hello Magazine, the duo shortly realized they had a common "lust for life." No surprise, they soon began dating in May 2012. And the rest was history.
Their Public Debut
Not long after the two were set up for the inevitable, things were already looking up. The pair were continuously spending time together, and it was going blissfully well. Eventually, it got to a point where the red-haired Prince felt confident and comfortable enough to bring the Leeds graduate out with him.
They were typically spotted at polo events and other sporting events, as well as holiday adventures. All eyes were on them, and gradually, they became the center of tabloid attention - but this wasn't what they wanted. Unfortunately, it was too late: the public was hooked.
On the surface, and from what spectators were aware of, Cressida and Harry seemed to be the perfect match. They had so much in common that they pretty much did everything together, as every blooming couple would. And the media was there to capture every second of it.
From ski trips to Kazakhstan to listening to Indie rock at Glastonbury festival, the lovebirds were unstoppable. On paper, Prince Harry seemed like another lovestruck teenager. At the European premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, he and Bonas were allegedly "getting very cozy," according to reports.
Behind Closed Doors
On the other hand, they didn't seem to care that the press was catching them in their most vulnerable moments. Despite all the tabloid rumors, they were enjoying quality time wherever, whenever. It was almost as if they were unbothered by the paparazzi, blatantly showing P.D.A to break the cycle of keeping things under royal radar.
They unquestionably had their own thing going on outside of the spotlight. Many public and private elements proved Cressida's growing bond with the Prince, one of which was that they both had secret nicknames for each other. Despite Harry's vibrant auburn hair, he was her "Ken," while she was his "Barbie."
Royal Arm Candy
And just like that, 2 years came and went, and Barbie and Ken remained by each other's side. As the two continued to thrive, Prince Harry took the plunge and brought Cressida out with him for his public appearances. As anyone would experience, Cressida was feeling the pressure standing next to Royal arm candy.
"She's not a tough cookie at all. She's a sensitive, sweet girl," her half-brother Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe explained of her time in the spotlight. With Harry one of the most desirable bachelors, Cressida was one lucky lady of which she humbly was aware. And the paparazzi couldn't get enough.
Thinking About the Future
Sure, Cressida was working towards becoming an A-list actress. But she had to focus on how she could achieve this without her relationship getting in the way. Love doesn't happen on purpose, and no one can help who they meet, let alone fall for. Yet, Cressida seemingly grew concerned about how Harry could impact her future.
It was terrifying to think falling in love could squash her hopes and dreams. She didn't want her partner to be the reason her career didn't work out, but thoughts began to wander. Plus, with paparazzi causing a stir, the stakes were seemingly higher than ever before.
Trouble in Paradise
As the relationship continued to grow, so did tensions and public rumors. Though they weren't trying to let anything get in the way of them, Cressida reportedly had doubts about whether she had what it took to be a part of Harry's world. She was aware of the Royal family, protocol, and duties.
She had to decide which was more important and which was worth letting go of. Considering her personal plans for the future, it was within question whether she could still pursue her acting career whilst simultaneously carrying out royal protocol. But that wasn't the only factor to consider.
It was tricky to think how the two worlds would cross over to make the perfect combination. Just like any other flourishing romance, this should have been the honeymoon period. Nothing but love and happiness, steering away from concerns and doubts. Unfortunately, that's now how the Royals rolled.
Despite stong feelings, she knew what she was about to entail if the romance escalated. Prince Harry had to deal with this in every relationship, hoping his suitors wouldn't be intimidated from entering his world. While the late Queen Elizabeth II kept track of her grandson, it's unclear whether she approved of their public nights out.
The Final Straw
Just like any star, it's hard to maintain complete privacy. It's a part of the job and something they're often forced to take on board. Typically, a sparking romance is the height of attention, and there's never an escape until a story is published with hard-hitting facts. This reportedly became increasingly difficult for Cressida.
According to Robert Lacey's book, Battle of Brothers: William and Harry—The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, Cressida was losing patience. Since their major public debut, she was faced with unbearable comments. She ultimately had to address the situation, unsure if this would tear them apart and break the prince's heart.
It was a moment in London that shook spectators to their core: in May 2014, after endless rumors around town, the couple had decided to go their separate ways. Coincidently, it was the same months they were first brought together. What had actually gone wrong behind closed doors?
While there were endless whispers behind the breakup, Lacey reported in his book that "She felt that the fame of her relationship put her 'in a box.'" She might have met her match, but it meant nothing in the midst of a claustrophobic world of overpowered attention. Despite the breakup, she remained close to family members.
Forever an 'It Girl'
Most girls would wait in line for ages just to be in the arms of royalty, especially a bachelor like Prince Harry. However, for the blonde socialite who stole Harry's heart, things were different. According to several reports, it had nothing to do with the royal himself, but rather his surroundings.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Bonas feared being "labeled an 'it girl' for life after dating harry." Despite controversial opinions, it seemed she opted to remain under the radar rather than be judged for every move and word. Nonetheless, the two had ended things amicably, The Mirror reported.
Thankfully, 2014 was a simpler time, to say the least, when social media platforms were not prioritized as much as today. However, when the breakup news broke out, chaos ensued, considering the British nation thought Cressida was going to be the next Kate Middleton.
After the breakup, Bonas posted a message in picture format on her Instagram feed. Users believed this was shade, as the message read, "No matter how educated, talented, rich or cool you believe you are, how you treat people ultimately tells it all." Whether this was about Harry or not, the timing seemed to say it all.
A Royal Scare
We can't imagine how much of their privacy was compromised in the two years the two were together. No matter what they did, it seemed the media always found a way to insert themselves into their relationship. But, this didn't sit well with Bonas at all - and it affected more than just her privacy.
According to The Sun, near the end of their two-year mark, Cressida was "completely spooked out while watching TV coverage of William, Kate, and George touring New Zealand and Australia that spring. There was no way she wanted that sort of attention, and she told Harry so."
The Buckingham Palace Tell-All
Royal biographer, Katie Nicholl, released a memoir in 2018 called Harry: Life, Loss, and Love. Not only did Nicholl discuss Prince Harry's current romance with his wife, Meghan Markle, but it also touched on the royal enthusiast facade and truth hidden behind the bars of Buckingham Palace.
Nicholl shed light on life growing up royal. She noted Prince Harry's troubled youth years while steering toward the moment when his former love interest, Bonas, realized it wasn't the life she wanted after all. Specifically, Prince William and Kate's 2014 tour of New Zealand and Australia was "a wake-up call."
"Head Over Heels"
Throughout the two years they spent together, it only took one moment to finalize Cressida's decision. It would have been a position no one would have wanted to be in, yet she chose mind over matter and did what was right for her. She was ready to let her Prince charming go for good.
She had already caught enough attention from nights out, and when engagement rumors sparked, it was only a matter of time until her world would be flipped upside down. Apparently, Harry was "head over heels" in love with Cressida, but "her mind was made up" despite his aim to convince her to stay by his side.
According to Nicholl, the feelings were mutual. Prince Harry truly thought he had found the one who would stick by his side throughout it all. But, just like the ghosts of girlfriends past, she disappeared. We can't imagine the pain, knowing press and royal duties allegedly led to the downfall.
Just like in a regular relationship, Harry struggled to come to terms with the split. Nicholl wrote, "Harry suffered a real blow when she said, 'I can't do this.' I think she really broke his heart. Twice [Harry] had been left heartbroken because the woman he had fallen in love with didn't want to share the life he had been born into."
On Cressida's Mind...
But despite the trauma and heartbreak, Cressida might have been a blessing for Prince Harry. According to The Palace Papers by Tina Brown, during their time as Barbie and Ken, Cressida was the one who encouraged Harry to seek professional help for "mental therapy."
Brown wrote, "His outbursts were ever more frequent and childlike… He took up boxing because, as he later said, he was always 'on the verge of punching somebody.' Cressida began to have serious worries about his mental health. It is not widely known that it was she who first persuaded Harry to see a therapist."
A Parting Gift
After the split, Harry wrote a letter to Cressida to thank her for pushing him to do better. Considering Brown's detailed depth, a mutual friend reported on the situation, "he wrote her a sweet letter saying I admire you, I wish you well and above all thank you for helping me to address my demons and seek help."
According to the BBC, the split was a result of the speculations that turned out to be true. Allegedly, Harry and Cressida split as she wanted to focus on her acting career and did not want anything to become a burden. However, it is likely to also believe the speculations over the media "scrutiny" caused the relationship to terminate.
The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
While Cressida might have had a strong impact on Prince Harry's relationship roster, he had other dating experiences that changed the way he viewed love and romance. Considering his humble persona, he reportedly had the desire to fit in with the real world.
Prince Harry's charming nature and impressive motivation to seek a life outside of the palace intrigued a range of bachelorettes. From television hosts to models, musical artists, and of course, the occasional mutual friend set-up. Overall, he has had nine reported girlfriends. Let's take a closer look back, shall we?
The Hostess With the Mostess
The woman who loved love got herself involved with his royal highness. The late English TV presenter Caroline Flack stepped forward for the Prince himself back in 2009. The relationship bloomed after their mutual friend, Natalie Pinkham, introduced the two. Despite an era of puppy love, it didn't last long.
Flack gave him her own nickname, 'Jam,' mainly due to his hair color and his sweet sense of character. Yet, things came to a sudden stop. She wrote in her autobiography, "Once the story got out, that was it… We had to stop seeing each other. I was no longer Caroline Flack, TV presenter, I was Caroline Flack, Prince Harry's bit of rough."
Sing Your Heart Out, Harry
Don't worry, we didn't forget about the Prince and the King. In 2010, The Saturday's singer, Molly King, came face-to-face with her nation's royalty at the Asprey World Class Cup at Surrey's Hurtwood Polo Club. But don't take our word for it...
When the Notorious artist spoke with Closer magazine, she said, "Yes, I have met Harry, and we did go out for a drink." Although it might have been short and sweet, there was untapped potential. However, Harry reportedly cut ties with King "because she was too open about their relationship."
After cutting things off with King, the young bachelor kicked things off with the Norwegian rock star Camilla Romestrand. But this was not a regular drinks and dinner date. Instead, the Prince pulled out all the stops. As for what that called for?
According to CBS News, a report was issued about the couple's time together. In the midst of another on/off relationship, Prince Harry was apparently a "total gentleman." Although it wasn't confirmed from the royal himself, their relationship involved a night at Clarence House and breakfast in bed! Nice touch.
A Love That Burnt Out
While we might not be jumping to conclusions, we might think the Prince had a thing for British or international blonde pop stars. While we know he enjoys his music festival, it seems this was the place for destiny. In 2015, rumors circulated around a blossoming romance between the Prince and Ellie Goulding.
Not only did Goulding sing at Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding reception in 2011, but also at the Invictus Games in 2014. The Daily Mail reported a sighting of the two "canoodling" under a blanket at a polo match. When the question popped up for Goulding, all she had to respond with was a cheeky grin. Enough said?
Finally, we reach probably one of the most complicated relationships of Prince Harry's youth: Chelsy Davy. The two were on and off in their relationship from 2004 until 2011. As his first serious girlfriend, Davy had the pleasure of meeting the Queen and attended Will and Kate's wedding. Yet, attention conquered love.
Once the breakup was official after seven years, Davy was eventually interviewed by The Times newspaper. When she was questioned about the relationship, she expressed, "It was so full-on: crazy and scary and uncomfortable. I found it very difficult when it was bad. I couldn't cope… I think we will always be good friends."
Happily Ever After
Some people come in our lives for a season, and others for a reason. Prince Harry kissed a few frogs before meeting his Princess. In July 2016, after stumbling across Meghan Markle on Instagram, everything changed. The two were set up by a mutual friend on a blind date, and the rest was history.
"I didn’t know much about him, so the only thing that I had asked [our mutual friend] when she said that she wanted to set us up, was, 'Well is he nice?'" Markle recalled. Sure enough, after struggling to patch the wounds from Bonas, it seems Prince Harry has finally found his happily ever after...