Why Prince Harry's Ex-Girlfriends Didn't Want to Join the Royal Family

"Because of these exact reasons, these two prior girlfriends did not want to marry into the Royal Family..."

prince harry ex girlfriends
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Before Meghan Markle "just tripped and fell into my life," as Prince Harry put it—the Duke says he knew right away that Meghan was "the one," and they fell in love "so incredibly quickly"—Harry had two major relationships. Most famously, there was Chelsy Davy, who dated Harry on and off for seven years during their twenties. Afterwards, Harry fell for Cressida Bonas, and they dated for two years. Both relationships reportedly ended, in part, because neither woman wanted the pressure of marrying into the royal family. Their fears about joining the royal family mirror some of Harry and Meghan's reasons for leaving it, royal commentator Julie Montagu (full title: Viscountess Hinchingbrooke Julie Montagu) pointed out in an interview for the UK's Channel 5 documentary Harry and Meghan: Three Troubled Years.

Said Montagu: "If you look back at Harry's prior relationships, neither of those girls wanted to commit and now you're wondering: Is that the exact same reason that Harry and Meghan have now left? Because of these exact reasons these two prior girlfriends did not want to marry into the Royal Family."

But neither Davy nor Bonas were subject to the racism that Meghan faced as a member of the royal family—both from the British public and, according to Meghan and Harry, from royal family members themselves. Even so, both of Harry's exes, who remain friends with Harry and attended his wedding to Meghan, have opened up about their fears about joining the royal family and the intense pressure they faced.

Chelsy Davy

prince harry ex girlfriends

Chelsy Davy and Prince Harry in 2006.

(Image credit: MJ Kim)

Davy and Prince Harry met when they were just teenagers and dated on and off until 2010. Speaking to the Times of London, Davy said: "Yes, it was tough. It was so full-on: crazy scary and uncomfortable. I found it very difficult when it was bad. I couldn’t cope. I was young, I was trying to be a normal kid and it was horrible."

Davy was training to be a solicitor for some of their relationship, though she quit the profession in 2014. "I like to enjoy life, but I like to achieve things and am very ambitious. They can be forgiven for not knowing I was working really hard, I didn’t shout about it. If you go out once, they take a picture, but they don’t take a picture of you going to work every morning, it’s of you falling out of a nightclub at 4am," she told the Times. Davy, who is from Zimbabwe, added of their breakup: “It was nuts. That’s also why I wanted to go back to Africa. Now it’s calm, it’s fine.”

In an interview during their relationship, Harry said of the press attention that Davy faced: "I can see how upset she gets…My girlfriend is somebody who’s very special to me, and yes, she’s gone through some very hard times."

Royal reporter Katie Nicholl wrote in her book Harry: Life, Loss, and Love that Davy ultimately ended the relationship after seeing the spotlight placed on Kate Middleton around and during her wedding to Prince William. "Being part of the royal wedding had made Chelsy’s mind up once and for all. The life of a royal bride was not for her and she told Harry she could never make the sacrifices Kate had made," Nicholl wrote

Cressida Bonas

prince harry ex girlfriends

(Image credit: Karwai Tang)

Bonas and Harry reportedly dated for two years, though she has never spoken about it publicly. In 2020, she declined to speak about Harry and Meghan stepping back from the royal family, saying to the Evening Standard: “I wouldn’t take a position on that because it would be a headline,” she said. “Also out of respect. It feels like a long time ago. When it comes up it feels strange because I’m in a different place.”

Still, it's thought that Cressida Bonas ended her relationship with Harry after seeing how the press treated Kate Middleton and becoming "spooked." Wrote Nicholl in her book: "[Cressida] was sitting at home watching Kate on the royal tour of Australia, and it was a wake-up call. There was no way she wanted that sort of attention and she told Harry so."

Wrote Nicholl in her book: "Twice he had been left heartbroken because the women he had fallen in love with didn’t want to share the life he had been born into."

Since the relationship ended, Cressida has been vocal about wanting to be known as much more than Prince Harry's ex. No one likes to be labelled,” she added. “The hurdles for me are when I’m trying to do my work and people want to talk about him. I work very hard and love what I do but it is still something I have to contend with.”