It was once thought that Chelsy Davy, Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriend, could become a part of the royal family. Of course, we now know that the prince ultimately ended up falling in love with Meghan Markle and, ever since their relationship became public knowledge in 2016, people have been itching to know everything they can about the royal couple. From their blossoming fairytale romance, star-studded royal wedding, and journey to becoming parents, there’s hardly a day that goes by without something new for fans of the royal couple to fawn over.
However, it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses for the royal couple. In early 2020, they announced their decision to step back as senior royals (aka "Megxit"). There’s been speculation of Harry having a rift with his brother Prince William. Additionally, Harry and Meghan decided to fight back against the British tabloids with a lawsuit (via CNN World).
Yes, Prince Harry is no stranger to life in the limelight. He’s been at it for decades. In the early 2000s, though, it wasn’t Meghan Markle who was by his side and bearing the brunt of the British press, it was Prince Harry’s first girlfriend Chelsy Davy. But what really happened between the two?
This is when Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy started seeing each other
Prince Harry, like his brother Prince William and countless other British teens before (and after) him, chose to take a gap year before continuing his education. After finishing his studies at Eton in 2003, Prince Harry spent the first part of his gap year in Australia working as a cowboy on a cattle ranch, according to royal expert Katie Nicholl’s book William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls.
The early part of Prince Harry’s gap year in Australia was reportedly not the fun and relaxing time away from the limelight he may have been expecting (via Harry: Conversations With The Prince). After a couple of months in Australia, it was time for Harry’s trip to South Africa, where his relationship with Chelsy Davy began.
Per Nicholl’s book, William and Harry, Prince Harry’s time in South Africa was largely spent doing charity work. However, he took a handful of trips to Cape Town in 2004, where he met up with Davy again after the two originally met through a mutual friend in England.
Prince Harry was smitten with Chelsy Davy right away
Though Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy had initially met in England, their relationship didn’t really take off until Harry’s extended gap year in South Africa. According to William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls, Harry was instantly love-struck by Davy on their first meeting, and when they met up again in South Africa, Harry had "every intention of reconnecting with her."
Harry, for his part, has always loved Africa. His connection to the continent helped him cope after the death of his mother, Princess Diana, the prince told reporters in 2019 (via People). According to royal biographer Angela Levin’s book, Harry: Conversations With The Prince, Davy and Harry bonded over their shared love for Africa.
Throughout his time in South Africa, Harry visited Davy often, William and Harry revealed. As they continued getting to know each other while exploring Cape Town on Harry’s weekend visits, their relationship grew more serious. Harry even wrote to a friend, saying Davy was "the love of [his] life" (via Harry: Conversations With The Prince).
Prince Harry wanted to keep his relationship with Chelsy Davy a secret
The royal family’s relationship with the media is complicated and maintaining privacy has always been a challenge for them. In an interview with ITV News, Prince Harry revealed, "Every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back" (via Harper’s Bazaar). The prince was referring to his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident as the paparazzi relentlessly pursued her. This contentious relationship with the media has been a constant theme throughout Prince Harry’s life.
Before Harry and Meghan Markle started dating, he learned the dangers of being involved with someone publicly. According to royal biographer Angela Levin’s Harry: Conversations With The Prince, Harry wished to keep his relationship with Chelsy Davy private during its early stages. However, that all went out the window once a photographer spotted them kissing in Durban, South Africa. After that instance, the media could not get enough of Davy and Harry.
Chelsy Davy was well-liked by Prince Harry’s family
Meeting your significant other’s family is stressful under any circumstance. Everything, down to what you wear, has to be carefully planned out so as to make a good first impression. Now, imagine dating a member of the royal family — the pressure is nearly unimaginable. Chelsy Davy must’ve made a good impression on the royal family, though, as she was well-liked.
According to royal expert Katie Nicholl’s book, Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, Harry introduced Davy to his father, Prince Charles, and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, over a Valentine’s Day visit. That first meeting went so well that Davy was then invited on a family ski trip.
As their relationship grew more serious, Davy was invited to her first royal wedding (and meeting with the queen) alongside Kate Middleton, Harry revealed. This shared experience served to bond the two together, according to royal biographer Angela Levin’s book, Harry: Conversations With The Prince.
Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy loved spending time in Botswana together
Most everyone knows the feel-good story of Harry and Meghan Markle’s early romance. After just a couple of dates, the pair took a giant leap and went on a romantic getaway to Botswana, where they camped in a tent under the stars (via Town & Country). The trip was so important to their relationship that later, when Harry proposed to Meghan, he did so with a stunning engagement ring featuring a diamond sourced from Botswana.
Nevertheless, Meghan wasn’t the first woman Harry whisked away to Botswana. In fact, the country was a favorite of Harry and Chelsy Davy’s back when they were together. According to royal expert Katie Nicholl’s book, Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, Harry fell in love with Botswana when he was just 13 years old, so it’s no surprise he’s chosen to take the special women in his life there. For Harry and Davy, getaways to Botswana provided the couple with much-needed private time away from the watchful eyes of the paparazzi.
Prince Harry had a reputation as a bad boy while he was dating Chelsy Davy
While most of us get to live out our young adult years without the paparazzi scrutinizing our decisions, the British press has made a headline out of Prince Harry‘s every move for the better part of two decades. In his early 20s, Harry earned the reputation of a "bad boy."
The tabloids wasted no time in connecting him with other women while he was still involved with Chelsy Davy. According to royal expert Katie Nicholl’s book William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls, the summer of 2006 was a difficult time in the couple’s relationship. A slew of women came forward claiming to have had some sort of relationship with Harry, driving a wrench in the couple’s already tenuous relationship. Additionally, two years prior, Harry was had been involved in a late-night altercation with a photographer outside of a nightclub in 2004, per BBC News, thus solidifying his reputation.
Chelsy Davy was there for Prince Harry during a big controversy
The moment that is perhaps most synonymous with Prince Harry’s early 20s reputation came in 2005. According to royal biographer Angela Levin’s Harry: Conversations With The Prince, Harry made the extremely misguided decision to wear a Nazi costume to a friend’s party. If at this point he wasn’t aware of just how consequential his actions were, this would’ve certainly been his wake-up call.
The outrage was swift and unforgiving, according to The Telegraph. Harry was heavily criticized by world leaders and Holocaust survivors alike. Per Harry, even though the royal family was quick to put out an official apology, the public outcry for Harry’s supreme lapse in judgment wouldn’t go away. According to Levin, Harry turned to Chelsy Davy for comfort during this time. Davy quickly flew to be with him during the fallout and proved to be an invaluable support system for the young prince.
Chelsy Davy was hounded by the press throughout her relationship with Prince Harry
The cost of dating a prince is a hefty one with its constant media attention and zero privacy. Though the early months of Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy’s relationship were private, once they were caught kissing on camera, it was game over, according to royal biographer Angela Levin’s Harry: Conversations With The Prince.
While Harry was relatively safe from the media during his time at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, his girlfriend wasn’t, as explained in Harry: Conversations With The Prince. She was tracked by photographers and was followed everywhere. Even when she was in South Africa, there was simply no escape.
Years later, in a 2015 interview with The Times, Davy revealed the extent to which the media attention got to her, saying "It was so full-on: crazy and scary and uncomfortable. I found it very difficult when it was bad. I couldn’t cope."
Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy briefly broke up in 2007
Though Chelsy Davy had weathered the storm that was Prince Harry’s early 20s as best she could, one 2007 tryst threatened to end their relationship for good. Just a few months after Davy moved to Leeds to be closer to Harry (and attend a post-graduate program at the University of Leeds), she seemingly called off their relationship altogether. According to royal expert Katie Nicholl’s book, William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls, Harry’s flirtation with a waitress was a breaking point for Davy. After moving across the world to be with Harry, Davy found that it wasn’t exactly all she thought it would be.
While the latest rumor of another woman was surely a nail in the coffin this time around, there were other factors that contributed to their break. Namely, Davy felt like Harry wasn’t putting in the effort and the two slowly drifted apart — even as they lived closer together than ever before. However, this wasn’t truly the end of the couple’s love story; they were soon very much back on, per William and Harry.
Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy found a surprisingly private oasis in Leeds
Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy got their relationship back on track just a few weeks after breaking up in 2007. After Harry returned from a secret posting in Afghanistan in 2008, Harry began visiting Davy at Leeds in earnest, according to royal expert Katie Nicholl’s book, Harry: Life, Loss, and Love. Their weekends together in Leeds were fun, relaxed, and most importantly, private.
As Harry: Life, Loss, and Love detailed, the prince and his girlfriend enjoyed weekends in Leeds together because they could be away from the public eye. Notably, Davy’s roommates never blabbed to the press about the couple’s whereabouts, so Leeds became a sort of sanctuary for the couple. Though the humble weekends at Davy’s house were vastly different from Harry’s usually lavish life, spending time in Leeds together was just what Harry and Chelsy needed to solidify their relationship.
Chelsy Davy announced her and Prince Harry’s final breakup on Facebook
By 2009, Chelsy Davy and Prince Harry had been together for around five years. And after that much time together, it was clear to Davy that it just wasn’t going to be a lifetime relationship. In what was probably one of the most relatable celebrity breakup moves of all time, Davy announced her relationship with Harry was over by changing her relationship status on Facebook, according to The Telegraph.
At the time, an "informed source" revealed to The Telegraph, "They are two young people who have gone their separate ways for good." Unlike their brief 2007 split, this was really the end for Harry and Davy. According to royal expert Katie Nicholl’s Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, it became clear to Davy that her relationship with Harry was over when, despite no longer being long-distance, the couple stopped spending quality time together.
Though their relationship had clearly run its course, the finality of Davy’s online relationship status change was a slap in the face for Harry. According to Katie Nicholl’s book, The Making of a Royal Romance: William, Kate, and Harry, Harry hadn’t even told his father of the split before Davy made it public news.
A friend said Chelsy Davy was the "right person at the wrong time" for Prince Harry
Your 20s are some of the most formative years of your life. That’s when you experience the world as an adult and have to really find your own footing. Relationships during this age are tricky. You could be madly in love with your partner, but still not even really know who you are yet. As such, it’s easy to see why this royal couple called it quits.
According to royal expert Katie Nicholl’s Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, a mutual friend to Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy said, "It just seems to be a case that it was the right person for Harry but the wrong time." Davy had weathered the scrutiny and media attention that came along with dating a royal, but after several years in the spotlight, it had all become too much to bear, The Telegraph explained.
Additionally, the publication revealed that Prince Harry had seemingly grown to prefer partying and nights out with his friends over spending time with Davy. In truth, anyone paying attention could have probably seen this split coming from miles away.
Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding was a turning point for Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy
While Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy ended their relationship in January 2009, that certainly wasn’t the last time the couple had any contact with each other. According to royal biographer Angela Levin’s book, Harry: A biography of a Prince, speculation over the couple’s relationship status ramped up when Davy attended a ceremony to watch Harry receive his blue beret and pilot’s wings in May 2010.
As it turns out, though, what finally marked the end of the couple’s relationship was Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s wedding in April 2011. According to Marie Claire, Harry reportedly asked for Davy to be invited, even just as his friend because they were still on good terms.
According to Angela Levin’s Harry: Conversations With The Prince, seeing William and Kate’s lavish ceremony front and center convinced Davy that she and Harry were right to break up. The royal life was truly not for Davy.
Prince Harry called Chelsy Davy one last time before he married Meghan Markle
Do you ever really forget your first love? Prince Harry and Chelsy Davy spent five long years together and though they may have felt breaking up was the right call, that didn’t make it any easier. Even years later, Harry reportedly called Davy days before his marriage to Meghan Markle and the two had a very emotional conversation.
Davy’s friend allegedly revealed to Vanity Fair, "It was their final call, a parting call in which they both acknowledged Harry was moving on" (via Elle). Just a few years prior to Harry and Meghan’s wedding, there was still some lingering hope. Royal expert Katie Nicholl confirmed to InStyle, saying, "Right up until 2015 they were trying to give it another chance."
The finality of Harry’s wedding was reportedly a lot for Davy to handle — so much so that she almost pulled out of going to the wedding altogether after speaking with Harry. At the end of the day, though, Davy donned a navy blue dress and joined Harry’s other ex, Cressida Bonas, in watching Harry get married (via Elle).