He’s warm-hearted and brave, but also recklessly impulsive. A new biography gives a fascinating psychological insight into forces that shaped the playboy Prince. Here, in the second part of our exclusive serialisation, we look at the girls who’ve won his affections . . .
After losing his beloved mother at the age of just 12, it was weeks before Prince Harry smiled in public again.
And who helped him finally set aside his grief for a few brief, joyous moments?
None other than the Spice Girls. He’d seen them perform in Johannesburg as part of a surprise trip to help him cope with the summer’s overwhelming events.
Afterwards, the stars had played their part to perfection, making a fuss of him backstage and introducing him to their celebrity guests.
A few months later, the group came to visit Harry at Highgrove, flying in by helicopter and staying for tea. After they had gone, the delighted boy said to his father: ‘That was the second best day of my life.’ ‘What was the best day then?’ asked Charles. ‘The first time I met them,’ replied the prince.
Now 27, Harry has moved on – up to a point. Writing to a friend, he said his official tour of the Caribbean on behalf of the Queen last May was ‘one of the happiest times of my life – even better than meeting the Spice Girls.’ But his fondness for attractive female company continues.
His latest girlfriend, 24-year-old socialite Cressida Bonas, is entirely in the traditional Harry mould: tall, blonde, leggy and well-connected. The prince was, say friends, smitten from the moment they were introduced by his cousin Eugenie last year.
‘She’s very stable, and a most suitable potential bride for the prince,’ says one friend. ‘Intellectually, she is probably his superior. I’d bet on her being the one when the time comes for him to choose his princess.’
It’s even said that Harry’s aunt, the Duchess of York, has been encouraging Harry to propose to former Burberry model Cressida.
Harry has been spotted recently enjoying himself back in London, hanging out in areas known to be where Cressida does. The Prince was seen last weekend at Bumpkin in Notting Hill having dinner with friends and enjoying cocktails.
According to another close to the party loving prince, he’s in no hurry to settle down just yet. ‘I’m told they talked of marriage in Switzerland this year. Fergie was urging him to propose, but H wouldn’t go that far.
‘That said, he’s seen how happy marriage has made his brother and I think he wants some of that. ‘I’m also informed that Cressida’s mother has told Eugenie she’d love to see them settle down together, but Cressida won’t be rushed any more than he will.’ It is a timely observation, with reports emerging only last week that Cressida does not see her future with the Queen’s grandson.
Harry himself said during an interview last year: ‘As any girl would tell you, it’s sort of “Oh my God, he’s a prince! No thank you.” And, sadly, he added: ‘I’m not so much looking for someone to fulfil the role, but more, you know, finding someone who would be willing to take it on.’
Royal romances: Harry’s latest girlfriend Cressida Bonas (left) is tipped to one day become a princess, but sources say the prince is no rush to propose. Before Cressida, he had been in a turbulent on-off relationship with glamorous law student Chelsy Davy (right)
In truth, there has been no shortage of volunteers. And as I can reveal, not all of them have been as blue-blooded as Cressida.
From the moment he set eyes on the beautiful Laura Gerard Leigh during his troubled time at Eton, Harry fell head-over-heels in love.
Laura’s family’s connections with the royals promised a match made in heaven.
Prince Philip, who’d always feared that risk-loving Harry would make a reckless choice, was said to be delighted when he learned of the budding romance between his grandson and the granddaughter of one of his closest polo-playing friends.
Past flings: Prince Harry had a two-month romance with lingerie model and aristocrat Florence Brudenell-Bruce (left) and a relationship with party-loving TV presenter Caroline Flack (right)
But Laura was not as besotted with Harry as he was with her. Letters he wrote professing his love failed to receive the desired answers. His romantic Valentine cards were responded to with jocular ones from Laura. ‘Harry was heartbroken,’ says an Eton contemporary.
‘I believe he turned to drinking copious quantities of vodka at that time because of it. ‘Laura wasn’t interested in titles and prospects – just love, real love. Her father was a multi-millionaire stockbroker so she didn’t have to care about money. Sadly, from what I witnessed, she decided she wasn’t in love with Harry.’
And then along came a rather different girl, called Margaret – her middle name, as she declines to be identified any further – whose fascinating and illuminating story has never been told until now.
Unlike the high-society beauties who traditionally inhabit Harry’s set, Margaret worked in a grocery store near Eton. They met when the prince, who was still at school, walked in to do some shopping.
‘He was very nice, very polite, and at first I didn’t even recognise him,’ she told me. ‘After we’d been chatting for a few minutes, he asked me if I would join him for a drink later.
‘I told him I had a boyfriend, but he was very persuasive and I agreed to see him at a pub in a nearby town. ‘Another girl who worked with me whispered in my ear, “You know who that is, don’t you? It’s Prince William’s brother; it’s Prince Harry.” I was stunned.
‘The closest I had ever been to anyone famous was when Kenny Everett came to an event in our town and I plucked up the courage to ask him for an autograph.’
Margaret – whose part in Harry’s life has been confirmed to me by a member of the Royal Household, goes on: ‘I didn’t want to be seen with Harry by anyone who knew me, or, more importantly, someone who would tell my boyfriend, so we met up in this pub and I had cider and he had a beer.
‘He was really lovely, although I don’t think he really knew how to behave with someone from the other side of the tracks. Also, I felt so guilty because I knew my boyfriend would have been very upset if he knew.
‘We talked for more than an hour. He asked me about my job, whether I had any hobbies, and when I said I had to go because I needed to catch a certain bus, he asked me for my mobile number.
‘He didn’t offer me his, but he did ask me not to talk to anybody from the newspapers about him – which offended me a bit, so half-jokingly I said to him: “OK, on condition you don’t talk to them about me” – which made him laugh. ‘Anyway, he called me the next day and said he’d enjoyed my company and would like to see me again.
‘We met on two further occasions, and on the second he held my hand and kissed me and said he thought he was falling for me.
‘I felt awful, I liked him a lot but I knew it wouldn’t come to anything and that I risked losing the boy I’d been courting for nearly two years. I was also embarrassed, because there was a man who was obviously his minder hovering in the background.
‘Harry called me several times after that but I had to tell him I couldn’t see him again. He was pleading but I knew it was wrong. I could never be part of his world. ‘I cried buckets after that last call but he never rang me again. I went on to marry my boyfriend, and I’m pleased to say we’re very happy and have two lovely children.’
Margaret adds: ‘I still think about Harry. He’s such a lovely man, a true gentleman. It’s long been my secret and I guess his, too. I’ve read about his girlfriends and I hope he’s happy, but none of them seem like the girl he needs.’
Harry was to find brief consolation in the arms of the TV presenter Natalie Pinkham, a friend of his cousin Zara Phillips, and Beaufort polo club assistant Jo Davies.
But it was the glamorous law student Chelsy Davy who finally captured his heart. The two had met during their school years – Chelsy was a pupil at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, near Highgrove.
But only when their paths crossed again in 2004, during Harry’s gap year travels in Zimbabwe, where Chelsy’s millionaire father owns and runs a game reserve, did they fall deeply and swiftly in love. It was the start of a turbulent romance that would keep royal watchers intrigued for the best part of a decade.
In a letter home to a former schoolfriend, Harry wrote that Chelsy was ‘the love of my life – this one’s unreal’. Announcing on his 21st birthday in 2005 that she was officially his girlfriend, Harry made the only public comment he has ever given about her, saying: ‘I would love to tell everyone how amazing she is. But you know, that is my private life.’
Not for nothing, however, has their rollercoaster relationship been described as ‘on-again, off-again’.
For although he was clearly in love with Chelsy, and she moved from Africa to study at Leeds University to be closer to him, Harry simply found it impossible to be faithful. In May 2006, Harry decided to have a night out on his own after watching a show headlined by Ozzy Osbourne and Lionel Ritchie.
In Knightsbridge, he bumped into Catherine Davies, a 34-year-old mother of two who had recently separated from her husband. Although 13 years younger than her and in a relationship, the young royal introduced himself with the words ‘Hi, I’m Harry,’ and, according to Mrs Davies, the pair were soon on a club crawl, travelling in the back of a Range Rover with two armed protection officers in the front.
They ended up in a flat in Chelsea belonging to a friend of Mrs Davies, where, apparently, they ate bacon sandwiches and posed for pictures in an empty bath.
She claimed the prince gave her ‘a long and lovely kiss’ before she was driven home to Battersea.
In Calgary, Canada, where he was on a training exercise with the Army, his very public flirtation with a barmaid, to whom he’d introduced himself as ‘Gary’ before asking her if she was wearing any underwear, undermined Chelsy’s trust yet further.
Chelsy let it be known that she ‘needed space’. The prince’s response was to hit the social circuit again, briefly teaming up with Astrid Harbord, a friend of Kate Middleton’s, who was spotted escorting him back to Clarence House after a celebratory night at the Chelsea haunt Raffles.
But in January 2008, when Harry’s first tour of duty in Afghanistan was abruptly halted after a news blackout was broken, it was Chelsy he phoned in his despair. Could she be there for him again?
She could, and the couple enjoyed a happy reunion on a rickety houseboat on Botswana’s Okavango delta, cooking their own meals and sleeping under the stars as they went.
Buckingham Palace began to take the relationship seriously. Here was a woman who could comfort a depressed and angry soldier in his hour of need. It had not escaped their attention, either, that he had started calling her ‘wifey’ and she in turn called him ‘hubby’.
Later that year, Chelsy would not only attend Harry’s cousin Peter Phillips’ wedding to Autumn Kelly – where she was introduced to the Queen – but she would also be invited to Prince Charles’s 60th birthday celebrations.
A year on, however, the pressures of their conflicting careers and long periods apart took their toll yet again.
And this time it was the party-loving TV presenter Caroline Flack who caught Harry’s eye. ‘He was fascinated by her wild, carefree attitude and rock-chick lifestyle,’ says a confidante of Miss Flack.
It took a royal adviser to convince Harry that the relationship would do him no good and would not play well with Chelsy, whom he still regarded, he admitted, as ‘the best thing that’s ever happened to me’.
The pair were reunited again in 2010 before splitting for good later that year, with Chelsy declaring that the life of a royal girlfriend is ‘not for me’. She would, however, go on to appear as his ‘plus one’ at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011, prompting speculation of yet another reconciliation.
She even helped him, it’s said, delete some of the saucier parts of his best man’s speech – including a reference to Kate’s ‘killer legs’. But hopes of a reconciliation were dashed when the pair fell out shortly afterwards – about what, no one will say. Some suggest, however, that William and Kate’s wedding had brought it vividly home to Chelsy exactly what was involved in being a royal bride.
Harry announced on Facebook that he was ‘100 per cent single’ before embarking on a two-month summer romance with lingerie model and aristocrat Florence Brudenell-Bruce
‘I think Harry wanted Chelsy to be sure she got the message that he’d moved on,’ says a friend.
‘His Facebook announcement was, I’m sure, sent as a message to Chelsy that if she wanted him back she would have to work for it.’ But one of his friends believes that in the months following their final split, Chelsy was never far from his mind.
‘He doesn’t know what to do, because she’s the only one he’s ever wanted to settle down with, and she’s just not interested in being a professional princess,’ says the friend.
‘I saw him cry one night in The Brompton [nightclub] because, although he was surrounded by beautiful girls who would have done anything for him, it was Chelsy he wanted to be with. She’s not bothered about the “Harry Hunters”: she treats them with the contempt they deserve.’
Another pal is even more forthcoming: ‘Don’t write Chelsy off,’ she says. ‘She was the love of his life for seven years, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t re-emerge at some point in the not-too-distant future.
‘I think they love each other and eventually they will get back together. In fact – and she’ll hate me for saying this – I believe they will marry once she is convinced, of course, that his wandering eye days are over.
‘He still has a few tricks up his sleeve, I think. Watch this space.’
The fact is, Harry has always been unpredictable, impulsive – but as I can reveal tomorrow, also extraordinarily brave.
Read more: Daily Mail UK