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04.26.11

Chelsy Davy, Prince Harry's Hard-Partying Royal Wedding Date

It's not their multiple breakups or her father's tainted millions in Zimbabwe but her first name's association with track-suited, chain-smoking "chavs"—and her wild nights out—that ensure Chelsy Davy will never follow Kate Middleton down the royal wedding aisle.

If only Chelsy Davy, Prince Harry’s date for his brother’s wedding, weren’t called Chelsy, there might be some hope for the on-again relationship.

That Chelsy’s white African father got rich operating big-game safaris where punters pay thousands of dollars to shoot endangered species like leopards and elephants in Robert Mugabe-controlled Zimbabwe could be brushed under the carpet. The persistent allegation that she is a wild party girl—the pair was recently smuggled out of a London nightclub in the trunk of a car to avoid the cameras—might be accepted at court with little more than a heavenward glance; after all, Harry is a legendary partier himself. Even the bleach-blond hair, miniskirts, and Chelsy’s usual look, like she’s at one end or the other of a four-day bender, might not completely rule her out. I mean, she couldn’t be any worse than Fergie, right?

But Princess Chelsy? Even for the most forward-looking courtier, that might be a modernization too far.

The name Chelsea/Chelsy was intended originally to reflect the old-fashioned class and rich sophistication of the London district of Chelsea, but something, somewhere, went horribly wrong. Now the name Chelsea—or even worse, “Chelce”—is synonymous with the flash but low-rent tracksuit-toting, chain-smoking, welfare-check-cashing lifestyle usually referred to in the U.K. as “chav culture.”

Characters in the soap Eastenders, which charts the lives of cockney Londoners, call their children Chelsea. And if you hear someone bawling the name “Chelsea” in a British supermarket—and it’s one of those names that is always being bawled—the one thing you can say about that person is that they will very definitely not be posh.

And not being posh is still an issue in Britain, especially if you have a shot at marrying into the royal family. For several years, Kate Middleton had to put up with whispers of “doors to manual” and the pointing out of imaginary emergency exits when she entered a party because her mother was an air hostess, not a duchess. But Kate is nice and quiet and inconspicuous, whereas Chelsy is loud and brash and stands out. “She is great fun and a REAL party girl,” writes one friend. “Yes, they are back together, and they are a wild couple together.”

At least Mrs. Middleton had a proper job. Chelsy’s mother, Beverley, is best known in her homeland for having been Miss Coca-Cola Rhodesia. Her picture was plastered all over the company trucks as they delivered the beverage to stores around the bush.

Chelsy’s dad, Charles Davy, was born in South Africa in 1952, and his family immigrated to what was then Rhodesia when he was 9. Davy went into the hunting-safari business with a senior Zanu-PF apparatchik named Webster Shamu around the turn of the century, and the partnership proved mutually beneficial. While white farmers were being evicted from their properties, and beaten or even killed by Mugabe’s “war veteran” shock troops, Davy’s HHK Safaris hunting operation thrived, with five concessions and 15 luxury camps across the country. Wealthy Americans and Europeans were flown in to shoot wildlife on one of the HHK concessions. Clients paid up to £17,000 ($28,000) to kill elephants, lions, and leopards for sport.

“She is great fun and a REAL party girl,” writes one friend. “Yes, they are back together, and they are a wild couple together.”

Davy himself has said he was not spared land seizure and has given up 140,000 acres to the government. Of his relationship with one of Mugabe’s henchmen, he told The Daily Telegraph: ‘I am in business with Mr. Shamu and have been for five years. We have an excellent and honest business partnership. Why should this change? I am in business not politics. I am in partnership with a person whom I personally like and get along with.’

Davy has since sold his share in the business.

Chelsy was born in 1985—allow us to do the math; she’s 25—in Zimbabwe, but she was educated at tony Cheltenham Ladies College in the U.K. She returned to South Africa to do a degree in economics but moved back to England in 2007 to study law and to be near Harry, whom she had met in 2004.

The course of true love has not run smooth. The couple first met when Chelsy was a 19-year-old pupil at CLC.

In April 2005, Clarence House denied claims Harry had cheated on his new girlfriend with 17-year-old Alexia Bergstrom, whom he met in a nightclub in the Swiss ski resort Klosters. Then in June 2007, the prince, at the time a second lieutenant in the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry, was pictured being kissed by two bar girls while on Army training in Canada. There were further embarrassing reports that he had invited a third barmaid back to his rented house and “cavorted” in front of her in a blue and orange sarong before whipping off his boxer shorts and spanking her.

Chelsy and Harry have split up many times over the years. In 2007, when the couple broke up, Harry’s reaction was to boast that he planned to get “as drunk as possible.” The pair was reconciled the following month.

Their latest official reconciliation may not prompt an outpouring of public affection by the Great British public. We may be ready to take Kate the commoner to our hearts, but embracing Chelce the chav is a much bigger ask.

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Tom Sykes, 36, is a British writer and journalist. He was formerly nightlife reporter for the New York Post and now tries to live a largely blameless life in Ireland with his wife, two kids, three pigs, six hens, and a turkey. He is the co-author, with Detmar Blow, of Blow by Blow, a biography of Isabella Blow.