Prince Harry and Cressida Bonas’s decision to ‘come out’ as a couple by publicly embracing on the ski slopes of Verbier on Wednesday was a move that took the UK’s corps of royal journalists and palace insiders equally by surprise.
Harry has made no secret of his hatred of the press coverage of his and William’s personal life, so it seemed odd that he was willing to put the relationship – which up until now he has successfully kept unsubstantiated – in the headlines. Cressida now seems almost certain to be a fresh subject of fascination for the public, which means her life will change beyond all recognition.
So why did he do it?
It is unlikely, young London socialites who know Cressida, say, to have been as a result of pressure by her to come out. Desperation doesn’t play well at the court of this 21st century Prince Hal, and Cressida has won Harry’s heart by being incredibly laid-back about their relationship. It’s not in her nature to hassle him about anything.
While spokesmen for the Prince went for an official ‘no comment’ when asked about the relationship yesterday, there was no mistaking the shock in the corridors of St James’s Palace that Harry and Cressida had apparently decided to out themselves, ending months of speculation begun when Harry and Cressie, attended a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in the summer last year (and spent most of the movie noisily chatting to each other).
They arrived and departed the event separately, but they then moved on to Le Salon nightclub in Mayfair together. In a clumsy attempt at subterfuge, Bonas left the club at around 4 a.m, and Harry left just two minutes after her.
The couple had met at a world music festival in the spring, introduced by Princess Eugenie, and throughout the summer, as Harry focused on his foreign tour and the Olympics, he did his best to keep the relationship under wraps.
Cressida even went as far as to tell pals that Harry was ‘not my type.’
However, Cressida was part of a group which traveled after the Olympics to Richard Branson’s Necker Island, and at this stage the relationship was known about to those in Harry’s inner circle.
The pair are well-suited. Cressida is known to have a wild side, and the week-long vacation in the Caribbean was a hedonistic affair. Photographs apparently of Harry passed out on the sand were posted on facebook by one of the travelers.
Although Harry was into Cressida, sources say that their relationship became much more serious after the Vegas picture scandal. Cressida stood by him, and was utterly unfazed by the fact he was playing strip billiards with blondes he just met in the casino downstairs. Harry wrote and emailed her frequently from Afghanistan.
Cressida's chilled-out approach to harry's naughty antics likely comes from her mother, 60s socialite Lady Mary-Gaye Georgiana Lorna Curzon – MG for short - who famously posed naked and covered in engine oil on the cover of a 60s style magazine. MG has five children by three husbands.
So why, after a year of careful subterfuge, did Harry decide to publicly embrace Cressida on Wednesday morning?
There is a possibility that the move was driven by Harry’s old foe – alcohol.
Sources told the Daily Mail today that the night before the pictures were taken, the couple partied until the early hours at a Verbier nightclub.
The Mail says that by 3.30am Harry – shirtless and very drunk - climbed through a small rear window of the club in order to avoid waiting photographers spotting him with his girlfriend.
‘He was off his face by the time he even arrived here,’ a member of staff told the Mail. ‘They kept him in a booth in the nightclub and pulled a curtain around it but he kept trying to escape. He even took his shirt off.”
Although Harry undoubtedly knew there were photographers around, it seems likely that in his hungover state he momentarily dropped his guard and embraced Cressida.
A few clicks, and his not-particularly-well-kept secret was out.
It will be interesting to see if the couple now move forward with their relationship, although friends say that at just 24, Cressida has little interest in getting engaged, even to Prince Harry.