How can a former royal girlfriend get on with a successful life of her own after she splits with her royal love?
It’s a tough challenge, as public fascination with royal exes persists in a way that it does not when it comes to the otherwise non-famous ex-partners of mere celebrities.
They make for interesting and varied case studies of the problems and advantages that come with being a royal ex.
Chelsy Davy has been deliberately meandering back into public consciousness in recent weeks, posting pictures of herself on Instagram, as she prepares to launch a new ethical jewelry line, to be called Aya Africa.
Chelsy, who mixes with a millionaire-y, aristocratic British crowd, such as Arthur Landon, Sam Branson, Princess Beatrice, and Tom Inskip, is in Africa this week working on the imagery for her new business, and has been posting selfies from Zambia all week on her new brand’s account (their re-publication in the mainstream media shows, perhaps, that a public fascination still persists with her).
It’s not hard to see in these dreamy snapshots a clear sense of the spark and verve that first attracted Harry to Chelsy, who was raised on a private game reserve in Zimbabwe.
Chelsy and Harry—who were together for seven years all told—were believed by almost all of their friends to be made for each other.
They both loved partying and wild nights out, but were also both passionate about Africa, big game and conservation.
Their separation—just weeks after they attended William and Kate’s wedding as an item—came as a huge shock.
After splitting with Harry, Chelsy took an anonymous job at a City law firm, but she opted for a dramatic career change in 2014 when she decided to retrain as a jeweler.
Now, she seems happy enough to use her accidental celebrity to promote the cause of ethical gemstones.
Chelsy is still in regular contact with Harry, and Harry has reportedly been consulted on the new project, and is 100 percent behind it.
There is even speculation that Chelsy might do a big interview to promote the brand when it launches, in which she would touch on her royal relationship.
Although Chelsy insists to friends that she is happier these days outside the royal goldfish bowl, and could not bear to live her life under the level of scrutiny and restriction that being Harry’s bride would demand, there are several who still think they will, eventually, partner up.
“You can’t fight true love. We haven’t heard the end of Chelsy, not by a long shot,” one friend of hers told the Royalist. “Harry still holds a candle for her, they talk a lot, and if she initiated it, he would go back to her like a shot.”
Indeed, there are those who say that the real reason Harry’s subsequent relationships have foundered is because in the back of his mind he is still ‘holding out’ for Chelsy to have a change of heart.
His relationship with Cressida Bonas was certainly marked by seesaw emotions on both sides. They met through her friend and Harry’s cousin, Princess Beatrice, and for a long time kept their relationship secret.
But, just weeks after they finally appeared together in public in the summer of 2014, it was over, following an absurd row about Harry attending the wedding of a friend (Guy Pelly) in America.
Cressida has opted, unlike Chelsy, to embrace her public profile. But as she is (and prior to Harry had been) pursuing a career as an actress and performer (she went to dance college) it can perhaps be argued that she had little choice but to stay in the public eye. While she was dating Harry she actually did try to refocus her career on the art world, working for a spell in a Chelsea gallery, but she was never really happy with that job, friends say.
Post-Harry she has decided to embrace her unusual fame, and has taken on a few projects, carefully chosen from the mass of offers made to her. She did a short promotional video for Burberry, which showcased her dancing skills, was cast in the forthcoming Harvey Weinstein movie Tulip Fever, and has appeared in numerous theatrical and rep productions over the past year.
Cressida makes an interesting contrast to another actress and royal ex, American Koo Stark—who dated Prince Andrew from 1981 to 1983—and is often held up as an example of how not to be a Royal former flame.
She has said that she was once offered a million pounds by the now-defunct News of the World to pose for a picture and confirm she was Andrew’s girlfriend.
Her world fell apart when the media discovered she had appeared naked in a film entitled Emily and Andrew was basically ordered by the palace to leave her.
She struggled to find credible work after the split, and the few roles she did land were comedic riffs on her once-almost-Royal status.
Luckily, she married well, hooking up with Green Shields stamp heir Tim Jefferies (who would later date both Claudia Schiffer and Elle Macpherson). They soon split, though; he called their marriage a “blink-and-you-miss-it situation”.
In 2008 Stark was evicted from her home, and decamped to a hotel in west London, the Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel in Knightsbridge.
“We’ve come here because they know me,” she said at the time. “I can walk through the door and I don’t have to put a credit card down to secure a room, which I would have to do had I gone to the local bed and breakfast.”
Notwithstanding the friendly welcome, her protracted stay there, and inability to settle the final bill, ultimately led to her being declared bankrupt in 2011. She is now a committed Buddhist, lives a simpler life and appears to have found some kind of contentment and peace at last.
In the end, whatever impression the public might have of these girls living charmed lives, when it’s over, royal exes have to get on and earn a living like all the rest of us.
And in pursuit of that deceptively quotidian task, their sometime links to royalty can be as much of a liability as an asset.