Cressida Bonas is fast making a name for herself as a respected actress. But to some she’ll perhaps always be better known as the former girlfriend of a certain royal. Yes, long before Meghan Markle entered the picture, Bonas was tipped to become Prince Harry’s future wife. And as her career took off, the star revealed exactly how she felt after their high-profile split.
Bonas first showcased her acting talents on the small screen in 2016 period drama Doctor Thorne. A year later she made the step up to feature films with roles in horror The Bye Man and historical romance Tulip Fever. Bonas has also trodden the boards on several occasions.
The Great Gatsby and An Evening with Lucian Freud are just a few of the plays that Bonas has graced over the years. She’s also appeared in the promo for James Arthur single “Naked” and enjoyed modeling stints with Mulberry and Burberry. Bonas then really made her mark with her performance in crime drama White House Farm, which is based on a true story.
An almost unrecognizable Bonas portrayed Sheila Caffell in the British series. The real-life mom was initially believed to have killed her parents and her two young sons before turning the gun on herself, during a horrific farmhouse incident in the mid-1980s. However, it was later discovered that Caffell’s brother Jeremy was behind the shocking murders.
Bonas even managed to impress the actual ex-husband of the tragic character she played. Appearing alongside the actress on British breakfast TV show Lorraine, Colin Caffell revealed that he’d been bowled over the first time he saw Bonas’ portrayal of his ex-wife. “I thought, ‘Gosh, it is Sheila at that,’” he explained.
Caffell then turned to Bonas directly to offer his gratitude for her sensitive portrayal of the woman he once loved. “It was remarkable how you did that, you really did pick up the fragility of her character,” he said. “You added a very heartfelt insight to that, and I thank you for it.”
Bonas subsequently expressed how glad she is that attitudes have changed since the mid-1980s. “I think back then mental illness was treated so differently to how it is now,” she said. “If it had happened now, she wouldn’t have been attacked for having mental illness. Now, we’re so much more aware and we talk about it in such a different way to how we did then.”
As well as impressing in the TV drama, Bonas has also built a loyal audience with Fear Itself. The podcast asks various famous faces to open up about their biggest fears and the ways in which they cope with them. Singer Ellie Goulding and White House Farm co-star Freddie Fox are just a few of the guests who’ve appeared.
In a June 2020 interview with Vogue Australia, Bonas explained what inspired her to begin making Fear Itself. “It started off as a journal, I would just talk to people from different walks of life, about their fears, and how they faced it and how they overcome it,” she explained. “And then I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting… to record these conversations, and then release them?’ And perhaps other people listening can learn something [and] feel less alone with their fears.”
“[The idea] really came from just thinking about… fear as a concept really, and fear in my life,” Bonas continued. “I was interested in the dynamic between… how it motivates you… how it also can be very limiting and hold one back. And I wanted to know people’s stories around that really. And I really enjoy doing it. What a gift… to learn from other people.”
And things are going well on the romantic front, too. In 2019 she became engaged to Harry Wentworth-Stanley, a property agent. Unfortunately, though, their wedding had to be put off temporarily due to circumstances beyond their control. But the pair are still hoping to walk down the aisle at some point in the near future.
Whenever the ceremony takes place, though, it won’t be as elaborate as her ex-boyfriend’s wedding, that’s for sure. Indeed, in an interview with ES Magazine, Bonas admitted that organization isn’t her strong point and said that she wants to keep things strictly low-key. “I won’t have a huge wedding, that’s not really us,” she explained.
“We aren’t traditional people, even though Harry [Wentworth-Stanley] proposed in a traditional way,” Bonas added. “I’ve never thought about how someone would propose to me.” She’s very clear on her choice of outfit, too. “And I don’t want a meringue dress. People look beautiful in them, but I don’t think I would.”
However, Bonas doesn’t want the wedding to be quite as low-key as her father has suggested. “My dad thinks we should do what people did in his day: church service; glass of champagne; father of the bride speech; best man toast; cup of tea; piece of cake; bride and groom leave; guests ‘bugger off’ – three hours tops,” she wrote in The Spectator. “This is not what I had in mind.”
Wentworth-Stanley might not be a royal but he still has quite an impressive family background. His mother is the Marchioness of Milford Haven, while his stepfather is the 4th Marquess of the same town. His step-siblings both have titles, too: Henry, Earl of Medina and Lady Tatiana. And he actually began seeing Bonas romantically before Prince Harry.
Yes, Bonas and Wentworth-Stanley first entered into a relationship while they were both studying at Leeds University. However, when the latter headed out to the Argentina for a year, the pair decided to call it quits. They then reunited in 2015 and have apparently been head over heels in love ever since.
Of course, Bonas will always be renowned for her romantic connection with another Harry. It was through Princess Eugenie that they first got to know each other, and the actress began stepping out with the future Duke of Sussex in the summer of 2012. However, their two-year relationship was never particularly straight-forward.
Just a few months after they started dating, for example, photos of a naked Prince Harry frolicking in Las Vegas with a bevy of women emerged in the press. The relationship was tested further when the royal spent nearly five months away serving in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, Harry apparently stayed in contact with Bonas throughout his tour of duty.
And the couple seemed to pick things up where they left off on Harry’s return in early 2013. They were subsequently photographed skiing in the Alps, at a friend’s wedding and visiting various music festivals. Then, towards the end of the year they enjoyed a few days together at Sandringham, the famous royal residence in Norfolk, England.
Bonas suffered a major tragedy in early 2014, however, when her stepfather, who’d been battling several illnesses, allegedly took his own life. She was helped by Harry through this difficult period and the couple later attended a royal appointment together. But in April that same year the pair announced that they’d gone their separate ways.
So, why exactly did the once-happy couple split? Well, according to the tabloids the media attention surrounding Harry’s brother and sister-in-law gave Bonas a sign of things to come. And she didn’t like what she saw. Yes, the star was left overwhelmed after watching the media fanfare surrounding Prince William and Kate Middleton’s visit Down Under.
Katie Nicholl, a royal biographer who penned the book Harry: Life, Loss and Love, told The Sun, “Cressida had been ‘completely spooked’ while watching TV coverage of William, Kate and George touring New Zealand and Australia that spring. There was no way she wanted that sort of attention. And she told Harry so.”
Nicholl also believes that the prince did everything he could to change Bonas’ outlook. “Harry suffered a real blow when she said, ‘I can’t do this.’ I think she really broke his heart,” the writer claimed. “Twice [Harry] had been left heartbroken because the women he had fallen in love with didn’t want to share the life he had been born into.”
Indeed, Prince Harry’s previous girlfriend had also called time on their relationship after realizing life as a future royal wasn’t for her. Chelsy Davy began the prince during 2004 when they were in South Africa. Their on/off relationship finally came to an end seven years later, with the scrutiny of the press cited as a major reason for the break-up.
In fact, Davy ended up returning to Africa in order to get away from the glare of the media spotlight. She later revealed how much she struggled with press intrusion during an interview with The Times. “It was so full-on,” Davy told the British newspaper. “Crazy and scary and uncomfortable.”
“I found it very difficult when it was bad. I couldn’t cope,” Davy continued. “I was young, I was trying to be a normal kid and it was horrible.” Nonetheless, Davy also stated that there are no hard feelings between her and Harry, adding, “I think we will always be good friends.”
In fact, both Davy and Bonas attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018. Moreover, according to reports, the Duke of Sussex will return the favor when Bonas eventually gets to walk down the aisle with her second long-term boyfriend named Harry. And in a 2020 interview with Australia’s The Daily Telegraph, Bonas admitted that her royal relationship is still impacting her life.
Indeed, the actress revealed her concerns at being pigeonholed due to her previous connection to Prince Harry. The star was being interviewed to promote the premiere of White House Farm in Australia at the time. And she believed that her “It girl” label, in particular, could be damaging to her career.
“I think terms like that are very narrow-minded,” Bonas told the newspaper. “I think that I work very, very hard. I love what I do. And I just hope that this role has shown people what I can do and what I would like to do going forward and not be caught in a box in any way.”
Of course, Bonas’ “It girl” tag didn’t stem entirely from her royal dalliance. Her mother, Lady Mary-Gaye Georgiana Lorna Curzon, was also branded as one back in the Swinging Sixties. And with Edward Curzon, aka the 6th Earl Howe, for a grandfather, she was no stranger to mixing in high society before Prince Harry came along.
Bonas also appeared to allude to the anxiety she’d felt while mixing in royal circles. “The fear of failing, the fear of rejection, the fear of not getting it right, the fear of not being perfect,” she said. “I think that has limited me in certain situations in my life.”
Nonetheless, Bonas seems to have learned how to conquer such issues in the years since her break-up with Prince Harry. “I think I have grown confident and fortunately I have learnt not to sweat the small stuff too much,” she added. “And I just think it has definitely given me a stronger sense of purpose and a stronger sense of what I want or don’t want.”
Moreover, this isn’t the first time that Bonas has talked about how her career has been negatively affected by her royal romance. Just a few months earlier, in fact, the actress told ES Magazine that being in a relationship with Prince Harry had created several obstacles in her profession. She said, “No-one likes to be labeled, no matter what it is about or where they come from.”
Bonas also acknowledged that she’ll always be questioned about her two years together with the Duke of Sussex. “The hurdles and barriers for me are when I’m trying to do my work and people want to talk about him,” she explained. “I work very hard and love what I do – I just want to continue.”
However, Bonas refused to comment on her ex-boyfriend’s decision to relinquish his senior royal duties. She stated that she “wouldn’t take a position on that because it would be a headline.” Bonas added that she was also taking such a stance out of respect for the Duke and Duke of Sussex.
“What’s the expression? How would I feel if the shoe was on the other foot and it was an ex talking about me?” Bonas expanded. “It feels like a long time ago, so when it comes up it feels strange because I’m in a very different place now – I’m getting married, I’ve learned a lot.”
The subject of Prince Harry also cropped up in an interview with BBC Radio 4 in 2017. The star was asked whether her relationship with the royal gave her an “insight into having your life defined… by a much more famous man?” Bonas replied, “I find that people are very quick to put you in a box, or put you in a corner, and think ‘Oh, well you’re that, so you must be this.’”
“It’s incredibly frustrating, especially in the industry that I’m in,” Bonas added. “But, you know, it is the way it is. It’s about making a stand and saying, ‘No, this is who I am and this is what I want to do.’” So, what next for Bonas?
Well, in a May 2020 chat with the Evening Standard, the star revealed that she wants to continue pursuing challenging parts. “I just hope that when [the acting industry] does re-open, I can carry on doing it, as it is what I love doing,” Bonas said. “I hope that I get to play roles of a similar ilk.”
Bonas was being interviewed to promote her work for a new audiobook utility that’s aimed at kids and designed to bring in money for for the NHS. Rupert Everett, Suki Waterhouse and Hugh Bonneville are just some of the famous faces also lending their voices to the project. Bonas read out Giles Andreae’s Giraffes Can’t Dance for her contribution.