Harry’s relationship with Chelsy and William ‘damaged by newspaper articles’

The Duke of Sussex’s relationship with his former girlfriend Chelsy Davy and his bond with his brother were damaged by newspaper articles produced by alleged unlawful information gathering, the High Court was told.

Harry believes Ms Davy decided a “royal life was not for her” due to a string of stories about the couple, the trial heard.

Harry is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for damages, claiming journalists at its titles, which also include the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, were linked to methods including phone hacking, so-called “blagging” or gaining information by deception and use of private investigators for unlawful activities.

Duke of Sussex
Harry and Chelsy Davy after a service of remembrance at the Army Garrison Church in Windsor (Steve Parsons/PA)

When the duke clashed with his brother over the best way to handle Paul Burrell, their mother’s former butler, their alleged disagreement was the subject of a 2003 story in The People that contributed to the “seeds of discord” being sown between the siblings.

The press intrusion left Harry, who in 2020 stepped down as a working royal and moved to California with his wife Meghan, “suffering bouts of depression as a result”, his barrister David Sherborne told the court.

Mr Sherborne said that in his witness statement, yet to be made public, the duke described the “constant stream of stories” about his relationship with Ms Davy.

The barrister told the High Court the duke referred to “how little chance this relationship was given because of this” and described how it affected his relationships going forward.

Zimbabwean-born Chelsy dated Harry for about seven years. They coped with a long-distance relationship while the duke was training in the Army and overseas and Chelsy was at university in South Africa.

Royal wedding
Chelsy Davy attended the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Chris Jackson/PA)

They split in early 2009 and, after both reportedly had flings, rekindled their relationship, and in May 2010 Ms Davy made a rare public appearance to watch Harry receive his wings after completing his Army Air Corps helicopter pilot course.

The reunion was not permanent and the couple broke up again. They remained friends and she attended his wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018.

Mr Sherborne said: “As he explains, it was as if they never felt they were on their own, which placed a huge amount of strain on their relationship and ultimately led Ms Davy to decide a royal life was not for her.”

Mr Sherborne added: “It also caused their circle of friends to become smaller and smaller, meaning that relationships were lost entirely unnecessarily.”

Harry alleges about 140 articles published between 1996 and 2010 contained information gathered using unlawful methods, and 33 of these have been selected to be considered at the trial.

Paul Burrell
Paul Burrell, former butler to Diana, Princess of Wales (Steve Parsons/PA)

One of the articles put before the trial is a December 2003 report from The People, headlined: “Wills… Seeing Burrell is only way to stop him selling more Diana secrets. Harry no… Burrell’s a…”.

Mr Sherborne referred to the article which detailed an alleged row between the duke and his brother over Mr Burrell.

The barrister said: “Even at this very early formative stage, the seeds of discord between these two brothers are starting to be sown.”

“Brothers can sometimes disagree,” Mr Sherborne said, adding: “But once it is made public in this way and their inside feelings revealed in the way that they are, trust begins to be eroded.”

The barrister added: “One can see how the mistrust can set in from an early age, exactly because of this type of activity.”

The brothers are now estranged, with the breakdown in their relationship laid bare in the duke’s controversial autobiography Spare, which claims William physically attacked Harry and teased him about his panic attacks.

Harry’s claim is being heard alongside three other “representative” claims during a trial which began last month and is due to last six to seven weeks.