For many trans-Atlantic couples, there is a debate about where to live.
It’s made considerably more complicated in the case of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who are said to be contemplating setting up a second home in America, by the fact that he just happens to be the sixth in line to the British throne, which implicitly requires him to spend rather a lot of his time in Britain.
On Tuesday morning, for example, the duty that his role entails was on full display. Harry was all smiles as he attended a press call to launch next year’s Invictus Games, the Paralympics-style event he has masterminded for wounded military veterans.
Harry looked happy, proud, and in his element as he gave a powerful and hopeful speech in which he said the wounded servicemen, -women, and veterans who have taken part in the past four games have not only saved their own lives, but those of others they have inspired.
It was a pitch-perfect royal moment, and it was hard to imagine an utterly British event like this carrying the same moral authority and weight had a suntanned Prince Harry just jetted in from Malibu on a private jet to cut the ribbon.
Harry’s appearance Tuesday cut a dramatic contrast to the self-pitying figure he cut in an interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby, in which he said he had grown apart from his brother and claimed that the flashbulbs of photographers triggered anguished flashbacks to his mother’s life and death.
It was a fascinating, behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives that left little doubt that the couple, battered by a year of astonishing hostility from the British media and increasingly out of step with and distanced from the Windsors as well, are seriously tempted by the idea of moving overseas.
But the practical difficulties of such a move are awesome.
Indeed, Harry confirmed as much in his protocol-shattering interview; he said he wished he and his wife could live in Africa, but that such a decision would be fraught with problems.
“We’ve just come from Cape Town. It would be an amazing place for us to be able to base ourselves—of course it would. But with all the problems that are going on there, I just don’t see how we’d be able to make as much difference as we want to,” Harry said, adding: “I think it’s a very hard place to live.”
In recent days, the conversation has shifted once again to the idea of the couple living in America.
This has been triggered by unconfirmed reports that Harry and Meghan will be taking six weeks off work around Thanksgiving, and will be spending a large chunk of that time in Los Angeles, near Meghan’s mum, Doria.
The notion that Harry and Meghan could live in America has been speculated about almost since their engagement was first rumored, and their decision to hire a U.S. PR firm, Sunshine Sachs, to handle their charity and philanthropic work, only increased the sense that they were building a U.S. powerbase.
The Daily Beast understands that Meghan has not given up her U.S. passport and has no intention of doing so, meaning Archie could apply for dual citizenship.
A source this week told The Sun: “There’s an acceptance that things haven’t worked out with the Sussexes full-time in Windsor, so they could have a second base in America.”
Columnist Dan Wootton said the break in California was being viewed as a test for a potential future move.
Speaking Tuesday on ITV breakfast show Lorraine, Wootton added: “What I have learned is that after six weeks in California, they are considering a potential part-time move there. We could be looking at a situation where they might spend great swaths of the year in the U.S.”
The palace would not be drawn when approached for comment by The Daily Beast; however, official sources attempted to shoot down the story to The Sun, saying that such “inference on their plans is pure speculation.”
As well as the political and image ramifications of moving overseas even part-time, any such decision would also be likely to open a massive debate about whether it would be acceptable for them to continue to receive public funding.
The outcry over what many would see as a relatively modest sum of around $3m of public money spent rebuilding the decrepit and rundown Frogmore Cottage for the couple shows just how vulnerable they are to such criticism.
If they were not even living in the U.K. full-time, the annual publication of the royals accounts would be an even more fraught occasion than it already is.
The only real way out for Harry and Meghan, if they do genuinely want to divide their time between the U.K. and any other country, would be to renounce their HRH status.
But, as Valentine Low, royal correspondent for Times of London, told The Daily Beast recently, that’s a huge sacrifice and would also massively reduce their potential for impact: Philanthropy on the global scale they clearly envisage, as Low pointed out, “requires a platform and if they were to give up their HRH status and retreat to a farm in the countryside, that platform would be much less prominent. Look what happened to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after he abdicated: They became no-longer-important people.”
The reality is that for Harry to be taken seriously as a hard-working member of the royal family rather than a playboy dilettante, calling anything other than the U.K. home would seem to be a stretch.
But if there is one thing we have learned about Harry and Meghan, it is their endless capacity to surprise us.