VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the former royal highnesses best known to the public as Harry and Meghan, appear to have left their wooded paradise on Vancouver Island in western Canada for the bright lights of Los Angeles.
The luxury Canadian estate where Harry and Meghan lived is perfect for one of the world’s highest profile married couples. Located in a wooded suburb of Victoria, British Columbia, called North Saanich, the property itself is stunning and picturesque, surrounded by lush forest and the Pacific Ocean. It is also in a neighborhood that gave them space and discouraged nosy paparazzi.
News that the couple was in the area first broke when they announced plans to mark this past Christmas and New Year’s in Canada, rather than with the rest of the royal family in Britain. Those Christmas holidays stretched into the spring, when the couple announced they would be stepping down from royal duties.
It should be noted that Queen Elizabeth, Harry’s grandmother, is officially head of state for Canada, a member of the Commonwealth. It is one of the 16 countries where she is nominally in charge.
Recent reports of Harry and Meghan’s departure from this scenic beauty to the not-so-secluded and urban southern California has surprised many locals and royal watchers. In typical Canadian fashion, they are as much sorry as miffed to see them go.
One of them is Shawn Wade, a lifetime fan of the royal family. He is the president of the Royal Commonwealth Society in the Vancouver area.
He hopes that the move is just temporary and they will soon return from “La La Land,” a common nickname for Los Angeles.
“I hope that this is just a small trip to Los Angeles,” he said. “I feel kind of sad. I liked having our own version of the royals here. And I think if they wanted to get out of the goldfish bowl, they picked us -- Saanich or Greater Victoria was a great place to go. But I think La La Land is not.”
There are many reasons for the couple, along with their young son, Archie, to move down to Los Angeles, where Markle was born. Prior to marrying Harry, she was a television actress and her mother, Doria Ragland, still lives there.
Retired minister David Spence, is a lifetime member of the Monarchist League of Canada and is also in charge of the Royal Commonwealth Society on Vancouver Island, where the town of North Saanich is located.
He was surprised to see them go, but thinks it was to be closer to Markle’s family and perhaps for more opportunities. While he also is hoping for their return -- either for Christmas or more permanently, he hopes Harry and Meghan can redefine roles for the royal family.
“I wish them well,” he said, “I would certainly welcome them to return to the Vancouver Island.”
Reports on the move of Henry and Meghan got the attention of U.S. President Donald Trump, who, in a tweet, welcomed them to the United States but said the U.S. would not pay for their security.
The couple lost a taxpayer-funded Royal Canadian Mounted Police security detail at the end of March, when their right to use their titles of His and Her Royal Highnesses expired.
When they initially moved to Vancouver Island, a number of people and organizations objected to Canadian tax dollars being used to pay for their security, since they were no longer working members of the royal family.
One of those groups is the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a nonprofit organization known for championing lower taxes and more open government. British Columbia director Kris Sims says any presence of the couple should not mean a return to publicly funded security.
“The main reason why the Canadian taxpayers Federation had concerns about the moving here is that as much as we have affection for them, and most Canadians do for our royal family, this is a rich and famous couple making a lifestyle choice, and your average hardworking Canadian taxpayers shouldn't have to be footing their bills for their lifestyle choices,” Sims said. “And to their credit, they said they wanted to be financially independent.”
If Harry and Meghan do feel like returning to Vancouver Island, they will probably wait until after coronavirus health restrictions are eased, whenever that might be. The Canada-U.S. land border is closed by road and ferry to all but essential traffic.
If they return, Markle might also be able to find work in the British Columbia entertainment industry. Although based on the mainland in Vancouver, it is often referred to as “Hollywood North.” It is the third largest production center for film and television in North America, with a fraction of the paparazzi, pollution and traffic jams of southern California.