A pertinent detail: this is the first home the couple has owned themselves. (Frogmore Cottage was gifted to them by the Queen.) Nor, Vogue has learned, did they take a loan from Prince Charles, or any other family member. For once, they are beholden to no one but each other. (And, well, the bank. Even British royalty needs to make their mortgage payments.)
This new ownership is, of course, kind of the point: When the Duke and Duchess quit royal life, they did so with this statement: “We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent.” Later, they elaborated that this was about more than autonomy with money: “The Royal Family respect and understand the wish of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex to live a more independent life as a family, by removing the supposed ‘public interest’ justification for media intrusion into their lives,” reads a line on their official website.
“Public interest” was, indeed, the rationale behind much of the coverage about their U.K. home, Frogmore Cottage. Frogmore Cottage’s renovations were paid for by the Sovereign Grant, or the fund annually given to the royal family by the U.K. Government. Critical commentary about its multi-million-dollar costs were routinely discussed in the papers, blogs, and social media spheres. The emphasis on public involvement often factored into other arguments about the couple’s (real or perceived) slights: some believed that it was wrong to keep their son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor’s christening a secret from the general population when public money footed the bill.
Now, that’s an argument that can no longer be made. Because the only money Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are spending is their own. (Markle had a career before becoming a royal, after all, and Prince Harry benefits from an inheritance. Though at the moment, the couple’s plans for ongoing income—whether through speaking fees, or other work—are unclear.)
That’s not to say they now live a tabloid fodder-free life. There will always be interest in the couple, and their lifestyle—Prince Harry, after all, has been a celebrity since birth, and the Duchess enjoyed fame as an Hollywood actress. As they continue to make appearances in the public eye, it’s unrealistic to think the spotlight will ever turn off completely.
But slowly and surely, the Sussexes are morphing from royals to, well, regular California celebrities. Their goings-on may pique our daily interest and curiosity, but truthfully they owe us nothing. They want to show us a picture of their baby? We’d love that, but certainly can’t argue it’s our right. They want to put fancy things in their fancy home? The only person who can be justifiably outraged about it is their accountant.
For Harry and Meghan, perhaps that’s their version of California dreamin.’