by Sarah Grossbart | Tue., Nov. 27, 2018 3:00 AM
He wasn't being literal.
When Prince Harry joked at their first ever Royal Foundation forum this February that he and brother Prince William (and by association, their spouses Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton) were "stuck together for the rest of our lives" he meant as partners in the organization they set up in 2009 to champion the causes they are both equally passionate about, as members of The Firm, dedicated to representing their beloved grandmother Queen Elizabeth II in all aspects of their public life. But not, as it turns out, as neighbors on the sprawling grounds of Kensington Palace.
Because on Saturday, Harry and Meghan's expected post-wedding real estate bump was announced and, to the surprise of many, it's not leading them to the residence's 21-room Apartment 1, just a stones throw from the four-story spread William and Kate share with Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 3, and 8-month-old Prince Louis, but rather some 25 miles away to the Queen's Windsor Estate.
And while it would be easy to continue the narrative that started when it was revealed the two brothers intended to divide up their two courts into the House of Cambridge and the House of Sussex, the idea that Harry is at war with his sibling simply isn't true. Nor is Meghan begging her husband to put some physical distance between her and Kate. The two duchesses are admittedly quite different and likely not destined to become besties, but getting along has never really been a problem no matter how many stories are written about their supposed battle for the spotlight.
Rather, the issue is with London—more specifically with in-the-spotlight existence city life would mean for Harry and Meghan's heir, due to make his or her appearance some time next spring. While pictures of Harry's childhood romps with his 27-months-older bro would suggest that their Kensington Palace childhood was quite idyllic, the problem lies in the fact that there is photographic evidence at all.
Quite simply, a source tells The Daily Mail, Harry is keen "to escape the goldfish bowl of royal life."
As recently as this fall, the 34-year-old seemed okay with signing up for more, a source telling The Daily Mail there were "multiple" home options available for the couple looking to upgrade from their quaint, but small, two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage. The list included the reported Apartment 1, with the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester happy to downsize to a smaller Kensington property.
But after he and Meghan, 37, returned from their first major royal tour—16 straight days of posing for cameras, answering intrusive questions and shaking countless hands at their pre-event walkabouts—they revealed they'd reached their decision, telling aides to start plans on the renovation of Windsor's 20-room Frogmore House.
The site of their May wedding reception, the country spread is no doubt "a very special place for their royal highnesses," as the palace said in a statement. But that's just one reason the cottage appealed to the expectant pair. While there were practical considerations (the UK paper noted renovating historical Apartment 1 could cost somewhere in the neighborhood of the $5 million-plus spent to bring William and Kate's pad up to snuff), the main factor was the well-being of their future Lord or Lady.
After all, George and Charlotte spent their earliest years at Anmer Hall in the far more remote village of Norfolk, a choice William was able to make for his family due to the 10-bedroom spread's proximity to his gig as an air ambulance pilot and his grandmother's blessing. "William is very grateful," a friend told Vanity Fair back in 2016. "It's enabling him and Kate to raise their family in a way that's as close to ordinary as they can get."
But fully committing to royal life last fall meant giving up some of that peaceful anonymity, William's role as king-in-the-making meaning it was more important for him to maintain a London residence. Even in their new, far more public digs, William and Kate have remained committed to giving their brood as normal a childhood as is possible for a trio of title holders. A green space adjacent to their palace home gives the tots a place to run around, but should they wish to have a little more legroom at nearby Kensington Gardens, they open themselves to prying, curious eyes and photographers' lenses.
John Stillwell/PA Wire
"The Cambridges have their garden in the back, which is nice," a source told The Daily Mail, "but there is no real other space for children to play in." By contrast, Frogmore House at Windsor "is secluded, peaceful, tranquil and, most importantly, private," said the source. "No one will see them coming or going."
Plus it comes with one very enthusiastic review. Having grown up in Windsor alongside older sister Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, who now shares a Kensington home with new husband Jack Brooksbank, regaled Harry and Meghan with tales of her happy memories. "It was actually Princess Eugenie who convinced them to make the decision," a source revealed to Us Weekly, "as she had such a wonderful, peaceful childhood on the grounds of Windsor."
And that's precisely what Harry and Meghan are hoping for their future brood. Speaking to Elle in 2015, Meghan waxed on about being raised in a picturesque area of Los Angeles, describing her neighborhood as "leafy and affordable." And though she will be bringing up her child some 5,000 miles and an ocean away, she's still hoping to replicate that quaint slice of suburbia. "They want their children to grow up in as normal an environment as possible," shared the source.
They simply don't see that happening in the city. Since their spring vows, the newlyweds have taken to wiling away as many of their weekends as possible at their Cotswold's country rental on the bucolic 4,000-acre Great Tew Estate. "They spend a lot of time in the Cotswolds, more than people realize," one pal told Vanity Fair. "They are in the country way more than they are in London and they are enjoying a low-key and very domesticated start to married life."
Now they're hoping for the same beginning to their parenting journey. "This proves that Harry and Meghan really want to raise their children out of the public eye," an insider told Us Weekly. "They never loved living in London."
Part of that has to do with Meghan's admittedly rocky transition into her new royal existence. Having spent her first three decades decidedly living life as she pleased, building up her resume with both acting gigs and philanthropic pursuits, entering into a world where her pet causes require express approval and she has to study up on who she is to curtsy to in public settings, well, it's been a bit of a learning experience.
"She's a woman who has lived life into her 30s in her way, she's been a relatively successful actress, has her own humanitarian interests and her own circle of friends," an insider told The Daily Mail. "She is very self-sufficient. Understanding the Palace way, the deference, the politics and the fact that there's a pecking order, is taking awhile for Meghan to get her head around."
Her viewpoints, mixed with Harry's constant desire to please his new bride have caused a few tough moments, continued the insider: "She is quite opinionated and Harry has got very dictatorial of late, which hasn't made things easy at times."
Still, the idea that she's created this huge rift between the brothers or that she remains at odds with Kate, more likely to toe the line thanks in part to her role as future queen consort, is simply not the case. "While there are some tensions behind the scenes," said the insider, "Kate is pretty unflappable and nothing has become bad enough to make Harry and Meghan want to move out. People are genuinely pleased to see them so happy. The truth is that there simply isn't enough room at Kensington Palace for them."
Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
And it's not as if they're cutting William and Kate out of their lives. Maintaining their official office at Kensington means they'll be making the 25-mile commute quite regularly enough that their little one will be afforded plenty of time with his or her cousins and that the fierce foursome can continue making joint appearances at special events.
They just won't be spending every night dining together or grabbing tea on the regular, though a friend maintains to The Daily Mail that was never truly the case. "The idea of the two of them as 'the boys', the brothers doing everything together and living in each other's pockets, has been pushed with good intentions, but hasn't really existed for some time," relayed the friend. "The truth is that they have both just grown up. They are rare in that they live together and work together, but there has been a stepping back."
And, actually, it's only been this past year that the pair have been sharing a backyard, the first time they've lived within walking distance since their days studying to become helicopter pilots with the Royal Air Force back in 2009. "They are still incredibly close, closer than most siblings," said the friend, "but now Harry has married and is about to become a father, so it's a good time for him to be planning his own future. There is no acrimony."
KGC-22/STAR MAX/IPx 2017/AP Images
Which is good, considering the separation is still many months away. The 20-room cottage, gifted to the newlyweds by the Queen, currently consists of five separate apartments with 10 bedrooms total, meaning it will require an extensive renovation until the growing family can move in. "Those will all be knocked into one," a source told Us Weekly, leaving some five or six bedrooms, and a living space for a part-time nanny. (Or, perhaps, Meghan's California-based mom Doria Ragland, the royal having been working hard to persuade the social worker to make England her permanent home.)
The duo are also looking to add a sizable gym where yoga devotee Meghan can "practice privately", reports the mag along with, of course a nursery for their spring arrival. As such, they've accepted that they might be bringing their new baby home to Kensington for their first few months. "While they're really hoping to be moved into Frogmore in time for the birth, they're also realistic," said a source. "With the kinds of delays these projects face and the limited amount of time they have, they're mentally prepared to not be in the new house until autumn 2019."
Which, considering all the wisdom William and Kate have to impart as parents of three, might work out just fine. The brothers have already endured so much together, growing up as pint-sized princes, the world's eyes upon them even before Princess Diana's premature death thrust them into the center of tragedy. "Losing our mother at a young age has helped us to travel through that difficult patch together," William shared during a January appearance at an event for the Campaign Against Living Miserably charity. "You're like-minded. You go through similar things, it's a bond and it's something you know you've tackled together and come out better for it."
And that type of bond, well, it's pretty hard to demolish with just a few miles of physical distance. As Harry once projected, he and his brother are destined to be linked for life.