Why Meghan and Harry have Canada in their sights

Media captionWhat would Canadians think about welcoming the royal couple?

Since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their intention to step back as “senior” royals and live part-time in North America, Canada has been aflutter.

Will the royal couple make the great North their home? Where will they live? What will they do?

While we do not know where they intend to settle, it was confirmed to the BBC’s royal correspondent that Meghan had left for Canada.

She and the prince had been in the UK to make their announcement, following a six-week Christmas holiday in greater Victoria, on Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia.

Our correspondent said Buckingham Palace was “blindsided” by the couple’s statement.

If they do choose Canada as their home, here’s why we shouldn’t be surprised.

A Victorian Christmas

The pair were spotted hiking in the woods outside of Victoria over the holidays, according to Canadian media.

Musician David Foster, who is originally from the area, told the Daily Mail that he helped arrange for them to stay on the secluded estate of a friend. His wife Katherine McPhee went to secondary school with Meghan in Los Angeles.

Since then, international media has flocked to the city amid speculation that the couple may decide to settle there semi-permanently.

“There’s media from across the country and around the world, and from your country from across the pond that are already looking to set up shop here,” Scott Fee, the news director at local CHEK-TV, told BBC Breakfast.

“So the tabloids are en route if not already here.”

A deluge of press is probably precisely not what the royal couple was hoping for. Last October, Prince Harry and Meghan publicly revealed their struggles under the media spotlight, and they hinted at it in their recent announcement regarding their decision to live part-time in North America.

“This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter,” read their statement, which was posted on the couple’s official Instagram on 8 January.

What about Toronto?

Meghan has had close ties to Canada for many years, although she is an American citizen by birth and her mother lives in California.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry seen during their first public appearance at the Invictus Games
Image captionMeghan Markle and Prince Harry share a joke

She lived in Toronto for six years while filming the television series Suits. During their courtship, Prince Harry visited her in her Seaton Village home, and she joined him at the 2017 Invictus Games, which were held in the city.

Her ties to Toronto did not sever when she moved across the pond.

One of her closest friends, Jessica Mulroney, lives in Toronto with her husband, Ben Mulroney, the son of a former prime minister. Their three young children were even a part of Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding party.

It has been speculated, but not confirmed, that baby Archie stayed with the Mulroney clan this week while Meghan and the prince flew to the UK.

What can Canada offer?

By and large, what Canada can offer the royal couple is a degree of privacy and informality that they are not afforded in the UK.

Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Although Canadian media has certainly taken a keen interest in their exploits here, Canada just doesn’t have the same tabloid culture or paparazzi as Britain or the US. The country also has a lot more secluded spots where they could, if they wanted to, hide away from the flash of bulbs.

Don’t think creepy log cabin in the woods – think luxurious estates on pristine lakes surrounded by pine trees, located on dirt roads that would make it difficult for caravans of photographers to follow their trail.

It is telling that there was not a single paparazzi photograph of the couple during the six weeks they were on Vancouver Island.

Prince Harry, Meghan, and Archie, we’re all wishing you a quiet and blessed stay in Canada. You’re among friends, and always welcome here.

They certainly wouldn’t be the first royal to make Canada their home.

In 2018, writing for the National Post, Tristan Hopper suggested that the Duke of Sussex should consider taking on the role. It’s appointed by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister, to be her representative in the Commonwealth.

Archie and Prince Harry

“One of the chief pitfalls of the job of governor general is that it takes smart, ambitious Canadians and essentially imprisons them in a palace with strict instructions to do what they’re told,” he wrote.

Prince Harry had lived his whole life in an unreal bubble of security and privilege where even the slightest partisan nod could yield a week’s worth of Daily Mail headlines. If there’s anyone who knows how to be clothed in immense power that they never, ever use, it’s the House of Windsor.”

This week, a poll conducted for the Postmedia newspaper chain by Dart and Maru/Blue Voice Canada also suggested that 60% of Canadians would approve if he were to become governor general.

What do Canadians think?

The couple have come under fire in the UK after the BBC revealed the palace was not informed of their decision to step down from most of their royal duties, and to seek to become financially independent.

Prince Andrew, Prince Harry’s paternal uncle who has come under scrutiny since the arrest and suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, spent six months on exchange at Lakefield College School, and maintained close ties with the school’s community after leaving.

Princess Patricia of Connaught, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, lived in Canada with her parents when her father, Prince Arthur, was appointed the governor general. There, she was greatly beloved and her portrait was even used on the one-dollar banknote issued in 1917.

Indeed, prior to 1957, all of Canada’s governor generals were part of the British aristocracy, which has led some to speculate that Prince Harry could carry on the tradition.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Piers Morgan said the couple wants to “keep all the trappings of royal life without any of the hard, boring bits, and the right to cash in on their status however they choose”.

But Canadian media has taken a decidedly more friendly tone.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II pose for a picture during the Queen's Young Leaders Awards Ceremony on June 26, 2018

In the Globe and Mail, Anne Donahue expressed glee that the couple might be moving to Canada, and called their decision to step away from the royal circus a “fairy-tale ending”.

“Meghan and Harry’s choice to step back has sparked the type of change in which everybody wins. They’ve begun to help dismantle an institution that often seems a historical relic. And they’re very publicly choosing to stop putting up with the nonsense, on their own dime and in their own way – a power move.”

Not everyone is thrilled.

On Friday, the Monarchist League of Canada cautioned Prince Harry and Meghan that “any public support for their desire to occupy a new, hybrid role combining their royal status with more personal freedom could disappear quickly were there to develop a feeling that, even inadvertently, they had in some way showed disrespect to The Queen, whose style is self-effacing and whose watchword is duty.”

But by and large, Canadians are pretty chuffed at the idea – and they’re willing to sweeten the pot if it will help convince them to stay.

Coffee-and-doughnuts franchise Tim Hortons offered them free coffee for life.

That promotion led to considerable backlash of its own.

Some of the company’s franchises have come under fire over staff wages, and for how they treat homeless patrons, and many took to Twitter to tell Tim Hortons their money should be going to the community, not the Sussexes.

“Wow, talk about tone-deaf. Sort out paying your workers a living wage before you start giving freebies to the rich,” tweeted Erin Carson DeWolfe.

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