Shielded by trees inside the Queen’s historic Windsor estate, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are settling into their new home, Frogmore Cottage, ahead of the birth of their first child.
Cottage may be too humble a name for a Grade II-listed house with a reported 10 bedrooms, gifted to them by the Queen and refurbished for around £3m. And, according to reports this week, now complete with a vegetable patch and floating yoga studio.
The Frogmore is at least appropriate, given the preponderance of frogs at its nearby lake (a disgusted Queen Victoria once noted they made the grass look as if it were alive).
This is Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s new base, 20-odd miles from their former Kensington Palace home and former neighbours, the Cambridges, as well as other assorted royals also billeted in the west London royal residence Edward VIII called the Aunt Heap.
Photographs of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan and their husbands laughing together, have done little to dampen tittle-tattle, while columnists are quick to pit the two women in particular against each other.
Even the Chelsea Flower Show is not immune, with some gardening media pitching a classic English garden by Kate’s charity against an African climate-change garden by Meghan’s charity.
I was told the tensions were between the two brothers and that they had really gone through quite a difficult patch shortly after the engagement announcement.
But two duchesses having a cat fight that’s a sexier story, says Vanity Fair royal correspondent, Katie Nicholl, author of Harry: Life, Loss, and Love.
n the public’s eye it had always been just the two of them; princeling brothers inextricably bound by tragedy; the memory of them trailing their mother’s coffin in bewildered grief still so vivid.
Then two became a trio on Prince William’s marriage. But with Harry still solo, he looked every inch the spare.
Now married, and having finished serving in the army, Harry is seeking a meaningful role. Already we are seeing the first indications of how he and Meghan intend to operate.
Constant reinvention is the way the monarchy strives to survive. And with his marriage to the American former actor seemingly a politically and emotionally literate, independent, liberal, ripper-up of rulebooks, champion of period poverty and writer of supportive messages on bananas to sex workers it is fair to say Harry’s reinvention is without precedent.
Brand Sussex will have an international stage from which to promote their messages on humanitarianism, environmental awareness and mental wellbeing.
But the fact that their offices will be under the canopy of the Queen’s most senior advisers will not be without challenge, predict royal-watchers.
A parting of logistical ways for the brothers was always inevitable, aides say. Senior royals historically set up their own households on marriage, the Yorks and Wessexes being recent examples.
It was wilful misunderstanding to characterise it as some kind of fallout, says Andrew Morton, Meghan biographer and author of the global bestseller Diana: Her True Story. Palace sources stress that having two households is about preparing both couples for their futures.
The long-term plan had always been for Harry to have his own household once married. Now he and Meghan are about to have their own family, and have a new official residence, it made sense to start moving to this permanent structure.
William is in the ascendancy. He will become Prince of Wales, then king. His household is headed by private secretary Simon Case, 40, a former principal private secretary to both prime minister Theresa May and her predecessor David Cameron.
William’s recent three-week attachment with the security and intelligence services, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, illustrates well how divergent the brothers roles will be. William has a lot to learn, about the Duchy of Cornwall, about government, and about many other things that Harry need never concern himself with, says Little, pointing out that Harry’s position can only diminish as he slides down the line of succession.
They need back-up teams to be independent because their roles are so different. But that’s a boring story. That’s not what the tabloids want to hear.
William, Kate and their three children are now the core royal family, and will be constrained far more by convention. Kensington Palace will feel more traditional and domestic-based compared to the Sussexes, Nicholl says. William and Kate, as future king and queen, will obviously perform big overseas tours.
But, particularly when it comes to the Commonwealth, that overseas representation is very much going to fall on Harry and Meghan, Nicholl adds.