Which raises another question: Have the young royals actually thought through what might await them in the Golden State?
The Sussexes have declared that they intend to be “financially independent.” By all accounts, Harry and Meghan have a rather luxurious lifestyle to maintain, and California is not the easiest place to stretch a dollar. Living large in the state includes a 13.3 percent top marginal state income tax rate — the highest in the nation. Even the royals’ infant son, Archie, could one day take a massive tax hit: Some Democratic state lawmakers hope to impose a 40 percent tax on the estates of couples worth more than $7 million.
Housing isn’t cheap either. In Los Angeles, a castle fit for a prince easily fetches eight figures. LeBron “King” James paid $23 million for a crash pad in Brentwood when he came west. Something more modest is still likely to set them back quite a bit: A $1.5 million house in Los Angeles is at the “lower end” of the market. Even a two-bedroom, one-bath, 2,400-square-foot “discounted Spanish bungalow” in Long Beach — 25 miles from L.A. — fetches nearly $1 million.
Monthly budgeting is a challenge, too. The Sussexes would certainly want to avoid local retailers like organic grocery Erewhon market, where a Mason jar of cauliflower puree fetches $15 and organic hothouse cucumbers go for $4 a pop. Suddenly, Windsor-subsidized meals — even if they entail English cuisine — seem a lot more palatable.
Harry and Meghan also need to give serious thought to their likely quality of life. If the goal is privacy, they’re in for a hard landing. Think paparazzi in Britain are tough? In Los Angeles they lurk at every restaurant, nail salon and colonic hydrotherapist that celebrities frequent. If Harry and Meghan have any hope of being left alone, they’ll need to choose a spot like Palos Verdes, which is far less glamorous than the Sussexes’ usual environs.
If they choose to live with the swank set in Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades, there will be no escape from the camera. Just ask Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. If they land in Malibu, they can anticipate literally busloads of tourists gaping at their front door.
And what about Archie? Part of the Sussexes’ decision to “step back” from royal duties seems motivated by the desire for a “normal” upbringing for Archie. But what’s normal for the more than 700,000 children attending L.A. public schools — teacher strikes, classroom overcrowding and academic underperformance — is probably not what the duke and duchess are seeking for their own child.
Even Meghan went to an all-girls Catholic private school when she was living in Los Angeles. Archie would be more likely to end up at an institution like Santa Monica’s Carlthorp School, or another favorite of the Westside entertainment crowd, the nearby Crossroads School for Arts and Education, where the curriculum has covered “structuralism, semiotics, deconstruction, Marxism and psychoanalytic criticism.” There goes “normal.”
Especially if Archie never gets to see his parents. If they are serious about finding gainful employment to cover their living expenses, they’ll probably work long hours, travel a lot, or both. Add to that the daily L.A. commute — the worst in the nation — which last year averaged 119 hours sitting in traffic. Remote Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Castle estate looks more appealing by the minute.
If California isn’t likely to do that much for the Sussexes, what can they do for California? As part of their “progressive” new lifestyle, they seem keen to carve out advocacy roles. He’s worried about climate change; she’s concerned about the plight of women. But the Golden State already has a famous European trying to save the planet — former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s currently waging “World War Zero” on carbon. And as anyone who watched the Golden Globes knows, Hollywood isn’t exactly lacking celebrities who’ve made feminism their cause.
Which raises the broader point: What does British aristocracy add to a town already awash in “royalty”? Sure, the Windsors have been cash cows for Hollywood. But how will the real-life royals measure up against the big-screen versions? Once Harry and Meghan have ditched the pomp and circumstance, they’ll just be two more beautiful and famous faces in a city overrun with them.
Considering everything they’d have to give up to make California home, that’s a pretty uninspiring outcome. Maybe Canada is the right bet for them after all.