Meghan's beloved haunts, celebrity neighbours and an Eton-style school for Archie are on their dream house checklist. Michelle Davies reports
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are facing a new dilemma this week. It’s not quite as monumental as them deciding to quit the Royal family but it certainly could be as life transforming. Weeks into their official new life, the couple must decide exactly where they intend to live as they carve out their alternative existence in Canada. The matter has become pressing because permanent security arrangements need to be put into place – including deciding who will fund it.
Presently the couple are holed up in a borrowed mansion on Vancouver Island, off Canada’s east coast. It was where they spent their six-week sabbatical over Christmas and New Year and where they decided to drop the bombshell that they were stepping away from senior royal duties. Surrounded by acres of parkland, it has afforded them a certain level of privacy – if you ignore the legal warning issued to photographers snapping Meghan in Horth Hill with eight-month-old Archie. But is Vancouver ideal for a long-term residency? We suspect not.
In fact, the smart money’s on them settling in Toronto, where the blueprint for their new life together already exists thanks to Meghan’s previous experience of living there while she filming Suits. She already has a list of favourite hangouts, including Terroni, an Italian deli and restaurant where –according to Vanity Fair’s September 2017 cover story – she stocked up on jars of hot peperocini piccanti chillies to toss through pasta, organic greens and lashings of olive oil.
She was also a regular at Harbord Room, where her former boyfriend Cory Vitiello was previously a chef. Canada’s answer to Jamie Oliver, he’s since set up his own rotisserie shop, Flock, so that will negate the chance of any awkward encounters (Vitiello and Meghan were said to be on the path to marriage before their sudden split weeks before she was first linked to Harry). Then there’s Soho House, run by her good friend Markus Anderson (who incidentally she met through Vitiello), and where Harry famously accompanied her to a Halloween party concealed inside a frog costume (frog + kiss = prince, geddit?).
Meghan’s other favourite go-to places include 4Life Natural Foods, Scandi-themed Fika Café, Bar Isabel and Shangri-La Toronto for a spot of premium pampering.
Another tick in Toronto’s box is that it’s home to Studio Lagree. Meghan studied Pilates Platinum there while living in the city and it appears she has yet to find a viable alternative in Vancouver: she recently flew her LA-based instructor and friend Heather Dorak into town. Talking of close pals, Toronto is also where Meghan’s best friend Jessica Mulroney is based. The self-proclaimed brand consultant is a key member of Meghan’s inner circle and is said to have actively encouraged her to walk away from the ‘stifling’ environment of palace life. It was also Mulroney who babysat Archie when Meghan and Harry returned to the UK at the beginning of January, so living close to her would bring both work and play rewards.
Of course, it’s not all about Meghan and Harry finding their happy place: it’s about Archie too. According to reports, the couple are keen to enrol their son at nursery, so he can interact with other children and broaden his social skills. A seemingly perfect choice is the all-male Upper Canada College, which is apparently modelled on Eton – the Windsor-based school where Harry and his brother William were educated – and takes boys from senior kindergarten (aged five). Prince Philip was even on the board of governors at the school until he retired from public office in 2017. However, given how they want to break free from royal traditions, they may choose a school with less obvious connections.
As for where they’ll actually live, the city’s most exclusive neighbourhood, the Bridle Path estate, is tailor made for them. Dubbed ‘millionaires’ row’, palatial houses there sell upwards of £5 million and in 2018, Drake had a 35,000 square feet mansion built there complete with a full-sized basketball court. Other famous residents over the years have included Celine Dion and Prince, so Harry and Meghan should fit in quite nicely.
Indeed, Meghan herself said in 2015 that it’s easy for someone famous to live in Toronto under the radar. ‘It’s really funny, because I think as [big as] Toronto is, it’s so different from LA or New York. There [are] no paparazzi so it’s really easy to just have a normal life,’ she said. Only time will tell if it stays like that for them.