The second three-part installment of the Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan hit the streaming platform late last week. And though these episodes offer a bit more juicy behind-the-scenes information than the first three (Prince William shouted at Prince Harry! And texted him after the Oprah interview!), which premiered December 8, the series overall has been criticized for being one-sided and a bit boring. Anyone who follows royal news likely didn’t get too much new information, but one fascinating thing this show did provide is a look inside the properties Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have called home the past few years, particularly their first pad as a couple.
Harry and Meghan were set up by a mutual friend, and the beginning of their relationship was long-distance, with him living in London and her still filming the show Suits in Toronto. In 2017, she moved into the London home where Harry had been living since 2013, Nottingham Cottage. This two-bedroom brick home sits on the grounds of Kensington Palace, which started out as a small country home and was transformed into a royal residence by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1689. They enlisted the architect Sir Christopher Wren to design their new palace, but, according to the Historic Royal Palaces website, Queen Mary was “excited by the project [and] took charge of [it] to transform this little house into a palace.”
Although Kensington Palace features all of the trappings one might expect, like a grand drawing room with red silk wall coverings covered in paintings with gilt frames and a painted ceiling, today those spaces are open to the public for tours. The living quarters of today’s royal family are simpler. As children, Princes William and Harry lived with their parents, King Charles and Princess Diana, in apartments 8 and 9 at Kensington. Today, apartment 1A is the London base of Prince William, Princess Kate, and their three children. Images of these dwellings are scarce, but the ones that have been released show none of the boldly colored silk damask and gold present in the public-facing areas of the palace. Diana decorated her place with interior designer Dudley Poplak in a decidedly English country style, with cream and light blue and plenty of delicate patterns on the walls and sofas. William and Kate have admitted to furnishing their children’s rooms with IKEA.
Although the modern royals aren’t living in a scene out of a Keira Knightley period piece, the aforementioned apartments are certainly much, much grander than the average home. Apartment 1A underwent a million-dollar renovation before the Waleses moved in, and boasts 20 rooms spread out over four stories. Nottingham Cottage, on the other hand, is closer to the home of the average Briton. As shown in Harry & Meghan, the small cottage has incredibly low ceilings, a simple kitchen with a black-and-white checkerboard floor and a blue tile backsplash, and low-key decor.
“The whole thing’s on a slight lean,” Harry says in the show. “He would hit his head constantly in that place because he’s so tall,” Meghan adds. Harry then tells of Oprah Winfrey’s reaction when she came to Nott Cott, as the home is often called, for tea. “When she came in, she sat down, she goes, ‘No one would ever believe it.'”
This bit of the documentary services Harry and Meghan’s narrative that royal life was constricting and is not all it’s cracked up to be. And, although it is fascinating to be reminded that not all of the royal homes fit the stereotype of what a “palace” looks like, in the big picture of things it is kind of hard to feel bad for them considering they were allowed to stay in this cottage rent-free. The property is what is known in the UK as a “grace and favor” home, meaning it is owned by the monarch and lent out to members of the royal family at their discretion. Many of Harry’s relatives had lived there before him, including William and Kate for a brief stint when their eldest son, Prince George, was a baby. Plus it wasn’t too long until Harry’s grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, bestowed another larger home on him and his new bride. Frogmore Cottage, in Windsor, was also constructed in the 17th century, but underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation to make it habitable for Harry and Meghan. The Netflix documentary doesn’t reveal much of the interior at Frogmore, but shots of the exterior show a big backyard with a swing.
What better drives home their reasons for leaving royal life, of course, are the disgusting, undeniably racist headlines about Meghan that plagued the British tabloids, and the royal family’s alleged refusal to intervene. Their public struggles culminated in the couple moving first to Vancouver Island, Canada, and then to Montecito, where they now reside in a nine-bedroom, 16-bathroom home which they purchased in 2020 for a reported $14.65 million. We can only assume this is where the interview portions of the Netflix documentary were filmed, and if so, the couple are living a life that is quite far away from the British cottage where their relationship began.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest