At home with Harry and Meghan

We take a tour of Montecito, California for an insider's guide to the A-list neighbourhood

This week we take an exclusive look at what life will be like for Lilibet and Archie in Montecito, California. The fabulous Frances Rivetti took a trip to the beautiful district and wrote the following piece for us. Frances is a Northern California-based British-American writer and author – find out more about her work and books here and on Instagram here. This is what she found:

The most surprising thing about visiting the birthplace of the most recent royal, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, is how under-the-radar Montecito is.

Once a dangerous place for outlaws and grizzly bears that hid out in the wooded canyons, 100 years of gentrification of Santa Barbara’s effortlessly-chic south-eastern neighbour marks the suitably mellow arrival of Lili, daughter of Meghan and Harry, little sister to Archie and eighth in line to the throne.

According to locals, Lili’s arrival on June 4 in the Spanish-style Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, founded by a group of philanthropic women in 1888 and fondly referred to as “the country club”, could not have been more of a happily low-key event.

Hollywood allure isn’t something the residents tend to focus on much. With mega-celebs such as Oprah next door, who wants to be the one staring at the star who has ridden their bike to the coffee shop? Montecito, population around 9,000 means “Little Mount” in Spanish and is located some 90 winding coastal miles north of Los Angeles.

It’s the perfect spot for a royal and celebrity hideout, given its relatively remote and rustic setting that commands the finest views of the Pacific on one side, flanked by an extraordinary backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the east. The area is known as The American Riviera thanks to its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, rich heritage, world-renowned food and wine scene, stunning natural beauty and near-perfect weather.

It’s a blissful spot for the Sussexes to settle in their modern, nine-bedroom, 16-bath home, positioned at the end of a long, gated driveway amidst the lemon-scented, giant cactus and bougainvillea-studded hills above town.

Lilibet and Archie will undoubtedly enjoy greater childhood freedom growing up here, whether playing with their parents on the sandy stretch of nearby Butterfly Beach, horse-riding and hiking in the hills or climbing trees for a panoramic view where the only sound is that of the Pacific Ocean waves. 

In town, chic toy stores and kids’ clothing boutiques abound. A newly-graduated high-school student and locally born-and-raised retail assistant working behind the counter in super luxe children’s store Poppy Marché said she hadn’t yet seen Meghan out shopping although the couple were often spotted eating out in the area. No-one is remotely bothered about their royal neighbours. In fact, no-one I talked to during my visit had much to say about Lilibet’s arrival at all, except to wish them all well and acknowledge it’s nice to have the family in its midst. The paparazzi were nowhere to be seen a few days after the baby’s birth.

Unlike the outlaws and grizzly bears of old, one of the great gifts of the sleepy area is that camera crews and celebrity stalkers stick out like sore thumbs in a small community of casually-clothed retirees, city-slicker designers, surfers and reclusive movie-types minding their own business in the courtyard eateries at the civilized Montecito Country Mart.

Battle of the baby name

The locals might not be fussed, but Lilibet’s arrival caused a kerfuffle of a different kind, with another war of words. Did Harry ask the Queen if he could use her name, or tell her instead? That’s the question asked in the British press this week and things became so heated, the Sussexes called in the lawyers. Kerry wrote an opinion piece about the royal ruckus for The Sunday Telegraph this week - here is an extract.

The Duke and Duchess maintain they would not have used the Queen’s nickname without her permission, but a palace spokesperson told the BBC the Queen “was not asked.” Harry and Meghan hit back with their legal firm Schillings stating the BBC’s report was “false and defamatory.” Buckingham Palace did not deny the claims.

Admittedly it was a surprise Harry and Meghan, having been so, erm, frank, about the Royal Family, named their daughter after the head of it. But, then, she’s Harry’s nanna, he loves her and it’s not unusual to call your child after your grandmother, whose name – unlike Diana yet – has generally recycled itself into fashion. Three of the Queen’s five other great-granddaughters have Elizabeth as their middle name, as do three of her four granddaughters. Lilibet – or Lili, which she’ll be known by – is a beautiful name. Surely they were honouring the Queen; it’s just another version of calling her Elizabeth, Lizzie, or Betty.

We think they missed an opportunity - they could have gone full Kardashian and called her Royal, or Queenie. The reaction could hardly have been worse.

Royal 5 charm at the G7

The Royal 5 dream team was out in force this week, hosting world leaders at the G7 summit in Cornwall. The Queen sent the dignitaries into fits of laughter when she posed for a formal photograph and joked, “Are you supposed to look as if you’re enjoying yourself?” Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured her they all were.

The summit was attended by the Queen, Charles and Camilla and William and Catherine. The Queen met President Joe Biden and Jill at a reception at the world famous biome gardens the Eden Project on Friday night and Catherine attended events with the First Lady.

HRH had travelled down to Cornwall - Britain’s favourite holiday destination - on the train. We’re slightly, OK, very, jealous. For more on Cornwall, have a look at Kerry’s guide for Escape.com.au.

Beep, beep! Diana’s retro wheels for sale

Fancy a nippy run-around with low mileage (83,000) and still in pristine condition given it’s 40 years old? Dig deep down the back of the sofa because Diana’s 1981 silver Ford Escort Mk3 Ghia is up for auction on June 29 and it’s estimated to hit £40k.

Bought by Prince Charles in May 1981 as an engagement present, Diana used it until August 1982 and was often snapped in it - see here. The auction house, Reeman Dansie, confirm it comes complete with the original plates and a replica of a silver frog mascot on the bonnet. The original was a gift from Lady Sarah McCorquodale to her sister, a nod to the fairytale of the frog-kissing girl who married a prince. Sarah’s an ex of Charles, so she should know.

The car’s current owner of 20 years, Tina Kirkpatrick, is a huge fan of Diana, Princess of Wales, and told The Times she never let on to friends that a royal icon used to be in its velour-covered driving seat. We’d have been honking that news to everyone.

Plant a Duke of Edinburgh Rose

As well as Lili, another flower hit the headlines this week: a rose named after the Duke of Edinburgh was presented to the Queen in a ceremony to mark what would have been Philip’s 100th birthday.

Deep pink with white lines and double-flowered, the Duke of Edinburgh Rose was presented by Keith Weed, the (in)appropriately-named President of the Royal Horticultural Society, and planted in the East Terrace Garden at Windsor. The Queen said it was “lovely” and a “very kind” tribute to her beloved husband.

For every rose sold - buy them here - a donation will be made to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Living Legacy Fund, which will give a million more young people the chance to do the duke’s scheme. Blooming marvellous!

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