Inside the Chateau of Riven Rock: Harry and Meghan’s ‘extraordinary’ California home

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have opened up about their living arrangements in their much-talked-about Netflix documentary, Harry and Meghan.

From 2017 to 2019, the couple lived in Nottingham Cottage within the grounds of Kensington Palace in London. The 1,324 square feet (123 square metre) property was described by the prince as “really small, on a slight lean with low ceilings”.

The documentary hurled the pair back into the spotlight with revelations about the inner workings of the royal family and further accusations of bullying.

However, the six-part Netflix series was not actually filmed in their own home in California, where they moved in July 2020, but rather “a nine-minute drive away from where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex live with their children”, reported Marie Claire.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the series’ location, with its “sweeping vistas over the Pacific Ocean, majestic oak ceiling and impeccably designed interior”, is in fact a £27.3m mansion, addressed 888 Lilac Lane, which is currently up for sale down the road from the couple’s own estate in Montecito, near Santa Barbara.

Prince Harry and Meghan officially stepped down from royal duties in 2020 amid what The New York Times described as an “extraordinary retreat”. They took up temporary residence in several cities before finally settling on California.

Where do the Sussexes live now? 

The Sussexes live in Montecito in Santa Barbara, California, a neighbourhood “renowned for its secluded hillside estates that promise the utmost privacy”, said Hello!  It’s “a full two hours northwest of downtown LA by car, but celebrities have flocked to the area in recent years”, said

The area’s “laid-back and mostly paparazzi-free atmosphere provides a welcome retreat from the hectic hustle of Hollywood and its surrounding environs”. The site reports that Ellen DeGeneres, Ariana Grande and Gwyenth Paltrow are also residents of the area.

The home of the Duke and Duchess is situated on a private road and features “a lengthy driveway and large security gates”, said Hello! It’s officially known as the Chateau of Riven Rock.

What’s the property like?

Multimillionaire software boss Terry Cunningham told the Mail on Sunday that he and his wife Randi had originally bought the 5.4 acres of land to build “the house of their dreams” in 1999, with the property completed four years later. 

He described it as “a beautiful French country house”, inspired by a holiday the couple had enjoyed in the South of France. As well as being “very private”, he described it as “a wonderful place to have lots of family around”.

According to Hello! the house has “a grand total of nine bedrooms and 16 bathrooms”, as well as a library, office, spa, gym, games room, cinema, wine cellar and five-car garage. A separate guest house also has two bedrooms and bathrooms. 

Cunningham said: “The kitchen is probably one of the coolest rooms in the house. It opens on to the side patio where the pizza oven and outdoor tables are. Living in Montecito, there’s a lot of indoor-outdoor lifestyle, so you easily move from decks to indoors.” 

The “Mediterranean-style main house includes a trove of beige and off-white decor”, said Dirt. “Oozing sophistication”, Markle’s office “is an oasis of calm with its natural tones and rustic furniture”, said Hello!, while the living room is “decked out with modern artwork, fresh flowers, candles and organic pottery”.

The garden is “beautifully landscaped” with “tiered rose gardens, olive trees and cypress trees”, said Architectural Digest. There is a “tennis court, a swimming pool, and a chicken coop”, which featured in the couple’s “bombshell” TV interview with Winfrey, which was broadcast in 2021. 

Archie and Lilibet can also enjoy “an adventure playground, a climbing frame, a helter-skelter, and two different climbing walls”, said Hello! Metro reported that there is also a “tea house” and a “children’s cottage”. 

Who paid for the house?

In 2020, a source told US Weekly that Harry “could’ve asked [Prince] Charles to contribute toward the cost of the house”, but he “chose not to” go to his father, as it would “result in the royals having control over him” and would “mean going backwards”. 

The couple “paid out of their own pockets” instead and “have taken out a huge mortgage”, said the source. The estate cost an “unquestionably hefty” $14.65m (£12.12m), said Dirt, and a $9.5m (£7.9m) mortgage was secured to make the purchase.

Omid Scobie, royal correspondent and co-author of Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, told Entertainment Today that the Sussexes “are extremely liquid when it comes to their assets. 

“Harry brings a lot to the table himself and Meghan lives off residuals from Suits and the many appearances that she’s done in other projects too,” Scobie said. In the tell-all interview with Winfrey in 2021, Harry said money left to him by his late mother, Princess Diana, had meant he was able to support himself financially.

US Weekly said the couple were “proud of their purchase” and saw it as “the next step toward their long future together”.  

Will they stay there?

Reports first emerged in January this year that the Sussexes were thinking of selling their Californian home. A source told The Mirror: “They want to stay in the neighbourhood or nearby but they aren’t over the moon about the house and the location.”

At the end of October, similar reports appeared in the Daily Express that the couple were “looking for a new place” in Hope Ranch, a community just ten miles from their current Montecito property.

According to the Express’s Dorothy Reddin: “The family of four’s potential new neighbourhood includes not only a members-only country club and a golf club, but also tennis courts, picnic grounds, and a network of equestrian trails.”

House and Garden reported that the rumoured move was due to a “series of break-ins” at the couple’s current residence. While the two locations “offer similar advantages”, the magazine continued, “Hope Ranch, however, offers somewhat more privacy and security than Montecito”.

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