A Canadian Christmas seems to be just what the doctor ordered for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex managed to keep their festive plans under wraps for months before Buckingham Palace confirmed the speculation of their whereabouts in an uncharacteristically open statement after a speculative report published at the weekend.
It’s of little surprise they chose Canada to mark their first Christmas with seven-month-old son Archie Harrison as Toronto set the backdrop to the early days of their love story. For seven years, Meghan rose through the ranks of Toronto society as her role on Suits made her increasingly popular and she developed genuine friendships with movers and shakers in the city.
Before their relationship was made public in 2016, the couple spent six months in relative anonymity getting to know each other, relying on the exceptional discretion of Meghan’s friends, including stylist Jessica Mulroney and husband Ben, a tv presenter. They stayed at the Mulroneys’ expansive Moore Park home and their three children – Isabel, Brian and John – featured in their 2018 wedding.
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Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his greeting to the couple, saying: “Prince Harry, Meghan, and Archie, we’re all wishing you a quiet and blessed stay in Canada. You’re among friends, and always welcome here.”
Given Ms Mulroney’s close working relationship with Mr Trudeau’s wife Sophie, it’s also likely their paths will cross over the festive period. And the couple have been taking opportunities to turn the time away into a working holiday, reporting putting in the groundwork for an American wing of their Sussex Foundation.
When news of the Sussexes six-week break was announced, it came after months of negative press and soon after their decision to sue the Mail on Sunday and Daily Mirror and kick-start what will likely be a lengthy battle with the tabloid media.
As part of their decision to take time away from the spotlight, they originally declined to state where they would be basing themselves in order to maintain as much as privacy as possible. It’s believed they spent Thanksgiving in Meghan’s native Los Angeles before making their way to Canada for the remainder of the holidays.
She’s also joined by her mother Doria Ragland, who lives in Los Angeles but frequently travels to the UK to spend time with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson.
“As has been reported, Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are spending private family time in Canada. The decision to base themselves in Canada reflects the importance of this Commonwealth country to them both,” a spokesperson for the couple said.
This Christmas is in stark contrast to the formality of the past two years at Sandringham, which requires traditional protocol at Queen Elizabeth’s annual family gathering. On Christmas Day, royals line up to greet well-wishers and pose for photographers outside the St Mary Magdalene Church and spend the day adhering to traditional celebrations dictated by the British monarch.
In particular, they are focused on spending as much time as possible with their baby son and allow him to bond with his grandmother Doria. “You have to remember one thing, Sandringham is quite a formal affair,” Omid Scobie, a royal reporter who has established himself as a Meghan Markle authority in the last year, said.
“You know, on Christmas Day when the family get together for Christmas lunch, children are separated from the parents. They actually have their own celebration in the royal nursery at Sandringham.
“So they wouldn’t have got to spend as much time with Archie as perhaps they would have liked.”
Meghan’s decision to join her in-laws for the first two years after her engagement was a sign of her commitment to her duties, but after unwavering criticism, she is returned to the place that hosts some of her happiest memories. It also means she doesn’t have to endure the scrutiny of her body language with her sister-in-law Kate Middleton and inevitable fashion comparisons.
It will also allow her to introduce her son to friends who have been unable to travel to London to meet her. Many of her Suits castmates still live in the area as is Benita Litt, an entertainment lawyer whom Meghan counts as one of her closest friends. In 2016, she spent Christmas with Litt and her family – including her two children Rylan and Remi who were in her wedding – and is godmother to them.
During her blogging days with The Tig, Meghan shared insights about her highlights of Toronto including her favourite restaurants – like Italian eatery Terroni – and Kensington Market, a boho neighbourhood with vintage boutiques and artisan food stalls.
An established cook, who wrote at length about her passion for festive cooking and decor, she also sourced her bread from Blackbird Bakery Co and 4 Life Natural Foods. Although life is different this time around, her affection for the city is unwavering and she might finally have the chance to celebrate it with her family.
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