For a royal couple so much in the spotlight, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex want to duck below the radar while they’re not on duty. While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been incredibly high profile—carrying out a series of official engagements since their spring wedding and undertaking an official tour to Ireland—the newlyweds are now enjoying a well-earned rest over the summer.
The Sussexes, who were last seen in public at a charity polo match last week won’t be back on duty until September. They are on the guest list for a society wedding this weekend and will be in Balmoral next month to spend time with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Meghan is also said to be keen to go back to Los Angeles to see her mother before September. But in between seeing family and friends, the couple will mostly be based at their country cottage, a remote hideaway in the Cotswolds where they now spend most of their time away from the media spotlight.
And it seems that’s what they both might need. For it’s not just this summer’s searing London temperatures that Harry and Meghan want to escape. (There is no air-conditioning in their three-bedroom home in Kensington Palace.) According to friends they are keen to take a break from the public eye.
“They spend a lot of time in the Cotswolds, more than people realize. They are in the country way more than they are in London and they are enjoying a low-key and very domesticated start to married life,” says one of their friends. “Harry’s not around that much anymore. Meghan likes him to keep his diary clear at the weekends so they can be together in the countryside.”
The couple love the area and are currently renting a farmhouse cottage on the Great Tew Estate, which according to locals is patrolled by armed security and surrounded by cameras.
“It’s very clear they want to be private and left alone,” says one local. “The property is in the middle of woodland and you wouldn’t know it was there. It is very remote which is why they like it. It’s like a fortress. There’s a huge security presence, you can’t get close.”
It seems that’s precisely how the royal couple wants it. After the scale of the royal wedding, which was covered by international media outlets and news broadcasters from around the world, Harry and Meghan are keen for a break from the limelight.
Harry particularly is said to be uncomfortable with the level of interest in their lives. At the Sentebale Polo Cup in Windsor last week, the couple were so keen not to be photographed at a lunch ahead of the match that a screen separating them from the adjacent media pen was erected.
“It was quite clear that they didn’t want the press anywhere near them,” says one photographer who asked not to be named. “They were photographed on the red carpet and at the end of the match, but they wanted to be left alone the rest of the time even though this was a major charity event for Harry with a big international press presence.”
When Harry did come face-to-face with the media, he sent the ball hurtling into the press pen and it nearly struck one of the many security officers patrolling the grounds. Harry apologized, joking he wanted to give the photographers a good shot, but it rubbed some photographers the wrong way. Those close to Harry, who issued an unprecedented missive to the press when he was dating Meghan pleading for them to be left alone, say he is determined to protect Meghan from too much exposure in the media.
“He worries there is too much hysteria around Meghan and he wants to row back a bit,” reveals a source.
According to the Daily Express’s royal correspondent Richard Palmer, Meghan, a former actress and a pro when it comes to working the red carpet, is becoming increasingly inaccessible.
“Royal rota journalists are being kept further away from [Meghan] than we were before the wedding That means we can’t hear what she is saying. If you can’t get direct quotes from members of the royal family that often makes for dull stories. You go up afterwards and ask what she said.”
With all the drama over the situation of Meghan’s father, Thomas Markle, perhaps boring is rather appealing to the Sussexes. The couple have urged friends not to speak to the media, and Harry has clamped down on his friendship groups and urged Meghan to do the same.
“They both expect a code of silence. If you talk to the press you’re out,” says the source. “Harry didn’t used to care that much about what was written (in the press), he just said it was a load of shite, but he’s very protective of Meghan and defensive these days.”
According to royal editor Camilla Tominey, the continuing controversy over Meghan’s father has put a huge strain on the couple while the memory of Diana is never far from Harry’s thoughts: “Harry has certainly built an emotional fortress around himself and Meghan. They have both been extremely upset by Thomas Markle’s behavior and that of Meghan’s half sister, Samantha, and other relatives speaking out to the press. “If the royals value one quality in others more than anything else then it is loyalty, and the couple will feel very let down by what’s happened.”
“The princes are both very private people and have tried their best to keep the press at bay ever since their mother’s death,” she continued. “They are extremely protective of their wives and families and will do anything to avoid a repeat of the 80s and 90s when they felt that Princess Diana was hounded.”