Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, have finished their Royal duties for 2019 and are readying to fly across the Atlantic for an extended vacation break in California.
The getaway comes after a year of sustained controversy for the “exhausted” couple, with Markle lamenting at one stage during their summer tour of Africa how hard it is to carry out her role in the public eye.
She spoke soon after arriving on the 10-day flying visit along with a team of 13 assistants, including a “social media officer” and a hairdresser, as well as a Scotland Yard security detail numbering at least a dozen officers.
The last time the former Suits actress was seen in public was earlier this month during the Remembrance Sunday service with the rest of the Royal family. The Duchess, 38, watched the ceremony from the balcony of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, alongside the Countess of Wessex and Sir Timothy Laurence.
Now the two want to celebrate Thanksgiving with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, at her Los Angeles home as well as the possibility of Christmas and New Year festivities.
That means Harry, who has always spent Christmas with the Queen at Sandringham with the exception of 2012 when he was in Afghanistan, will be apart from the rest of the Royal Family who always gather at the Queen’s Norfolk estate for the festivities.
Harry, 35, embarked on his final Royal outing for the year when he made an appearance at the OnSide Awards at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday night. The Duke heaped praise on climate change activist Greta Thunberg, 16, and urged youngsters to “unlock your potential and realise the difference that you can make.”
The past 12 months have been busy for the Royal pair, with them spotted at one stage taking four private jet flights in just 11 days as they criss-cross the globe with their climate message and holiday breaks.
That frenetic flying has drawn criticism – and praise – often from unlikely quarters:
The trips included a vacation trip to the Spanish island of Ibiza — where villas rent for up to $23,000 a week — to celebrate Markle’s 38th birthday.
The two climate campaigners also took heat for flying off to vacation at singer Elton John’s $18 million mansion in Nice, France, on the French Riviera.
Critics pointed out the private jet trip to Nice alone sports a more than $30,000 price tag and the pair could have flown commercial with their entourage 200 times for that cost.
John insisted he offered the couple a free stay at his mansion because they have had a “hectic” year. He also wanted to reward them for their work for charity.
Last month Markle used the opportunity of a rare face-to-face television interview to speak out about the pressures she and Prince Harry face as they build a life together, lamenting that nobody asks about her emotional wellbeing.
The Duchess told the program it was a “struggle” being pregnant and a new mother amid the intense interest from newspapers.
She thanked for interviewer for the chance to talk about her feelings.
Tom Bradby, who interviewed the two for the show, later described them as “vulnerable and bruised” by the public attention their travels have drawn as well as the controversy surrounding Harry’s pronouncements on climate and environmental issues.
It is unknown if Prince Harry will use his time in California to renew his global call for increased climate consciousness, having previously demanded more concerted efforts be made to protect the environment against human “greed, apathy and selfishness.”