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Could Harry and Meghan really leave the U.K. — or the Royal Family?

A bombshell TV documentary filmed while Prince Harry and Meghan were in Africa fuelled more speculation around a persistent storyline following the royal couple: Might they just pick up and leave the U.K. for a protracted period of time?

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Much speculation has swirled around whether Prince Harry and Meghan might choose to spend a lengthy period of time outside the United Kingdom. (Jeremy Selwyn/Reuters)

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After Prince Harry and Meghan opened up in a recent documentary, much of the chatter focused on her struggles in the tabloid spotlight and his apparent confirmation of a rift with his older brother, William.

But the bombshell bit of TV filmed while they were in Africa also fuelled speculation around another persistent storyline: Might they just pick up and leave the U.K. for a protracted period of time?

Harry added fuel to the fire when he talked about how Cape Town "would be an amazing place for us to be able to base ourselves."

He then immediately alluded to the challenges of such a move, saying, "with all the problems that are going on [in Cape Town], I just don't see how we'd be able to make as much difference as we want to. I think it's a very hard place to live."

That said, there are still hints they're going off on their own for a while in the near future. The couple are reportedly going to take six weeks off from royal duties beginning later this month, with much speculation they will spend some time in Meghan's home state of California, perhaps over American Thanksgiving.

Prince Harry and Meghan meet with local residents during Heritage Day public holiday celebrations in the Bo Kaap district of Cape Town on Sept. 24. (Toby Melville/Getty Images)

But could they — or anyone else in the Royal Family — actually just pick up and leave the U.K. for a while?

"There's precedent," said John Fraser, author of The Secret of the Crown Canada's Affair with Royalty, and founding president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada.

"Going back a bit, the father of Queen Victoria lived in Halifax, had a mistress over here."

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and fourth son of King George III, lived there with Julie de Saint-Laurent for a few years in the 1790s.

Harry's position as sixth in the line of succession might make any move more possible than if he were closer to the throne.

"I personally think it would be great if he had a period of time away," Fraser said. "I believe the things that are weighing on his soul in terms of the kinds of pressures that are on them as a couple are probably real, and if anyone could reasonably think to get away, it would be him and his wife for a little while."

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor watch Queen Elizabeth's coronation ceremony on television in a home in Paris on June 2, 1953. (Intercontinentale/AFP/Getty )

But where to go? And how would it actually work? Would Harry and Meghan maintain their HRH status? Would they need security and who would pay for it?

Valentine Low, the Times of London's royal correspondent, recently told The Daily Beast that renouncing the HRH status would be a huge sacrifice and significantly diminish Harry's and Meghan's potential for impact. 

"Look what happened to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after he abdicated: They became no-longer-important people," Low said.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor spent their years of exile in France after his abdication from the throne in 1936. The duke, years earlier as the Prince of Wales, had also bought a ranch in Alberta.

Edward, Prince of Wales, centre, helps with the roundup at the Bar-U Ranch near High River, Alta., in September 1919. (National Archives of Canada/The Canadian Press)

"He had hoped to spend long periods there," said Fraser, "but that didn't work out."

Fraser suspects Meghan and Harry will have a base in the U.K., but will probably have much longer trips away, with Harry potentially as a Commonwealth ambassador.

"I think it's a natural evolution," he said. "They can create that role."

Any implications of doing that — such as on the HRH status or the level of support they might receive from the British taxpayer — would have to be considered, "and depends on what he would do," said Fraser.

"If, for example, [Harry] was to be the Royal Family's Commonwealth ambassador, then I think they could make a really good argument that he could be almost anywhere in the Commonwealth for ... extended periods of time and still be doing duties. "

Fraser doesn't think any of this would mean completely renouncing their role within the Royal Family.

"I think the opposite. I think they could enhance the role."

Another look at the Queen — from her dresser

Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Caroline Rush, left, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, chats with British-American journalist and editor Anna Wintour as the Queen's dresser Angela Kelly, right, looks on during London Fashion Week on Feb. 20, 2018. (Yui Mok/AFP/Getty Images)

Those who work for the Royal Family rarely go public with what it's like behind palace walls.

So it comes as little surprise there was widespread interest in a book that came out a few days ago. In The Other Side of the Coin, Angela Kelly, the Queen's dresser, offers a 304-page look — with the Queen's blessing — into her warm relationship with Elizabeth over the past quarter century.

Much attention has focused on details Kelly reveals, whether it's that she breaks in the Queen's shoes or that Elizabeth insisted on having a speaking part in a skit with Daniel Craig (a.k.a. the current James Bond). That bit of cinematic charm — complete with corgis — came as a considerable surprise during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. 

Kelly had fielded a request from director Danny Boyle that the Queen make an appearance in a short film where the debonair spy would rescue her from an unknown threat. Kelly took the idea to Elizabeth. She agreed on the spot, and Kelly asked if she would like a speaking part.

"Without hesitation, Her Majesty replied, 'Of course I must say something. After all, he is coming to rescue me,'" Kelly writes. The line the Queen eventually delivered: "Good evening, Mr. Bond."

There was nothing deliberate in the choice of blue and yellow for the Queen's outfit when she attended the state opening of Parliament on June 21, 2017, says her dresser, Angela Kelly. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

None of this verges into controversial territory. Kelly even debunks a bit of popular speculation that a blue-and-yellow outfit and hat the Queen wore for the state opening of Parliament in 2017 were somehow inspired by the similarly coloured flag of the European Union, and thus a statement about the Brexit vote to take the U.K. out of the EU. 

"It was a coincidence," Kelly writes, "but, boy, did it attract a lot of attention, and it certainly made us smile."

When Queen Elizabeth visited Canada in 2010, she took part in Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canada also rates a mention in the book, as Kelly recounts how ideas from her granddaughter Scarlett helped inspire the design of the red-and-white outfit the Queen wore on July 1, 2010, in Ottawa. "The hat, [Scarlett] thought, should be white and decorated with a large red flower," Kelly writes. "At the celebrations on Canada Day, I felt so proud to watch the Queen wearing an outfit inspired by my granddaughter's creativity."

A royal literary honour

Margaret Atwood poses with her award after she was named a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour by the Queen on Oct. 25. (Aaron Chown/Getty Images)

Among Margaret Atwood's recent accolades, one took on a distinctly royal tone. 

The much-lauded Canadian author, whose most recent book, The Testaments, was co-winner of the Booker Prize, was at Windsor Castle the other day to be named a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour.

The Queen named Atwood to the order and presented her with the award for her services to literature.

Being in the Queen's presence left Atwood a "bit emotional," she said after the ceremony. "When you see the Queen at her age and her schedule that she puts out, it's an inspiration to everybody, you just keep going."

Atwood, centre, meets with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, left, and 2019 Booker prize co-winner Bernardine Evaristo in London on Oct. 15. (Getty Images)

Royally quotable

"Just hearing that from him has made the last 50 years worthwhile." 

— Prince Charles reveals in an ITV documentary how he was nearly reduced to tears when his son and heir, Prince William, praised how he has worked to maintain the Duchy of Cornwall.

Royals in Canada

Prince Charles tours the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto on Nov. 6, 2009. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Each year around this time in Toronto, a bit of the country comes to the city. And sometimes over the years, members of the Royal Family have been on hand to check out the giant pumpkins, the horse show and other farm-related fare at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The royal association with the event — considered to be the premier agricultural fair in the country — dates to the time of its founding nearly a century ago, when King George V granted permission for the use of the word "royal" in its name.

The most recent royal visitor was Sophie, Countess of Wessex, four years ago. 

Other visits include Prince Philip in 1967 and 1996; Princess Anne in 1974 and 1988; Sarah, Duchess of York, in 1991; Princess Margaret in 1993; and Prince Charles and Camilla, who opened the fair in 2009.

Royal involvement in agriculture is longstanding. Charles has had a high-profile interest in organic farming, and estates associated with the family produce a wide range of crops

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips visit the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in 1974. (Royal Agricultural Winter Fair)

Royal reads

  • Bits of Queen Elizabeth I's sole surviving dress were found in a rural church in England. [As It Happens

  • All is apparently not well in the royal court in Thailand, where the king, who suddenly married his fourth wife in May, stripped another woman — his "disloyal" royal consort — of her titles and military ranks. And then he fired bedroom guards for "extremely evil conduct." [The Guardian, The Telegraph]

  • On the environmental front, Prince Charles has urged financiers to put "trillions of pounds" into sustainable projects that could save the planet, and Prince Harry and Meghan are cruising around in a new electric car. [The Standard, The Telegraph]

  • More than 70 female British MPs from various political parties have signed an open letter in support of Meghan, saying some media treatment of her shows "outdated, colonial undertones." [The Guardian] 

  • The highly anticipated third season of The Crown doesn't drop on Netflix until Nov. 17, but fans got a few sneak peeks of what might be in store from the official trailer. And Olivia Colman, who takes on the role of the Queen, got her own royal recognition a few days ago. [The Hollywood Reporter, BBC] 

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About the Author

Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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