Harry and Meghan’s $15m mistake
Question: Do you think Harry and Meghan the Duke and Duchess of Sussex own hundreds of bottles of wine?
The reason I ask is that, according to reports that surfaced this week, the couple has their eye on a $15 million Malibu mansion that, among other ultra luxe features, boasts a wine cellar that can hold dozens and dozens of cases of the good stuff.
At the time of writing the claims that Harry and Megan are keen on this particular property (which is named Petra Manor) have not been confirmed or denied however the Sussexes do happen to be in need of a permanent home in North America.
Since leaving the UK in January after their shock exit from being working members of the royal family, they have been crashing in a borrowed $20 million house on Vancouver Island. Surely even a mysterious billionaire benefactor's generosity has its limits.
Quite where they intend to make their permanent base has been a source of ongoing conjecture with Vancouver proper, Toronto and Los Angeles having been mooted as possibilities.
All are strong contenders - Meghan was born in LA, lived in Toronto for seven years while she filmed Suits and settling in Vancouver would mean they were on the same coast as her beloved mother Doria Ragland while still living in a Commonwealth country.
The California option got a boost in late January when Caitlyn Jenner told a British TV chat show that she had heard the royal couple were looking for a house in Malibu.
If the reports suggesting that the Sussexes are keen on Petra Manor are true, that would make sense. Malibu is close enough to Doria while still affording them a higher level of privacy.
And it would also be a huge mistake.
The property was built in 2015 by former Baywatch star David Charvet and his now ex-wife Brooke Burke, a former Playboy model and TV host (on land formerly owned by Mel Gibson) and more recently, Kylie Jenner moved into the eight-bedroom joint in 2018.
So we have a triumvirate Baywatch, Playboy and the Kardashian juggernaut with an added soupçon of Oscar-winning movie stardom- and surely you can't get any more quintessentially LA than that. And that is exactly where the problem here lies.
However, if Harry and Meghan (and baby Archie) did snap up this house and happily move their vast collection of puffer jackets in there (well, they have been living in snowy Canada) it would be sending a very clear signal about where their future lie.
Time and again over the last year they have faced accusations of failing to make the distinction between celebrity and royalty.
Sure, being part of the Queen's family might make you both rich and famous but that is about where the overlap between the two worlds ends.
The Sussexes' 2018 wedding saw la creme de la creme of the entertainment world invited to Windsor, names like George and Amal Clooney and Oprah Winfrey, even though according to royal biographer Andrew Morton, they were "people [Meghan] didn't know well".
Meanwhile, Meghan's baby shower saw her fly to New York for a star-studded bash at the Mark Hotel and for a mini-break last year they borrowed Elton John's South of France mansion.
More recently, this year so far they have managed to attend a star-studded JP Morgan conference and had dinner with Jennifer Lopez and her fiance.
All of which is to say, if Harry and Meghan did buy this property it would unassailably and irrevocably align the Sussex brand with the celebrity world and would only bolster suspicions they are more interested in having the Clooneys around for kale salads than saving the world.
That could play particularly badly back in the UK where the Sussexes have faced criticism over their handling of the departure from royal life. The number of Brits who had a favourable opinion of Harry was sitting at 71 per cent last October - as of January that had fallen to 55 per cent. More than half of people surveyed had a positive view of Meghan in October (55 per cent) but that figure had slumped to 35 per cent.
Of course, having a million-dollar house doesn't disqualify you from philanthropy - Bill Gates is hardly living in a two-bedroom semi in need of a bathroom reno - nor is say brunching with Beyonce. But Harry and Meghan aren't just rich people, they are rich people who are still tied, to some extent, to their mother country.
Harry and Meghan have retained the 20 patronages they have between them while the Duke still holds the military rank of Major and the honorary ranks of Lieutenant Commander and Squadron Leader. Translation: If they want to keep filling these roles, many of which are clearly very important to the Sussexes, they cannot wholesale ignore how they are perceived in old Limey.
None of this might be fair or right and there is a certain damned if they do, damned if they don't element at play here. But there is no getting away from the fact that the Sussexes will need to deploy all of their savvy if they are to build a thriving personal business while still shoring up their public approval in Britain. Straddling the worlds of entertainment/big business and royalty while somehow not disenfranchising a sceptical British public is going to a tightrope act.
That said, if they do decide to plonk down an eight-figure sum and end up living in Petra Manor, at least they know they will have plenty of wine on hand at all times to cheer them up.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles