Assuming that they made it out of the McTavish crop circles by the airport, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s North Saanich sojourn is over.
Confirmation came from Buckingham Palace, which said Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have an appointment in London today to thank Canada’s high commissioner, Janice Charette, “for the warm Canadian hospitality and support they received during their recent stay in Canada.”
That means we can reveal where the royals were staying while here for the holidays: A fabulously swanky mansion that occupies a four-acre outcropping at the north end of Patricia Bay.
As you might have read a couple of weeks ago, the Times Colonist knew where Harry, Meghan, her mother Doria Ragland and the Royal Rugrat Archie were staying, but chose not to divulge the location until they left. They were here on a private holiday, not as part of an official function, so the newspaper, after a bit of internal debate, decided to err on the side of discretion.
So, it seems, did much of the population of the Saanich Peninsula. The visitors were often seen out and about — Horth Hill Regional Park was a favourite, and they were spotted enjoying at least one lunch at the Fickle Fig on Mills Road — but locals seemed determined to give them a chance to duck out of a spotlight that never, ever stops searching for them.
“I think we should all be honoured as Canadians that they chose to come here so that they could have a break from their reality,” is the way a woman named Laurie at nearby Millstone Farm on Towner Park Road put it on Monday. She was happy that the royals were able to enjoy the area’s natural splendour without having to cope with a thousand cameras in their faces.
Towner Park Road is also the address of Milles Fleurs, the 15-year-old estate where Harry and Meghan stayed. The property is a bit of a curiosity in that, technically, it is part of the Towner Park Country Club. That means its ownership is not, as is the case with other properties, easy to determine, though rumour has it that it was bought a few years ago by a non-resident Russian. When Milles Fleurs was listed for $18 million in 2012, the TC’s Carla Wilson wrote that it came with “a winetasting room, wet bar, media room, wood-burning pizza oven and landscaped gardens.” If you didn’t like the 11,416-square-foot main building, you could bunk in the guest house.
The property’s great advantage, from a security standpoint, is its isolation. Not only does it sit at the end of a private road dotted with more No Trespassing signs than seems absolutely necessary, but it lies behind tall wrought iron gates, one of which has been tarped over to prevent the curious from peering through the bars.
Remember the photo of Harry holding Archie that the duke and duchess released last week? It seems likely that it was taken at or near Milles Fleurs, with Saanich Inlet in the background. Scores of readers wrote in suggesting that was the case, though some came up with more exotic locales: Turkey, for example, or in Italy just around the corner from George Clooney’s Lake Como Villa.
“Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and thanking you for your continued support! We’ve loved meeting so many of you from around the world and can’t wait to meet many more of you next year. We hope 2020 brings each of you health and continued happiness.” - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex Special thanks to Chris Martin and @Coldplay for allowing us to use one of their songs Photo and video © SussexRoyal Thanks to PA for additional images and footage
Anyway, the royals are gone, and we hope their holiday was what they hoped it would be. Ditto for their security staff, who spent Christmas far from home.
Speaking of which, Victoria author Ian Ferguson passed on the following anecdote from the other night, when he was in Hecklers Bar and Grill on Gorge Road to watch some stand-up comedy. Sitting next to him was a table full of fit, sharp-looking people with British accents. They might have been in civvies — the men wore khakis and golf shirts, the two women wore pant suits — but were the kind who looked as though they were in uniform even though they weren’t.
“The MC was warming up the crowd and asked if anyone was from out of town,” Ian reports.
“London!” shouted one of the Brits,
“Shhhhh!” jumped in the others.
Whoever they were, at least they got a night off.