Harry and Meghan considered New Zealand before settling on California
Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in New Zealand said Prince Harry and his wife, the former actress Meghan Markle, discussed moving to the South Pacific country during their 2018 visit, more than a year before the couple stepped back from royal duties and moved to Southern California.
Governor-General Patsy Reddy also told the Associated Press in an interview that she believes the British monarch should remain New Zealand’s head of state and described the hand-typed letters she sends to the queen.
Reddy, 67, will leave her largely ceremonial role representing the queen in New Zealand in October after a five-year term. A lawyer who was given the honorific title of “dame” for her services to arts and business, Reddy officially signs bills into law, presides over many public ceremonies and tours the country, meeting with various groups, including Indigenous Maori.
Harry and Meghan, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, visited New Zealand at the end of a hectic 16-day royal tour of the South Pacific, and Reddy recalled the couple as being tired.
“I remember they’d just been down to the Abel Tasman National Park when we sat down and had a drink, and they said that they could imagine living in a place like this and wondered whether we thought it would be theoretically possible — even possible for them to have a place in New Zealand.
“Of course, we said, ‘Sure. It would be fine. There are lots of opportunities to live in New Zealand, but that would be something that they’d have to explore,’” Reddy said. “They were looking at how they might raise their family. And, obviously, they’ve made some decisions since.”
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Reddy said she didn’t view it as a formal request for assistance but more of an informal discussion about the couple’s hopes for the future. She said the pair seemed impressed with the access to the outdoors and their interactions with New Zealanders.
Still, the discussion shows that the couple were considering options outside Britain less than six months after they married and well before their eventual move to the U.S.
During a widely watched interview with Oprah Winfrey near the couple’s Southern California home earlier this year, the couple said that they had offered to the royal family to take a step back from royal life in a Commonwealth country such as South Africa or New Zealand.
Reddy said she watched the interview but didn’t want to comment on internal royal family business.
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“I thought they were a lovely couple, and I hope they’ve got a great future where they are,” Reddy said.
She said she regularly expresses her confidential views of what’s happening in New Zealand to the queen, such as the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the communication “is quite touchingly old-fashioned, by letter.”
“She has told me on the times that I’ve seen her that she finds it interesting to have a personal perspective on what’s happening,” Reddy said. “As she says, ‘I like to know what’s happening between the lines.’”
Many people in New Zealand believe the country should become an independent republic, but Reddy said she believed the queen should remain the head of state because the arrangement works and has a strong history.
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She said New Zealand had a special connection to the monarchy because its founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed by Maori and the representative of Queen Victoria.
Asked about a future scenario in which a monarch might turn out to be dictatorial or autocratic, Reddy said the same scenario with an elected president would likely be worse.
“We’ve seen how that doesn’t work in other countries in the world,” she said. “But actually, because the monarch is much more of a theoretical construct, a figurehead rather than an actual ruler, I think it gives us a measure of safety, constitutional safety.”
Reddy said she agreed with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s assessment that there was currently little appetite among New Zealanders for a constitutional change, and that people were concerned about more pressing issues like climate change, inequality and the pandemic.
Children’s advocate Cindy Kiro has been named by Ardern to succeed Reddy. Kiro is the first Indigenous woman appointed to the role.
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