Royal expert Katie Nicholl exclusively tells ET that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were "sorely mistaken" in thinking they'd have more privacy in the United States, and that they've been struggling with the move.
"I think one of the big concerns when the couple moved to Los Angeles was security, at least, who was going to pay for that security. It's my understanding that they're renting Tyler Perry's home, which comes with its own security entourage," she says. "One of the key issues for them is that they are in the spotlight. They attract a huge amount of attention and their concern has always been how they would balance their private lives with their public roles."
"A lot of people might think that they have been naive in expecting a greater level of privacy in Los Angeles. America has different privacy rules to the U.K.," she continues. "While they were living in Britain, there were no paparazzi pictures of them. There was still a gentleman's agreement between the press and the palace that when the principals -- the senior members of the royal family -- were enjoying private time, that private time was respected. So if the couple were papped, then the British newspapers agreed with the palace that they wouldn't use those paparazzi pictures."
The couple is finding that the same rule doesn't seem to apply here in the United States. Just last week, Meghan and Harry filed a lawsuit, claiming their privacy was invaded when photographers unlawfully snapped pics of their 1-year-old son, Archie, playing in the backyard of their home in Los Angeles while the family quarantined amid the coronavirus pandemic. Meghan and Harry also claim in the lawsuit that paparazzi have used drones to fly above their property.
Nicholl believes that the family would have definitely continued to have had more privacy had they stayed in the U.K.
"There is no doubt in my mind that if they were still living at Frogmore House in Windsor, there would not be this level of intrusion. It simply would not be tolerated," she says. "If they had gone to L.A. hoping for a quieter life, where they could duck out of the spotlight, they were sorely mistaken."
"I think the Sussexes have been a little bit naive to expect that they can move to Beverly Hills, where there's clearly huge media attention on them, and not be photographed by the paparazzi," she adds. "Their privacy is something they are going to guard very fiercely [as] they are taking action against the paparazzi. They don't know who took these pictures, but they are saying they will sue publications that use them. So, they're making a very clear point that the privacy of their family is something that is incredibly important, and [when] a line has clearly been crossed, they will take action."
Nicholl says that the level of harassment they've had to deal with since moving to the United States has been "upsetting" to Harry. She tells ET that the Duke of Sussex has been struggling with a number of other issues beyond the paparazzi concerns.
"He has the added pressure of now having to forge a new life for himself in a country without an infrastructure, and without the level of support that he enjoyed when he was a prince of England," she explains. "I think there is a great sense of trepidation for Prince Harry. As much as he is optimistic about the future, I think he's nervous about the future as well. I think he is apprehensive. He doesn't have the same support, he doesn't have the same infrastructure. He doesn't have a clear plan ahead of him. And I think it is probably quite daunting for him."
"It is a difficult time for Prince Harry," she adds. "Harry doesn't have the infrastructure in L.A. that Meghan has. She's got her mother, [Doria Ragland], she's got close friends. Harry has none of that."
On top of their own personal issues, Nicholl believes that Harry and Meghan are also worried that Archie isn't getting as much socializing time with other kids his age, as they had originally planned. Part of that, of course, is due to ongoing concerns over COVID-19.
"I think in that respect, Meghan probably shares the same concerns of many mothers with young children who are living through the lockdown," Nicholl says. "My understanding is that Meghan and Harry have been quite strict and they've obeyed the lockdown ... they haven't been socializing. They haven't seen friends. Really the only person that they've spent an intensive period of time with is Meghan's mother, Doria, who is wonderful for them as a family."
"I don't believe they have a nanny at the moment. I think it is Doria who is there, very much supporting them as a family, very much being a grandmother with a hands-on role," she continues. "Doria really hasn't seen much of Archie growing up, and I think they're really making the most of that family time. I have been told that the emphasis very much is on family over friends and that they have taken the lockdown and the government guidance very seriously."
Nicholl adds that one of the things Meghan and Harry are still very much united on is that they want Archie to have "a normal childhood."
"They want him to enjoy play dates, they want him to socialize with children of his own age. At the moment, that's simply not happening," she says. "They are still house hunting and I'm told they are looking for somewhere away from Beverly Hills, away from the Hollywood fray, where they can escape the spotlight and really give Archie an ordinary childhood."
"That is something that's so important," she continues. "I think when you look at Prince Harry and the childhood he had, he lived his childhood out very much under the media spotlight. You can understand why he doesn't want Archie to be subjected to that same scrutiny."
For the time being, Meghan and Harry are planning to stay put in Los Angeles. Nicholl tells ET that there was a plan in place for the two to come back to the U.K. for a visit with Queen Elizabeth II this summer, but that's been put on hold due to the pandemic.
"We are still in a pandemic and the prospect of traveling is not appealing to the Sussexes at the moment," Nicholl says. "I think the idea is that they will stay put in L.A., not least because of the pandemic, but also because of the work they are doing on the launch of Archwell [charity]."
"It may be the case that they choose to come back at Christmas when the family will convene at Sandringham," she adds. "I think Christmas is a better bet."