Prince Harry and Meghan Markle finally have a place of their own. Not a palace. Not a cottage that needed three million taxpayer dollars to renovate. Not a Vancouver mansion owned by a mysterious businessman, or a sprawling Los Angeles mansion owned by the Boo 2! A Madea Halloween guy. A house where they can finally put down some roots. And, fortunately for us, it’s also a house that everyone already knows everything about.
Located in Montecito, California, the house—known as the “Chateau of Riven Rock”—has nine bedrooms and 16 bathrooms. It covers 14,563 square feet and was built in 2003 by Terry Cunningham, the Canadian chief executive of a software company that exists to help businesses “who aren’t equipped to tap into the value of geospatial data,” which you’d assume has to be most businesses. It has a wine cellar covered in gravel, its floors are made with T1-11 plywood, and it may or may not have a stripper pole in the gym.
The move apparently took place in July, after Harry realized that he hated living in Los Angeles. According to The Sun, Meghan paid for it with rerun fees from Suits, which suddenly makes the thought of being the fifth lead on your aunt’s 12th-favorite show much more of an enticing career prospect.
If there’s any sort of mystery to the Chateau of Riven Rock at all, it’s why it cost so little. It has been reported that Harry and Meghan paid $14.3 million for the home despite the fact that, a decade ago, it was sold for $25 million. What could possibly be the reason for this enormous tumble?
There are a few competing theories. The first is that, according to Cunningham, the home is highly susceptible to natural disasters. In 2017, neighboring counties were ravaged by wildfire that destroyed 1,063 structures and caused $2.2 billion in damages. Then a series of mudslides that killed more than 20 people came within 200 feet of the property. In the last year alone, Montecito has endured more than a hundred earthquakes. It could be that the Chateau of Riven Rock has lost so much of its market value because it may very well topple over in the relatively near future.
It has a wine cellar covered in gravel, its floors are made with T1-11 plywood, and it may or may not have a stripper pole in the gym.
Then again, perhaps it also has something to do with its previous owner. Sergey Grishin appears to be the walking definition of Not a Very Nice Man: a billionaire Russian oligarch who claims to have “practically brought the Russian banking system to a collapse” after taking part in a scheme that stole more than $20 billion from the Russian banking system in the 1990s. With the spoils, he purchased El Fureidis, the Montecito mansion from De Palma’s Scarface. Most recently Grishin has been involved in a court battle with his ex-wife, who accuses him of assault, battery, extortion, invasion of privacy, cyberstalking, and domestic violence that allegedly involved holding a gun to her head, knocking out her teeth, sending audio of himself to her mother in which he tries to hire an assassin, and threatening to stream the murder of his wife live on Instagram and YouTube.
Lawyers for Grishin said, “Numerous false, defamatory and entirely unproven allegations against Sergey Grishin have been made and widely published without a shred of corroboration and by sources whose credibility is seriously in doubt.” But in the understatement of the century, the business partner of Grishin’s ex-wife told the Daily Mail that Harry and Meghan may not be good at seeking counsel: “Clearly whatever advisers they have cannot have done any kind of due diligence.”
Still, a bargain is a bargain, and whatever the cause of its heavy discount, the Chateau of Riven Rock looks like the perfect base from which to offer up meaningless platitudes about world events over Zoom, which is what the couple appear to do for a living now.
Stuart Heritage is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL based in Kent, U.K.