Harry and Meghan’s baffling decision
The entertainment world missed a crucial anniversary recently: Earlier this month, we passed the 15-year anniversary of the first paparazzi photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie together, playing on a beach in Kenya with her son Maddox, hitting the front page of Us Weekly. While from a distance this might seem inconsequential, at the time it was a watershed moment, confirming not only that the rumoured new couple were together but the extremes the paparazzi would go to feed our celebrity obsession.
While Brangelina might be nothing more than a relic, the tenacity of the paparazzi is well and truly with us and Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are now living at the very centre of the world's celebrity media machine.
This week workmen were photographed erecting black privacy screens around the $27 million house where they are believed to be staying, after newly reopened public hiking trails near the Beverly Ridge compound meant locals and photographers could look directly down into the estate.
The couple have been pictured by roving photographers several times since they decamped from their borrowed Canadian mansion in late March to their perhaps borrowed Los Angeles mansion. (It is not known if the Sussexes are paying the home's owner, producer and actor Tyler Perry, any rent or are staying as guests).
All of which is about as surprising as finding out that Kate, Duchess of Cambridge has bought another mid-priced floral frock, which is to say not one iota.
In January, when the couple spectacularly announced they were stepping down as frontline members of the royal family, they also debuted a new website that laid out their plans. Under the media section the site read, "like every member of society, they also value privacy as individuals and as a family".
The question here is, if they place such worth on privacy, what did Harry and Meghan think was going to happen when they upped sticks and moved from sleepy Berkshire to the epicentre of paparazzi culture?
In the UK their homes offered the couple unparalleled privacy.
'Nott Cott,' the two-bedroom cottage they called home is wedged in the middle of the heavily protected compound of Kensington Palace.
The only time Meghan was ever photographed in the vicinity was when she made a dash for the nearby Whole Foods Market on Kensington High Street and was spotted by a journalist passing by.
Then they moved to Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Great Park estate. Consider that we have never, ever seen a photo of what the cottage post its $4 million-plus renovation actually looks like from the outside.
Nor are there any aerial shots taken of the Georgian property thanks to the fact there are specific rules governing the airspace above royal properties.
Instead, now that Harry and Meghan have left the protected confines of royal life, so too have they said goodbye to being permanently shielded by a slew of legal and practical protections, which meant they could go about their daily lives at home without an enterprising snapper on every corner, or hiking track.
Since they left the UK, myriad images of the waterfront Vancouver Island estate where they spent several months have been splashed about. Now, the internet is awash in photos of them walking their dog, delivering food during the lockdown, their new Beverly Hills abode and Harry larking about the garden.
No amount of black plastic wrap is going to shield them from the lenses.
Their Los Angeles move is a choice that largely defies logic.
When the couple announced they wanted to step back from full time working royal life there was significant sympathy for the duo. Only months earlier they had made their unhappiness apparent with both giving emotional TV interviews.
And when they said they were North America-bound, again there was a relative degree of acceptance. Canada, much of the thinking went, would be the perfect halfway point both psychologically (being a Commonwealth country) and geographically, given it is roughly equidistant between the UK and Meghan's native California.
Then came their dash to Los Angeles reportedly via Perry's $230 million private plane.
I know, I know - Los Angeles is where Meghan grew up and where her mother Doria Ragland still lives. The "but" here is that prior to moving to London, the former actress lived for seven years in Toronto meaning she has not called the city of angels home for nearly a decade.
And while it makes perfect sense that she might now, especially that she too is a mother, want to be near her family, why choose somewhere smack bang in Los Angeles? Why not make like the Sussexes' bestie Oprah Winfrey and opt for an estate in Santa Barbara, which is only an hour and a half away and would offer vastly more privacy?
Which leaves us with the particular conundrum of why a couple so keen on shielding their family from prying eyes would trade a rural island for a city with the greatest concentration of paparazzi per capita?
We might not have an answer to this particular riddle but we are now seeing the reality of the Sussexes' decision play out in high definition pixels.
Sure, the property where the Sussexes are now living is the archetypical grandiose pile that springs to mind when you hear Beverly Hills but that's not what they left royal life for.
All of this might not be nice or fair but this is the realistic price they will be forced to pay again and again for choosing the middle of Los Angeles as a home base - and it is this calculation that is so baffling.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.
Originally published as Harry and Meghan's baffling decision