Meghan and Prince Harry originally announced they would split their time between the U.K. and North America

By Stephanie Petit and Simon Perry
August 19, 2020 11:00 AM
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When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced they were stepping down from their roles as senior members of the royal family, they said they would be splitting their time between the U.K. and North America — but the home they just purchased in Santa Barbara, California wasn't part of their original plan.

The couple had initially intended to "split their time in the Commonwealth" with a home in Canada, a source tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

However, "things got in the way that made that more difficult. This decision has not always been on the cards. If it had, they would not have gone through everything else they have gone through."

Meghan, 39, and Prince Harry, 35, spent the final weeks of 2019 in Vancouver Island, Canada before announcing in January that they planned to step down from their royal roles.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Gareth Fuller-Pool/Getty

They relocated with 1-year-old son Archie to Los Angeles, Meghan's hometown, in March, bunking down at Tyler Perry's L.A. estate while they house hunted. They settled on the 9-bedroom mansion 95 miles north of L.A. for a reported $14 million.

"They both love California, and Santa Barbara has a magic to it — the mountains, oceans, vineyards, flowers, gardens,” says a source close to the couple. "It’s so beautiful."

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Samir Hussein/WireImage

Most importantly, "Archie is really happy, and he has space to run free. The house came with a play structure that he’ll be climbing in no time. They’re excited to be there and to become part of the community. It’s a really happy time for them as a family."

Archie, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Samir Hussein/WireImage

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"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved into their family home in July of this year," a rep for the couple told PEOPLE of their Santa Barbara move. "They have settled into the quiet privacy of their community since their arrival and hope that this will be respected for their neighbors, as well as for them as a family."