Nestled between tranquil sandy beaches and the Santa Ynez mountains, Santa Barbara has long been a magnet for wealthy celebrities intent on privacy.

So it is not hard to see why the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have chosen the sun-drenched Californian city as the place in which to put down their roots.

The couple have purchased their first family home in the area and secretly moved in last month, their spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.

"They have settled into the quiet privacy of their community since their arrival and hope that this will be respected for their neighbours, as well as for them as a family," the spokesman told Britain's Daily Telegraph.

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A source said the couple hoped to lead "as normal a life there as possible" and planned to live in the city long term.

"They have thought about this carefully and researched it well," the source said. "This is the place where they plan to be happy, make good friends and bring up Archie, giving him the chance to play with other children his age." Santa Barbara is 100 miles north of Los Angeles, which is home to Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland.

It is thought the Sussexes have chosen to live in the exclusive hilltop enclave of Montecito, also home to celebrity friends including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

Last month, before it was known that the couple had already moved, it was reported that Meghan intended to celebrate her 39th birthday, on August 4, in the area.

Montecito is described by one luxury real estate agent as "a paradise for Hollywood stars and the super rich who want to live in splendid isolation". Most of the sprawling, gated estates there boast private pools and sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

Between June and July, some 30 properties were sold in the area, going for between US$715,000 (NZ$1.080 million) and US$9m (NZ$13m), according to one property website. Most homes in Santa Barbara are said to cost between US$2m (NZ$3m) and US$20m (NZ$30m). One report claimed the royal couple had spent around US$10m (NZ$15m).

They were previously living at Tyler Perry's million-dollar mansion. Photo / Google Earth
They were previously living at Tyler Perry's million-dollar mansion. Photo / Google Earth

When the Sussexes officially stepped away from royal duties earlier this year, the Prince of Wales said he would continue to offer them "private financial support". However, The Telegraph has confirmed that the couple purchased the property solely with their own funds and, "like most people", have a mortgage.

Montecito's members-only, 1930s-era Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club on Butterfly Beach is a big draw for the rich and famous, while top private schools that might one day welcome Archie include Laguna Blanca School and Crane Country Day School, each commanding annual fees of around US$30,000.

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A source told the New York Post's Page Six column: "They are not houseguests of Oprah or anyone else, they bought this home themselves. This is where they want to continue their lives after leaving the UK.

"This is the first home either of them has ever owned. It has been a very special time for them as a couple and as a family, to have complete privacy for six weeks since they moved in.

"They intend to put down their roots in this house and the quiet community, which has considerable privacy. This is where they want to bring Archie up, where they hope he can have as normal a life as possible."

When they first arrived in the US, from Canada, Harry and Meghan moved into a 12-bedroom Los Angeles mansion belonging to the music producer Tyler Perry. However, they were besieged by paparazzi and are suing for invasion of privacy after drones were allegedly used to take pictures of their son.

A 10-page legal complaint, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California last month, said the couple were victims of harassment that had "crossed a red line for any parent".

In April 2018, just weeks before the Duke and Duchess's wedding, Meghan's mother Doria was invited to spend the afternoon with Oprah Winfrey at her US$88m (NZ$133m), 42-acre Montecito estate, Promised Land, where the pair are said to have bonded over yoga and eating kumquats from her garden.

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Finding Freedom, a new biography of the Sussexes, reveals that a senior palace aide contacted Winfrey to ensure she was not using their friendship to get an interview.

Frogmore Cottage, the 19th-century Grade II-listed home gifted to Meghan and Harry by the Queen, will remain their official UK base.