Just two years ago this week, we were treated to the wedding of the decade.
Millions around the world tuned in as the bells rang out for Harry and Meghan, the modern face of the Royal Family.
Today, the vintage champagne has gone flat, the bells have long stopped ringing, and the couple have turned their backs on Britain, opting to live among the shallow royalty of Hollywood rather than the real thing.
The Sussexes’ long goodbye has cost the House of Windsor much in damaged reputation.
But that is nothing compared to the financial cost to the British public.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wave to royal fans waiting on the Long Walk after their wedding ceremony
As a former Government minister and the author of . . . And What Do You Do?, a close study of the Royal Family’s finances, this is an area that I have spent a long time analysing.
From their wedding day to March 31 this year, I estimate the British taxpayer has forked out more than £44 million to provide Harry and Meghan with, it seems, whatever they want.
The true figure may in fact be higher, though the opacity of many aspects of royal finances makes sourcing precise figures difficult.
We were promised that public funding for the pair would end after March 31, when they officially stepped back from royal life.
But things are not that simple. Even though they have left our shores, there’s still a hefty bill to be paid.
Here’s where the millions have gone — and are still going…
The newlyweds began married life in Nottingham Cottage, a cosy Victorian house in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
It was widely assumed that they would move into the much larger Apartment 1 nearby after it was refurbished.
The year-long works to the 21-room Apartment 1 are reported to have cost the taxpayer £1.4million for repairs on the roof and replacing all the windows.
(It is likely that this work would have been done even if Harry and Meghan had not moved there.)
Yet when it was finished, the couple reportedly decided they didn’t want to move there after all.
The supposed reason? It was too close to William and Kate, with whom Meghan was said not to get on: there was even an adjoining door to the Cambridges’ swanky apartment.
The newly renovated Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Castle estate
The Queen therefore granted Harry and Meghan the use of Frogmore Cottage within the Windsor Castle estate.
Of course, it is not a cottage at all, but a sprawling listed building (pictured right), dating from 1801.
As the Mail reported last June, the renovations needed to turn it into a family home came in at £2.4million.
To ready Frogmore, five apartments previously used by royal staff were turned into a single dwelling, a huge change to a listed building and the sort to which Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council might normally be expected to object.
The couple moved to Frogmore in the early summer of 2019 but stayed less than six months. Instead, they headed for Canada where they holed up in a £10.4million mansion on Vancouver Island, owned by an as-yet unnamed billionaire.
Now they are installed in a £14million mansion in an exclusive gated community in Beverly Ridge, Los Angeles, owned by music tycoon Tyler Perry, whom Meghan reportedly met through chat-show host Oprah Winfrey.
The couple have said they will repay the renovation costs for Frogmore Cottage. They have offered £18,000 a month, which is also meant to cover rent.
Assuming a rent of £10,000 a month, it will take them 25 years to repay the renovation costs, and that is without interest or any ongoing maintenance.
Yet between them they have a fortune of many millions. Harry received half of an inheritance of £21 million from his mother, an estimated £6million after tax.
Wellinvested by experts over 23 years, this is likely to have at the very least doubled.
The Duke is also widely reported to have inherited a further £7million from the Queen Mother in 2002, conservatively giving him an estimated fortune of £19million before we count his £2.3 million annually from Prince Charles. Meghan’s acting career, meanwhile, brought her estimated earnings of between £2million and £5million.
The couple could repay the entire amount in one go now, if they chose to. Meanwhile, they have been enjoying the finer things in life.
In August last year, to celebrate Meghan’s birthday, they spent a week at an exclusive Ibizan villa where the going rate for seven days is £100,000 — though this may have been a gift.
Since the wedding, Meghan is also said to have amassed a £600,000 jewellery collection (including items gifted to her by Harry and the Queen), a collection larger than the late Princess Diana’s, including a stunning new diamond ring.
By last June her collection was said to have grown to 91 pieces.
TOTAL FROGMORE RENOVATION BILL BEFORE ANY REPAYMENT: £2.4MILLION
Harry and Meghan have not held back when it comes to employing their retinue of staff — but then, they haven’t been paying for all of them.
Until March 31, when they ceased to be working royals, the team of up to 15 included a private secretary (who can earn a salary of £146,000 a year), PR director Sara Latham, and a full team of servants including a housekeeper (£30,000) and a nanny.
Sara Latham, Meghan Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry’s new PR Director
The Sovereign Grant will have paid for their office staff, while the nanny will have been salaried from their private funds.
(London ‘supernannies’ who work for the capital’s richest and most powerful families earn an average of £104,000, according to industry sources.)
Most of their staff were no longer required when the couple moved to Canada, so there may well have also been redundancy payments as well for those not redeployed to other roles in the royal household.
And of course the move to Canada generated a need for a whole new team, including PR firms, household staff and lawyers, though the UK taxpayer is not believed to have been liable for those.
I have been unable to quantify precise figures so these figures may be an underestimate — private secretary: £146,000.
Other staff, including an assistant private secretary, a communications secretary, an assistant communications secretary: £150,000.
ESTIMATED STAFF COSTS TO THE TAXPAYER OVER TWO YEARS: £592,000
The cost of providing protection for the Sussexes rocketed after their wedding, thanks in part to their fondness for globe-trotting.
In February 2019, Meghan flew to New York for a ‘baby shower’ widely estimated to have cost several hundred thousand pounds, although she disputes the figure.
In August last year, they spent a weekend with George and Amal Clooney at their luxury Lake Como villa and they have also spent time at Elton John’s villa in the South of France.
While many of the flights taken by the couple in a private capacity were paid for by celebrity friends, they were always accompanied by protection officers funded by the taxpayer.
The bill for this, including business-class travel for the officers (as confirmed by former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe), and any overtime and away-from-home allowances, has fallen to the public.
Scenes from Windsor where police marksmen provided security for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
The couple’s several house moves have also pushed up the costs to the public.
It is much more expensive to provide bespoke security in an exposed location outside London — such as Frogmore Cottage — than it is in Kensington Palace.
Security cover abroad, of course, is the most expensive of all.
While the couple briefly lived at Frogmore, a full security entourage, including motorcycle outriders any time Harry wanted to get to London, would likely have been deployed.
This is a requirement that would not have applied had they stayed at Kensington Palace.
As the couple are keeping Frogmore Cottage as their base in this country, a security detail is believed to remain in place there even though it is unoccupied and there is no sign of the couple coming back any time soon.
As I wrote in my recent book, Ken Wharfe has estimated that this latter element alone could amount to some £5million annually, for security officers to patrol the extensive premises, though this will depend on the level of security provided, for example the number of officers and patrols.
The bill for the ongoing security falls to Thames Valley Police, a force which has seen large cuts to its budget since 2010.
When the Sussexes moved to Canada, protection officers from the Metropolitan Police had to go as well to work alongside the Mounties, incurring a bill for both British and Canadian taxpayers.
Moreover, as the holders of HRH status despite no longer being working royals, Harry and Meghan remain entitled to protection.
So if the three of them in their family are in three separate places, as was sometimes the case before their move to LA, that required three separate police protection teams. In Canada, their security team was reportedly placed in a luxury £1,100-a-week Airbnb house.
Canada made it clear it would not pay for protection after March 31, and as the Sussexes landed in the United States, Donald Trump tweeted to say the U.S. was not paying either.
In the deal reached with the Palace, Harry and Meghan have kept their HRH titles but will not ‘use’ them.
This is significant as the status provides a mechanism for support — notably financial support from the taxpayer for security — to be provided to them.
Harry and Meghan appear to have finally accepted that they will have to pay towards their own security, at least for private and commercial trips where there is no royal connection.
It has been speculated that if full cover had been provided round the year in Canada, the costs (including Frogmore) could have reached £20 million annually.
However, I have merely counted security at Frogmore for nearly a year at £4.5million, plus almost two years of other protection, at £1.25million a year.
This is a very conservative estimate, especially bearing in mind the Canadian cover.
Less than one year’s security at Frogmore: £4.5million. Almost two years of other protection: £2.5million.
TOTAL ESTIMATED SECURITY COSTS: £7 MILLION
THE BANK OF DAD
Since the wedding, Prince Charles has been widely reported to be funding Harry to the tune of £2.3million a year and is expected to continue to do so for at least a year.
As I wrote in my book, this came from the profits from the Duchy of Cornwall, established in the 14th century to provide an income stream for the heir to the throne.
Prince Harry has no connection to the Duchy and some might therefore see it as an entirely inappropriate use of Duchy money.
While William is likely to inherit the title one day, Harry never will.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend the ‘Our Planet’ global premiere at Natural History Museum on April 04, 2019 in London, England
Controversially, Charles is allowed to classify this allowance to Harry as a business expense, which he can set against tax.
This means that the public purse continued to support Harry for as long as Charles continued with this approach to funding the Duke.
Charles is thought to have decided, since the Sussexes stopped undertaking royal duties, to meet the £2.3million from his own private funds, at least in the immediate term.
Assuming an allowance of £2.3 million a year, that comes to £4.3 million for the period from the wedding to March 31, 2020.
At a 45 per cent tax rate for Charles, the total tax saving (and thus indirect cost to the public) is £1.9million.
TOTAL ESTIMATED COST TO THE PUBLIC FROM LOSS OF TAX INCOME: £1.9 MILLION
JET-SETTING ECO WARRIORS
Harry once gained brownie points for taking an EasyJet flight back in 2011 from London to Edinburgh for Zara Tindall’s wedding.
But those days are long-gone. Since then, Harry has developed a taste for private jets and helicopters, sometimes while he is on his way to deliver a speech about the threat from climate change.
In March 2019, he took a helicopter journey costing an estimated £5,000 from London to Birmingham and two days later told a crowd at Wembley Stadium to ‘wake up’ and act on ‘the damaging impact our ways are having on the world’.
A Gulfstream G450 similar to the ones Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have taken
Last August, the Duke racked up four flights in private jets in 11 days, for which he was heavily criticised.
Elton John, who paid for one of these trips, issued a strongly worded statement in his defence.
Perhaps the pop star should now be singing about ‘Harry And The Jets’.
In 2018/19 the couple flew to Australia and Singapore at a cost of £81,002, as well as a trip to Norway which cost £22,880.
Given Harry and Meghan’s hitherto high-profile status with the Royal Family, I have estimated £400,000 each for their travel in the two years of their marriage, with a slight increase to take account of trips to travel to and from Canada.
TOTAL ESTIMATED TRAVEL BILL: £1MILLION
THE £33.5MILLION WEDDING BILL
The total bill for the wedding is estimated to be a staggering £33.5 million.
This is an increase of £1.5 million on the previously reported cost (calculated by wedding company Bridebook), now including sums incurred by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The average wedding in Britain costs around £18,000, meaning you could have bought 1,860 such events with Harry and Meghan’s budget.
(William and Kate’s nuptials in 2011 cost an estimated £20million.)
A State trumpeter played in preparations for forthcoming Royal Wedding
Of the £33.5 million, the royals reportedly contributed only about £2 million — leaving the taxpayer to pick up 94 per cent of the cost.
The vast majority of this went on security: estimated at £30million by Bridebook.
The hardpressed Ministry of Defence reportedly blew a reported £90,000 on 20 brand-new, silver-plated trumpets for the bash.
The manufacturer said the request was for ‘a bit more bling’ and ‘more silver rings’ on these instruments.
The DCMS’s bill of £1.5million covered items including a £232,810 PA system, £128,714 for private contractors and £14,081 for flags and banners.
The taxpayers of Windsor and Maidenhead saw their council splurge more than £1million on crowd control barriers, big screens, stewarding and waste disposal.
Of the £2million spent by the royals, much of it went on clothes. Meghan’s wedding dress (her second), a creation of Clare Waight Keller, came in at a reported £390,000.
That makes the dress worn by Kate for her 2011 wedding look a bargain at its estimated £250,000.
TOTAL ESTIMATED BILL FOR THE TAXPAYER: £31.5MILLION
Harry and Meghan, freed from the restrictions of royalty, will not find it difficult to make many millions more to add to the tens of millions they already have.
Indeed, Harry’s first private engagement in his new liberated role, which took place in February while he was still a working royal in receipt of public funds, was a speech to bankers and other rich Americans at a private JP Morgan event in Miami, reportedly flying there via private jet.
It is not known what he was paid, but experts from speaking agency Talent Bureau estimated the Sussexes could charge at least $100,000 (£75,000) per public appearance, while Harry could receive up to $500,000 (£382,000) for a single speech.
Norman Baker is the author of …And What Do You Do? published by Biteback, RRP £20