Prince Harry and Meghan have spent £2.4million of public money doing up their Windsor home.
The newlyweds moved out of Kensington Palace this spring amid reports of a rift with his brother William and sister-in-law Kate.
The overhaul of Frogmore Cottage was approved by the Queen, according to accounts released yesterday.
The 19th century property had been converted into five smaller staff houses and needed to be turned back into a single home. Ceilings and floors were replaced along with the addition of new bathrooms, bedrooms and a kitchen.
The newlyweds moved out of Kensington Palace this spring amid reports of a rift with his brother William and sister-in-law Kate. They have now spent £2.4million of public money doing up their Windsor home. Pictured: revealing Baby Archie to the world in May at Windsor Castle
Aides say any costs above the agreed budget were met privately by the couple. The accounts also show that:
- The Queen was given £82.2million to support her official duties in 2018/19, up from £76.1million the year before;
- Half of the cash went on the upkeep of Buckingham Palace and other royal residences, reflecting the age and national importance of the buildings;
- The cost of royal travel fell by £100,000 to £4.6million;
- Five big tours saw the Royal Household’s carbons emissions double;
- Prince Charles’s income from the Duchy of Cornwall was barely changed at £21.6million and he paid £4.7million in tax;
- The Queen and other royals spent almost £200,000 on private jets for travel to and from Scotland.
The Keeper of the Privy Purse, Sir Michael Stevens, who is in charge of the Queen’s accounts, said the report showed she continued to be ‘highly active’, conducting 140 engagements in 12 months. The wider family undertook more than 3,200 official duties here and abroad.
Despite retiring, the Duke of Edinburgh still receives £359,000 from the Treasury each year to run a private office. An aide stressed that the figure was unchanged from 1992 and was so insufficient the Queen made up the difference.
Charles saw his personal expenditure rise by £155,000 to £3.15million – partly because of Harry’s wedding.
He also spent £5million on other activities, including those of his sons.
Officials said the cost of the monarchy equated to £1.24 per British citizen.
And they insisted that Frogmore had been earmarked for renovation even before it caught Harry and Meghan’s eye.
Sir Michael said: ‘The sovereign grant covered the work undertaken to turn the building into the official residence and home of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their new family.
‘The building was returned to a single residence and outdated infrastructure was replaced to guarantee the long-term future of the property.’
The overhaul of Frogmore Cottage (pictured) was approved by the Queen, according to accounts released yesterday
Early reports suggesting the works could cost taxpayers as much as £3million were previously dismissed by the couple’s representatives, who insisted it was likely to be nearer ‘half that’.
Given that the project is still not complete – exterior painting and landscaping still needs to be done – it will cost well in excess of the £2.4million revealed in the latest accounts.
Sources close to the Sussexes stressed last night that reports of the couple building a yoga studio or a mother-and-baby yoga room complete with a ‘floating’ or sprung wooden floor in the cottage were incorrect. The only ‘floating floor’, which emerged in plans submitted to the local council, was a specific requirement from the planners and relates to the main kitchen area to protect an old floor.
Charles (pictured with Camilla in Cuba) saw his personal expenditure rise by £155,000 to £3.15million – partly because of Harry’s wedding. He also spent £5million on other activities, including those of his sons
Despite retiring, the Duke of Edinburgh(pictured with Prince Harry at a Rugby match) still receives £359,000 from the Treasury each year to run a private office. An aide stressed that the figure was unchanged from 1992 and was so insufficient the Queen made up the difference
The sources added: ‘Frogmore Cottage is a Grade II-listed building, the official and only residence of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It is not their country residence, it is their only residence.
‘Other senior working members of the Royal Family have official residences which are paid for by the sovereign grant to enable them to carry out their royal duties.’
Anti-monarchy campaigners Republic called for a full parliamentary inquiry into royal spending after the release of the accounts. But friends of the Sussexes told the Mail that Frogmore Cottage was comparatively small, with just four bedrooms and a nursery, adding: ‘It really isn’t as grand as some people might think.
‘There’s no wing for Doria, no yoga studio. It’s a fairly cosy family home.’
Carbon emissions from royal travel DOUBLES in just a year despite efforts from senior family members to reduce their environmental impact
Carbon emissions for royal travel doubled last year, despite Buckingham Palace trying to reduce its environmental impact.
CO2 emissions for the whole Royal Household rose from 1,687 in 2018 to 3,344 in 2019, despite a 24 per cent fall in energy use at the palace.
Carbon emissions for royal travel doubled last year, despite Buckingham Palace trying to reduce its environmental impact. Pictured, Prince Charles, who often campaigns on climate change, at the Bond 25 set
Officials said it was a matter of regret but stressed that increased foreign travel on behalf of the Government were responsible for the rise.
‘This is clearly linked to five major overseas visits rather than one the previous year,’ one official insisted.
A spokesman for the Prince of Wales pointed out that his emissions had risen by only 2 per cent overall, despite increased travel requests.
Royal family slashes its travel bill but the annual cost still amounts to £4.6million – with Charles and Camilla spending more than £416,000 on Cuba trip
The bill for royal travel has gone down in the past year but still cost taxpayers £4.6million.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall undertook the most expensive overseas tour, spending £416,576 on a visit to Cuba and the Caribbean in March.
Officials stressed that the trip, like all royal tours, was undertaken at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The royal couple, both now in their 70s, visited seven countries over 11 days and carried out 57 engagements.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall undertook the most expensive overseas tour, spending £416,576 on a visit to Cuba and the Caribbean in March
‘What you are seeing is the Prince of Wales play a prominent role in supporting the Queen and travelling on behalf of the Queen overseas,’ an official said.
The prince’s tour with his wife to the Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria cost a further £216,312, while their official visit to France and Greece last May totalled £159,820 for travel alone.
The royals also spent almost £200,000 on private jets to take them to and from their homes in Scotland. Last October Charles put in a bill for £28,911 for taking a charter flight from Birkhall, his Highland property, to London and then back again.
He flew down from a break in Scotland to London in April last year to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at a cost of £15,761 and back up from London to Aberdeen a few days later at a cost of £17,922.
Royal Train was used just five times last year – but at £22,000 a trip, it still racked up a bill of more than £100,000
The Royal Train was used just five times last year, costing on average £22,000 a time.
Officials have always acknowledged that it is expensive but argue that at 93, the Queen deserves to be able to travel in comfort.
The Royal Train (pictured) was used just five times last year, costing on average £22,000 a time
Last year the monarch used it just twice, to Chester with the Duchess of Sussex costing £29,714, and again in March this year when she visited the west of England and returned to Windsor, which cost the public purse £21,230. Pictured: The Queen aboard the train in December
It also allows her to reach far-flung parts overnight securely, which is more cost-effective in terms of security. Last year the monarch used it just twice, to Chester with the Duchess of Sussex costing £29,714, and again in March this year when she visited the west of England and returned to Windsor, which cost the public purse £21,230.
Prince Charles, the only other senior royal permitted to use the Royal Train, made three trips on it.
RICHARD KAY: Royal split racked up the bill – but are couple doing their part of deal?
By Richard Kay for the Daily Mail
So what are we to make of the revelations that Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex have lavished not far short of £2.5 million of public money – our money – on renovating Frogmore Cottage?
The charitable response is that it is the inevitable but necessary cost of ensuring the safety of this hugely popular royal couple and that of their son.
Those of a less charitable disposition will wonder if this is not another example of the Sussexes’ insouciance for public relations and an instinct for extravagance that sits awkwardly with their attempt to position themselves as modern, forward-looking and in touch with how ordinary people live.
It is certainly uncomfortable timing.
For Frogmore Cottage is owned by the Crown Estates and it is in the gift of the Queen. Custom and practice is that royal properties occupied by a member of the Royal Family are maintained by Sovereign Grant, in other words the taxpayer
Reports at the weekend suggested that over the past 18 months, Meghan had amassed a jewellery collection that has been valued at £600,000. And no one yet has dared put a figure on her constantly changing wardrobe of high-end couture.
Danger signs were already there, ever since the duchess’s £350,000, five-day baby shower extravaganza to New York. But that was a private affair and did not involve British taxpayers’ cash.
The refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage is of an entirely different nature.
The major work included replacing defective ceiling beams and floor joists, and updating outmoded heating systems.
It also needed rewiring, with its own electrical sub-station, while new gas and water mains were installed. The couple are also thought to have installed a luxury kitchen and bathroom in the Grade II listed building. Naturally, officials were keen to downplay suggestions that this was an example of royal profligacy.
‘The property had not been the subject of work for some years and had already been earmarked for renovation in line with our responsibility to maintain the condition of the occupied royal palaces estate,’ was the response of Sir Michael Stevens, the Keeper of the Privy Purse who is responsible for the monarchy’s finances.
Indeed, we were also told the house’s fixtures and fittings were ‘substantially’ paid for by the couple – which means the bills have been met by Harry’s father, the Prince of Wales.
With an estimated fortune of £20 million inherited from his mother’s estate and trust funds from the Queen Mother, Harry could, of course, afford to pay for the renovation himself.
Meghan’s decision to avoid Donald Trump’s state visit and Harry’s reported boorishness at his brief encounter with the American first family only added to the narrative
There is nothing to prevent him from doing so, though it could lead to legal complications. For Frogmore Cottage is owned by the Crown Estates and it is in the gift of the Queen. Custom and practice is that royal properties occupied by a member of the Royal Family are maintained by Sovereign Grant, in other words the taxpayer.
No one begrudges Harry and Meghan having their own home and it is part of the compact between the Royal Family and the public that, within reason, we pay for that home.
All the same, when public services are under such pressure and household budgets squeezed, that compact seems more relevant than ever. In return for their entitled lives, royals should give something back. The question is: are Meghan and Harry keeping their side of the bargain?
Their reluctance to share traditional photos of their son and the near-farcical lengths they went to keep secret details of his birth – a child, remember, that is seventh in line to the throne – suggest they are not.
Certainly, we know they hear the criticism because friends such as the Clooneys and Oprah Winfrey have said so. But do they listen? No wonder there are some around the Royal Family who have come to the conclusion that this is a couple who want the privileges and perks of royal life (along with their new coterie of jet-set friends) but have not yet realised – or accepted – that it comes at a price.
Meghan’s decision to avoid Donald Trump’s state visit and Harry’s reported boorishness at his brief encounter with the American first family only added to the narrative.
Slowly and steadily in the year since his wedding, Harry has unpicked his relationship with William and Kate. From separate homes to separate offices and separate staff, he and Meghan have been going their own way
Public affection for the Duke and Duchess – especially for Harry – runs deep. But their behaviour is testing that fondness. Many remain baffled about the couple’s decision to up sticks from the security of Kensington Palace for Frogmore Cottage.
Increasingly, it looks like the motivation was largely due to the rift that opened between Harry and his brother William, and, to a lesser extent, that between Meghan and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Slowly and steadily in the year since his wedding, Harry has unpicked his relationship with William and Kate. From separate homes to separate offices and separate staff, he and Meghan have been going their own way.
The splitting of their charitable interests, the Royal Foundation, is just the latest manifestation.
Are the public now having to meet the cost of this wilful split? Was it really too difficult to remain at Kensington Palace? Indeed, it’s a vast estate where the chances of bumping into neighbours are slight.
As a friend of Princess Diana, I regularly visited her apartment over the years. She often told me she rarely saw other members of the Royal Family who lived there – much to her relief – let alone her immediate neighbours Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Margaret.
For much of last year, Harry and Meghan continued to live at the Palace in cosy Nottingham Cottage, his pre-marriage digs which Meghan said she adored when she moved in.
But suddenly it no longer suited. With a child on the way they, understandably, wanted somewhere bigger. The Duke of Gloucester, whose children are adults, offered to give up his home, Apartment 1.
This was certainly grand enough, and the only essential building work it needed was a £1.4 million new roof – which was to be done anyway.
However, the apartment is directly next door to the Cambridges. Was that the reason Harry declined?
Friends insist this privacy-obsessed couple always wanted to move to Windsor after their wedding and fell in love with Frogmore.
As I said, no one objects to funding their new home, provided Harry and Meghan are going to give the public value for money. If, however, they intend to spend a considerable period of time overseas, as has been reported, perhaps in southern Africa, which will also inevitably involve large sums of public money, attitudes will change.
Harry won plaudits for launching the Invictus Games, which has given opportunity to many wounded military personnel and veterans to compete in sport, and for his championing of issues such as mental health.
But all that might be put at risk by what many will see as self-indulgence.
The impregnability the couple currently enjoy with the wider public might turn to vulnerability.
It might be wise if they start by taking some lessons from fellow royals. Charles and the Queen have meticulously avoided the ostentatious.
The British are naturally forgiving but even so, financial recklessness, arrogance and a cavalier disregard for public sensitivity could do irreparable damage to an institution that most of us care deeply about.