Of course, nobody expected the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to renovate their new home on a shoestring. But few were prepared for the eye-watering financial outlay revealed in royal accounts this week.
When it emerged that Prince Harry and Meghan have so far spent a whopping £2.4 million of public funds on their home improvements, reaction ranged from confusion to anger.
Why should the British public be expected to foot such an astronomical bill for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage — the multi-millionaire couple’s flash new pad in the grounds of Windsor Castle — when there is a spacious flat in Kensington Palace they could have moved into for a fraction of the cost? And how the heck does one spend several million pounds doing up a cottage?
Prince Harry and Meghan have so far spent a whopping £2.4 million of public funds on their home improvements at Frogmore Cottage. This money comes from the Sovereign Grant, valued at £82.2 million this year and comprised of profits from the Queen’s property portfolio (the Crown Estate), which are paid to the Government
The total bill to taxpayers once Frogmore — where the couple moved to this April and are now bringing up baby Archie — is finished is expected to reach up to £3.2 million.
This money comes from the Sovereign Grant, valued at £82.2 million this year and comprised of profits from the Queen’s property portfolio (the Crown Estate), which are paid to the Government.
Twenty-five per cent of these profits are paid to the monarchy to fund the upkeep of its property, travel, security and staff. While the Sovereign Grant isn’t taxpayer money, it is considered to be public funds, belonging to the state.
In fairness, Harry and Meghan have spent £250,000 of their own money on the fixtures and fittings at Grade II-listed Frogmore
In fairness, Harry and Meghan have spent £250,000 of their own money on the fixtures and fittings at Grade II-listed Frogmore.
So what has the cash been splashed on? We investigate this very costly home refurbishment.
Incredibly grand designs…
Frogmore was formerly made up of five ‘dormitory-style units’, used as staff accommodation. Converting the small(ish) houses into one large, reportedly five-bedroom, property was a huge job, requiring the replacement of staircases and all the old floor and ceiling joists, removing many existing partitions and creating new doors.
A source says the old original chimney stacks have been repointed with chimney liners reportedly inserted in order to accommodate fashionable log burners, while plans approved last July by Windsor and Maidenhead Borough Council detail designs for two orangeries for the couple to enjoy in the summer months.
‘Natural light is important for the Sussexes as Meghan misses the LA sunshine,’ says a royal source.
The construction work alone on such a project could cost up to £1.25 million, says architectural technologist Nicholas Stockley of Resi Architects, who has worked on large country residences and multi-million-pound homes.
‘A normal homeowner would typically go to tender to multiple contractors. If someone asked me how much it would cost to turn five houses of this scale into one, I would say the minimum would be £750,000,’ says Mr Stockley.
‘But I imagine this couple have their own professionals, which could inflate the price.’
A source says the old original chimney stacks have been repointed with chimney liners reportedly inserted in order to accommodate fashionable log burners
…with added extras that upped the cost
It is not known if the orangeries have yet been installed, or who will pay for them, but Mr Stockley says he would anticipate each to cost from £50,000 to £70,000 if the couple wanted high-spec glazing.
Elsewhere, he adds, standard new windows that comply with listed building regulations could cost up to £5,000 each, while an elaborate ‘feature’ window, if required, could be up to £10,000.
Then there have been additional costs such as the ‘floating floor’ required by planners. A source close to the Sussexes said the cottage had an old kitchen floor that builders were not allowed to remove. To solve this, they had to create a suspended one, where timbers are laid over the old floor.
It sounds simple, but would have resulted in major and expensive changes, says Mr Stockley, who adds that the floating floor could be turned into a feature: ‘Part of the ceiling could be removed to create a double-storey height room with steps leading up to a raised kitchen floor. This would be costly, but have the wow factor.’
Going green with a very smart upgrade
New water mains are said to have been installed, presumably to replace outdated small pipes going into the building from the main supply with larger ones suitable for high-pressure showers. Mr Stockley estimates the cost of replumbing the property may run to £750,000.
The Mail has been told that the environmentally aware couple have also paid personally to install a £50,000 ‘eco-boiler’ housed in its own building on the premises, which supplies endless hot water and low-carbon heat.
The 17th-century property will have been rewired, in part to comply with building regulations, but also to allow for the use of the ‘smart’ technology Harry reportedly wanted. This would enable the couple to control lighting, heating and security through an app on their smartphones. They could even open curtains, windows and activate CCTV. Liam Parker, of home automation company Quest End, says the cost of rewiring and fitting a large property with smart tech could start at £200,000.
Another source has told the Mail that a sound system has also been installed throughout the cottage (Meghan has spoken of the ‘positive vibes’ she gets from music).
A source close to the Sussexes said the cottage had an old kitchen floor that builders were not allowed to remove. To solve this, they had to create a suspended one, where timbers are laid over the old floor
Hotshot designer’s ‘grit and glamour’
Given that interior designer Vicky Charles worked at Soho House Group for 20 years before setting up her own company in 2016, it is perhaps unsurprising that Meghan is reported to have chosen her to decorate Frogmore. After all, the group owns London’s Dean Street Townhouse — Harry and Meghan’s first-date venue — and Soho Farmhouse, where Meghan is said to have held her hen party.
Charles, known for combining ‘grit and glamour’, has said that, in her work, ‘a lot of time is spent looking at the light and the finishes’.
For the royal couple, that appears to mean relaxed comfort, with a source telling the Mail that the Sussexes have opted for luxurious Nepalese cashmere throws in their living room, plus myriad cushions and large photographic books.
Alcove bookcases are said to have been ordered — Meghan is an avid reader, referring on her now-defunct lifestyle blog The Tig to the ‘badass’ books that kept her entertained as a single girl. ‘They want it to be a real home, rather than a “do-not-touch” show home,’ says a source.
Of course, such artful understatement does not come cheap. While Charles declined to comment on either her royal appointment or her rates, high-end interior designers can command £500 a day, with an additional percentage commission on the source.
Harry and Meghan are thought to be using vegan, chemical-free paint from German company Auro, where a five-litre tin of premium wipeable coloured emulsion costs from £74.
Two coats on an average-sized room requires around 7.5 litres, and Frogmore is believed to have five bedrooms. So that’s more than £500 on paint for the bedrooms alone — without the decorators’ fees.
Bespoke kitchen could top £100K
Among the renovations is a new kitchen, which is said to be a huge, state-of-the-art affair for which the couple paid themselves. Meghan was thought to be eyeing up units by designer Wolf, whose stainless steel double oven — apparently one of her favourites — costs £7,739.
We’re told she wants induction hobs, sophisticated wine storage units and a Wolf coffee system that supplies immediate boiling water for her calming herbal teas.
She is also reported to have hankered after an American-style, walk-in, floor-to-ceiling stainless steel fridge freezer — all of which could edge the total spent on Frogmore’s kitchen to £100,000, says Nicholas Stockley.
‘Bespoke, handmade units, made to perfectly fit the space of asymmetrical old buildings, are the most expensive part,’ he adds. ‘Appliances can also cost a lot — believe it or not, you can spend £10,000 on a fridge.’
Meanwhile, a source tells us there is a utility room with a Miele washing machine, a brand that typically sells for upwards of £1,000, as well as colour-coded laundry baskets.
A nursery fit for little Archie
with two-month-old Archie now the focus of this fledgling family, the nursery is pivotal.
He will most likely sleep in the £290 eco-friendly cot, the Babyletto Hudson, given to Meghan at her New York baby shower.
The nursery, is believed to have been painted in gender-neutral colours and have its own en-suite.
His & Hers dressing rooms, but no gym
TRANSITIONING from Nottingham Cottage, Harry and Meghan’s two-bedroom home in the grounds of Kensington Palace, to a sweeping five-bed property will, no doubt, have required more furniture.
The Mail understands Frogmore’s master bedroom has fitted wardrobes — handy for Meghan’s rumoured £800,000 of clothes — and now has ‘his and hers’ dressing rooms. It could easily accommodate the £2,095 ‘cosy emperor bed’ from Soho House that was reportedly on their wedding gift list.
A source has told us the couple’s new ensuite, with power shower and underfloor heating, also has marble-surround basins. ‘A high-end bathroom could cost up to £25,000 to fit,’ says Mr Stockley.
Contrary to rumours, no gym has been installed. Then again, Meghan (who describes running as ‘moving meditation’) will have plenty of space to jog in her 35 acres.
Oh-so frugal vegetable patch
A self-confessed foodie, Meghan is said to have had a vegetable garden installed in the grounds of Frogmore Cottage. ‘The Duchess has a passion for cooking, so it was suggested to include a small plot in the spacious garden where they can grow some of their own produce,’ a source told the Mail.
‘She regularly cooks for Prince Harry and the cottage will be the perfect place for her to prepare meals with homegrown produce.’
Very frugal — but, as the Mail revealed this week, plans are being discussed for a tennis or badminton court, which could cost up to £30,000, while £20,000 of fast-growing greenery has been planted for added privacy.
Much of the outdoor work, such as landscaping, is yet to be done and will reportedly be paid for by the couple, while the cost of some work, such as exterior repainting, will remain unknown, as it is believed to fall under a five-year royal repair programme.
Sky-high security bill
One of the biggest and most controversial elements of the couple’s move is the security bill, which comes on top of the construction bill and was reported this week to be a whopping £750,000.
This will include the cost of 20 officers from the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley force to guard the property. Annexes may need to be installed for the officers, as well as night-vision cameras and security lights. As former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe has said, the property is ‘exposed on virtually every side’ and it is only 200 metres from the Long Walk, the public footpath in Windsor Park.
Of course, none of this would have been necessary had Meghan and Harry remained in the already well-guarded Kensington Palace.