Sorry, HOW much?
That was my first reaction to news that British taxpayers paid £2.4 million ($3.06 million) to refurbish Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s new home Frogmore Cottage.
My second thought was how could anyone spend that kind of money on a repairing a COTTAGE?
I mean, if you check the dictionary definition of a cottage, it says: ‘A small house, typically in the countryside.’
Frogmore isn’t a ‘small house’ – it’s a very large sprawling mansion set in the 33-acre grounds of Frogmore Estate near Windsor Castle.
Harry and Meghan chose to move out of London to Frogmore Cottage (pictured) near Windsor, and convert the existing five homes back into one
It required major refurbishment in the form of new ceilings, floors, bathrooms, bedrooms and a kitchen. Meghan and Harry are pictured with baby Archie on May 8
In fact, it’s so big that until the royal couple decided to live there, the ‘cottage’ was split into a series of FIVE separate housing units for estate workers.
Now, I’ve got no problem with Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, wanting to live in such a grand property, which was built in 1801 at the direction of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, as a retreat for her and her unmarried daughters.
But I do have a big problem with being forced to pay for it, and so it seems do the vast majority of Britons judging by a poll we conducted today on the TV show I co-present, Good Morning Britain.
A staggering 87% of over 14,000 people who voted answered ‘NO’ to the question: ‘Should the taxpayer pay £2.4 million for the redevelopment of Harry and Meghan’s official residence?
That result should cause considerable concern to the Royal Family.
There are a number of reasons why this bombshell revelation is sparking such outrage.
First, they were already living in a perfectly nice apartment inside Kensington Palace.
Second, they were offered a far larger and grander apartment inside the Palace grounds by another royal, the Duke of Gloucester, but turned it down.
The advantage of taking up that offer is that it would have required no extra security arrangements as those are already in place at the Palace, where many royals live.
The disadvantage is that the Duke of Gloucester’s home is directly next door to Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and relations between the Fab Four have grown increasingly strained.
Meghan and Harry were already living in a perfectly nice apartment inside Kensington Palace
They were offered the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester’s grand Apartment No 1 at Kensington Palace after a year in Nottingham Cottage
So instead, Harry and Meghan chose to move out of London to this luxurious home near Windsor, and convert the existing five homes back into one – which required major refurbishment in the form of new ceilings, floors, bathrooms, bedrooms and a kitchen.
They are reported to have used an interior designer deployed by global celebrity hangout Soho House to oversee it.
Of course, that is entirely their right, up to the point where we have to pay millions for them to do so.
News of this astonishingly large £2.4 million taxpayer burden (and that’s just so far, the work isn’t finished and nor is the bill to pay for it) couldn’t have come at a worse time given that Britain has been enduring a sustained period of government-driven austerity that has led to widespread budget cuts in many important spending areas like education and social welfare.
Graham Smith, from the anti-royal Republic campaign group, raged on Twitter: ‘A charity spent £2.4 million on a support centre for marines suffering PTSD. The taxpayers then spent the same amount on a luxury private home for Harry and Meghan.’
Supporters of the couple point to William and Kate also costing the taxpayer millions for refurbishment of their own apartment at Kensington Palace.
But they are the future King and Queen, and that’s a crucial difference.
Harry and Meghan will never reign on the throne, and should therefore be treated in an entirely separate manner commensurate with their relatively lowly royal status.
But there’s a growing fear amongst palace courtiers that the couple think their rising global celebrity status entitles them to be considered as just as important.
The Duke of Gloucester’s home is directly next door to Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and relations between the Fab Four have grown increasingly strained
And that is said to be the real reason why the Sussexes were so keen to flee the Palace, where they lived under the shadows of the Cambridges.
There has been rampant speculation that the two couples just don’t get on, especially the two wives who couldn’t be more different.
Those rumours intensified last week when Harry and Meghan announced they were leaving the charity they shared with William and Kate to start their own.
Whatever the truth, the single worst way to nail the gossip about a feud is to look like you can’t bear to be anywhere near someone.
And the single worst way to get public support for going to live in a country mansion is to then make the taxpayer pay for the privilege.
The uproar over the cost of Frogmore Cottage is the latest story of extravagance to beset Meghan who committed a PR disaster earlier this year by throwing a $500,000 baby shower in New York.
Barely a week goes by without new tales of her lavish spending on jewellery and clothing.
She’s been accused of being the new Marie Antoinette, with a ‘Let them eat cake!’ tone deaf mentality towards how this all looks to ordinary people struggling to survive.
I’d say a more worrying comparison is that Meghan’s beginning to resemble someone even less relatable to ordinary people – Kim Kardashian.
The parallels are uncanny:
Both women were born in Los Angeles within a few months of each other, Kim being 38 and Meghan, 37.
They both made their name on big TV shows.
They both married world famous, very rich men.
They’re both friends with many of the same celebrities including the likes of vacuous Chrissy Teigen.
They’re both fitness and health food fanatics.
They’ve both shared the same hair stylist, Michael Silva.
They’ve both repeatedly worn very similar dresses including Givenchy gowns on their wedding days.
They both use social media to aggressively promote themselves and their families, including posting very similar images of their new babies.
And they both like to shamelessly live their lives surrounded by lavish homes, cars and flunkies.
In fact, there’s just one key difference between them: Kim Kardashian pays for all her stuff!
And that, right there, is the problem with Meghan Markle.
A more worrying comparison is that Meghan’s beginning to resemble someone even less relatable to ordinary people – Kim Kardashian (pictured on June 25). Meghan is pictured arriving at her baby shower
She wants all the Kardashian-style fame and fortune that comes with being a royal, but she wants taxpayers to support it.
And I wouldn’t mind so much if she didn’t then shirk important royal duties like turning out to meet the President of the United States on his state visit, just because she doesn’t like Donald Trump.
There’s a deal if you become a royal – you get the luxury and privilege, but you have to put the work in.
When you don’t, public unrest follows very quickly.
The bottom line with this Frogmore expenses scandal is that Meghan’s a multi-millionaire Hollywood actress, and Harry is also a multi-millionaire with a fortune estimated at over £20 million.
They could easily have afforded to pay for all these renovations themselves rather than for just a few fittings and fixtures, particularly as the Queen gifted them the actual property, but they didn’t want to.
Instead they wanted to make cash-strapped nurses, teachers, soldiers and police officers pay for large chunks of the expense.
And as our GMB poll indicated, that is proving to be a big mistake.
Kim Kardashian couldn’t care less about public annoyance with her shameless greed, and has no reason to.
But Meghan Markle should – because the British Monarchy, unlike many of its European counterparts, still survives and thrives entirely thanks to continued public support.
Meghan has to decide if she wants to be a Princess or a Kardashian.
She can’t be both.