Perhaps the ultimate power couple, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have captured the hearts of the world with their transatlantic romance. During Meghan’s pregnancy, speculation around the name and sex of the baby escalated - drawing thousands of bets and thus breaking several world records. However, they broke another when they created the Instagram account @SussexRoyal which gained a million followers in its first four hours.
Yesterday, the annual Sovereign Grant Report revealed that the couple's new home received a £2.4m ($3.1m) renovation ahead of the move-in. Harry, Meghan and baby Archie now live at Frogmore Cottage which, prior to the renovation, was divided into five separate homes. A mansion of maternity, the royal couple moved in soon before Meghan was due to give birth. Built in 1801 at the direction of Queen Charlotte, the house sits in the middle of the Frogmore Estate which is located west of London - in Windsor, Sussex.
While this will no doubt provide an idyllic setting for Archie’s formative years, it is the British taxpayer who is left with the £2.4m invoice. Furthermore, major renovations to Kensington Palace were undertaken last year to upgrade “Apartment One” for the couple.
Firstly, don’t let the word “apartment” fool you. The renovations alone cost £1.4m ($1.7m). In addition to roof repairs, these renovations reportedly turned multiple offices into a 21-bedroom home for Harry and Meghan. However, soon after going public with the pregnancy, the couple announced that they would be moving to Frogmore Cottage.The Queen's Sovereign Grant - the money the royal family receives from the British Treasury - was £82m ($104m) for the period 2018 to 2019. Of that, £33m ($42m) was set aside for maintenance, including major renovation work on Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s official residence.
Co-host of ITV’s Good Morning Britain Piers Morgan has criticised the couple over their expenditure, pointing to the fact that they already had a property within Kensington Palace when the renovation work to create a newly-weds’ mansion began. “They had a perfectly nice cottage inside the grounds of Kensington Palace,” explains Morgan, who describes himself as a monarchist. “They were offered a much bigger, grander one again at Kensington Palace. They reject all this and instead they demand this Frogmore Cottage and it’s now been renovated for £2.4m.”
The Grade II listed Frogmore Cottage was given to the couple, along with other properties, by the Queen. It is situated in the grounds of royal residence Frogmore House, where Harry and Meghan held their wedding reception. “They didn’t need to have the mansion in Windsor,” Morgan adds. “They had a very luxurious place in Kensington Palace.” The refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage took around six months although certain tasks, such as repainting the exterior, have not yet been completed.
Other royal works include the £400,000 ($508,000) renovation to Kensington Palace’s the Old Stables - where the Queen's cousin Prince Richard and his Danish-born wife Birgitte are set to move to, from their current residence which is also in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
"The property had not been the subject of work for some years,” explains Sir Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse, in relation to Frogmore Cottage. He adds that the property, “had already been earmarked for renovation in line with our responsibility to maintain the condition of the occupied royal palaces estate".
As stated, the Queen’s Sovereign Grant was £82m ($104m) for last year. However, just two years prior, it was £43m ($55m). Furthermore, in the period 2017 to 2018, when the Queen received a 13 per cent pay rise, the money required from the taxpayer to fund the Royal Family rose by 78 per cent compared to the previous year. In fact, as recently as 2013 it was being reported, via the same Sovereign Grant Report, that the royals were costing the taxpayer the substantially lower sum of £31m ($39m).
While this is a significant increase, the cost per taxpayer is far from astronomical. For instance, Vanity Fair reports that, for the period 2017 to 2018, the cost per taxpayer was a mere 69p. Furthermore, as Piers Morgan curiously admitted on This Morning, the Royal Family pay for themselves.
Accounts show that the Crown Estate, the Royal Family’s profit-making arm which owns and manages properties in London and across the UK, provided a record £343.5m ($437m) to the Treasury last year - up 4.3 per cent on the previous year.
However, anti-monarchist campaign group Republic argue that the aforementioned £82m which the Royal Family costs the taxpayer is grossly underestimated. Adding in considerations such as their security bill, which is largely picked up by the Metropolitan Police, Republic believe that the figure of £82m per year should be more like £345m ($450m) per year.
Despite being a big spender, the Queen isn’t the most fiscally demanding of the royals. When it comes to individual expense sheets, Prince Charles is the true high roller. The period 2017 to 2018 was a busy time for him, when he racked up £362,149 ($469,905) of expenses on a single trip. He used the family’s private jet - an RAF Voyager - to visit Malaysia, Singapore, India and Brunei. He also used the royal train on seven occasions which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is the most expensive way the royals get about.
Last year, there was a million-pound increase in overseas travel expenditure and a 98 per cent increase in carbon emissions from flights. The previous year saw 1,687 tonnes of carbon emissions whereas last year saw 3,344 tonnes. Buckingham Palace stated that this is due to "higher usage of chartered large fixed wing aircraft for foreign business travel".
However, even the figure estimated by campaign group Republic is dwarfed by the capital which the Royal Family actually generates. It is estimated that the royals generate around £1.1bn ($1.4bn) for Britain per year. This includes things like PR value (such as the “the Kate effect” where thousands of pounds are spent via magazines and websites running stories on her or fashion and beauty brands claiming to give customers her look) and all of those tacky royal-themed souvenirs you can buy in London.
While it’s true that Harry and Meghan cost the British taxpayer money, even their £2.4m renovation is a small price to pay (believe it or not) considering all of the money they bring in. One day, this will all be explained to a very confused Alfie as he sits on the lawn of Frogmore Cottage, on his family’s sprawling estate. How the other half lives.