The Truth About Harry And Meghan’s Royal Debts – And How Long They’ll Be Paying Them Off

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are one of the world’s most famous couples. Ever since their relationship became known, it’s been of immense interest to both the media and a significant section of the world’s population. But now they’re in the process of repaying an astonishing amount of money to the U.K. public.

The pair first met in 2016, after being set up on a blind date that July by a shared pal. Meghan, an American actress, didn’t press for any details about the man she was being set up with, other than to ask if he was “nice.” In any case, she knew precious little about the particulars of royal life and what she was potentially getting herself into.

Harry, likewise, knew nothing of the woman he was meeting. The grandson of Queen Elizabeth II had never seen Suits, the TV show she was most famous for. But the pair would quickly develop a mutual attraction, which further flourished whilst camping beneath the stars in Botswana. The Prince proposed in late 2017, and any trepidation Meghan felt about joining the Royal circus was clearly put to one side for love.

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The American agreed to quit acting, and followed that up by initiating the process of becoming both a British citizen and a Church of England devotee. Prince Harry and Meghan’s extravagant wedding took place on May 19, 2018, in London. The Queen then bestowed the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex upon them. The bride was now a duty-bound member of the British Royal Family.

On the surface, it all seemed to be going so well for them. The couple initially moved into Nottingham Cottage, which is close by to Kensington Palace. Then, they relocated to the centuries-old Frogmore Cottage, situated near Windsor Castle. They fulfilled their royal obligations and Meghan gave birth to a son named Archie Mountbatten-Windsor in early May of 2019.

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Behind closed doors, though, there was a growing dissatisfaction with their lives under the spotlight. Meghan had become the victim of a constant torrent of online abuse and malicious lies, and was regularly criticized by certain media outlets and personalities. It all became too much for them, and in October 2019 Harry was pushed to make a statement, as his wife instigated legal proceedings against The Mail on Sunday.

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In the explosive statement, Harry drew parallels between the abuse that his wife had experienced with that endured by his mother, the late Princess Diana. He stated, “My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

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Evidently, then, the media intrusion and attacks had become too much for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Added to that, the public duties inherent with being a part of the British royal family – and the strict requirement for conformity – seemed to be taking their toll on them. All of this would lead to a bombshell announcement that shook the royals to the core.

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Yes, on January 8, 2020, Prince Harry and his wife made an unprecedented statement. It declared, “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty the Queen.”

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The statement continued, “We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.” The shock announcement was seemingly made without any consultation with other members of the British Royal Family – including Harry’s father Charles and brother William. Rumors of a rift with his elder sibling seemed to be confirmed by an ITV interview the previous fall.

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The press immediately dubbed the whole affair “Megxit,” a nod to the U.K.’s protracted leaving process from the European Union. The portmanteau also seemed to suggest that Meghan was the principal force behind the break, which created some backlash to it in the media. Nevertheless, it became a widely used term, and one that has even been used to sell merchandise.

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Further intrigue and controversy were created when the Daily Mail published a story on January 11, 2020. It alleged how, at The Lion King premiere the previous July, Harry was overheard touting Meghan’s voiceover credentials to Disney exec Bob Iger. The day before, The Times had revealed that the Duchess had agreed a deal with Disney in exchange for a donation to a favored wildlife charity. The whole episode suggested the couple had been looking to escape royal duties for quite some time.

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On the flip side, ITV’s Tom Bradby – a pal who’s quizzed the couple on numerous occasions – claimed that Harry and Meghan were, in actual fact, informed of a plan to “slim down” the monarchy whilst in Canada at Christmas. This proposal would essentially have forced them out to the margins. His take was effectively supported by royal historian Robert Lacey, who suggested in The Washington Post that Prince Charles advocated this alleged new strategy.

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In any case, the pair’s statement and their clear desire to step back from royal duties would result in an unprecedented meeting of the British royal family being called. The showdown talks – which were labeled as the Sandringham Summit by the media – took place on January 13, 2020. The monarch herself was then compelled to make a rare statement on her kinfolk.

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Her Majesty’s statement expressed the regret felt by herself and the others at the couple stepping away from their duties. It said, “Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the royal family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”

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Five days after the summit, it was revealed that an understanding had been reached whereby Harry and Meghan would gain their desired freedom from royal duties but give up their “Royal Highness” titles. The British press dubbed the conclusion a “hard Megxit.” The New York Times noted that the U.K. seemed to be split on similar lines as on the Brexit debate, with many young people in favor of Harry and Meghan’s push for independence, whilst older folk tended to back tradition.

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Next, at a private charity dinner in England’s capital, Harry made his first public remarks on the saga. The prince conveyed his sorrow over the decision to quit royal duties, acknowledging the couple had taken a “leap of faith.” However, he also argued that there was “no other option.” Interestingly, the wording of his remarks seemed to suggest that he was, in fact, the driving force behind the decision.

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In any case, Megxit wouldn’t just have massive repercussions for the wider British royal family. It would result in Harry and Meghan losing a lot of astonishing privileges. Firstly, as previously mentioned, the couple would no longer be representing the Queen on official business. So, no more royal jaunts to exotic locales like Tonga and Fiji for them.

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Furthermore, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were forced to permanently shut their Buckingham Palace office. Consequently, the staff who worked there had to find new jobs. The couple also lost access to their Sovereign Grant money. This had helped them to preserve their formal residences and workspaces. They continue to be eligible for money from Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall revenue, however.

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With their departure from frontline royal duty, Harry and Meghan would also kiss goodbye to their security funding. The Sussexes also relinquished their place on the royal rota system. Losing this essentially makes them more vulnerable to paparazzi and illicitly gained photographs, as the rota provides the media with legally acquired imagery of the British royals.

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Finally, the Sussexes would no longer receive U.K. taxpayer funds as a result of their decision to quit life as front and center royals. This would perhaps have the most substantial effect on the couple, as during their time in the monarchy they took a substantial amount from the British public. This raised several questions, not least how would the Duke and Duchess go about becoming financially independent?

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Furthermore, the decision would bring forward another pertinent question. Would the Sussexes pay back the money they took from the public purse to renovate their royal home? Indeed, as we will soon discover, the cash taken was an eye-watering amount. But first, let’s learn a little bit about the luxurious residence itself.

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Frogmore Cottage is situated in Windsor, England. More specifically, it’s inside the private, 33-acre Frogmore Estate Grounds in Home Park. It was built under the orders of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III. The royal residence was completed in 1801 and was first known as the Double Garden Cottage.

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According to Queen Charlotte’s 1801 accounts, Frogmore Cottage was constructed by a builder named Mr. Bowen. Queen Victoria enjoyed breakfast there in 1875, and noticed the “immense number of little frogs.” Apparently, the monarch was not amused, labeling them “quite disgusting.” Its current name was inspired by those slimy amphibians living in the surrounding marshes.

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Since 1975 Frogmore Cottage has been a Grade II Listed Building. The property and the land surrounding it is owned by the Crown Estate. The listing on the Historic England website doesn’t reveal a great deal more about the property’s history, merely stating, “Early C19 plain two-story house with parapet. Centre break with porch. Glazing bar sashes. Stucco faced.”

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Frogmore Cottage has had some interesting tenants down the years. The aforementioned Queen Charlotte used the property as a country escape, and her girls likewise stayed there on numerous occasions. Later on, in the 1840s, a noted American theologian named Henry James Sr. resided there with his next of kin.

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In 1897 Queen Victoria’s PA Abdul Karim resided at Frogmore, along with his old man and significant other. When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in October 1917, the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna sought refuge in the U.K. She hid at Frogmore Cottage for a period in the 1920s. At the beginning of the 21st century, when it was a split into five individual units, the cottage housed workers from the Windsor Estate.

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Now, let’s fast forward back to the present, when the historic cottage is inhabited by Harry, Meghan and their young son Archie. At least, that’s the case when they’re in the U.K. Recently, the couple have been residing in an £18 million, 12-bedroom villa in Hollywood, Los Angeles, and are believed to be paying zero rent for it. Not a bad deal, if you can get it.

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But as previously mentioned, some time before they left for the sunnier climes of California, the Sussexes had moved into Frogmore Cottage. Harry and Meghan first set up home in the property in April 2019, shortly before their son was born. The Queen had given the cottage to them as a wedding present.

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Nevertheless, Frogmore Cottage was deemed not to be fit for a Duke and Duchess – so considerable renovation work was needed before they could move in. The expensive revamp of the centuries-old property would be done via the Sovereign Grant. So, in actual fact, it was the U.K. public who footed the bill.

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Firstly, released royal accounts show that the project involved the “reconfiguration and full refurbishment of five residential units in poor condition to create the official residence for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.” So, in essence then, the units that we previously mentioned housed workers would be transformed into a single home for the Sussexes.

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The Sun reported in 2019 that the core of the renovation project took around half a year to complete. This work included refitting a bathroom and the installation of a new kitchen. Furthermore, damaged wooden beams running across the ceilings and old floor joists were updated. The cottage’s uneconomical heating systems got replaced.

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The electrics inside Frogmore Cottage also needed to be rewired, and an electrical sub-station fitted. The gas and water systems of the storied property required upgrading too. This wasn’t quick and easy work, then, for those tasked with making it a perfectly regal home for Harry, Meghan and their young son.

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It wasn’t cheap, either. According to the royal accounts for the financial year of 2018-19, the cost of the renovations was a whopping $2.9 million dollars. The Daily Mail suggested that this is a conservative estimate, too, as the work on the property spilled over into the following financial year of 2019-20. This included several beautifying touches, such as landscaping, which ensured hundreds of thousands more were spent.

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Furthermore, basic maintenance work isn’t made public, so isn’t added to the official expenditure. Of course, the extortionate cost of the work attracted a lot of comment and criticism. This ranged from ordinary folk to the Taxpayer’s Alliance and anti-royal group Republic, the latter of whom demanded it was paid back quickly. The clamor for it to be repaid in full likely increased with Megxit.

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There was some debate as to how the Sussexes could afford to pay back the money now they’re no longer working royals. Since Megxit became official, though, Harry has been receiving money from Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall income. But the father will not be funding his youngest son’s lifestyle for much longer.

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Indeed, it’s anticipated that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will begin making their own money soon and become financially independent, as they have promised. In any case, in mid-May of 2020, The Mail on Sunday filed an exclusive story on the Sussexes. And their journalistic scoop made a stunning revelation.

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Yes, the London-based newspaper disclosed that Harry and Meghan had, in fact, started paying back the U.K. taxpayer for the work done on Frogmore Cottage. What’s more, according to The Mail on Sunday, they had begun doing so in April. Why the Sussexes had done it in such a secretive manner, though, is open to debate.

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The Mail on Sunday then detailed the specific arrangements of the public reimbursement. Rather than paying it back in one lump sum, the Sussexes are reportedly paying just under $22,500 a month to retain Frogmore as their official U.K. home. This agreement – which has been dubbed ‘rental-plus’ – means they will wind up paying above the commercial rate, while compensating the building costs with the excess.

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Even so, this particular arrangement means that it’ll take a really long time for the U.K. taxpayer to get its money back. In fact, at the current rate of paying it will be over 11 years before they’re fully reimbursed. And that’s without factoring in interest or the basic costs of running the property. So, there you have it, in 11 years’ time, the Sussexes will be fully financially independent.

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