The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have handed over a large sum of money to Buckingham Palace to pay for the repairs to Frogmore Cottage – their official UK home – and rent for “a number of years”. Palace sources have confirmed the couple agreed the terms after the rental value of their home on the Windsor estate was assessed by an independent property surveyor. The valuation of the monthly rental costs was determined, said a royal aide, on “the state and condition of the property”. But royal aides would not disclose the exact sum of the rent as it was a private arrangement between the couple and the Palace.
Harry and Meghan were criticised after leaving the Royal Family after the Sovereign Grant – often referred to as taxpayers’ money – had authorised £2.4 million for renovating the Sussexes home shortly before they got married. As part of the terms of their departure as senior working royals, they signed what is known inside Palace walls as the ‘Sandringham Agreement’ – in which they agreed to pay back the renovations cost and pay rent on a commercial basis in order to keep Frogmore Cottage as their private home in the UK. The Crown Estate remains the owner of the cottage but a royal source said that Harry and Meghan intend to keep the house as their private residence “for the foreseeable future”. The money has been handed over along with an up-front payment for rent for an undisclosed number of years, which began on April 1st this year – the official start date of the Duke and Duchess’ new lives outside the Royal Family. The couple are currently living in a property in Montecito in California.
Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that another recently departed working Royal, Prince Andrew, spent nearly £16,000 on a charter flight to Northern Ireland to attend a golf tournament. He was still a full-time Royal at the time, in July last year, and attended the Open Championship at Royal Portrush Gold Club. The flight from Farnborough, near his home on the Windsor Estate, to Londonderry is listed as costing £15,848 and palaces sources were unable to say why he was unable to take a scheduled flight or what diary clashes necessitated hiring a charter plane.
Similarly the Princess Royal chalked up similar costs of £16,440 for a charter plane to Rome where she attended the Italy versus Scotland 6 Nations Rugby match. Princess Anne is the Patron of Scottish Rugby Union, but it is not clear why she could not have taken one of the many commercial flights between London and the Italian capital. She is however, one of the busiest members of the Royal Family and a royal source said the travel office is “mindful” of the Royals’ timetable “and how it conflicts with other programmes.”
A much higher cost of £210,000 for the Prince of Wales to fly to Muscat to pay his respects following the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said was explained by Palace officials by the sudden news of the Sultan’s passing. Sources also said they needed to get Prince Charles there “at short notice” as requested by the Foreign Office and there was no alternative available. The Royal Train, meanwhile, was only used three times in the past year which begs the question whether its costs are justified. It was used once by the Queen for a journey to Scotland and twice by the Prince of Wales to travel to Newport and again to Carlisle, at a cost of approximately £20,000 for each of the three trips. A royal source was quick to point out the train does save on overnight accommodation and security costs and allows the 94-year old Monarch to carry out a full day of engagements. The anti-Monarchy group Republic, however, criticised the increase in travel costs.
Republic’s CEO, Graham Smith, said: "Why is the government paying for Prince Andrew to go to golfing tournaments, or Princess Anne to attend a rugby match in Italy?" He added: “A 15% increase in travel costs when hospitals can’t deliver the very best care to every person in need, when teachers are struggling to pay for the necessary books and equipment and the police are stretched to breaking point is scandalous."