When she stepped out at Westminster Abbey with fiancé Prince Harry for her first official duty alongside Queen Elizabeth on Monday, Meghan Markle’s $1,000 white coat from British designer Amanda Wakeley turned heads.
And it’s all paid for out of pocket — for now, by Harry and Meghan themselves, PEOPLE understands. Royals do not accept designer clothes for free.
While assistants like Natasha Archer, who works for Kate Middleton, call in several options from designers, after they have chosen an outfit the others are returned and the one that is worn is paid for.
After her May 19 wedding to Harry at Windsor’s St. George’s Chapel, Meghan’s clothing budget for official outings will be covered by the money that Prince Charles gives to Prince William, Kate and Harry from his Duchy of Cornwall income of about $28 million.
Last year, the trio drew the expenses needed for their public lives (salaries and office costs and other expenses) from a fund of $4.8 million. (That part of Charles’s official outgoings also covers other aspects of his accounts, such as some capital expenditure.)
The eye-popping $78,000 cost of the Ralph & Russo gown Meghan wore in her engagement portraits sparked much debate when the pictures were released in December.
Meghan, 36, earned an estimated $50,000 an episode by the end of her seven-year run on Suits, it has been reported.
Harry’s net worth is conservatively estimated at around $25 million, according to Money. After Princess Diana’s death in Paris in 1997, Harry and William shared $20 million from their mother’s will. The money was placed in a trust that they couldn’t touch until they were 30.
For more on Meghan’s royal preparations, a guide to the palaces, wedding tiaras and her style evolution, pick up a copy of this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Some insiders have said that Harry also received more than William from their great-grandmother the Queen Mother, who died in 2002. The reason? She knew he wouldn’t inherit the vast Duchy of Cornwall, which instead will pass to William when their father, Prince Charles, ascends to the throne.
Meanwhile, fashion experts say Meghan’s chic looks have continued to evolve in recent months.
“She has become more sophisticated and definitely the hemlines are longer,” says U.K. style guru Hilary Alexander.
Bojana Sentaler, founder and designer at the luxury outerwear brand Sentaler often worn by Meghan (she owns at least five of their alpaca coats), says, “She can pull off a really dressed down look just as well as she can pull off a formal gown. I think people just love seeing the diversity of her fashion choices.”
Alexander adds, “She is very conscious of clothes being photogenic, which is one of the clever things about the way that she dresses.”