Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Paid $3.3 Million for Frogmore Cottage Rent and Renovations, New Report Reveals
A comprehensive update on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Windsor residence, as well as a disclosure of royal staffing diversity targets, was released on Wednesday
Frogmore Cottage, the home the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared with son Archie, now 2, before relocating to the U.S., remains licensed to the couple until March 31, 2022.
Harry and Meghan have also paid rent on the 10-bedroom home until that date through a $3.3 million payment made to the royal family in September 2020. This was initially thought to only cover the extensive costs of refurbishing the home in the ground of Windsor Castle, which the couple moved into in April 2019, shortly before Archie's birth. They welcomed a daughter, Lilibet Diana, on June 4.
"The payment covers all their current obligations," Sir Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse, confirmed to reporters Wednesday at the launch of an annual report into the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant that finances the royal family's public duties.
"We are confident that it represents a good outcome," added Stevens about the payment, which Harry and Meghan contributed as part of their plans to become financially independent following their decision to step back from royal duties in March 2020.
"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made a substantial contribution to the Sovereign Grant that covered the refurbishment costs of Frogmore Cottage," Stevens added.
"It should also be remembered also that this payment has come in the current year at a time where our supplementary income has reduced dramatically," he continued in reference to the 53% fall in tourism-related finances experienced by the royal household as a result of the COVID pandemic. "[Harry and Meghan's payment] has helped to offset the reduction that we would have seen."
Frogmore Cottage was the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex until March 31, 2020, when they officially stopped performing public duties on behalf of Queen Elizabeth. The couple then paid five month's rent on the property before providing the lump sum of $3.3 million and kick-starting their new, independent life in Montecito, near Los Angeles.
Princess Eugenie and husband Jack Brooksbank have since taken up residence in the home with new son, August, while Harry used the secluded home as a base to quarantine ahead of Prince Philip's funeral in April - something he is expected to repeat ahead of the unveiling of a statue to mark the 60th birthday of his mother, Princess Diana, on July 1.
Along with Frogmore, the report shows that Harry's break from frontline royal duties has also affected the funds previously provided by his father, Prince Charles - a change the Duke famously referred to as being "cut off" during the couple's sit-down with Oprah Winfrey in March.
Previous Sovereign Grant reports show Harry and Meghan receiving funds for their "official expenditure" through the multi-million-dollar Duchy of Cornwall, which was set up around 700 years ago to provide funds for the heir to the British throne. With Harry having stepped back, however, Wednesday's report states that the Duchy's funds are now only financing the official costs of Prince William and Kate Middleton's public duties.
This includes the royal couple's 1,250-mile Royal Train journey around Britain in December to pay tribute to key workers and communities amid the COVID-19 crisis, which cost just over $67,000. It was just one element of 1,470 official engagements conducted by members of the Royal Family from March 31, 2020, to the same date in 2021.
The Sovereign Grant report also touches on the issues of diversity and inclusion raised by Meghan in the couple's Oprah sit-down on March 7, where the Duchess made the bombshell claim that there were "concerns and conversations about how dark [Archie's] skin might be when he's born."
In a move to improve the diversity of staff serving the Queen, the Royal Household has for the first time included statistics for the proportion of ethnic minorities it employs. This shows that just 8.5% of staff are drawn from minorities, a position that Stevens admits is "not where we would like to be."
"We recognize that despite all our efforts to target recruitment, train our managers in diversity and inclusion, and to build an inclusive workplace, the results are not what we would like," he told reporters Wednesday. "But we are committed to improving this and hence we have started to publish, for the first time, our diversity statistics to ensure that we are both open and transparent about our efforts to improve.
"It is worth saying that Her Majesty and the members of the royal family have promoted and embraced the diversity of our nation and that of the Commonwealth, and we, therefore, recognize that our own workforce needs to reflect the communities that we serve," he added.
The Sovereign Grant report shows that the Royal Household has now set a target of increasing the proportion of ethnic minority employees to 10% by 2022.
"It is not that we have not been progressing diversity and inclusion initiatives during this period, it is that simply the results have not been what we would like," added Stevens. "One of the key points about the publishing of our statistics here - which is actually on a voluntary basis - is that there is no place to hide."