A former MP, a Privy Counsellor and the Republic campaign group called for a “refund” after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they want ‘financial independence’ – months after a £2.4m public-funded refurb
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry face calls to pay back £2.4m spent on their official home after revealing their bid for “financial independence” from the Royal Family.
A Privy Counsellor and campaign group Republic criticised the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for saying they would step down as senior royals – but keep a claim on the newly – refurbished Windsor pad.
In a statement last night the Royal couple said they would “step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent”, dividing time between the US and UK.
But they added they “will continue to use Frogmore Cottage …as their official residence as they continue to support the Monarchy, and so that their family will always have a place to call home in the UK.”
The cottage was renovated at a cost of £2.4m of public money between November 2018 and March 2019 – refurbishing and renovating “five residential units” to create an “official residence” for the couple.
The refurbishment was paid for by the Sovereign Grant – a sum of money given to the Monarch from the Government which was £82.2m in 2018/19.
The Grant is calculated based on profits from the Crown Estate, and would not have been lower if the Royal Family had decided to spend the money for Frogmore Cottage on something else.
However, the Sovereign Grant is still officially allocated by the government – a sort of ‘allowance’ for the Monarch.
Graham Smith, chief executive of the campaign group Republic, suggested the promise of financial independence rang hollow.
He said: “It’s not just Frogmore Cottage – they’re going to be relying on the Metropolitan Police to provide security.
“And they are going to be relying on their official title to cash in and make a profit on those official titles that they hold.
“I certainly think they owe the taxpayer a refund. They have spent £2.4m on refurbishing their house on the taxpayer.
“It was going to be their home and now they’ve decided to live elsewhere so we need that money back.
“They need to abandon their claim to that house.”
Former Lib Dem minister Norman Baker, one of hundreds of privy counsellors who advise the Queen, said the pair should repay the money.
Mr Baker – who lost his seat in 2015 – said: “The taxpayer has spent millions on Frogmore Cottage for the couple on the understanding that Harry and Meghan intended to be working royals.
“Now they have changed their minds, Harry should repay the money spent on the house to the taxpayer.
“As he is worth at least £20million and probably much more, and Meghan is a millionaire in her own right, they can easily afford to do so.
“In general the royal family is far too large and expensive so it needs to be slimmed down.
“In that sense Harry and Meghan’s decision to give up senior royal status is welcome.
“We need others in the royal family to follow suit and reduce the massive cost to the taxpayer.”
Former Labour MP Emma Dent Coad, who lost her seat last month, said: “While my feelings about the institution of monarchy are very well known, clearly this young couple want to start afresh.
“And it would be a gesture of good faith to the public to show that they mean what they say by reimbursing the public purse for the renovation of a home that they’re never going to live in.”
“People come to me with ceilings collapsing, black mould going through the walls. Their heating and plumbing doesn’t work. And the public spent £2.4m on renovating somewhere they’re not going to live in.
“They should reimburse that as a gesture of faith to show us they mean it and it’s not just empty words.”
She added: “Given that they’re both millionaires, I’m not sure what they mean.
“Are they stepping back from the family, or just the job?
“And are they going to leave it all behind? If so, I’d like to go to their garage sale. I know someone who’d like a look at Meghan’s dresses.
“If they do make it over there [in the US], perhaps some of their family members might like to follow them. I hear it’s very quiet and peaceful.”
The couple launched a new ‘Sussex Royal’ website as they made their announcement last night.
It says 95% of the office spending for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is derived from the Duchy of Cornwall – allocated by Prince Charles. The other 5% comes from the Sovereign Grant.
According to the couple’s website, they will no longer receive Sovereign Grant funding after last night’s decision.
The couple were originally offered an apartment at Kensington Palace – but renovations would have cost £4m and taken until winter 2020.
Their website says: “As a result, Her Majesty The Queen offered The Duke and Duchess the use of Frogmore Cottage, which was already undergoing mandated renovations, and would be available to move in before the birth of their son.
“The refurbishment cost equated to 50 percent of the originally suggested property for their proposed official residence at Kensington Palace.
“It is for these reasons, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose Frogmore Cottage as their Official Residence.
“Expenses related to fixtures, furnishings, and fittings at the official residence – which is owned by Her Majesty the Queen – were funded privately by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
“Frogmore Cottage will continue to be the property of Her Majesty the Queen.”
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