Prince Harry and wife Meghan have agreed to give up their royal titles and repay several million in housing expenses, stirring up another sensation in Britain.
It wasn’t so long ago that some in the United Kingdom were upset about the renovations of the residence in question: Frogmore Cottage.
On Saturday, Buckingham Palace announced the latest twist in what’s become a fairly royal mess: As part of the couple’s request to step back from their senior roles — and the constant scrutiny those entail — they will relinquish their salaries and “royal highness” titles.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex — they get to keep this one — said the plan includes them repaying $3 million in British taxpayer money spent on refurbishing Frogmore Cottage. The Windsor residence is about an hour’s drive from London and will continue to serve as their U.K. base.
The couple moved into the cottage — really, more like luxury mansion — right before the birth of their son, Archie — nine months ago, following six months of renovations.
At the time, there was lots of competing fact and fiction about what their new home entailed. A yoga studio? No. A hefty price tag? Yes.
The couple decided to move to Frogmore for “various reasons,” according to their new website, unveiled as part of their recent transition. The duke and duchess wrote that their earlier home — Nottingham Cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace — wasn’t big enough for their growing family. Renovating a section of the palace, meanwhile, would have reportedly cost $5 million and taken until the end of 2020. So, the royals said they chose humble(ish) Frogmore Cottage instead.
The queen technically owns Frogmore, which was originally built as a royal retreat in 1801. Her Sovereign Grant — i.e. public money to support her duties — therefore paid for the renovations. That meant British taxpayers helped foot the bill for replacing the residence’s heating, water, gas and electric systems, as well as other infrastructure like ceiling beams. The renovations also included turning five smaller properties into one mega-cottage that includes four bedrooms and a nursery, among other luxuries.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in turn paid “expenses related to fixtures, furnishings, and fittings,” according to their website.
Sir Michael Stevens, who as keeper of the Privy Purse is responsible for the monarchy’s accounts, told the Daily Beast last year that the house couldn’t have been lived in without such costly work. “The property had not been the subject of work for some years and had already been earmarked for renovation in line with our responsibility to maintain the condition of the occupied royal palaces estate,” he said.
Many other Brits were not convinced that was how their country’s money should be spent.
“A charity spent £2.4 million on a support center for Marines suffering PTSD,” tweeted Graham Smith, with the anti-monarchy campaign group, Republic. “The taxpayers then spent the same amount on a luxury private home for Harry and Meghan.”