Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are settling into their new life in California, but that doesn’t mean they’ve severed all ties with the United Kingdom.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s home, Frogmore Cottage, which they shared with their son Archie, now 2, before relocating to the United States, is still licensed to them until March 31, 2022.
Through a $3.3 million payment to the royal family in September 2020, Harry and Meghan have also paid rent on the 10-bedroom home until that date. This was initially thought to only cover the significant costs of refurbishing the couple’s home in Windsor Castle’s grounds, which they moved into in April 2019, just before Archie’s birth. Lilibet Diana, their daughter, was born on June 4th.
“The payment covers all of their current obligations,” Sir Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse, told reporters at the launch of an annual report into the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, which funds the royal family’s public duties.
“We are confident that it represents a good outcome,” Stevens said of the payment, which Harry and Meghan made as part of their plan to become financially self-sufficient after they announced their decision to step down from royal duties in March 2020.[jnews_widget_recentnews title=”Recent News”]
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a significant contribution to the Sovereign Grant that covered Frogmore Cottage’s refurbishment costs,” Stevens added.
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“It should also be remembered that this payment has come in the current year at a time when our supplementary income has dramatically decreased,” he continued, referring to the royal household’s 53 percent drop in tourism-related finances as a result of the COVID pandemic. “[Harry and Meghan’s payment] has offset the reduction we would have seen.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex lived at Frogmore Cottage until March 31, 2020, when they officially stopped performing public duties on behalf of Queen Elizabeth. The couple then paid the property’s rent for five months before paying the lump sum of $3.3 million and beginning their new, independent life in Montecito, near Los Angeles.
Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, have since moved in with their 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 do again ahead of the unveiling of a statue to commemorate Princess Diana’s 60th birthday on July 1.
Along with Frogmore, the report reveals that Harry’s absence from frontline royal duties has had an impact on funds previously provided by his father, Prince Charles – a change that the Duke famously referred to as “cutting off” during the couple’s March interview with Oprah Winfrey.
According to previous Sovereign Grant reports, Harry and Meghan received funds for their “official expenditure” from the multimillion-dollar Duchy of Cornwall, which was established around 700 years ago to provide funds for the British heir to the throne. However, now that Harry has stepped back, the Duchy’s funds are only being used to cover the official costs of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s public duties, according to the report released on Wednesday.
The royal couple’s 1,250-mile Royal Train journey around Britain in December, which cost just over $67,000, was to pay tribute to key workers and communities during the COVID-19 crisis. It was one of 1,470 official engagements held by members of the Royal Family between March 31, 2020, and March 31, 2021.
The Sovereign Grant report also addresses Meghan’s comments on diversity and inclusion during the couple’s March 7 Oprah interview, in which she revealed that there were “concerns and conversations about how dark [Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born.”
The Royal Household has included statistics for the proportion of ethnic minorities it employs for the first time in an effort to improve the diversity of staff serving the Queen. This means that minorities account for only 8.5 percent of the workforce, which Stevens admits is “not where we would like to be.”
“Despite all of our efforts to target recruitment, train our managers in diversity and inclusion, and build an inclusive workplace, the results are not what we would like,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “However, we are committed to improving this, and as a result, we have begun to publish our diversity statistics for the first time in order to ensure that we are both open and transparent about our efforts to improve.”
“It is worth noting that Her Majesty and members of the royal family have promoted and embraced the diversity of our country and the Commonwealth, and we, as a result, recognize that our own workforce must reflect the communities we serve,” he added.
The Royal Household has now set a target of increasing the proportion of ethnic minority employees to 10% by 2022, according to the Sovereign Grant report.
“It’s not that we haven’t been working on diversity and inclusion initiatives during this time; it’s just that the results haven’t been what we wanted,” Stevens explained. “One of the most important aspects of our statistics being published here – which is done on a voluntary basis – is that there is nowhere to hide.”