MEGHAN MARKLE and Prince Harry have faced criticism recently for spending £2.4million on the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage – however, the way the cost has been met is not directly taxpayer-funded meaning the reaction to their spend has been somewhat misleading.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry welcomed their royal baby Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor in May, and moved to their new home Frogmore Cottage to start family life together. However, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex faced criticism recently when figures were released of the cost of refurbishing their new royal residence. Added to this, many royal fans have expressed anger over the pair’s decision to keep details of Archie’s christening private, while receiving public funds.
However, the way in which royal funding works means that the link between royal spending and taxpayer’s money is not straightforward.
The money for the Frogmore renovation was provided to the Duke and Duchess from the Queen, out of funds from the Sovereign Grant, which replaced and streamlined the Civil List in 2011.
The financial reports released in June stated that in total, the monarchy cost £82.2million last year, which included the £2.4million spent on Frogmore Cottage, and the extensive Buckingham Palace refurbishment works.
Given that the Royal Family costs each British citizen around £1.24 per year, it is easy to assume the taxpayer is directly funding the expenditure of the Royal Family.
However, rather than being directly funded by tax, the way in which royal funding works is more complex.
Royal author Penny Junor, in her 2005 book “the Firm”, writes: “The taxpayer doesn’t actually pay for the monarchy at all.
“It is paid for by the revenue that comes from the Crown Estates.
“The taxpayer doesn’t pay a penny.”
The Crown owns vast swathes of land throughout England and Scotland, including urban estates in central London, and half of the the UK’s foreshore.
In 2018-19 the revenue from the Crown estates, minus management fees, was £343.5million.
This goes to the Treasury, which grants a sum back to the monarchy in the form of the Sovereign Grant, and the rest is used to meet general government expenditure.
Of the £82.2million granted to the Queen in the last financial year, £49.3million made up a “core grant” for the Royal Family’s expenditures, and an extra £32.9million was granted to help pay for the 10-year £369million refurbishment project of Buckingham Palace.
The remaining £15.2million was transferred to the Sovereign Grant reserve to fund future palace work.
Ms Junor continues: “Even with my limited grasp of mathematics, the Queen is not the leech we have been led to believe.
“She does not cost the country a brass farthing, but is actually saving the taxpayer something like £114million (in 2005).
“Parliament decides how much money the sovereign should have, and in that respects acts like a trustee of an old family trust, which in a constitutional monarchy is just as it should be.
“Parliament needs to make sure the Queen isn’t more of a financial burden than she has to be, not because it has to pay for her if she is, but because the more money there is left over after paying the Civil List, the more there is for general expenditure.”
However, republican pressure group Republic argues that in fact, the Crown Estates are not the personal property of the Queen and instead belong to the nation, and have always been used to provide income for the administration of the country.
They say that the Sovereign Grant is pegged to this revenue income, rather than completely being derived from it.
Originally determined at 15 percent of the net surplus of the Crown Estates, the figure rose to 25 percent in 2017 to cover the costs of the large-scale Buckingham Palace refurbishment.
Information on the HM Treasury website states: “The profit of the Crown Estate is a reference point for the calculation of Sovereign Grant.”
In addition to the Sovereign Grant, the Queen, Prince Charles and other members of the Royal Family have private incomes from their private landed estates and financial assets.
A sum of money called the Privy Purse also goes to the Queen as revenue from a landed estate called the Duchy of Lancaster.
However, an additional cost that is not covered by the Sovereign Grant and not revealed in spending reports, is for security, which in 2017 stood at over £100million.
The Royal Family’s protection includes the Royalty Protection Squad of London’s Metropolitan Police, personal protection officers, an intelligence unit, and personnel guarding royal residences.
HM Treasury states: “No breakdown of security costs is available as disclosure of such information could compromise the integrity of these arrangements and affect the security of the individuals protected.
“It is long established policy not to comment upon the protective security arrangements and their related costs for members of the Royal Family or their residences.”
The Royal Family have been mindful of the institution’s cost to the UK, however, and in recent years have taken steps to streamline the monarchy.
In 2012, when the Civil List was replaced by the Sovereign Grant, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie were not included.
It came after Beatrice and Eugenie were stripped of their £500,000-a-year 24-hour security detail in 2011.
In 2016, Prince Andrew was said to be furious when his written request to the Queen asking that the princesses be funded by the Sovereign Grant was turned down.