In 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex “paid back” the cost of renovating Frogmore Cottage, the dilapidated servant’s quarters on the Royal Windsor estate. They had already paid, in real time, for all of the furnishings and all of the “decor” (paint, finishes, wallpaper). But once they had enough money, they “reimbursed” the Crown Estates for the full cost of the renovation (reportedly around $3 million). Later, the Crown Estate and the National Audit Office confirmed that in addition to the reimbursement for a property they didn’t own, the Sussexes also paid a lump-sum lease payment to continue their lease on Frogmore for the foreseeable future. Meaning, instead of paying a monthly rent, the Sussexes forked over a huge lump sum upfront. In 2022, the National Audit Office said it was “satisfied” with the arrangement and called it a “good deal” for the Sovereign Grant. Well, someone in Buckingham Palace decided to lie about the arrangement and you would think that Frogmore Cottage is the only royal property in the entire Crown Estate.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex struck a deal with Buckingham Palace to pay no further rent on Frogmore Cottage after refunding the £2.4 million taxpayers paid for its refurbishment, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. It had been reported that the Sussexes would pay a ‘commercial rate’ for the five-bedroom mansion on the Windsor estate. But Palace officials last night confirmed that the lump-sum payment wiped out the couple’s rental obligations as the increased value of the property following the work was taken as ‘rent in lieu’.
It’s estimated the property would cost between £150,000 and £230,000 a year to rent, which means that the Sussexes may have saved up to £690,000. They will not renew their lease when it ends later this month.
A Palace spokesperson said: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a contribution of £2.4 million to the Sovereign Grant which covered the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage. They have fulfilled their financial obligations in relation to the property. In line with usual practice for the Sovereign Grant report, the accounting treatment was scrutinised and signed off by the National Audit Office and the Treasury. As with any such agreement between landlord and tenant, further details regarding the Sussexes’ tenancy arrangements would be a private matter.’
But last night one critic reacted angrily to the emergence of the deal. Norman Baker, a former Cabinet Minister and Privy Counsellor, said: ‘It is outrageous that Harry and Meghan should be able to live in a huge house on these terms while regular people struggle to put food on the table.’ He is now demanding to know how many Royal Family properties are rented out below the market rate.
The Sussexes quit Royal duties officially in March 2020 and a Palace spokesman told the BBC they would continue to pay a ‘commercial rate’ of rent on the property. In fact, they paid five months’ rent but then gave a £2.4 million lump sum in September to cover the refurbishment costs. Today we can reveal that a deal was agreed in which the payment wiped out any further financial obligations.
It was not a deal which was publicly announced by the Palace. Nor was it easy to see by looking at the official Sovereign Grant reports which outline public spending on the monarchy. Last night Buckingham Palace confirmed that the £2.4 million was split into three headings and recorded across two sets of accounts. In the 2020/21 figures, the lump sum is listed as both ‘rental income’ and as ‘recharges for functions and other income’.
[From The Daily Mail]
So now the Palace is telling the media that Harry *only* reimbursed the cost of the renovation and he did not pay for the lease extension? No, because… everyone made it clear in 2021 and 2022 that Harry did both: he reimbursed the Crown Estate for the cost of the renovation AND he paid a lump sum towards the lease. The palace is basically admitting as much, saying that the money was “split” between reimbursement and rental income. Is the palace saying that Harry only “paid” £2.4 million and that’s the exact amount of the renovation cost, so they gave him a sweetheart deal on the lease? Yeah, that doesn’t sound like Buckingham Palace. Clearly, Harry and Meghan believed they were paid up on a valid lease too. Anyway, the Sussexes better be reimbursed fully for everything they put into Frogmore (and I think that’s what this is about – Charles looking for a reason to avoid reimbursement to the Sussexes).
Photos courtesy of Netflix.
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