One of the lesser known facts about the disintegration of King Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales’ marriage was that the final financial settlement nearly left him broke.
Diana, proving herself to be the Wellington of divorce manoeuvrings, had hired a powerhouse who got the royal a stonking $30 million deal. However, stumping up that much left Charles without a bean and even forced him to borrow some dosh from his Mumsy. (Maybe the cost of petunia bulbs, Puccini CDs and Camilla’s nightly slathering of Ponds Cream really added up?)
Money problems, such as they are, prove to be an ongoing, pesky problem in royal life, like hunt saboteurs and Princess Michael of Kent turning up and wanting lunch.
And they are a problem that son Prince Harry has had a rude introduction to in recent years, according to his recently released memoir, Spare.
There in the pages, in amongst his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex singing to seals, him seeing a medium, the world being forced to learn about his frostbitten “todger” and the most decidedly ick description of a sexual encounter since Fergie started penning bodice rippers, one of the largely overlooked issues he brings up is the question of finances.
For obvious reasons it has been Harry being socked by brother Prince William and more broadly the slow, Jerry Springer-esque crumbling of his relationship with the royal family that have dominated coverage. But, in between having to sit through our best-selling author rave about Meghan bringing a yoga mat on an African camping trip and readers trying to not retch at Harry talking about the couple’s “vow renewal” during which Meghan read to him from her journal, is the fact that one of his ongoing gripes was about something as common as money.
‘Not enough money to go around’
Our Hemmingway of the HRHs writes about a conversation he had with his father when it became obvious that Harry’s relationship with the Suits actress was only going to end up with them goggling lovingly at one another in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“Does she want to carry on working?” the now-King asks a surprised Harry who says, “I expect she’ll want to be with me, doing the job.”
“Hmm. I see. Well, darling boy, you know there’s not enough money to go around,” Charles says. “I can’t pay for anyone else. I’m already having to pay for your brother and Catherine.”
Harry is left agog, rightly pointing out that his Pa is the holder of the Duchy of Cornwall, currently worth just shy of $2 billion. (And which is now William’s to enjoy the profits from, as the Prince of Wales.)
But what is so interesting about this interaction is that it highlights the level of expectation that Harry held when it came to being financially supported.
Now, at this point in Spare, he makes the very legitimate point that “the whole deal” was that “We agreed to serve the monarch … and in exchange the keepers of the cage agreed to feed and clothe us.”
However, it seems to never have occurred to Harry or Meghan that the money picture would get more complicated when she and her infernal yoga mat entered the picture.
The Duke writes: “How much could it possibly cost to house and feed Meg? I wanted to say, ‘She doesn’t eat much, you know! And I’ll ask her to make her own clothes, if you like.’”
Oh Harry … you dingbat.
She might not “eat much” but the addition of the former Deal Or No Deal briefcase girl to the royal roster was always going to come with a hefty price tag.
In 2018, the Duchess’ wardrobe was worth $414,000, according to website UFO No More which meticulously tracks royal fashion, more than any other royal woman in Europe. (And that didn’t include her couture Givenchy wedding gown.) Nor did that figure include the $337,000 Cartier Reflection bracelet and earrings given to Meg by Charles.
The following year, 2019, the only full year of HRH-ing that Meghan completed, she wore a reported $181,000 worth of new pieces.
No wonder Charles was fretting a tad about his Coutts’ savings account back in the before times. (And can anyone for a moment see Meghan or even Kate, Princess of Wales huddled over a trusty Singer late into the night knocking up some pretty frock for a bridge opening?)
‘Palace adjacent’ Nott Cott
Then there is the housing situation.
Consider this: When he and Meghan bought their $20 million Montecito estate in 2020, it was the first time in his life he had ever had to shell our for a roof over his head, having for all 35 of his years been supplied with apartments, rooms and houses for free courtesy of the late Queen. He would never have paid a gas bill, seen a council rates notice or have ever had to understand the difference between a fixed or variable loan until he was on the downhill slope to 40.
For more than three decades, everything had been laid on for him.
And yet Harry writes about being “embarrassed” to show new girlfriend Meg his comparatively humble Kensington Palace home, Nottingham Cottage aka Nott Cott, calling it “palace adjacent – that was the best you could say for it”.
Later, when they were married, they popped around to William and Kate’s Kensington Palace apartment for a tete-a-tete with biscuits and some air-clearing group therapy, only to be shocked by their far grander digs.
He writes: “‘Wow,’ Meg said several times. The wallpaper, the crown moulding, the walnut bookshelves lined with colour-coordinated volumes, the priceless art. Gorgeous. Like a museum. And we both told them so. We complimented them lavishly on their renovation, though we also thought sheepishly of our Ikea lamps, our discount sofa recently bought on sale, with Meg’s credit card, from sofa.com.”
Quick! It’s the Prince and The Pauper 2.0! Except not mentioned here is the fact that the Waleses called Nott Cott home for two years and it was where they lived when son George was born.
Sussexes’ expectations vs reality
So too is the “credit card” detail an interesting one. Who did they expect should be buying them beige soft furnishings and Slim Aarons coffee table books? Harry’s seeming sense of bitterness that they should have to cover such a cost is striking for a man who had never had to foot a real bill in his life before.
While Spare offers up the instances where he feels that he and Meghan came off, monetarily, second best to the Waleses, oddly enough when he and Meghan are given Frogmore Cottage by Queen Elizabeth, Harry and his trusty memoir-scribbling biro fail to mention the $4.2 million of Sovereign Grant money used to renovate the property. (They repaid that sum in 2020 after signing their reported $140 million Netflix deal.)
When the irrevocable rupture of Megxit comes, the fact that the Sussexes’ expectations that they will continue to be taken care of by the royal coffers and the Met police is met with total shock. What has emerged via their 2021 Oprah interview and Spare is that it does not seem to have ever occurred to the Duke or Duchess that the millions of dollars spent on them annually would continue to flow even if they were spending their days doing sun salutations with Ellen in California.
As Harry said all those years ago in 2021, when a prince going on TV to castigate his family still had some shock and awe value, rather than the tedious ubiquity it has become in the last week, he griped they “literally cut me off financially”.
Take the year 2018/19, during which Duchy accounts show that Charles spent more than $8.7 million to support both his sons and their families.
Did he really expect that millions would continue to flow into their bank account from his dear Pa while he spent his days feeding his chickens and scribbling in his dream journal 8500km away from the UK?
‘I scrambled to find new security’
The Duke has also said repeatedly it had never crossed his mind that the around-the-clock security that was afforded to them as working members of the royal family might be yanked when the Sussexes were no longer official representatives of the Crown. In 2020, the decision was made by Ravec (the Metropolitan Police’s Royal and VIP Executive Committee) that British taxpayers would no longer pick up the tab for security for the now private citizens. (Harry is currently involved in legal action over this decision and has been granted the chance for a review.)
In Spare he writes: “I scrambled to find new security. I spoke to consultants, gathered estimates. I filled a notebook with research. The palace directed me to a firm, which quoted me a price. Six million a year. I slowly hung up.”
Right, so Harry was shocked at how much it cost when they had to fork out that themselves but was happy for the Met to spend the millions it would cost them to do the same job?
What comes through is the resentment and anger that they seem to feel over the fact that they have been asked to, quite literally, pay the price for their choices to leave the UK and Frogmore Cottage.
(Frogmore Cottage is on the Windsor estate and therefore protected by Met officers.)
What Aitch’s book reveals is the degree of entitlement that the couple still seem to have, even now.
Reading Spare, it does not feel like the Duke and Duchess had really thought anything much through about Megxit in a practical sense. And there seems to have been some degree of assumption that they would not have to stand on their own two feet, despite saying they wanted to work towards “financial independence”.
That has come at a steep cost.
If you add up the money they used to get from Charles, even if they got less than half, plus what their security is now costing them, (if we assume they are paying the $6 million figure quoted by Harry) and you are looking at Megxit meaning they have taken close to a $10 million-a-year hit to their hip pockets.
Of course, they are now well and truly in the black these days with their reported $200 million-odd worth of deals with Netflix, Spotify and Penguin Random House and Spare selling like hot cakes. (Harry has pledged that more than $2 million from the book will got to charity.)
Well, that should keep them in organic chicken feed and the $166,000 worth of new clothes that Meghan wore last year. For now anyway.
Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles