Just who will pick up the bill for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's new lifestyle?

9 January 2020, 10:19 | Updated: 9 January 2020, 10:30

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping back from Royal duties
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping back from Royal duties. Picture: PA

Questions have been raised over whether UK taxpayers will have to foot any bill for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after the couple announced they want to 'step back' from royal duties and retreat to North America.

Campaign groups this morning queried who would pay for their security, life overseas, and trips back and forth across the Atlantic.

Royal commentator Penny Junor said: "I can't quite see how it's going to work. I don't think it's been properly thought through."

She said the prospect of the couple being financially independent was difficult to envisage, if they were still working to support the Queen.

Their future roles will be made more difficult by the financial implications of the taxpayer continuing to fund Harry and Meghan's protection officers and official royal travel, she said.

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“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA

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"The taxpayer is not going to be happy," she said. "The taxpayer grumbles enough about paying anything for the royal family. This will just be a running sore."

Graham Smith, of anti-monarchy group Republic, said: “This really is wanting to have your cake and eat it. They have said they will dip in and out of royal duties as it suits them but won't stop taking public money until they find other sources of income.

"To suggest that they're not already financially independent is incredibly crass and belies a sense of self-entitlement and a lack of self-awareness that is common among royals.

"What should be more concerning is that the royal family's star couple have effectively bowed out of their leading role, and that raises questions about the monarchy's future."

He added: "In the meantime taxpayers will rightly ask who will be funding their overseas lifestyle, their extra security and trips back and forth.

"The royal family is in trouble and with the next succession on the horizon their problems are only going to get worse."

The couple plan to live at Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Estate when in the UK. Taxpayers paid £2.4m towards the building when they moved there just nine months ago after its renovation.

Harry and Meghan moved to Frogmore Cottage for "various reasons", according to their website, The site mentions the fact that their previous residence of Nottingham Cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace "could not accommodate their growing family".

Their website points out that the option of Apartment 1 in Kensington Palace was estimated to cost in excess of £4 million for mandated renovations including the removal of asbestos, and would not have been available for them to occupy until the fourth quarter of 2020.

Frogmore Cottage is owned by the Queen, therefore it will be up to her whether they will be permitted to use it as their UK home going forward.

The couple are said to have hired former Soho House interior designer Vicky Charles to transform the residence.

Republic questioned why £2.4 million of taxpayers' money had been "thrown" at Frogmore Cottage while public services were under financial pressure.

LBC presenter Nick Ferrari today said it was not clear how the couple will become “financially independent.”

He said: “"The Prince of Wales gives his sons £4.9million and it is thought that William takes slightly the greater share.

"So Harry is in for £2.25million a year. "The cottage they have in Windsor is worth about £3 - 3.5million. We've already spent £2.4million in total and there's still a bit more to spend.

"They want to live this globe-trotting life, which means they'll be boarding aircraft - whether private or not - and you and I will be funding Met Police detectives to go with them.

"The last job Harry had was Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry, which earns £36,000 per year. How is he going to pay for it?"

Their new official website Sussexroyal.com said the couple will no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant from the taxpayer for their official office expenses - which it said accounted for 5% of their office costs.

The Prince of Wales currently pays for the remaining cost of their public duties and some of their private costs from his Duchy of Cornwall income.

But it is not clear cut. The Sovereign Grant is also used to pay for Harry and Meghan's official royal travel, and their website said they "proudly" carry out official overseas visits in support of the Queen, suggesting they will still continue to do so.

They are expected to take on paid work of some form. Sussexroyal.com said the couple "value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing.

"For this reason they have made the choice to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence."

The royals’ statement seems to make it clear that British taxpayers will still pay for the couple’s security.

Sussexroyal.com, referring to armed security by the Metropolitan Police mandated by the Home Office, said: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are classified as internationally protected people which mandates this level of security."

If they move to Canada or North America, it raises the issue of whether authorities overseas will have to pick up the security bill.

Non-senior royals generally don't have full-time royal protection officers.

Harry and Meghan's new status: The main questions answered

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced they are stepping back as senior members of the royal family.

But the shock move raises many questions about their future, not least of all whether Harry and Meghan's attempt to redefine their royal lives is sustainable.

- What did Harry and Meghan's statement say?

The couple said in a "personal message" they intend to step back as senior members of the royal family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to support the Queen.

- Where will they live?

They said they now plan to balance their time between the UK and North America.

- What about their home Frogmore Cottage in Windsor?

They will continue to base themselves at Frogmore Cottage when in the UK.

Taxpayers paid £2.4 million to renovate Harry and Meghan's official residence, which the couple moved into just nine months ago.

- Where will they live in North America and will they buy a home there?

This is not yet known. The couple have just spent six weeks in Canada so are expected to base themselves there for part of the year.

- How will they become financially independent?

Their new official website Sussexroyal.com said the couple will no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant from the taxpayer for their official office expenses - which it said accounted for 5% of their office costs.

The Prince of Wales currently pays for the remaining cost of their public duties and some of their private costs from his Duchy of Cornwall income.

But it is not clear cut. The Sovereign Grant is also used to pay for Harry and Meghan's official royal travel, and their website said they "proudly" carry out official overseas visits in support of the Queen, suggesting they will still continue to do so.

- Will they be getting paid jobs?

It looks like it in some form. Sussexroyal.com said the couple "value the ability to earn a professional income, which in the current structure they are prohibited from doing.

"For this reason they have made the choice to become members of the Royal Family with financial independence."

Harry is a former soldier and Meghan is a former actress but the pair are about to launch their new SussexRoyal foundation.

- Will the British taxpayers still pay for their security?

They seem to think so. Sussexroyal.com, referring to armed security by the Metropolitan Police mandated by the Home Office, said: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are classified as internationally protected people which mandates this level of security."

- But they are no longer senior royals?

Yes this creates a problem. Non-senior royals generally don't have full-time royal protection officers.

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie previously faced criticism over the use of taxpayers' funding for police protection, but the Duke of York now pays for their security himself.

The undisclosed cost of guarding the royal family as a whole is estimated to be more than £100 million a year.

- What about the cost to the Canadians?

If Harry and Meghan base themselves in Canada - a realm of which the Queen is monarch, it raises the question of whether the Canadians will have to contribute to their security costs as well, or even pay for an official residence.

- Will they lose their HRH titles?

Their statement makes no mention of them losing their HRH titles nor of Harry being removed from the line of succession.

The duke and duchess said they have chosen to "carve out a progressive new role within this institution".

- Does combining private work with royal duties work?

Having a dual role has proved controversial in the past.

In 2002, the Earl and Countess of Wessex stepped down from their businesses to become full time royals after they were accused of cashing in on their royal status.

Harry's cousin Zara Tindall earns her own income, but does not carry out royal duties nor live in an official residence.

- What about the Queen and the Prince of Wales?

It is understood that the Queen and the Prince of Wales were not aware of the content of Harry and Meghan's personal statement before it was issued.

The announcement was made just seven weeks after the Queen's second son Andrew stepped back from royal duties after his disastrous Newsnight interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Buckingham Palace has warned that Harry and Meghan's decision to step back will be "complicated" and talks are still at an early stage.

- Why did Harry and Meghan take the decision?

The couple spoke of their struggles dealing with royal life and the intense tabloid interest in a television documentary about their Africa tour.

Meghan said: "It's not enough to just survive something, that's not the point of life. You have got to thrive."

Additional reporting by PA

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