The long Labor Day weekend here in America was already full of increasingly hysterical British media reports about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix deal. Then, on Monday, the Sussexes confirmed to the press that Prince Harry had “paid back” the renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage, and so we’re dealing with two (connected) media tantrums at once. The two stories are clearly connected in many ways – while Harry has his own money (inheritance from his mother’s estate), I do think he likely used some of the Netflix money to “pay back” the Sovereign Grant. The stories are also connected because of the British media’s reaction to both: completely unhinged, utterly grasping to make some kind of negative, nasty argument about *anything*. So it is with Richard Kay, the depth of whose despair cannot be understated. Kay was practically crying when he wrote his column about how the Frogmore expenditures were merely a cudgel to beat Harry & Meghan and the real anger was about how the British people always felt like they owned Harry. Or something.
How Harry saw the criticism: For more than a year, it has been the millstone around Prince Harry’s neck, a gold‑plated slice of taxpayers’ largesse that reeked of privilege and entitlement. But to Harry and Meghan, the £2.4 million of public money — our money — that was lavished on renovating Frogmore Cottage, only for it to be shuttered and abandoned along with the rest of their royal lives, represented something far more intrinsic. He saw it as a chain that shackled them to the land of his birth, inhibiting their efforts to be truly free of the Royal Family and — crucially — of their media critics.
Kay accidentally tells the truth: In Harry’s eyes, the money was not a loan from a generous nation pleased to be helping this young royal couple find its feet after their joyful wedding, but rather a stick with which to beat them. So paying back every penny to the public purse, having previously offered to do so at the rate of £18,000 a month (a deal of such indulgence it would have taken them 11 years to repay the debt), is highly significant. In the short term, it is designed to silence the drumbeat of criticism to which they perceive they are subject. But will it really end what they complain of as unjustified ‘public interest’ in their new lives?
The Sussexes divorce from Britain is permanent: What it does do, however, is signal that their divorce from Britain is permanent, while removing any pretence that they might still have a future role in the Royal Family.
Was it really about Archie?? Harry could, of course, have avoided this whole sorry saga before it ever became an issue. With an estimated fortune of £20 million inherited from his mother’s estate and trust funds from the Queen Mother, he could have afforded to pay for the renovation himself. What he failed to understand then — and probably still doesn’t now — is not that there was public resentment at the cost of refurbishing Frogmore, but that the public felt cheated when Harry chose to keep secret details about son Archie’s birth and christening. ‘It sent the message that they were happy to take public money for granted, but not if it meant having to share things with the public they didn’t want to,’ says a courtier. ‘Ever since, it has become more and more toxic.’
“Questions remain”: For now, questions remain about how the money has been repaid and who knew about it. Royal aides suggested that, although the timing had come as a surprise, it was not entirely unexpected. Harry has been determined to emphasise his and Meghan’s lack of reliance on British taxpayer funds, by first meeting the cost of their substantial security bill and now by paying back the Sovereign Grant. They believe it will remove what they consider to be media intrusion into their lives.
“…But rather a stick with which to beat them…” Harry felt that way because that’s exactly what the British media was doing: constantly nitpicking them about their expenditures while ignoring the money spent on other royals. As I said at the time… like, I found some of Harry & Meghan’s expenditures wasteful and excessive too. But compared to Prince William, Kate and Prince Andrew, the Sussexes were practically on a “modest” budget. Call me when we can talk about Andrew’s lease on the Royal Lodge and the shenanigans with his f–king Swiss chalet, you know?
But mostly, this is Richard Kay crying about how he, like seemingly all of the royal reporters, truly felt like they “owned” Harry and Meghan, that H&M were theirs to abuse and smear, that their lives and their child belonged to THEM, the reporters, the media and the nation. The thing about “why didn’t they just tell us about Archie’s christening” is so f–king ridiculous at this point, oh my f–king god.
I also find it bizarre that Kay, like, doesn’t believe that Harry paid back the full amount on renovations in one go? There was only a six-month window from Sussexit to Paid In Full and Kay is still bizarrely whining about a payment plan and how dare they even try to pay it off like a mortgage but how dare they pay it off in one go. Basically, it’s as I said: they’re just trying to cling to any petty criticism they can find.
Photos courtesy of WENN, Avalon Red.