Prince Harry offers to pay back £2.4m renovation of Frogmore Cottage
19th January 2020

Prince Harry shows he’s serious about quitting ‘The Firm’ and giving up the trappings of Royalty as he immediately offers to pay back £2.4m of taxpayers’ money that went into the renovation of Frogmore Cottage

  • Royal source said: ‘He put it on the table very quickly. It was clear he was serious’ 
  • Move helped discussions progress at a rapid pace on Monday as Queen wanted
  • The Prince felt forced to go public – in defiance of the Queen 

It was an opening gambit designed to show he was serious about his threat to quit ‘The Firm’ and give up the trappings of Royalty.

At the summit in Sandringham to decide his future, Prince Harry almost immediately offered to pay back the more than £2.4million of public money that went into the renovation of his Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, The Mail on Sunday understands.

‘He put it on the table very quickly. It certainly got things moving,’ one royal source said of the dramatic offer. ‘It was clear he was serious.’

The move helped get discussions progress a rapid pace on Monday – as the Queen had wanted – until inevitable snags delayed the announcement of a deal into this weekend.

At the summit in Sandringham to decide his future, Prince Harry almost immediately offered to pay back the more than £2.4million of public money that went into the renovation of his Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage, The Mail on Sunday understands

And while yesterday’s announcement still leaves questions, it marks a significant step in Harry and Meghan’s ambition to step away from the royal front line.

They made it clear they wished to go their own way back in May – just a year after they wed in the glorious Windsor sunshine.

It is understood that since making that decision they had been frustrated by the slow speed at which the Palace machinery operates, while those close to the Firm were frustrated by the lack of detail coming from the Sussex camp.

Before Christmas, Harry had begged to meet his grandmother early in the New Year, hoping to move matters forward.

There was added tension over the New Year when a long-planned climate announcement by Prince William was overshadowed by an impromptu Instagram snap of baby Archie in Canada

But he was told that his slapdash plans to simply quit were not up to scratch and the meeting was cancelled. He was, instead asked to outline his plans with his father, Prince Charles, first.

There was added tension over the New Year when a long-planned climate announcement by Prince William was overshadowed by an impromptu Instagram snap of baby Archie in Canada. But no one had expected a frustrated Harry to light the touchpaper in quite such spectacular fashion.

The Prince felt forced to go public – in defiance of the Queen – to get his family to take his threat to walk away seriously.

Four days after his bombshell statement plunged the Monarchy into its most high profile since the death of Diana, he was summoned to Sandringham to thrash out his exit terms.

Joining the blue blood gathering was the Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young, Prince Charles’s principal private secretary, Clive Alderton, and William’s right hand man Simon Case representing the Firm.

As a civil servant veteran of gruelling Brexit negotiations with Brussels and Dublin over Northern Ireland, Case was particularly well placed to forge even the toughest of deals.

And in the corner of the breakaway Sussexes was relative Palace newcomer, the ex-Ambassador Fiona Mcilwham. But the former diplomat ensured the talks were ‘friendly and constructive’.

The Prince felt forced to go public – in defiance of the Queen – to get his family to take his threat to walk away seriously

Harry was presented with options and alternatives. Then, having been finally been given a clearer direction of what was wanted without the need to patch in Meghan by phone from Canada, the four were tasked with making the Prince’s wishes work, and fast. The offer on Frogmore helped the negotiations advance, and over five frantic days, the various incarnations of the deal were circulated in paper form and via encrypted email back and forth, with the HRH titles understood to be particular sticking point.

The private secretaries and aides gathered yesterday morning at Buckingham Palace hopeful that Friday’s promise of an ‘imminent breakthrough’ could finally become a reality. By lunchtime, it was clear enough kinks had been ironed out of the ‘Megxit’ deal to go public.

The Queen was alerted at Sandringham and a final draft of statements were circulated for remote sign off as far as Charles’s seat in Birkhall, Scotland.

However some awkward issues around whether Harry will revoke his British residency, where he will pay tax and whether the pair will be allowed to continue using the Sussex Royal website have been kicked into the long grass.

There has been a growing row about who will pick up Harry and Meghan’s annual security bill as they split their time between the UK and Canada (the couple are pictured last week)

Courtiers insist that the pair will always be members of the Royal Family, but the use of the ‘royal’ moniker in a solely commercial enterprise is likely to become a running sore. The headache of who will pay for the pair’s security also remains answered.

But it was decided these awkward details could be ironed out during a ‘transition period’ of the next few months into the spring – the start of the new tax year.

Each private secretary spoke to their boss, and finally got the nod on Saturday afternoon, as spin doctors prepared to send the news around the world. A statement in the name of Her Majesty the Queen is a rarity, so to have two issued in a week shows just how devastating the impact of Megxit has been to her family

But it was last night’s statement that revealed how long this saga has really rumbled on when it stated: ‘Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions’. Even ‘months’ may be an understatement, with the strain becoming evident even before Meghan and Harry walked down the aisle.

In November 2016, Harry blasted the media’s coverage of his new girlfriend, and particularly ‘the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments’. And over the years there were hints about Harry’s discomfort about being a member of the royal family.

It had been hoped that giving the Sussexes’ their own Royal Household last year would give Harry and Meghan the freedom that they wanted.

But their plans to establish their own independent ‘court’ at Windsor was thwarted by the Queen and Prince Charles who jointly agreed that the household should remain under the auspices of Buckingham Palace.

The couple have also faced public criticism, such as the news in April last year that £2.4 million of taxpayers’ money had been spent renovating Frogmore.

Then a group of Meghan’s closest friends gave anonymous interviews to People magazine in the US alleging that the negative publicity had put the pregnant Duchess ‘under a level of emotional trauma’ and suggesting she had had to endure ‘lies and untruths being written about her.’

In an ITV documentary last October, filmed during a visit to Africa, she revealed that she had tried to adopt the ‘stiff upper lip’, saying: ‘Not many people have asked if I’m OK’ in an apparent swipe at her royal relatives.

And Harry spoke about the rift with his brother, saying that he and William were ‘certainly on different paths at the moment’ while insisting that: ‘We’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. I love him dearly’.

Yesterday’s deal caps 20 months of bitterness, with Palace insiders hoping this move will actually bring the brothers back together.

Indeed the pair could come face to face tomorrow as Harry is expected to take part in one final Royal duty before joining his wife and son in Canada, The Mail on Sunday has learnt, at the UK Africa Investment Summit.

However there is anger that Meghan will not be joining him as planned as part of the major drive for post-Brexit trade championed by three Government departments.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will host a reception at Buckingham Palace on behalf of the Queen, and it is understood that the Duke of Sussex will take part in a private event during the summit.

A Government source said: ‘Harry and Meghan were meant to be the star turn but obviously that has gone down the pan.’

With a transition period to ease them out of public life, there will be plenty of changes needed for the Sussexes in the coming months –starting with removing ‘their HRHs’ from the Sussex Royal website. 

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