LONDON – The official home that Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom has given to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was refurbished using 2.4 million pounds ($2.8 million) of taxpayers’ money, accounts published by Buckingham Palace on Tuesday showed.
The Queen gave Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (whose maiden surname was Markle), the use of Frogmore Cottage within her vast Windsor Castle estate but it needed work done to convert it into a modern royal household.
“Frogmore Cottage, Windsor (£2.4m) The scheme consisted of the reconfiguration and full refurbishment of five residential units in poor condition to create the official residence for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their family,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
The cottage is located just northwest of Frogmore House, a larger luxury residence set within palatial gardens where the royal couple, as newlyweds in May 2018, held their wedding reception. The Windsor estate is 25 miles (40 kilometers) due west of London.
The Duke and Duchess had previously shared Kensington Palace in central London with Harry’s older brother, William, Duke of Cambridge, and his family.
However, Prince Harry and Meghan moved out in April, before the birth of their son Archie.
According to Buckingham Palace, refurbishment work on Frogmore Cottage began in Nov. 2018 and was “substantially completed by the end of March 2019,” in time for the birth.
The money for the repair work on the cottage came from the Queen’s Sovereign Grant, which the government paid the Head of State in 2018-19.
The total amount given to the queen was 82 million pounds, of which 33 million pounds were dedicated to the maintenance of royal residences, including major repair work on Buckingham Palace.
The grant paid for what was considered to be basic work and infrastructure on the cottage, with the Dukes of Sussex reportedly paying for the new fittings.
Republic, a pressure group calling for the UK’s monarchy to be replaced with an elected head of state, has asked for a parliamentary investigation into the money spent on the dukes’ residence.
“An MP spending taxpayers’ money on a private home would probably not be an MP for much longer,” said Graham Smith from Republic.
“The general funds of the Treasury should not be spent on individual members of the royal family at all,” he added. “The point about public services is it is particularly galling that they’re allowed to get away this whilst public services need money.”
Smith said Republic would be asking its supporters to write to lawmakers urging them to launch an inquiry into spending on the royal family.
According to the accounts published, the Queen’s official expenses over the past year were 67 million pounds, a 41 percent year-on-year hike, principally due to renovation work carried out on royal residences.
The Queen’s property holdings, known as the Crown Estate, contributed 343.5 million pounds to the UK’s Treasury in 2018-19, an increase of 4.3 percent, year-on-year. The Sovereign Grant is funded by profits from the Crown Estate.