Harry and Meghan pay $22,000 monthly to keep Frogmore Cottage as their UK base, but will they ever return?
Prince Harry and Meghan no longer reside in the five-bedroom cottage of Frogmore, but the property is being maintained by staff from the nearby Windsor Castle in case the couple decides to visit. But the question remains as to whether the couple will to the UK anytime soon, given their relationship with the royal family and the coronavirus pandemic. The cottage was a wedding gift from the Queen to the couple, which they traded for their $17.5 million (£14.5 million) worth of 12-bedroom villa 5,400 miles away in Hollywood, where they are living rent-free.
The cottage, situated on the Frogmore Estate, Home Park, Windsor, is listed as a Grade II property, which warrants every effort to preserve it. When the couple decided to remove themselves from royal duties and the UK itself, one point of contention was the £2.4million of taxpayers' money that had already been spent while renovating the cottage. Harry had offered to repay the cost, leaving officials baffled at how he could ever do so. However, The Daily Mail revealed that the couple has begun paying rent on the property since last month. Meghan and Harry are paying a sum just shy of $22,000 (£18,000), a month to keep the cottage as their official UK base.
The couple is paying more than the commercial rate. In what is being described as a 'rental-plus' agreement, it allows them to pay the building costs with the excess. When the couple dramatically quit royal duties in January this year, palace officials had said Harry and Meghan would repay that taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant expenditure "and meet the running costs going forward." With the current rent, it would take 11 years of payments to cover the $2.9 million (£2.4million). The couple's decision to pay rent allows them access to the otherwise grace-and-favor accommodation, but it is not clear how much time they will spend on the estate.
The money is being used to rehabilitate Frogmore, which had fallen into disrepair after being split into five apartments for courtiers and it required the work that is being carried out currently. Before the couple had moved in, it was refurbished to their standards with Meghan even choosing eco-friendly, toxin-free and vegan paint for the redecoration.
The Queen's accountant, Sir Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse, revealed that the couple had been allowed a certain amount to spend on the restoration and that they had paid the excess whenever their choice had gone over the allocated amount. The $2.9 million figure was revealed in the accounts for the financial year 2018-2019, and in the last financial year, hundreds of thousands more were spent on finishing touches, such as landscaping.
Frogmore is still Harry and Meghan's official British base and the Queen has made it clear it 'will remain their UK family home' so for as long as they want it.
Harry & Meghan's American dream
One of the reasons they decided to surrender their royal titles was a lack of privacy and putting an end to being in the media spotlight. However, it has been noted that their privacy in Frogmore was much better protected than their life in America wherein they're being photographed on a daily basis.
This week, pictures of Harry playing with his black labrador were published on US and Australian websites. The photos show the dog paddling the swimming pool suggesting that a drone flying over the house captured the shots.
The picture quality was very good and also captured a purple dog ball launcher while Harry laughingly threw it high in the air for the dog to chase. The UK media would follow strict guidelines and would not post pictures of intrusive nature however, there are no rules as such in Los Angeles.
An LA-based photographer confirmed the above, stating: "Harry and Meghan were always going to be a prime target – pictures of them make a lot of money. They have become the No1 target. It hasn't been too hectic due to the Covid-19 lockdown but with that now lifting it's becoming a free-for-all with helicopters and drones up over their property. Harry and Meghan don't have anything like the protection here that they had in the UK. It's a case of out of the frying pan into the fire. Whereas in Britain the Press abides by guidelines, there are no rules in the US. The freedom of the press trumps everything. Harry and Meghan are just treated here like any other A-list celebrities."