Harry and Meghan repay Frogmore Cottage renovations – but will it stop criticism?

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·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read
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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle confirmed they have repaid the renovation costs of their British home after signing a lucrative deal with Netflix.

The couple were given Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of Windsor Castle as a wedding present from the Queen in May 2018.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent £2.4m from the Sovereign Grant, which is taxpayer money, on renovation work, but promised to pay it back when they decided to step back from senior royal duties and live in the US.

They had previously been paying back the sum over a number of years, paying rent plus a repayment each month.

However, their deal with streaming giant Netflix gave them the ability to pay back the costs in one lump sum.

The cost of the renovation work had raised eyebrows, even before the couple left their royal roles, which led to them offering to make the repayment as part of their plan to step back.

Making the payment and ending their reliance on Prince Charles’s funding means the couple are closer to their goal of financial independence – but does that mean they can expect a lower level of scrutiny, as they hoped for when they stepped back?

A general view of Frogmore Cottage on the Home Park Estate, Windsor. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 14, 2020. It's the home of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Frogmore Cottage on the Home Park Estate, Windsor, the UK home of Harry and Meghan. (PA Images)

Journalist and royal commentator Afua Adom told Yahoo UK she was pleased the couple made the payment, but felt they “can’t do right for doing wrong”.

Harry was insistent they would pay back the money and now [some people] are furious that they had the money to do it,” she said.

“It feels like whatever they do will never be enough for certain sections of society.”

Adom said the quick repayment was probably a symbol of how seriously the couple took the commitment they made.

“It shows the depth of feeling from the British public,” she added.

“[Harry and Meghan] felt a sense of duty on some level, or guilt, they probably thought people will be thinking ‘you have got the six figures from Netflix’.

“There was a need to silence certain quarters, by saying ‘we were always going to pay our own way and pay it back’ and now they have.”

Read more: Prince Harry issues legal letter over reports Netflix deal ended Invictus Games fundraiser

Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are seen with their baby son, who was born on Monday morning, during a photocall in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle, in Berkshire, Britain May 8, 2019. Dominic Lipinski/Pool via REUTERS
The couple were given the home after their wedding and lived there for a short time with Archie. (Reuters)

Joe Little, editor of Majesty magazine, said: “The £2.4m cost to the taxpayer for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage was a bone of contention with the media – and thus the public – long before Harry and Meghan left for North America.

“Clearing the entire debt only days after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's Netflix deal was announced was a wise move and at a stroke there is one less thing that the couple can be criticised for.

“The original agreement of £18,000 per month over 11 years was not particularly satisfactory and few could understand why it was necessary.”

On Monday evening, less than a week after their deal was confirmed, Harry's spokesperson said: "A contribution has been made to the Sovereign Grant by the Duke of Sussex.

"This contribution as originally offered by Prince Harry has fully covered the necessary renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage, a property of Her Majesty The Queen, and will remain the UK residence of the duke and his family."

It’s understood the home remains their main UK residence – and Harry hinted he could be back in the UK soon, as he talked about the Rugby League World Cup to staff and volunteers on a Zoom call.

He said he would have returned this year had it not been for coronavirus. He would have been involved with the London Marathon and the couple would likely have both returned for Trooping the Colour. Neither event went ahead.

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