Here’s a problem you and I have never had: how to heat a vast, 775-room palace.
It would seem that keeping such a large, inherently draughty pile toasty warm coasts a small fortune which would explain why in 2018, the Queen was photographed meeting a foreign royal in the Audience Room at Buckingham Palace with a $50 two-bar bar heater in the background. (She also uses the same parsimonious trick at Balmoral.)
While Her Majesty might be worth billions (just how many is a point of much conjecture and debate), she is a famously frugal woman who despite having her own navy and owning all the dolphins in British waters, still starts the day pouring herself cereal out of a Tupperware container.
The royal family are a thrifty lot, with Princess Anne regularly re-wearing a slew of eye-popping outfits from the ’70s to this day and Prince Charles reportedly happily tucking into leftovers of an evening.
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It is against this abstemious backdrop that a new book claims the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ spending “rang alarm bells” for Her Majesty.
Royals At War, out today written by investigative journalists Dylan Howard and Andy Tillett, delves into why the Harry and Meghan fairytale fell apart. One factor that the authors raising which has received little attention in the various post mortems written about the Sussexes’ exit: money.
Howard and Tillett report that during Meghan’s pregnancy, she had sessions with a celebrity acupuncturist, the parents-to-be had a 12-week course of numerology readings costing $4515 and enjoyed a luxe babymoon which reportedly came with a $59,100 price tag.
Then there were the royal’s clothes. Per the authors, “it was Meghan’s maternity wardrobe – or wardrobes – that drew gasps of horror from the notoriously frugal royals.” They report that Meghan spent $739,000 on clothes in 2018, excluding her wedding dress. By contrast, Kate spent $123,000 on new duds in the same year.
(Princess Anne must have nearly keeled over while clutching one of her go-to mustard-coloured ensembles when she heard.)
Along with Meghan’s fabulous closet, Howard and Tillett report that the Duchess’ other expenses were also the subject of palace buzz.
“The jewels, the renovation of Frogmore, the allowance for (her mother) Doria, her private trips (with bodyguards) back to the US and Canada – the lavish extravagance was the gossip of the Palace staff and insiders,” a family insider is quoted saying.
“It would not have been a surprise to learn that the Queen was monitoring Meghan’s reckless spending with a shrewd eye,” the authors write.
In January this year, when Harry and Meghan announced their decision to demob from official royal duties, suddenly it wasn’t just their spending habits but also their earning potential that came under the microscope when they announced their intention to become “financially independent”.
“They want to become the world’s biggest lifestyle brand,” Howard and Tillett quote one Palace insider telling them. “If they are allowed to do so, the monarchy as we know it will cease to exist and a new ‘celebritised’ royal family is about to take over. They want to have their cake and eat it, too. This is all about money.”
Harry and Meghan’s intention to earn an honest crust puts them on a perilous path. If there is one thing history clearly shows it is that the combination of Windsors and the free market is often a recipe for trouble.
To wit: Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York embarrassingly spruiking a juicer on a home shopping network; Prince Andrew’s eyebrow-raising real estate deals; and Prince Edward’s fizzler of a TV production company which was dissolved in 2009 with $70 in assets.
“Never before has a member of the British royal family been for sale – to cash in on their profiles. That’s what it actually is,” the source said. “One shady business deal and the House of Windsor could become, at a minimum, corrupted – or at worst it comes, crumbling down. “This is the Queen, Prince Charles’, and Prince William’s worst fear – and was a key topic at the Sandringham summit of the Firm in January 2020, designed to decide the future role of the Sussexes. With Harry and Meghan on the loose, they’re susceptible to rogues and renegades. That strikes the fear of God into the Firm.”
Last week it was revealed that Harry and Meghan have signed on with Harry Walker Agency, the elite speakers bureau that also represents Barack and Michelle Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton. (Our own former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is also on the roster.)
While Harry and Meghan will focus on racial justice, gender equity and environmental concerns they have ruled out talking about the royal family. Still, with the potential to pick up highly lucrative six and seven-figure pay cheques, this move makes complete sense, however it does raise the spectre of a sort of “cash for access to coronet” scenario.
Three months on from Harry and Meghan having flown the palace coop, with the freedom to splurge on as many crystal therapy sessions (or whatever the LA beau monde are into these days), the thorny issue of their finances does not seem to be going anywhere.
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.