Prince Andrew notoriously stepped back from public life last November in a cloud of controversy over his friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein. But, before he did so, the British public funded travel for his official duties, which accounts today show included a charter flight costing more than £15,000 to a golfing championships in Northern Ireland.
The Duke of York’s three-day trip to the Open Championships at Royal Portrush Golf Club in July 2019 was detailed as part of the annual Sovereign Grant Report in which the royal household reveals how it has spent the annual lump-sum it receives from the Treasury. Accounts are usually made public in June but this year’s was delayed until now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Queen received £82.4 million (~$105 million) in the financial year covering April 2019 to March 2020, £33 million for the ongoing refurbishment of Buckingham Palace and £49.4 million to meet official royal expenditure. Of this, a total of £5.3 million was spent on official royal travel, a rise of £700,000 on the previous year.
Figures show that Prince Andrew’s charter flight to and from Northern Ireland cost £15,848, with a senior royal source saying that it was necessary for him to take the private flight over one of the many scheduled flights available. “The arrangements in relation to the program did not enable him to travel by scheduled flight. That was taken into consideration in determining that a charter was appropriate,” the source told reporters. The source also said that “the arrangements for this engagement come within the criteria of the fact he is visiting a location and undertaking a visit on behalf of this patronage.”
Just months after the visit, Andrew announced he was stopping all public duties and standing back from all his patronages following the fallout from his disastrous television interview about convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The costs for royal travel also show that Prince Harry and Meghan’s visit to several African countries last fall was the most expensive official tour of the financial year, with travel, including staff planning visits, costing a total of £245,643 (~$313,000).
On whether there have been any discussions about repaying any of the costs for the visit given the fact that the couple stepped back from public life so soon after the trip, a senior royal source said they “undertook over 20 engagements bringing attention to a number of worthwhile causes and in particular raising awareness of the work and the legacy of the Halo Trust.” The source added: “The visit, as an official visit, fulfilled the objectives that were set out for it in terms of the programme of engagements and so therefore there would be no requirement and no obligation on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to make any payment in relation to that official visit.”
Other notable costs include £76,690 spent on a charter plane for Prince Charles’s official visit to Germany in May 2019, £210,345 to fly him to Oman in January to pay condolences following the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and £16,477 for a charter for Princess Anne to visit the Scottish Highlands last July. Just three trips were taken throughout the financial year on the royal train, which has often attracted criticism for the high cost of each trip: around £20,000 per journey. Despite this, a source said the royal household “regard the royal train as providing an effective and efficient means of travel.” Citing its use for overnight travel, the source said: “That means it will often be able to mitigate the costs of security that could be involved with an engagement.”
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