When Harry and Meghan announced, back in November 2018, that they were moving out of Kensington Palace and into Frogmore Cottage, it was widely viewed as them striking out on their own as they sought freedom to do things their own way. So it seems somewhat ironic that, almost two years later, the very same Windsor home ended up being the final thing that stood between them and the total freedom they ultimately craved.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s announcement that they have paid back all the public money for the renovations to Frogmore Cottage marks a significant milestone as they shape their new lives. Following confirmation that they are no longer taking funds from Prince Charles, they have now, it seems, achieved complete financial independence from “The Firm” and, crucially, from the British public purse. Immediately, of course, this announcement shuts down criticism the couple received over paying back the funds in full since they announced their apparently very financially lucrative production deal with Netflix. But the move also has symbolic significance in releasing their ties to a system they have come to so despise.
To understand the Sussexes’ thinking in this regard you only have to look at the, now dormant but still online, Sussex Royal website they launched when they decided to step back as working royals in January. Lengthy sections entitled “Media” and “Funding” outline their frustration with the fact, as publicly-funded royals, they had no control over their own media relations policy. Central to their desire for the future was to “live a more independent life as a family, by removing the supposed ‘public interest’ justification for media intrusion into their lives.” Seething at what they saw as unfair criticism and intrusion, their view was clear; shut down public funding and remove the right to control or criticize.
This is why Harry and Meghan announced they wanted to pay back the public money—£2.4 million according to 2018/19 accounts—spent on Frogmore when they decided to leave their roles after just 18 months of royal work. The Mail on Sunday revealed earlier this year that they were doing so in installments. But this latest decision speeds up their symbolic freedom by a decade. The Sussexes' initial hopes for a half-in, half-out arrangement with the monarchy when they decided to step back led to accusations of them wanting have their cake and eat it. But with every move they have taken since, it is clear that independence is their overriding goal.
There are those who have suggested that Harry and Meghan have struggled since leaving behind royal life or that Harry has questioned their decision to break free. But nothing about the production deal they have just signed or their decision to pay back this lump sum suggests they are looking back.
Instead, you could say it is the monarchy who is left looking over its shoulder. Family members will be hoping that Harry and Meghan stick to the pledge that they made to “continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty” in “everything they do.” Because, while they have no way of controlling the Sussexes, the actions of this couple will inevitably still reflect on the institution. Harry and Meghan may no longer have to engage with or answer to their critics. But the monarchy does not have the same freedom.
You Might Also Like