Meghan Markle and Prince Harry could be owed a ‘refund’ after they were kicked out of Frogmore Cottage having spent £2.4million on refurbishments and apparently paying for rent up front.
King Charles issued notice to the Sussexes that they would need to vacate the five-bedroom mansion on Tuesday in a dramatic move reportedly prompted by the repeated broadsides at Queen Consort Camilla in the Duke’s memoir, Spare.
The decision was backed both by his wife and the Prince and Princess of Wales, it is understood.
However, it has now prompted questions as to whether the Crown Estate, which leases out Frogmore to the Sussexes, might actually end up owing the couple money.
The Sussexes were given use of Frogmore Cottage in 2018 by Queen Elizabeth amid their explosive fall-out with William and Katherine.
King Charles (left) issued notice to the Sussexes (seen right, at Frogmore) that they would need to vacate the five-bedroom mansion on Tuesday
It was originally five, run-down, staff residences but was knocked back into one large home with a private garden initially using £2.4million in taxpayers’ money.
More than half of Brits support Prince Charles’ decision to evict couple
More than half of Brits support Prince Charles’ decision to evict Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from Frogmore Cottage, according to research.
One in three consider the decision ‘completely fair’, and 49 per cent think it should have happened earlier.
The survey of 1,000 adults found 44 per cent consider Meghan Markle to blame for King Charles’ decision, which he reportedly reached in January.
But six in 10 reckon Harry and Meghan will use the eviction to try and gain public sympathy.
A spokesperson for research agency One Poll, which conducted the study, said: ‘It would appear Harry and Meghan’s relationship with the British public is as strained as it is with the Royal Family.
‘The pair now have their base in Los Angeles, so it could be that the Royal Family are simply trying to re-allocate that space to someone who will use it more.
‘But the Palace is remaining tight-lipped on the matter at the moment, so it’s difficult to guess their real motivations.’
The couple themselves paid for anything over and above basic fixtures and fittings.
At the time, the couple were said to be ‘relieved and pleased’ to refund taxpayers for the renovations.
‘They are ‘very relieved and very pleased’ to have been able to pay off the debt so quickly,’ a source close to them told Vanity Fair’s Katie Nicholl.
‘This has been a pro-active step and something they wanted to do from the outset.
‘There was no requirement [from the Queen] for them to pay the money back but it was important to them that they did, and after the Netflix deal they were in a position to do so. I think this is quite a significant moment for them.’
The source added: ‘They’re now in their forever home, it’s the start of their new life and they’re very much looking forward to everything that’s about to come.’
However, they spent just six months in the house before moving to North America, first to Canada and then California, where they bought an £11million mansion in Montecito.
Despite several public statements from Harry that he now sees his future in the US, he and Meghan decided to reimburse the Crown Estate for the cost of renovations in a deal which included leasing Frogmore Cottage for an unspecified number of years.
The couple claimed that it would mean ‘their family would always have a place to call home in the United Kingdom’ as they pursued lucrative commercial deals abroad.
More importantly, the Sussexes also felt that paying back any public money that had been spent on Frogmore would deflect continuing criticism.
Last year royal officials confirmed that Harry and Meghan were fully ‘financially independent’ and said the couple’s decision to re-pay the £2.4million on Frogmore represented a ‘good deal’ for taxpayers.
According to the Palace’s annual accounts, the lump sum they transferred to cover the refurbishment of their former marital home on the Queen’s estate also included undisclosed future rental costs.
Harry and Meghan were given use of Frogmore Cottage when they wed in 2018 by the late Queen
King Charles reportedly decided to evict Harry and Meghan from Frogmore Cottage due to his son’s repeated broadsides at Queen Consort Camilla
The couple were also said to be funding the general upkeep of their former home, like maintaining the garden, with the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant effectively acting as the ‘landlord’, undertaking more major works, such as anything needing doing to the outside of the Grade-II listed property.
A senior royal source said the rent had been calculated independently and based on market values.
‘I can be confident in saying that this is a good deal for the Sovereign Grant and the taxpayer alike,’ they added.
But if the Sussexes have paid several years of rent in advance, the sudden termination of their lease has sparked questions in royal circles as to whether they would be owed any money back.
The couple agreed to pay up front in the anticipation that they would be returning to the UK regularly despite settling in California to see family and friends.
But the implosion of their relationships with senior royals has meant they have rarely returned in the last three years.
And the decision to terminate their lease, whether they like it or not, could spark an aggressive response. It has been reported that a ‘flurry of letters’ has been passing between the Sussexes team and the Palace in recent weeks.
Roya Nikkhah, Royal Editor of The Sunday Times, has insisted the couple will be expecting at least some of the money they spent on Frogmore to be paid back.
‘I am sure that will be something the bean-counters at Buckingham Palace would have factored,’ she told True Royalty TV’s The Royal Beat.
‘I don’t think Buckingham Palace would give them notice, evict them and not be mindful of the fact there is a certain period left to run on the lease.
‘Harry and Meghan renewed the lease last year, and I am sure they will be looking to get that money back.
The house has already been offered to Prince Andrew, who is said to be resisting pressure to ‘downsize’ from seven-bedroom Royal Lodge.
‘I do not think that will be a problem – it’s more about the optics. It is interesting the King and Buckingham Palace would have known how it would have played out optically.
‘It sort of implies that the King doesn’t care about the optics of that decision. It’s his decision; he is making it and has done it.’
Speaking in January to Anderson Cooper, who hosts the US TV news show 60 Minutes, Harry said Camilla’s willingness to forge relationships with the British press made her ‘dangerous’ and there would be ‘bodies left in the street because of that’.
He also referred to her as ‘the villain’ in television interviews.
Sources have told the Mail that the monarch has found the implosion of his relationship with his youngest son ‘extremely painful’.
The decision to ask the couple to vacate their Windsor home was also apparently a difficult one for the King, particularly as he was keen not to add fuel to the fire of their ongoing row.
Discussing the decision to start the process, a source said: ‘It was felt that it would be like ripping off a Band Aid. Painful, but once it’s done, it’s done.’
The house has already been offered to Prince Andrew who is said to be resisting pressure to ‘downsize’ from the seven-bedroom Royal Lodge.
It is understood that the King is particularly keen to sort many of the nagging issues remaining around Harry, Meghan and Andrew before his coronation which have been allowed to ‘drag on’ for far too long.
Buckingham Palace have refused to comment on the decision to ask the Sussexes to pack up their remaining belongings from their five-bedroom cottage at Windsor by early summer.
It is understood that they had initially been asked to quit when their lease came up for renewal next month, but had been given a stay of execution.
However a spokesman for the couple notably went on the record this week to confirm they had been ‘requested to vacate their residence at Frogmore Cottage’ – a sign of their shock and anger at the move.
The latest twist in the ongoing war of the Windsors suggests there are even more doubts over their appearance at the King’s coronation on May 6.