Melanie McDonagh

Why should we pay for Harry and Meghan’s new home?

Why should we pay for Harry and Meghan's new home?
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Before you get too worked up about the £2.4 million cost to the taxpayer of refurbishing Frogmore “Cottage” for a family of three – one a baby – bear in mind to keep some indignation in reserve for next year. Because this is only the first instalment of the project before the costs have had a chance to overrun, and you know what it’s like with builders. Wait for the next financial year.

The other thing is, this already-not-inconsiderable-sum isn’t actually necessary for the housing of Meghan and Harry in the style they feel they deserve. As Richard Kay wrote in a brilliant bit of analysis for the Daily Mail, there’s no obligation on the pair actually to move to Frogmore at all; there’s a perfectly nice, not to say large and stately set of apartments going in Kensington Palace, which the Duke of Gloucester kindly offered to vacate for them. But nope, that may have been too close to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for Harry and Meghan, who Want Their Own Space (reader: have you actually been near Kensington Palace? Have you seen the size of it?) and so Windsor it was.

Naturally the royal PR machine cranked itself into third gear sharpish once it dawned on them how all this might look to the rest of us. Sir Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse (not quite as Privy as he’d like it to be) hastened to explain that “the property…had already been earmarked for renovation in line with our responsibility to maintain the condition of”. And yes it had to be converted from multi occupancy to single tenancy.

But it wasn’t all just overhauling the electrics and knocking in a few doors. Nope. There were extras. A new “floating” kitchen floor (I don’t know either, but they say it’s to protect an old floor); new bathrooms and kitchens…complete redecoration. And that’s before you get the landscaping. However, there is positively no actual yoga room.

They were entitled to all this from the Sovereign Grant, with any upgrades from the – get this – approved palace quality being funded by the couple themselves. What kind of upgrades from palace quality do you need? Speciality ionisers?

At the same time, we learn that the royal family’s carbon footprint has doubled in the last year – excluding that bit relating to the Sussexs’ Australian/NZ tour, which was incorporated in their governments’ tally.

So maybe they could consider cutting back on flying? Talking of which, the carbon footprint excludes the one attributable to Meghan’s £350,000 baby shower in the US to which she travelled in Amal Clooney’s private jet. Yep, another very glamorous person who cares very much about the environment and uses her own plane.

It’s all a bit out of keeping with the Sussexes’ public persona, isn’t it? That caring, democratic, accessible, diverse, environmentally-friendly and inclusive persona. Because when it turns out that this very irritating, out of touch, entitled pair – embodying that killer combination of royalty and celebrity – actually run through money like they’re Oprah Winfrey, they run the risk of turning even the pundits against him who are first to celebrate (a verb they’re fond of) Meghan’s modernity. There’s nothing modern about being rich and spoilt.