Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s tour in Africa in October last year was the most expensive royal trip of the year.
The royal family has released their annual Sovereign Grant accounts, which show how taxpayer money has funded them over the course of the year, and it seems Harry and Meghan’s trip took the biggest chunk out of the royal purse.
Harry and Meghan’s 10-day tour in South Africa, with their son Archie, and Harry subsequent trip to Angola, Malawi and Botswana on his own cost a jaw-dropping $445,000 for travel alone, the accounts have revealed.
It was their first, and last, tour abroad as senior Royal Family members and what started as a successful tour was overshadowed after the couple announced Meghan’s legal action against the Mail On Sunday and the MailOnline towards the end of it.
She is suing them over its publication of her handwritten letter to her father, Thomas Markle, after her wedding to Prince Harry.
The pair took an extended break afterwards and then decided famously to step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family the following January.
How did their spending stack up against other royals?
According to the accounts, the flights alone cost the palace nearly a quarter of a million pounds, or just shy of half a million dollars.
Security costs are never revealed in detail.
If costs are worked out per day, however, it was not the Sussexes, but Prince Charles who had the most expensive trip.
His two-day visit to Oman to pay his condolences after the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said cost $380,326 in flights alone.
Prince Andrew also features on the Sovereign Grant list, as he did not step back until November last year, part of the way through the financial year. His trip to Northern Ireland for the Royal Portrush Golf Club’s Open championship cost $28,654 in flights.
Princess Anne’s charter flight to Rome to watch Scotland vs Italy in the Six Nations cost almost $30,000. She is patron of Scotland’s rugby team.
A royal source told PA the choice of charter for Prince Andrew reflected getting the trip to fit into a busy schedule, while the short notice of Charles’s Oman trip meant it was more expensive.
The total cost of travel for the Royal Family in the financial year 2019/20 was $9.5m. It was up $1.2m compared with last year.
Harry and Meghan’s African tour
Before the legal announcements, Harry and Meghan had a successful tour, which included taking Archie, then four months old, to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his very first royal appearance.
Meghan, 39, also made a speech in which she told women in a township she was there “as a woman of colour”.
It was also the place they filmed a documentary for ITV, when Meghan opened up about fielding criticism from the press and revealed no one had checked in with her.
In the same documentary, Harry raised royal watchers eyebrows when he admitted he and William are ‘on different paths’.
Harry, 36, also announced he was taking action against News Group Newspapers and Reach plc over historic phone-hacking allegations at the conclusion of the tour.
Will they have to pay it back?
Although they have since stepped back as senior royals, a source has told PA there would not be any need for them to pay back the cost of the trip, as it was carried out as part of their royal roles and on request of the British government.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex undertook over 20 engagements, bringing attention to a number of worthwhile causes, in particular, raising awareness of the work and the legacy of the Halo Trust,” the source said.
“So, the visit, as an official visit funded by the Government, fulfilled the objectives that were set out for it and so therefore there would be no requirement or obligation on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to make any payments in relation to that official visit.”
How has coronavirus impacted royal spending?
The true impact of coronavirus will not be obvious in these accounts as they don’t cover most of the period of lockdown in the UK.
According to the keeper of the Privy Purse, Sir Michael Stevens, the report covers a period before the major impact of COVID-19 hit.
“The majority of the year under review took place before the impact of COVID-19 set in, with the Royal Family undertaking a range of significant visits to communities in the UK and overseas,” he said.
“The Queen hosted the President and First Lady of the United States of America on a State Visit and led the country in national moments of remembrance such as the 75th anniversary of D-Day and Armistice Day.
“Although COVID-19 has temporarily changed the format of engagements and events, it has not changed the sense of continuity, reassurance and recognition they provide. Her Majesty’s programme, supported by Her family, will continue to develop meaningful ways to lead the nation through this time.”
The Sovereign Grant is calculated based on the 48-month profits from the Crown Estate.
Last week, the Crown Estate papers revealed the portfolio has plunged by had been a downgrading of $704m in its portfolio.