Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey has refocused attention on the couple’s bid for financial independence, and exactly how much is needed to maintain and protect certain members of the royal court.

Among other surprising disclosures, Prince Harry revealed that shortly after announcing their departure, the couple was cut off financially and lost their security detail.

“From my perspective, I just needed enough money to pay for security to keep my family safe,” Princess Diana’s youngest son told Winfrey in the interview.

Although the Duke of Sussex did not specify the exact amount, Kent Moyer, chief of The World Protection Group, told Forbes that around-the-clock security could add up to as much as $4 million a year.

Over $100 million

The couple is now living off on Harry’s $10 million inheritance from the late Princess Diana before eventually earning income from various streaming deals.

Most recently, the duo signed a 3-year podcast deal with Spotify for an estimated $15 million to $18 million, but it was their 5-year Netflix deal that has generated the most buzz. Multiple reports said the deal could be valued at up to $100 million.

Still, the cost of being a royal is much higher — with UK taxpayers supporting a significant portion of the monarchy’s finances.

Taxpayers in the UK are paying more money than ever for the institution with the latest Sovereign Grant accounts showing that it cost £69.4 million in 2020 ($96.28 million) including £21.2 million (~$29.5 million) on Buckingham Palace renovations. It was up modestly from the previous year’s level of £67 million (~$93 million).

The Sovereign Grant, funded in part by British taxpayers, is used to support the official duties of the monarch, including travel, security, staff and building upkeep.

Its value is determined by the amount of money the Crown Estate — the family’s massive portfolio of real estate properties — has brought in.

The system of financing Britain’s royals is complex but in a nutshell, Britain’s government makes a payment called the Sovereign Grant to the Royal Household every year.

The value of that payment is determined by how much the Crown Estate real estate portfolio has brought in. In the 2020 financial year, which ended on March 31, it came to £82.4 million with the monarchy spending just under £70 million on official duties such as travel or property maintenance. A ten-year project to renovate Buckingham Palace is one of the key reasons expenditure is rising with electrical, heating and plumbing systems dating from the 1950s set to be replaced along with wiring and piping while asbestos is also being removed.

For Harry and Meghan, access to the Sovereign Grant accounted for 5% of their total income. The other 95% lied in the Duchy of Cornwall, a private estate account maintained by Prince Charles. The estate is valued at roughly $1.2 billion, with Prince Charles receiving approximately $28.3 million to distribute amongst his family.

The New York Times has reported both Prince Harry and Prince William received an estimated $6.4 million from Prince Charles and the Duchy, although the exact number is still unknown. Still, the couple no longer has access to either fund, according to multiple reports.

A Forbes report said:

Controversy is nothing new to the British Royal Family with Edward VIII notoriously meeting with Adolf Hitler after his abdication. More recently, Prince Andrew resigned from public duties amid allegations of sexual abuse and scrutiny over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein. So far, the palace has not commented on to the latest crisis and observers believe that stance is becoming unsustainable.

Crisis talks have reportedly taken place between senior royals as demand for a response grows. The interview has created widespread division with Americans tending to support Meghan Markle.

In the UK, the couple came in for praise and criticism in equal measure with ITV co-host Piers Morgan storming off the set of “Good Morning Britain” after his co-presenter called his behavior towards Meghan Markle ‘pathetic’ and ‘diabolical’.

Amid all of the controversy, some of the Royal Family’s detractors have renewed their calls to abolish Britain’s monarchy.

Republic, a campaign to abolish monarchy said:

“The monarchy is expensive, very expensive. Of course it would not matter if it were free – the cost to our democracy would still be too high – but when the palace tells you it’s “value-for-money”, do not believe them. We could get much better for far less.

A symptom of a bigger problem

“The huge waste and extravagance of the monarchy is a symptom of the main problem: the palace is totally unaccountable and is able to operate with a far greater degree of secrecy than any other part of the state. It also clearly has considerably lobbying clout within government, which explains why the government has not cracked down on royal spending.”

Read the report

How is the monarchy funded?

It said:

“The monarchy has never been funded like other public bodies, which are usually set on annual budget based on what they actually need to spend.

“Until 2013, the costs of the monarchy – that is the Queen in her role as head of state and the other working royals – were funded by a civil list payment and a number of separate grants covering travel, property maintenance, communications and other expenses.

“All these costs have now been rolled into one single annual payment called the “Sovereign Grant.” This has been set at 25% of surplus revenue from the crown estate – a publicly-owned property portfolio – resulting in a payment of £76.1m for 2017/2018.

“However, the Sovereign Grant is just one part of the total cost of the monarchy. The royal family’s security bill is picked up by the metropolitan police, for example, while the costs of royal visits are borne by local councils.

“Meanwhile, income from the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall – despite belonging to the nation – goes directly to the Queen and Prince Charles respectively, depriving the treasury of tens of millions of pounds every year.

“When all this hidden expenditure is included, the real cost of the monarchy to British taxpayers is likely to be around £345m annually.”

Royal finances reform charter

Republic’s royal finances reform charter proposes the following simple reforms, to improve accountability, transparency and fairness in royal finances and to appropriately assign public funds to the Treasury.

  • Parliament to set an annual fixed budget for the monarchy – including an annual salary for the Queen – to be managed and reported on by a government department, not Buckingham Palace.
  • All security costs to be made transparent and accountable.
  • All costs of royal visits around the country to be incorporated into the monarchy’s budget, not met by local authorities.
  • The institution of the monarchy, and all members of the royal household, to be required to abide by the same tax laws and rules as all other public bodies and private individuals.
  • The Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall to be fully investigated by parliament with a view to transferring them into public ownership, with all revenue going to the Treasury.
  • The Crown Estate to be renamed ‘the National Estate’ and its status clarified through amendment of the Crown Estate Act.

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