The Windsors and their monarchist cheerleaders retaliate with a well-honed argument that the royals only “cost” the British people a trifling sum per person (the 2021 figure is 77 pence, just over a dollar) and therefore represent excellent value for money.
Traditionally, the royals then disappear on holiday for several months and the whole thing has died down by the time they return to public life, usually on the first Tuesday in September.
This year, however, events are proceeding to the march of a very different drum: the publication of the royal accounts on Thursday was dominated by an extraordinary, on the record, official statement from Prince Charles’ office in which the future king’s aides disputed Harry’s account that he had been “cut off” financially by his family.
Then there was the admission from a royal source that the royal family was doing poorly when it came to employing a genuinely diverse staff. The annual financial report found that 8.5 percent of employees inside the royal household are from ethnic minorities—against a target of 10 percent by the end of 2022.
“The results are not what we would like but we are committed to improving this… and we recognize that we must do more,” a senior palace source told CNN. The admission follows Harry and Meghan’s accusation that a royal family member had questioned the color of unborn-Archie's skin.
That accusation, in their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, also featured Harry’s allegation: “My family literally cut me off financially… in the first half, the first quarter of 2020.”
During a briefing to members of the British press pack, a senior spokesperson for Charles told reporters: “As we’ll all remember, in January 2020 when the duke and duchess announced that they were going to move away from the working Royal Family, the duke said that they would work towards becoming financially independent. The Prince of Wales allocated a substantial sum to support them with this transition. That funding ceased in the summer of last year. The couple are now financially independent.”
The spokesman added: “I betray no confidence when I say they’ve been very successful in becoming financially independent.”
The rather barbed comments were reported by all major British news outlets, and Charles’ staff even went as far as implicitly putting a number on the level of financial assistance given to Harry and Meghan to help with their “transition,” nudging journalists towards figures showing Charles spent £1 million ($1.4 million) less on supporting his sons and their families in 2020-21 (during the course of which, as we now know, he stopped funding Harry and Meghan after one quarter) than he did the previous year.
In 2020-21 Charles spent £4.5 million supporting William and Kate and Meghan and Harry compared with £5.6 million the previous year when both families received a full year of support.
The implication was that not funding Harry and Meghan for nine months had saved Charles £1 million.
The exact split between how much of the annual joint funding of his children William and Harry each has received has never been disclosed, but next year’s accounts will provide some clarity on this long-obscured issue, as only William’s family will continue to be funded.
A spokesperson for the Sussexes told The Daily Beast: “The duke’s comments during the Oprah interview were in reference to the first quarter of the fiscal reporting period in the UK, which starts annually in April. This is the same date that the ‘transitional year’ of the Sandringham agreement began and is aligned with the timeline that Clarence House referenced.”
The inference by Team Sussex is that everyone now agrees Clarence House ceased funding Harry at the end of British Q1 (July 1), just three months after their split was formalized. But of course, everyone is not in agreement. Harry feels he was cut off, Charles says he got a substantial sum. Harry, as the interview made clear, was shocked and surprised at the tap being turned off in the summer, having, one assumes, expected funding to continue for the full length of the transition year settled on under the Sandringham agreement.
While the exact detail of who transferred what to whom and when would no doubt be fascinating, what is perhaps even more extraordinary about this intervention is that it shows Charles has had enough of being badmouthed by Harry and blamed for all his ills, and is now actively fighting back.
But that Charles should authorize this aggressive attack on his own son just days before he lands back in the U.K. to unveil a statue in honor of Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday, also shows the extent of the fear and negative expectations in Charles’ camp.
It might be seen as a pre-emptive strike, a warning that the days of “never complain, never explain” are well and truly over, and that if Harry chooses to use the events of next week as a tool to renew his attacks on his father, then he can expect Charles to come back at him this time.
Charles knows nothing good can come out of next week’s events for him. As he discovered during the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, any revival of interest in the wife he cheated on with his current wife only harms him—and his ongoing campaign to make Camilla queen. So there is every reason to believe the accuracy of reports suggesting he will head for Scotland, and stay out of public view and avoid face-to-face contact with Harry.
William is also likely to be extremely guarded when it comes to seeing Harry in person. As Robert Lacey reported this week in excerpts from his newly updated book Battle of Brothers, William and Charles were aghast when Gayle King disclosed on live TV that discussions between the Sussexes and the Windsors in the wake of their Oprah interview were “not productive.”
William made the excuse that he had to put his kids to bed to leave the funeral of their grandfather early, declining to have an in-depth chat with his brother, fearful that the contents of their conversation would be leaked to the American media. Concerns that the Sussexes may not respect the confidentiality of their exchanges are unlikely to have been improved by the absurd row that exploded over the Sussex’s choice of the queen’s nickname Lilibet as their newborn daughter’s first name.
As courtiers and advisers from Montecito to London nervously drum their fingers and prepare for Thursday’s televised meeting of the two warring brothers, it is hard to escape the feeling that relations between Harry on one side, and William and Charles on the other, are as bad as they have ever been.
And, as in any family, a nasty, squabble about money is unlikely to have improved things, especially one that both sides have now made so very public.