Prince Harry issued a furious denial of impropriety Tuesday after an anti-monarchy campaign group accused the prince of violating rules around charity funding.
In a letter to the Charity Commission, Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-Royal campaign group Republic, alleged that funds were transferred from William and Kate’s royal foundation to Harry and Meghan’s foundation because of the “personal relationship” between the two patrons and accused the organizations of “inappropriate use of charitable funds, conflicts of interest and lack of independence.”
The annual report for William and Kate’s foundation shows it paid Sussex Royal £145,000 to fund its set-up and launch, with a further £144,901 going to Harry’s sustainable tourism project Travalyst, which was then under the umbrella of the Sussexes’ charity.
In his letter to the commission, Republic’s Graham Smith wrote: “These two charities appear to be in breach of guidelines regarding the proper use of charitable funds and may be failing in their duty to act independently and solely in the interests of their objectives.”
He added, of two grants given by the Royal Foundation to the Sussexes’ projects: “In both instances it appears the only rationale for the decision was the personal relationship between two patrons, the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge.”
Republic previously used a variation on this ploy in an attempt to embarrass Prince Charles in 2009, reporting the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment to the Charity Commission. In that case Prince Charles took the traditional royal vow of silence and made no public comment. The complaint was reported on by the media, but not widely, and the allegation was subsequently rejected by the Charity Commission.
Prince Harry, however, has decided to take a different tack, and, in an extraordinary statement issued today through his lawyers, has accused Republic of “salaciously” feeding “a hunger for media attention as well as a shared and attacking agenda, which is neither right nor just.”
Harry also accused the complaint by the group, which campaigns for a democratically elected head of state, of being “defamatory and insulting to all the incredible organizations and people he has partnered with.”
The statement appeared to threaten legal action against Republic, saying that Harry’s “charitable endeavors” are “transparent and above board. To suggest otherwise is unequivocally wrong and will be acted upon accordingly with the weight of the law.
The statement added: “All of The Duke’s charitable activities are fully transparent as well as compliant with Charity Commission guidelines, and moreover with his own moral compass.”
“Travalyst (which was founded within Sussex Royal) is a non-profit organization for which The Duke receives no commercial or financial gain, as is the case with all of his charitable commitments. The Duke has not, nor has he ever, had any personal financial interest in his charitable work. The interest has always been clear: to support others and to make a positive difference.”
A spokesperson who worked with Sussex Royal told Yahoo News: “Grants made to the non-profit organization Travalyst are for the ongoing development of projects that will support communities, wildlife, and the environment through sustainable travel and tourism.
“All grants have been made impartially and objectively, fully in line with governance requirements, and have been reported transparently in full accordance with regulations.”
A spokesperson for William and Kate’s Royal Foundation said: “The grants made to Sussex Royal were to support the charitable work of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. They were fully in line with governance requirements and were reported transparently.”
An unperturbed-sounding Smith told The Daily Beast that Harry’s response seemed “a bit of an over-reaction.”
Asked if he was nervous about the prospect of being sued, Smith, who said he stood by the letter, said: “We haven’t said anything defamatory. We looked at some evidence and lodged a complaint. I think they are just trying to get us to shut up and other people to shut up.”