Meghan Markle and Prince Harry carried out extensive renovations of their new Windsor home since receiving Frogmore Cottage as a wedding present last year. The predicted cost for the refurbishment was to be an eye-watering £3million, half of which taxpayers’ were expected to stump. But with the news the cost has now exceeded £2.4million of public money, Daily Mirror’s associate editor Kevin McGuire lamented the spending as a “sick joke” at the expense of poor Britons.
Speaking to BBC Victoria Derbyshire on Tuesday, Mr McGuire said: “It matters when so much money is being spent on one family, one couple, when there are so many people in Britain – a million plus people – on council waiting lists.
“There are 5,000 to 6,000 people sleeping rough on the street and we are devoting all this money to a very privileged family. It’s a sick joke.”
Mr McGuire also claimed the role of the Royal Family plays in British finances is “massively overplayed” but according to VisitBritain, royal residences such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle can attract up to 2.7 million visitors each year.
Another statistic from consultancy Brand Finance said that in 2017 the monarchy contributed £1.8billion to the UK economy.
Mr McGuire continued: “More people go to Chester Zoo than go at Windsor Castle – it’s just massively overpaid.
“France, which doesn’t have a Royal Family, has more tourists than the United Kingdom. More people will go to Versailles which is open all year round, than go to Buckingham Palace, which is only open at a limited period.
“It’s massively overplayed. Even if the royals are a tourist draw, how do you justify £2.4million and counting on a cottage for a couple?”
In 2018 alone, France attracted 84.9 million tourists, according to France Diplomatie while Britain was the sixth biggest destination with over 40 million visitors in the same year.
Work at Frogmore Cottage is expected to continue over the summer as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry obtained permission to paint the exterior of the Grade II listed house at the expense of the taxpayer and to landscape the gardens out of their own pockets.
The cost to the taxpayer of the decorating work this summer is expected to be less than £350,000.
Palace sources have denied reports that the house has been equipped with a mother-and-baby yoga room, complete with a floating or sprung floor, for Meghan and the couple’s seven-week-old son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
But they have conceded that the couple may have paid out of their own pockets for luxury bathrooms and kitchens kitted out to a higher specification than the Royal Household allows for in its judgement of what is acceptable for the taxpayer to fund.
Sir Michael Stevens, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, the Queen’s chief financial advisor, explained why the money was spent using cash from the taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant on the couple’s new official residence.
Sir Michael said: “The property had not been the subject of work for some years and had already been earmarked for renovation in line with our responsibility to maintain the condition of the Occupied Royal Palaces estate.
“The Sovereign Grant covered the work undertaken to turn the building into the official residence and home of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their new family.
“The building was returned to a single residence and outdated infrastructure was replaced to guarantee the long-term future of the property.
“Substantially all fixtures and fittings were paid for by Their Royal Highnesses.”
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