For Harry and Meghan, 'financial independence' is relative

Germain MOYON
Britain's Prince Harry and wife Meghan have been under the microscope for their jet-set lifestyle

Prince Harry and wife Meghan say their retreat from the royal family will give them "financial independence" -- but they will retain many benefits while being free to capitalise on their image.

Soon after their shock announcement on Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex detailed their new financial plans on their completely redesigned website.

The cost of the monarchy is a sensitive subject in Britain and the couple has been under the microscope for their jet-set lifestyle.

Their new plans have done little to quell the media criticism, particularly over the claims of financial independence.

- What are they giving up? -

Harry and Meghan will forego their share of the Sovereign Grant, paid to Queen Elizabeth II for her official duties -- and family members carrying out duties on her behalf -- and the upkeep of Buckingham Palace.

The Sovereign Grant amounted to £82 million (96 million euros) for the 2018-2019 financial year, but it is not known how much is paid to each family member.

The figure is calculated from the income derived from the British Crown's assets.

But this sum represents only five percent of the couple's income.

- What do they keep? -

The remaining 95 percent is allocated to them by Harry's father Prince Charles via the Duchy of Cornwall, a 53,000 hectare estate and financial portfolio granted to the heir to the throne.

It comprised assets of nearly £1 billion in 2018-2019, making a profit of over £20 million.

The Times newspaper reported that around £5 million per year is paid out to Charles' two sons, Harry and William.

Harry and Meghan have not indicated they will give up these funds.

Reports say that Prince Charles is angry that he was not consulted before their announcement.

The couple also intends to retain their royal titles and use of current residence, Frogmore Cottage, in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

This would require the permission of the Queen, who owns the property, although she is also reported to be unhappy by the couple's behaviour.

The residence was recently renovated with £2.4 million of taxpayer's money, fuelling criticism of their lifestyle.

- To work, but to do what? -

Harry and Meghan will be free to earn their own money after giving up the royal allowance.

This should present little problem to the photogenic and globally recognisable couple, even if their work is restricted to the charity sector.

"There is no doubt that the Duchess, a former television actress, and the Duke, an ex-soldier, are marketable commodities," noted the Daily Telegraph, pointing out that Markle could play herself in Netflix hit series The Crown.

The newspaper reported in December that the Californian former actress used a recent family holiday in North America to reconnect with contacts in Los Angeles as part of plans to launch her charitable foundation in the United States.

- Who pays for their security? -

While Harry and Meghan will pay for their private travel, they state on their website that they will continue to "support" Elizabeth II and make official visits, financed by the family.

Their VIP status entitles them to armed close protection by the British police. No change is planned in this respect.