Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle have been asked by King Charles to give up their U.K. home, a spokesperson for the couple confirmed to the media on Wednesday.
While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been living in a privately-owned mansion in Santa Barbara, California, with their children Archie and Lilibet for almost three years, they’ve stayed at Frogmore Cottage when they are in Britain. The “request to vacate” would leave them without an official royal residence.
British tabloid the Sun first reported on the eviction, claiming that the five-bedroom property on the grounds of Windsor Castle was offered to Prince Andrew, the King’s disgraced brother, last month.
Buckingham Palace has not commented on the displacement, but it comes just several weeks after the publication of Harry’s unsparing memoir in January and before his father’s coronation ceremony in May.
“It’s sending a clear, clear message from the King to his younger son,” says Giselle Bastin, a royal expert at Flinders University in Adelaide. “That would provide in many ways a disincentive for Prince Harry to bring his family over for the coronation, perhaps even himself, if he doesn’t have somewhere to stay that is covered by royal security.”
What is Frogmore Cottage?
Originally called Double Garden Cottage, Frogmore Cottage is part of the Frogmore estate, about half a mile south of Windsor Castle, and close to the River Thames. It was built in 1801 as a country retreat for King George III’s wife Queen Charlotte and her daughters.
Its name comes from the abundance of frogs on the historically wet marshland.
The late Queen Elizabeth II gifted her grandson Prince Harry and Meghan use of the cottage in 2018, shortly after the couple got married. Officially, however, the Crown Estate owns the property.
From 2019 until quitting life as “working royals” in 2020, Harry and Meghan lived in the cottage, carrying out some $3 million worth of taxpayer-funded renovations, though they have since repaid the cost in full through a contribution to the Sovereign Grant.
The couple moved abroad in January 2020, first to Canada before eventually settling in their current $14.7 million home in Montecito. Still, they went back to their residence in Frogmore from time to time, including in June 2022 to celebrate Lilibet’s first birthday and in the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s death last September.
Why the cottage is more than a home
The eviction from Frogmore Cottage strips Harry and Meghan of guaranteed police protection during their trips to Britain. As part of the royal estate, the cottage enjoys heightened security.
Bastin says the cottage has been a “niggling point of contention” throughout the couple’s highly publicized departure from royal life.
Harry and Meghan have been at odds with the British royal family for years amid allegations of racism and lack of palatial support. Buckingham Palace has kept mum on the couple’s highly publicized grievances—most recently detailed in Harry’s memoir—though some royal observers believe this eviction to be the first public retaliation on the part of the so-called Firm.
But the move to take the property back from Harry and Meghan also reflects Charles’ promise to pare down the monarchy, Bastin says, as a cost-cutting measure.
What the next tenant reveals about the royal family
Queen Elizabeth II’s second son and Harry’s uncle, Prince Andrew, is reportedly getting the keys to the cottage after Harry and Meghan remove their belongings.
Andrew, the Duke of York, currently lives in the much larger Royal Lodge, a 31-bedroom property three miles away from Frogmore Cottage that Andrew shares with his ex-wife Sarah and the late Queen’s corgis. He’s been leasing the Royal Lodge from the Crown Estate since 2003, but his own fall from grace has led to speculation that he’s been unable to keep up with its rent and maintenance.
As a “working royal,” Andrew made nearly $300,000 yearly. But Andrew’s friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and a subsequent lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse (which was settled), led to the removal of his royal and military titles in January 2022. Andrew has not had any full-time paid job since leaving the Royal Navy in 2022, although he receives a £20,000 ($23,000) annual pension for his decade as special representative for international trade. But as Charles goes about tightening the royal pursestrings, a reported slash of Andrew’s annual grant may be the impetus for the Duke of York to downgrade.
Still, despite Andrew’s disrepute, Harry is the one being forced out completely. Says Bastin: “King Charles means business when he does the hierarchy of who stands where within the Royal inner sanctum.”
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