It’s not just designer clothes and jewellery that this ritzy pair are splashing cash on – and the numbers are eye-watering. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” Which is unquestionably true. You and I don’t have to worry about our 16 loos or the maintenance required on a Japanese-style teahouse or wondering where the dogs have gotten to on the grounds of our manicured two-hectare estate. (The orchard maybe? The organic vegetable garden? Somewhere amid the Chateau of Riven Rock’s century-old olive trees?)
But these are all very real potential problems for Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And even those with eight or nine or ten-figure bank balances, with wallets that contain rhodium-plated American Express cards, are not immune to the occasional month where their cost of living takes a sharp jump. Take the Sussexes. Their expenses for the month of February alone could reach more than $1.2 million, an eye-watering sum even for two people whose go-to mode of transport seems to be the private jet. It’s the PJ all the way! (With apologies to the ghost of Lyndon B. Johnson.)
For the duo who strode out of the palace more than two years ago in high dudgeon and high definition, money has been one of the recurring themes of their new ‘free’ life. As Harry sulkily told Oprah Winfrey last year: “My family literally cut me off financially.”( Heaven forbid a 35-year-old man not keep receiving the millions of pounds annually he had enjoyed from his dear papa, even after he had quit the family business and moved to the other side of the world.)
The Duke, having spent his entire life cosseted in the royal bosom, a man who had never once in his life paid rent or a mortgage, suddenly found himself in quite the pickle. He needed cash, and oodles of it, now that the Bank of Dad had shut its doors. (And that reportedly only happened after they had arrived in the United States with a Clarence House spokesman having said last year: “The Prince of Wales allocated a substantial sum to support them with this transition.” A spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess said at the time: “You are conflating two different timelines and it’s inaccurate to suggest that there’s a contradiction.”
They said the Duke’s comments over being cut off were in relation to “the first quarter of the fiscal reporting period in the UK, which starts annually in April”.) Enter stage left Netflix, Spotify and Penguin Random House and their bulging cheque books, the glint of a once-in-a-lifetime PR coup in their beady corporate eyes. Various figures get thrown around about how much all this corporate cosying up might earn Harry and Meghan but most estimates put it north of $200 million. Good-o, then. That’s the running costs of the koi pond sorted out.
Or, so the supposed storyline goes. Because the Montecito-based palace refuseniks currently appear to be toting up bills at an alarming rate. Take February. This week the Mirror reported that the Sussexes are facing a “council tax” bill of $188,952 on their home. The first half of that bill was reportedly due in December, and the second half (or $94,476) was due on February 1. In January, it emerged that Harry had applied for a judicial review of the decision that his official Metropolitan Police protection be withdrawn.
In a hearing a few weeks ago, Shaheed Fatima QC, acting for the royal said: “This claim is about the fact that the claimant does not feel safe when he is in the UK … It goes without saying that he does want to come back to see family and friends and to continue to support the charities that are so close to his heart. Most of all, this is and always will be, his home.” Stirring words, words from a legal superstar, but a top London silk can cost more than $1300-an-hour. That is on top of whatever costs the application has been costing the Sussexes with lawyers having lodged the case in September last year.
So. Many. Billable. Hours. Meanwhile, the Home Office, which is responsible for the Met, has been having none of it, with Robert Palmer QC, acting for the government, writing in a submission to the court that the royal had “failed to afford the necessary measure of respect” to the Home Secretary. The submission also stated that they could look to recover the “excessive” costs of the case, which, experts told the Mail, could be up to $735,000. Hang on. You didn’t think that was the only Sussex action last month?
Last week it was revealed that Harry has launched libel action against the Mail on Sunday over a report it had published about the bodyguard legal fight, meaning he has now called in the lawyers over a story about him having called in the lawyers. And that’s on top of the fact he has brought privacy claims against the Mirror and the Sun’s parent companies over alleged phone hacking. (The Sun is owned by News Corp which also owns news.com.au.) All the while, that billable hour clock is running on all of these matters.
Next up, tax. In trading his grey homeland for the sun-dappled delights of southern California, Harry doesn’t just get to enjoy an infusion of vitamin D but now also enjoys being subjected to US taxes. American tax rules mean he will have to pay both federal and state taxes once he has lived in the country for 183 days over a three-year period. According to the Mirror, the royal “faces a huge income tax bill in April now he is resident in the US.” Elsewhere, a tax expert has previously told the Mail: “Harry’s bill could be monumental.”
It’s not a word you like to hear in reference to a tax bill. Then there are the quotidian costs of keeping the Sussex ship afloat. In 2020, the Mail took a detailed look at the potential running costs of Harry and Meghan’s life in the US. They proposed that their security would be costing the couple more than $4.5 million annually. This, along with other expenses such as their mortgage, it estimated to add up to just a scotch over $6 million annually. Round that down and you get a monthly figure of at least $500,000.
If Harry does lose his court action over his bodyguards and has to pay the Home Office’s costs, their household costs for February could be more than $1.2 million. Now all of this might be fine if their much-touted $200 million-plus earnings had been simply dumped into their bank accounts, but allegedly, that is not the case. In 2020, The Mail on Sunday reported that the Netflix deal “is worth between $US3-5 million ($A4.1-$A6.8 million) a year.” Even if we assume they are taking home the higher figure, that works out at $566,000 per month.
(That is a much higher figure than the one suggested by the Times who said that, according to industry insiders, they would likely be getting a $1.37 to $2.75 million retainer and then would be paid more for the shows they produce.) The family clearly enjoys the high life. In 2021, Meghan reportedly added $20,279 worth of jewellery to her collection along with adding $113,827 worth of new clothes to her wardrobe (more than six queens or future queens spent on fresh designer duds). When Harry travelled to Colorado in August for a charity polo match, it was in a borrowed Gulfstream jet.
In September, when the Duke and Duchess pitched up in New York for their ersatz ‘royal tour’ they made the trip via, what else, but a private jet. Paparazzi pictures of them disembarking turned up in the press on both occasions. Here’s the thing though: At the end of the day, it’s the Sussexes’ money. If they want to buy their daughter Lilibet a solid-gold rattle and hire the Mormon Tabernacle choir to sing her lullabies, then more power to them.
However, Harry’s aunt Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York should serve as a cautionary tale here. When she and Prince Andrew divorced in 1996, she had a $7.7 million overdraft forcing her to hit the US and earn, earn, earn. She embraced corporate America with gusto and they happily opened their wallets. There was the $4 million she received for her autobiography, the $2.3 million she was paid to spruik Weight Watchers and the further $1 million or so she pocketed thanks to Oceanspray.
It looked like she had pulled herself out of the financial drink thanks to her willingness to re-cast and sell herself as a plucky survivor. Sound familiar? Only thing, just over a decade later and Fergie was back in dire straits, having reportedly somehow racked up debts of $9.6 million by 2010. If there is one word I really hope Harry and Meghan embrace in 2022 it is this: Save.