Prince Charles funded Harry and Meghan until summer 2020, accounts show

Buckingham Palace has admitted it “must do more” in terms of diversity and is “not where we would like to be” as figures show people from ethnic minority backgrounds make up 8.5% of its staff.

It also emerged that Prince Charles funded Harry and Meghan with a “substantial sum” until the summer of 2020. Harry had told Oprah Winfrey that his family had “literally cut me off financially” in the early part of last year.

The figures, released for the first time in the Queen’s annual financial accounts, come three months after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex accused the royal family of racism in their controversial interview with Winfrey, a claim publicly denied by Prince William.

The accounts also reveal that Harry and Meghan have repaid £2.4m for the cost to the public purse of refurbishing Frogmore Cottage, close to Windsor Castle, but this sum also covers their rent to retain it as their UK home until at least March 2022.

A senior palace source stressed that changes to its diversity strategy were implemented in early 2020, predating the Winfrey interview in March this year. In voluntarily publishing its diversity data, the palace wanted to be “open and transparent about our efforts to improve”, the source said, and to ensure there could be “no place to hide”.

“We are not where we would like to be despite our efforts,” the source said. Though the palace had been “progressing diversity and inclusion initiatives”, the results “have not been what we would like” and it recognised “we must do more”.

Buckingham Palace wants to reach a target of 10% of its staff being from ethnic minority backgrounds by 2022. It has not ruled out appointing a diversity tsar, though has no plans at present to do so.

“We recognise our own workforce needs to reflect the communities that we serve,” said the source. The Queen and royal family “actively embraced the diversity of our nation and that of the Commonwealth, and we take our lead from that”, they added.

Clarence House figures show that in Charles’s household, the proportion is even less, at 8%. It too was committed to improvement, said aides. About 13% of the UK population is from a minority ethnic background.

In the Winfrey interview, Meghan and Harry said an unnamed royal – not the Queen or Duke of Edinburgh – had raised concerns with Harry over how dark their son Archie’s skin tone might be. William later defended the family, saying: “We’re very much not a racist family.”

An inquiry into bullying allegations by staff against Meghan is ongoing. The costs of the inquiry, by an outside law firm, were being “met privately” and would not come from the sovereign grant, which is the money the Queen receives for official expenditure from the Treasury and calculated as a percentage of the profits from the crown estate.

The accounts raised confusion over exactly how much the Sussexes had repaid for the costs of Frogmore Cottage, which remains their UK home. A senior palace source said the couple had personally paid £2.4m, indicating that this sum covered rental to retain the property as well as the refurbishment. The Sussexes had covered their “current obligations” and it was a “good deal for the sovereign grant and the taxpayer alike”, the source added.

Charles, who saw his income from the Duchy of Cornwall and sovereign grant drop from £24m in 2020 to £20.8m this year due to the pandemic, still funds the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but no longer funds the Sussexes. Funding for Charles’s sons and their families made up part of a £4.5m bill – which also included other expenditure and transfers to reserves – for the prince, his Clarence House financial accounts showed.

A spokesperson said that when the Sussexes announced in January 2020 that they would work towards becoming financially independent, “the Prince of Wales allocated a substantial sum to support them with this transition. That funding ceased in the summer of last year. The couple are now financially independent.” Though the couple’s departure was “a matter of enormous sadness to the family, the prince wanted to help make this work”, he said, and added: “I betray no confidence when I say they’ve been very successful in becoming financially independent.”

The sovereign grant increased by £3.5m to £85.9m during 2020-21. Work on the 10-year £369m refurbishment of the palaces is on track and was “ramped up” over the past year due to royal palaces being closed to the public.

But the palace closures also saw a 53% decrease in the amount of supplementary income the palace receives through the Royal Collection trust, which fell from £20.2m in 2019-20 to £9.4m this year. Officials estimate that the loss of visitor revenue and other contributions from the trust will amount to about £18m over three years.

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