With the Sussexes still unable to access royal police protection when in the UK, there is just one remaining space that meets the family of four’s security needs when visiting – Frogmore Cottage.
Just five minutes walk from Windsor Castle, and ensconced within the Metropolitan Police-led ring of steel surrounding the Windsor Estate, the couple’s British home has become Prince Harry, Meghan, Archie and Lilibet’s only sufficiently secure refuge in the country since their access to armed police protection was taken away in 2020.
Their official UK residence, which is covered by the Met’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Unit, made it easy for the family to spend time with the Queen during their June 2022 visit, and it’s where Harry and Meghan have based themselves during multiple stays since moving to California.
Though the Sussexes travel with their own private security team, royal protection officers provide a level of security – including access to essential intelligence information – that is already deemed necessary for other members of the Royal Family.
The 19th-century Grade II-listed sanctuary hasn’t come without controversy – especially after £2.4m of taxpayer funding was spent in 2019 on exterior and structural changes before the couple moved in. But, after stepping away from their royal roles in January 2020, public furore was quickly shut down after the duke and duchess repaid the amount in full.
Alongside the unprecedented sovereign grant reimbursement was also a large sum paid by the couple to the Crown Estate covering the rent on the property for the foreseeable future.
But now, less than three years into that long-term lease, Prince Harry has been dealt a crushing blow after his father, King Charles, announced he is evicting the family from their Windsor property – a decision made shortly after his revealing memoir, Spare, was released in January.
At a time when communication between Harry and his family has reached an all-time low, further details provided to the couple by the institution have been scant. The property, they were told, is needed for someone else. It’s news, sources tell me, that has left Harry and Meghan stunned, and at least two members of the Royal Family “appalled”.
That “someone else” now has been revealed as Prince Andrew. The late Queen’s disgraced son — who was stripped of his royal titles and patronages amid underage sex abuse allegations by Jeffrey Epstein survivor Virginia Giuffre (which the Prince has denied) — was last week offered the keys to Frogmore by King Charles after being warned he must downsize from his Royal Lodge mansion by August.
“Harry and Meghan have until early summer to vacate,” a source shares. “Initially they were given just weeks, but now they have at least until after the coronation.” (No word yet on whether the couple will be attending said coronation – invites aren’t being sent to its 2,000 guests until next week).
The decision on the Sussexes’ home is a clear sign of just how sour relations between the King and his son have become. Given the timing of the news, it’s hard not to view it as a response to his son’s literary tell-all, which is said to have left the monarch “spitting mad”.
Watch: Inside Lilibet's first birthday party at Frogmore Cottage
“It all feels very final and like a cruel punishment,” says a friend of the couple. “It’s like [the family] want to cut them out of the picture for good.”
With Harry’s High Court challenge against the Home Office over a decision not to allow him to pay for police protection in the UK still in progress, the loss of Frogmore Cottage means that the Sussexes will soon be without a base in the country which provides the level of home security senior members of the Royal Family have access to. No alternative accommodation has been offered.
But despite the risks, and the prospect of grandchildren Archie and Lilibet not being able to visit in the future, King Charles is sticking firm to his eviction notice. The monarch, I’m told, has focused his priorities elsewhere. “I think the King is just fed up with the entire situation,” says a royal source. A Buckingham Palace spokesman refused to comment.
Andrew has not yet given an answer to the offer, but with King Charles ending his annual £249,000 grant in April, it has become abundantly clear that he can no longer afford to live in Royal Lodge without the additional funding from the £652.8m Duchy of Lancaster Fund, also known as the Privy Purse.
Though The Duke of York pays just £250-a-week rent for the £30m mansion, maintenance and running costs of the 30-room, 98-acre property are his responsibility and come close to £400,000 per year. Since moving in 19 years ago, he has had to spend over £7.5m on essential renovations alone.
“He has until autumn to leave but is resisting,” adds an insider, who confirms that it was Charles who personally offered Frogmore to his brother. The King is also reportedly covering the cost of private, unarmed security for Andrew, estimated to be close to £3m a year.
It’s not the first time the future of Frogmore Cottage has been discussed without Harry present. Last summer, the Prince William briefly had his eyes on his brother’s seven-bedroom home before choosing the nearby Adelaide Cottage for his family. A source said William “had questions” about whether Harry and Meghan’s home could be an option. “The optics would have been terrible though,” they added. A Kensington Palace spokesperson has been contacted for comment.
Over the past six months, several meetings about the future of a number of royal properties have taken place between Charles, William and keeper of the Privy Purse Sir Michael Stevens – a long-serving senior aide who will have played a considerable role in the decision on the Sussexes’ Windsor residence.
At the time of starting renovations in 2018, both Harry and Meghan saw Frogmore as a “forever home”. It was a property that a member of their Palace team once dubbed to me as “the little house that could” because of the dire state it was in when they first viewed it.
Prior to getting the keys, the cottage had spent more than 90 years split into five separate units for estate workers. “It was really tatty but they did so much to turn it back into a proper home, so many personal touches and so much of it on a tight budget,” a friend said at the time.
Adds a source, “This is not just some random rental they keep for convenience. Every drawer is full, every closet is packed… It’s a real family home.”
Now, as they start arranging for items to be shipped over to the US, the Sussexes’ last remaining high security space in Britain is just weeks away from being handed to someone else. To the couple’s friends and former royal security personnel who have been privy to the volume of threats received by the couple over the years, especially Meghan, the news will no doubt be worrying.
In November, former head of counter-terrorism policing in England Neil Basu confirmed just how many of those threats came from British-based far-right extremists during his tenure. "If you'd seen the stuff that was written and you were receiving it, the kind of rhetoric that's online, if you don't know what I know, you would feel under threat all of the time," he said. “We had teams investigating it. People have been prosecuted for those threats.”
Last year a legal representative for Prince Harry detailed why sufficient security was so important to the royal. “Prince Harry inherited a security risk at birth, for life. He remains sixth in line to the throne, served two tours of combat duty in Afghanistan, and in recent years his family has been subjected to well-documented, neo-Nazi and extremist threats,” the statement said. “While his role within the institution has changed, his profile as a member of the Royal Family has not. Nor has the threat to him and his family.”
That troubling point, it seems, appears to have gone completely over King Charles’s head.