Royally Evicted

Embed from Getty Images

After nearly a day of speculation courtesy of a news article from The Sun, it’s been confirmed that The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been asked to “vacate” Frogmore Cottage, a house on the grounds of the Windsor estate that was gifted to them by Queen Elizabeth and has been used as their UK base since they stepped down as working royals.

To draw a firm line, that’s all of the detail that’s been confirmed. But here’s what else is out there: 1) the couple were asked to give up their UK house shortly after the publication of Harry’s memoir, Spare, and 2) part of the move is because King Charles is hoping to jettison his brother, The Duke of York, from the much larger Windsor estate, Royal Lodge, and thinks Frogmore Cottage is a better fit.

The obvious answer to “why” may seem on its face to be that Harry and Meghan are being punished for their various public disclosures – the memoir, the Netflix documentary, and various print and television interviews over the last year. And that may in fact *be* the answer, however there is larger context to bear in mind. Let’s not forget, Andrew was asked to vacate his apartment in Buckingham Palace earlier this year. This is not an isolated action targeting only the Sussexes.

The Royal Family is in a weird housing spot right now. I wrote about this a few months ago around the time The Prince and Princess of Wales moved to Adelaide Cottage (also on the Windsor grounds) and the late Queen passed – everything and everyone is a little up in the air right now.

For starters, King Charles isn’t even living in the monarch’s primary London residence, Buckingham Palace, because it’s under renovation until 2027, so he’s still at Clarence House. He also prefers it like that, as far as we can tell.

William and Catherine took over a four-bedroom cottage on the Windsor grounds shortly before Queen Elizabeth’s death, which means there is only enough room for them and not their full-time nanny. Which sounds like a ludicrously posh problem, except for the fact that it’s not really given their work and travel schedules…Then again, they are also living in Berkshire due to personal choice because they didn’t feel they had enough privacy or freedom at their massive home at Kensington Palace in London. So, I don’t know, I don’t love the optics, I understand them, and I’m not interested in dying on that hill one way or the other.

The weird housing spot essentially boils down to the fact that many royal residences are not currently occupied in an orderly fashion that reflects the current stature of their inhabitants. For starters, not all of the family members enjoying “grace and favor” housing are working royals.

So, if you are King Charles – and the Palace – looking at this chess board, what do you do? Because bear in mind, most of these homes are gifts from the crown and the leases held were certainly not purchased at market value. The market is royal and as even the most passive royal watchers have probably gleaned, that is neither an open nor a fair market. As such, yes, elderly relatives can, in theory, be turned out of their homes to make way for a younger generation and the “bad seeds” can be relegated to the hinterlands.

The biggest concern is Andrew, of course, who was forced to step down due to allegations of sexual assault related to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. While he is out of the public eye on the Windsor estate, there is an inherent inequity in him residing in a palatial “lodge” and doing quite literally nothing, while the Heir Apparent and his wife are stuffed to the gills with three children and a full-time work schedule in Adelaide Cottage.

Which brings us to this hypothetical housing swap – King Charles reportedly means to “evict” his brother from Royal Lodge and let William and Catherine move in. That would, in theory, give the Waleses an appropriately grand home to use for the remainder of King Charles’s reign. At the same time, everyone outraged that Andrew has been able to retain a lavish estate as a single, unemployed man with grown daughters will be mollified.

On the Andrew side of things, it makes sense. On the Wales side of things, yes, but also…the optics of their move from London to Berkshire weren’t great. Them living in Berkshire at all wasn’t part of the plan, hence why they were given such a large London base at Kensington Palace. Queen Elizabeth’s gift of Anmer Hall was meant to be a second, and final, country residence for them to use until William became king. To be fair, King Charles held more than two – and in fact, more than three, residences as Prince of Wales, however those acquisitions came over time.

The King also wasn’t being compared to his siblings in quite the same way that William now is. Which brings us to the Sussex of it all. While Frogmore Cottage is significantly more modest than Royal Lodge, for Andrew to move in, it means Harry and Meghan must move out. If we remove personality from this entirely, then it technically makes some sense – Andrew is being given a decently sized house to live out the rest of his days and the Sussexes don’t really use it. However, the core of the Sussex fanbase are both 1) anti-royal and 2) almost entirely ignorant on the royal landscape. So, this looks like revenge. Even worse, it looks like “good people” are being ousted for a man accused of sexual assault (to put it bluntly).

As such, something making practical sense can very well be a PR nightmare.

On the one hand, there’s a lot of anti-Sussex (particularly anti-Harry) sentiment out there in the wake of Spare, so in some corners all of this is being celebrated. On the other, this utterly feeds into the Sussexes’ narrative. Not only are they being shoved out into the cold (I know, I know, they actually live in Montecito) but a sexual predator is being moved in, all while the Waleses are given even more largesse.

In reality, I would argue that even without Spare, Netlfix, etc. this would probably have happened, if not now and for this exact shuffling of people, then for another. Harry and Meghan, unlike each and every other member of the family, working or not, don’t live in the UK. In fact, they have returned to Frogmore Cottage precisely three times since leaving for the holiday season in 2019.

As for my opinion, to be honest, I wouldn’t have done this if I was King Charles (sadly I’m not and he doesn’t consult me). I would have flipped the Waleses and Andrew directly. A single middle-aged man can comfortably live in a four-bedroom house. And while I will acknowledge that Andrew has never been convicted of the crimes alleged against him, there is one thing we *do* know about him: he’s not a particularly bright, useful, or humble person.

And really, it would have saved a lot of media headline headaches.

Which brings us back to the Sussexes. Thus far, there are two allegations coming from that camp:

This isn’t fair because they repaid the cost of the renovations made to the house

They sure did. Because that was part of the agreement made during their resignation. They were gifted that house on the basis that they would be doing a job that they then proved unwilling to complete. It’s not their house. It was never their property. And that’s the agreement they made in 2020 to underscore their financial independence. While they then continued to receive financial support from King Charles. I don’t begrudge them that support, but I’m wildly uninterested in an argument framed around anyone in the Royal Family “owing” them money at this point.

This only exacerbates their security risk for traveling to the UK

Not really. If they want to visit family in the UK they can do what literally every other person who visits their family can do – stay with them. There’s no reason they couldn’t take over rooms at Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace or any other host of royal-owned properties. Well, there’s some reason, which is that they’re not on good terms with Harry’s closest family, but that’s certainly not an argument for why they should be able to keep Frogmore Cottage. After all, if you don’t want to actually *see* your family, then is it really a family visit?

T-2 months until the coronation, guys. This should be fun.

5 thoughts on “Royally Evicted

  1. Molly

    As usual, the petulant [redacted] prince didn’t know that KP, in the middle of London, might not be as “private” as he hoped. But he wasn’t raised there, and never was at the Palace so how would he know? The Wales family certainly could have stayed in KP, kids stay at Battersea, and they didn’t have to stuff themselves into Adelaide RIGHT NOW. And isn’t there a whole castle up for grabs in Windsor? Can’t anyone stay there?

    1. I’ll address your comment point by point:
      1. William was raised at KP in the 80s and 90s before cell phone cameras and social media. While you can begrudge his move to Berkshire if you so choose, the environment in London in which he is currently raising his children is different from that of his own youth.
      2. Well, they didn’t “RIGHT NOW.” They did last summer. The timing is less than ideal if they have to move house again. Then again, how exactly were they supposed to guess when the Queen was going to die? Their timing was based on Louis beginning schools.
      3. Windsor Castle is not “up for grabs,” nor has it been since the 11th century, thank you. It’s currently in the possession of King Charles. And people do stay there.

      Anyway, thank you for illustrating my point re: the Sussex fanbase. JFYI, I’ve edited your comment for vulgarity. Have a lovely day.

  2. Harry and Megan are an unpleasant couple who made the Queen and Prince Phillip’s final days a misery. Who gives a hoot about the rights and wrongs about who has Frogmore Cottage.

  3. LEW

    Bottom line for me is that as we all know Harry and Meghan no longer live in the UK and therefore don’t need a grace and favour house all to themselves and standing empty (optics of that aren’t great, after all) As you say, plenty of secure accommodation at Windsor castle and BP for any visits.

    Things were always going to change when HMQE died but I agree that it may have been more politic to flip the Waleses/Andrew and deal with Frog Cott separately. I think Charles is possibly going to have to get his chequebook out to reimburse Andrew and Harry for monies spent on the respective properties in the recent past but perhaps he feels it will be worth it to get control back.

    William and Kate and KP. I do have some sympathy. I said many moons ago that Apartment 1A felt like a goldfish bowl when I was there, huge windows that would be lovely somewhere more private but not so much in that setting. I do foresee at some point BP being purely used as “the office” and for state occasions and the (ironically) more cosy Windsor Castle that they all seem to like being the monarch’s official “home”.

  4. Hello! When the reports came out that this move was about security, protecting Prince William and his family from the Sussexes, I was very relieved!

    Looking at Prince H from a historical perspective, I’ve been concerned about his attempts to damage the monarchy. In that light, banishing the Sussexes from easy access to the Royal Family is a strong, responsible move for King Charles to make.

    Prince H has repeatedly demonstrated that he is willing to lie, deceive, and be ruthlessly vindictive in a quest to drive public opinion against the monarchy. Why give them easy access to popping in on Adelaide Cottage, cameras in hand? Why have them and their followers so close to Prince William and his family?

    I am glad the Royal Family are protecting themselves against Prince H and his wife.

    That old saying popped to mind, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.

Leave a Reply