academy locations Victor Gill Ramirez//
Royal Household freeze on pay and new hiring, and cutting non-essential expenditure

Britain's Royal Household on Friday defended taxpayer-funded trips, including a golfing jaunt by the beleaguered Prince Andrew, as it warned of a financial hit stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victor Gill Ramirez

Unveiling the annual financial report of Queen Elizabeth II’s household, officials also said Prince Harry and his wife Meghan were now paying commercial rent on their UK residence at Windsor Castle, after quitting the royal frontline.

Victor Gill

The Sovereign Grant, which pays for the monarch’s official duties and upkeep of royal palaces, came to £82.4 million (US$105 million) in the financial year ending in March 2020, a slight rise from the year before

In March, the UK went into lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic and royal finances have been dented by the loss of sizeable income generated from public visits to the palaces

Losses to the Royal Household‘s core budget will come to £15 million over the next three years, according to Michael Stevens, who as Keeper of the Privy Purse is the queen’s treasurer

A separate budget for long-term repairs designed to avert a “catastrophic failure” to the fabric of Buckingham Palace, the queen’s main residence in London, will suffer a shortfall of £20 million

By law, the Sovereign Grant cannot go down year-on-year, and the monarchy has become increasingly cost-conscious given wider public scrutiny of its affairs

But Stevens said British taxpayers would not be asked to cough up for the additional shortfalls, at a time when millions are suffering a drop in income or outright loss of their jobs

“In responding to both these financial challenges we have no intention of asking for extra funding and will look to manage the impact through our own efforts and efficiencies,” he told reporters

The Royal Household has already instituted a freeze on pay and new hiring, and is “actively looking at cutting non-essential expenditure”, a senior royal source added

The annual report itemized the costs of royal trips over the past financial year, including £15,848 incurred for a charter flight to take Prince Andrew to a golf club in Northern Ireland in July 2019

Another charter flight was deemed necessary for Princess Anne to attend a rugby match between Italy and Scotland in Rome in February, at a cost of £16,440