As The Duchess of Sussex settles into her maternity leave with baby Archie, she may have been hoping for a few months of privacy at Frogmore Cottage, the Windsor home she shares with Prince Harry. But Meghan’s peace was shattered last week when the couple’s spending records were released – unleashing a fierce backlash.
The documents, which revealed the expenditure of the entire royal family, showed that the restoration of Frogmore Cottage cost the taxpayer £2.4m. is was in addition to the royal couple paying for ‘fixtures and fittings’ themselves. Critics were quick to say that the couple shouldn’t have spent so much taxpayers’ money, given their status as more secondary royals and their personal wealth. (Even before she married, Meghan was reported to be worth around £4m, while Harry inherited £7m from his mother and at least £7m more when the Queen Mother died).
At the time of going to press, there was even a petition (with 2,200 signatures) on change.org to ‘stop UK funding for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s lifestyle’. However, supporters of the couple say the criticism is unjust; indeed, taxpayers financed the £4.5m renovation of William and Kate’s Kensington Palace home without attracting the same level of outrage. And they point out that while most of the criticism has been levelled at Meghan, Prince Harry was equally on-board with the decision-making regarding the home improvements, supporting Meghan’s choices ‘every step of the way’, according to a source.
A Palace insider revealed the duchess has been ‘greatly affected’ by the criticism. ‘She’s upset to have been put under such public scrutiny when she’s settling into life as a mother,’ said the insider. ‘But the dominant emotion is frustration because she feels like all she has done is try to build a home for her family, and that she’s taking the lion’s share of all the criticism.’
So what is the backstory to the controversial renovations? Palace insiders last week told Grazia that Meghan’s love of feng shui was behind the move from their cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace to Windsor. ‘She wanted their last home to be open-plan, but Kensington Palace wouldn’t allow a wall to be knocked down,’ said the source. A move to Frogmore Cottage was then decided on – also, it’s said, a helpful way of putting some physical distance between the brothers who are separating their households.
Since then, Meghan has been ‘fully involved’ with the architects in charge of renovating Frogmore. ‘She wanted an open kitchen and living area, so she could entertain.’ Other features are reported to include installation of eco-heating, rewiring and new bathrooms. The Palace has denied that there is a yoga studio. Royal correspondent Robert Jobson told Grazia that the renovation costs would have been signed off by a strict ‘chain of command’. ‘A budget would’ve been agreed,’ he said. ‘The Queen would be aware of the costs.’
The backlash shows no signs of subsiding, however, coming in the same week that experts calculated Meghan has amassed a jewellery collection worth around £600k. While many of her pieces will have been gifts, she raised eyebrows by modifying her engagement ring: she has replaced the plain gold band with one set with pavé diamonds. The couple have previously been criticised for keeping the cost of their 2018 wedding private. Supporters, however, have pointed out that the royal family brings in significant revenue – recent estimates found that Meghan and Harry’s wedding added £2bn to the UK economy through tourism.
Meghan’s reluctance to share details of Archie’s birth, her delay in posing for a photo call, and her posting of an obscured image of Archie on Instagram on Father’s Day has led some to wonder if the public funds spent on her means we’re entitled to more. But a source says this is not something she’ll back down on: ‘Meghan is eager to dedicate her life to being the perfect princess, but she’s not going to be pressured into compromising the family’s happiness and privacy, whatever the criticism.
See below for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's relationship timeline...
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle relationship timeline - Grazia
So when did the future Duke and Duchess of Sussex meet? Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were introduced by a mutual friend in July 2016, originally thought to be Markus Anderson (also the director of Soho house) but who was later confirmed to be Violet von Westenholz. Meghan said in an interview that before she met the Harry she didn't know much about him 'the only thing that I had asked [our mutual friend] was, 'Well is he nice?'. According to Harry he knew Meghan was The One from 'the very first time we met.' after only two dates Harry asked Meghan to accompany him on a trip to Botswana.
In October 2016 that the Express became the first newspaper to publish news that Prince Harry had a new girlfriend. However just a month later, Kensington Palace released a statement condemning the 'wave of abuse and harassment' faced by Meghan. The unprecedented statement, which referred to Meghan as Harry's girlfriend for the first time, emphasized that Prince Harry was 'worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.' It continued 'It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.' The palace were also forced to address speculation that Prince William was unhappy with Harry for confirming the relationship too soon, stating 'The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him.'
Early in December 2017 Meghan was confirmed as the most Googled actress of 2016. In the same month, the couple were photographed together for the first time in London, shopping for a Christmas tree at the Pines and Needles store and attending a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. By January 2017 a source told US weekly that Harry had introduced Meghan to Kate and Prince Charlotte and that the 'meeting went well'. Meanwhile a source told The Sun that Meghan had 'virtually moved in' with Prince Harry to his cottage on the Kensington Palace estate.
By March things were openly getting pretty serious between the two: Meghan accompanied Harry to Jamaica for a wedding for the first time (his friend's Tom 'Skippy' Inskip to Lara Hughes-Young). On April the 7th Meghan announced that she was closing down her lifestyle blog The Tig writing 'What began as a passion project (my little engine that could) evolved into an amazing community of inspiration, support, fun and frivolity. You've made my days brighter and filled this experience with so much joy.' In May, Meghan and Harry attended their first public event together at the Polo in Coworth Park (where they also engaged in some PDA). Later in May Prince Harry was seen driving Meghan to the reception of Pippa Middleton and James Matthew's wedding.
Welcome to Meghan the style Icon: at the opening of Prince Harry's Invictus Games in September Meghan wore a maroon midi dress with a pleated chiffon skirt by one of her favourite Canadian brands, Aritzia with a burgundy biker jacket by Mackage. The next day the couple were photographed sitting together at the wheelchair tennis and 'broke with royal protocol' by holding hands and kissing at the closing ceremony. On the 5th of September In an interview with Vanity Fair, Meghan stated: 'We're a couple. We're in love. I'm sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people understand is that this is our time.'
Late 2017 we saw the end of everyone's favourite legal powerhouse Rachel Zane (sob). In November 2017, shortly after Meghan met the Queen, the actress was reported to be leaving her role in Suits after seven seasons.
After months of speculation, Prince Charles announced the engagement of his younger son Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after 15 months of dating On November 27th 2017 . The engagement ring, said to be designed by Harry, is made of two stones that belonged to Princess Diana. The couple later appeared at a photocall, with Markle wearing a white dress coat by Canadian brand Line The Label (whose website subsequently crashed). When asked by waiting photographers if the proposal was romantic, Harry joked 'of course!' Speaking about his late mother, Princess Diana, Harry said 'I think they'd be thick as thieves. She would be over the moon, jumping up and down, so excited for me... It's days like today when I really miss having her around and miss being able to share the happy news. With the ring, I'm sure she's with us, jumping up and down somewhere else.' it was announced that the wedding would take place on May the 19th, 2018.
In December 2017 Meghan, Harry, Kate and William were photographed together attending the Christmas service at Sandringham. Pictures of the two couples earned them the title 'The Fab Four'. Meanwhile in the following months Meghan earned a reputation for breaking royal protocol on official visits by hugging fans of the couple and kissing them on the cheek.
In February 2018, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle had their first royal engagement together for the Royal Foundation Forum with Prince Harry and Prince William. Harry stated of the two couples 'We have different opinions and they work really well [together]. Working as family does have its challenges; of course it does. The fact that everybody is laughing shows they know exactly what's it likeu2026 But we are stuck together for the rest of our lives.'
In the lead-up to the wedding it was confirmed 2,640 people would be invited to the grounds of Windsor Palace to watch the royal wedding. Photos of Meghan and Harry's wedding invitations were released, bearing Harry's legal name 'Henry'. Meghan and Harry made a number of public appearances together including to the Invictus game tryouts in April and attend the Queen's birthday at the Royal Albert Hall. Meghan's final episode of Suits is also aired, marking the official end of her acting career.
On May the 14th, three days before the wedding Meghan's father, Thomas Markle sr. who was confirmed to walk Meghan down the aisle pulled out, following an embarrassing incident in which he staged paid paparazzi photos. Thomas Markle later suffered a heart attack, and his son Thomas Markle Jr. penned an unflattering open letter to Harry criticizing Meghan and encouraging him to pull out of the wedding. The day before the wedding, Kensington Palace announced Prince Charles would walk Meghan down the aisle, stating 'The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way.'
Meghan and Harry wed on the 19th of May for a combined audience of 11.5 million people who tuned in to watch the ceremony. Meghan's gown was made by Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of the fashion house Givenchy which she later changed for a silk crepe dress by Stella McCartney. Her mother Doria Ragland attended the ceremony along with a host of celebrities including Meghan's former Suits cast and her close friends, George and Amal Clooney.
Throughout May of 2018 Harry and Meghan made their first official appearances as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. For her inaugural attendance to the Trooping of the Colour Meghan wore an off-the-shoulder dress, reportedly breaking royal protocal. In the following months the newlyweds made a number of public appearances including to Ireland to meet the country's officials. They also took a rumoured trip to visit George and Amal Clooney in Lake Como.
Speculation began during Princess Eugenie's wedding that Meghan was pregnant owing to her loose coat. The rumours were confirmed when Kensington Palace announced on the 15th of October 2018 that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were expecting a child. The announcement also coincided with the first day of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's official tour.
In October Meghan and Harry departed for their 16-day Autumn royal tour visiting Australia, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand (obviously featuring some serious style moments from the newly-appointed Duchess of Sussex/Style). By November, sources were telling news outlets that the couple were preparing to move to Frogmore cottage in Windsor in 2019. The couple spent the anniversary of their engagement, November the 27th apart, due to Harry being in Zambia.
As Meghan and Harry embarked on life as newlyweds there was less plainsailing, as controversy continued to follow closely on their heels. Meghan's family have continued to be the subject of unflattering media headlines and Thomas Markle gave interviews to the media about his distanced relationship with his daughter. Meanwhile Samantha Markle (Meghan's half sister, who also claims to be penning a book about the Duchess) was put on a fixated persons list after showing up at Kensington palace in January. Rumours of a froideur between Meghan and Kate were sparked shortly after Meghan and Harry's nuptials by reports that Meghan reduced Kate 'to tears' during challenging dress fittings with Princess Charlotte. In February, Thomas Markle leaks a handwritten letter from Meghan to the media in response to friends of the Duchess defending her in an interview and following numerous staff changes, rumours arise that Meghan and Harry's staff refer to Meghan by the nickname 'The difficult Duchess'.
In March 2019 it was confirmed that the Sussex and Cambridge's 'royal households' will split, meaning the couples will no longer share staff. Royal spokespersons confirm that Kate and William's staff team will stay in Kensington Palace while Meghan and Harry's staff will be based in Buckingham Palace, reflecting the location of their new residence of Frogmore cottage in Windsor. Representatives are quick to confirm this is a planned move, and not due to rumors of growing tensions between the couples.