As fireworks arced across the night sky over Windsor Great Park, Prince Charles oozed with paternal pride.
‘My darling old Harry, I’m so happy for you,’ he had declared in his father-of-the-groom speech as the lavish celebrations for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding moved to its extravagant finale.
Fast forward 12 months and the Prince of Wales was in a rather less benign mood as he leafed through pages of accounts relating to his son’s expenditure.
The bills for the wedding, the bills relating to the considerable sums spent on fixtures and fittings at the Sussexes’ home Frogmore Cottage — quite distinct from the taxpayer-funded structural renovations — and the ongoing bills for Harry and Meghan’s allowance that he also provides, were adding up.
Prince Charles is pictured above walking Meghan Markle down the aisle on the day of her wedding to his son Prince Harry
Sources now say the money Charles pays to his sons is ‘draining him’ Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Savannah Phillips and Prince George of Cambridge
Beyond a frown, he gave little away. ‘His attitude is always just pay what needs to be paid and move on,’ says a former aide. ‘It’s usually the path of least resistance when it’s to do with the boys.’
But those familiar with some of the eye-watering numbers which have crossed the royal desk at Clarence House say there is another side to the story.
One figure went so far as to say that the money he spends, not just on Harry and Meghan but also on financing William and Kate, was ‘draining him’.
Officially, the brothers and their households are funded out of Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall estate, but, in fact, the Prince has at times had to dip into his own private reserves.
Insiders speak of the ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ the Prince made available to furnish the couple’s Windsor home (Frogmore Cottage above) after their decision to abandon Kensington Palace
It is thought the last time he had to do that on a significant level was in meeting Princess Diana’s £17.5 million divorce settlement in 1996, for which he also had to borrow from the Queen.
Within a year following Diana’s death, that money, minus inheritance tax handed over to the Treasury, had ironically been transferred into trusts for his sons.
Against this backdrop it is no wonder that the Prince has been so dismayed by Harry’s decision to turn his back on life within the Royal Family for an increasingly uncertain future outside it.
One of his central worries is just how — or rather who — is going to finance their new lives.
Money may not be the root of this crisis, but it is contingent to it. In announcing their decision to stand down as senior royals, the couple said it was their intention to be financially independent.
While this certainly represents a headache for the monarchy with its thinly disguised inference that Harry and Meghan may become royals for sale, Prince Charles’s money-men may be privately relieved.
At one stage he was paying the Sussexes more than William and his family. That figure is now understood to be around the same, with Harry and William each receiving approximately £2.5 million.
However, the Prince has let it be known that his funds are not inexhaustible and that there is a limit to how far and how much he can pay.
Insiders speak of the ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ the Prince made available to furnish the couple’s Windsor home after their decision to abandon Kensington Palace.
This was in addition to the £2.4 million of public money used to convert the 19th century property from five staff flats into a single home.
‘As for the wedding, it cost him a small fortune,’ a source said. ‘They were not small sums.’
From the Michelin-starred caterers who provided the evening’s black-tie dinner for 200, and the glass marquee, to the festival-themed food stalls and bars and cars and coaches to ferry the guests around, it was all paid for by the Prince.
According to a source, the figures involved in providing for both boys have in recent times been flagged up to the Prince by his accounting staff on more than one occasion.
‘There’s usually a raised eyebrow, but the Prince always just signs them off,’ says the source.
All the same, he has made it clear that while he will continue to fund his sons, there can be, as one courtier put it, ‘no blank cheque’.