Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020

Prince Andrew's private jet to golf tournament cost taxpayers £16,000

Nearly £16,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on flying Prince Andrew to a golf tournament on a private jet, it’s been revealed.

The royal accounts for the last financial year have just been published and show the Prince, known as ‘airmiles Andy’, took a charter flight to Northern Ireland in July 2019.

He’s said to have had no other option in order to attend the Royal Portrush Golf Club’s Open championship at a cost of £15,848.

The under-fire prince, who has since resigned from official duties because of the Epstein scandal, had 13 daily flights to Belfast to choose from.

But a palace source said: ‘There were no other ways for Andrew to make the trip. He was undertaking a visit on behalf of his patronage. Arrangements in relation to the programme did not enable him to travel by scheduled flight.’

Andrew’s wasn’t the most expensive royal trip of the year, the accounts have show. Prince Harry and Meghan’s tour of Africa just before they stepped down as senior royals cost nearly a quarter of a million pounds.

The couple and their son Archie, who was four months old at the time, toured southern Africa in September 2019. 

The £245,643 spent on flights was double what it cost for Prince William and Kate to tour Pakistan, but royal sources insist Harry and Meghan won’t be expected to repay any of the money. 

While on the trip the couple launched a scathing attack on the tabloid press and started two lawsuits against newspaper groups. They were filmed for an ITV documentary in which they discussed their troubles as royals and quit the family just three months later. 


Buckingham Palace’s financial report revealed the money was spent on flights to and from South Africa and Harry’s chartered flights for solo trips to Angola, Malawi and Botswana.

A senior royal source stressed it was a key visit approved by the Foreign Office and helped to highlight the work of numerous charities.

They said: ’The Duke and Duchess of Sussex undertook over 20 engagements, bringing attention to a number of worthwhile causes, in particular, raising awareness of the work and the legacy of the Halo Trust.

‘So, the visit, as an official visit funded by the Government, fulfilled the objectives that were set out for it and so therefore there would be no requirement or obligation on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to make any payments in relation to that official visit.’

Another costly trip involved a two-day visit by Prince Charles to Oman to pay his condolences following the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, with the charter flight costing £210,345. This was defended by the palace as the only viable option at the time. 

The total cost of official travel for the royal family, met by the taxpayer, was £5.3 million in the last financial year – up 15% or £700,000 from £4.6 million in 2018/2019.

Graham Smith, of the campaign group Republic which wants an elected head of state, said: ‘A 15% increase in travel costs when hospitals can’t deliver the very best care to every person in need, when teachers are struggling to pay for the necessary books and equipment and the police are stretched to breaking point, is scandalous.’

Key figures from the royal accounts

  • £15 million – Expected shortfall of income over the next three years from the Royal Collection Trust.
  • £20 million – Expected shortfall of funding for the 10-year £369 million refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.
  • £69.4 million – Taxpayer funds spent by the monarchy on official duties such as travel, as well as other costs including staff, hospitality and property maintenance – a rise of £2.4 million or 4% from £67 million in 2018/2019.
  • £82.4 million – The total taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, made up of £49.4 million for the ‘core’ funding and an extra £33 million for the reservicing of Buckingham Palace.
  • 488 – Full-time equivalent staff paid for from the Sovereign Grant, with the wage bill coming to £24.4 million.
  • £5.3 million – Cost of official royal travel, up 15% from £4.6 million the previous year.
  • £5.6 million – The Prince of Wales’s bill for the Sussexes and the Cambridges’ activities, plus Charles’s other expenditure including his capital expenditure and transfer to reserves.
  • £245,643 – Cost to taxpayer for flights for Harry and Meghan tour to Southern Africa.
  • £210,345 – Cost of chartered flight by Charles to Oman following the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
  • £15,848 – Cost of chartered flight taken by the Duke of York to attend a golf championship in Northern Ireland.
  • £16,440 – The Princess Royal’s chartered flight costs to Rome to watch a Six Nations’ rugby match.
  • £117,116 – Travel for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s tour of Pakistan.

Help from Charles

The accounts also confirmed Harry and Meghan – who now live in LA and have just signed a multi-million pound deal with Netflix – paid an up front lump sum for the rental and refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage in Berkshire. A source said the cost was ‘substantial’ but the full amount hasn’t been revealed. 

But dad, Prince Charles, paid out more to cover their costs in the year before they quit as royals, the accounts show.

The prince’s bill for the Sussexes’ and the Cambridges’ activities, plus other expenditure, was £5.6 million in 2019-2020, up 11% or £556,000 from £5 million in 2018-2019.

No detail breakdown of funding was provided by the report and royal aides declined to comment on the reason for the increase.

Harry and Meghan reportedly received financial support from Charles when they started their new life in the US but are now financially independent.

Funding blackhole

The royal accounts for the last financial year also show the Queen’s finances have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

A £15 million drop in income is forecast because less people are expected to pay to visit the palaces that are open to the public. 

Sir Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said there was ‘no intention’ of asking for extra funding, despite the predicted loss of revenue, and the cost of refurbishing Buckingham Palace. 

A £369 million reservicing programme is currently under way at the Queen’s London residence to update the electrical cabling, plumbing and heating over the next 10 years. Funding is expected to be £20 million short.

Overall the monarchy cost the taxpayer £69.4 million during 2019-20 – an increase of 2.4 million on the previous financial year. Expenditure increased in all areas – on payroll, travel, housekeeping and hospitality. 

Savings will now have to be found within the operation, according to Sir Michael. Staff have had their pay frozen since April and only ‘business critical’ roles are being recruited. 

David McClure, an expert in royal finances, said the lack of overseas tourists visiting palaces could be a serious problem for some time to come.

He said: ‘Covid is going to have a long-term effect, not just six months, on foreign visitors to Britain. That income is going to be depressed for a long time.’

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