Harry and Meghan’s tour to southern Africa last year cost the taxpayer nearly £246,000, new accounts show.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex took their then four-month-old baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor to South Africa in September last year on his first royal overseas trip, with the duke also travelling solo to Angola, Malawi and Botswana.
The flights came to nearly a quarter of a million pounds and were the most expensive royal journey of 2019-2020, according to the royal financial records.
The trip became controversial after Meghan launched legal action against a newspaper and Harry delivered a scathing attack on the tabloid press while the tour was still under way.
Harry and Meghan also filmed an ITV documentary while on the trip in which they spoke of their struggles as royals.
A senior royal source insisted the couple are under no obligation to pay money back for the trip after announcing their decision to quit as senior royals just three months later.
The source stressed it was a key visit approved by the Foreign Office and helped to highlight the work of numerous charities.
The figures also revealed that flights for a two-day visit to Oman taken by Prince of Wales cost £210,345.
The records show that Harry and Meghan have paid rent on Frogmore Cottage for a “number of years” upfront – as well as repaying £2.4m in taxpayers’ money that was spent on renovating the Windsor property.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were able to afford the repayment after signing a lucrative deal with Netflix that is rumoured to be worth more than £100m.
Although the couple now live in California, they have kept the Grade II-listed property as their UK base.
News of the upfront rental payments comes after Harry and Meghan fully repaid the renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage earlier this month.
Critics had been calling for them to reimburse the public purse following their decision to step down as working royals for financial and personal freedom.
A senior palace source said that the Sussexes had made a “substantial contribution” to the Sovereign Grant – adding that the figures will only appear in next year’s royal accounts.
Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that the rent paid has been set at a commercial rate.
A source told the news agency: “They have fulfilled their current obligations, their debt obligations in relation to Frogmore Cottage, and they have made a payment that will recognise that they have paid for the rental of that property for a number of years.
“There will be a point in the future when they would be expected to make further payments.”
Graham Smith, the chief executive of Republic, an anti-monarchy organisation, called for a review of Harry and Meghan’s dealings with Frogmore.
He said: “What we have is a family taking advantage of their position (in relation) to public property. They’re working out their own finances, doing their own books and then reporting their own finances – there needs to be independent scrutiny.
“I think the Crown Estate has questions to answer about allowing the royals to use the property in this way, and why they are not more open about the financial transactions that go on in relation to the houses they let the royals have.”
As part of their Netflix deal, Harry and Meghan will be producing films and series for the streaming platform, including scripted series, docuseries, documentaries, features and children’s programming.
The royal accounts for 2019-20 were released, with a warning that there could be a shortfall of £35m because of the coronavirus pandemic.