Awkward truth of Prince Harry’s new life
Say what you will about the Queen and her penny-pinching ways, when it comes to the occasion of a royal wedding, she truly opens up her famous Lautner handbags and digs deep.
When Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, Her Majesty gave the newly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge the 10-bedroom pile Anmer Hall in Norfolk.
And, when it was Prince Harry's turn up the aisle in 2018, the nonagenarian monarch gifted the newlyweds their own ducal titles, and later, Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of Windsor Great Park.
There are two things you can depend on when you are a senior member of the royal family: Your working life will revolve around shaking hands, unveiling plaques and making mind-numbing small talk for decades, and you are guaranteed to enjoy a certain level of regal largesse.
Basically, you will never have to fret about money.
Working members of the royal family are promised a lovely, vast allowance from the family forever more, plus, the Queen can always be trusted to throw in a historic house as part of the HRH bargain to boot.
When Harry and Meghan announced in January this year that they wanted to step back as frontline HRHs, they also announced they had "made the choice to become members of the royal family with financial independence".
At the time, they suggested they received about 5 per cent of the funding for their office from the Sovereign Grant (the proportion of revenue from the Crown Estates which is used to pay for the upkeep of royal properties and official costs), and the remaining 95 per cent of their income came from Prince Charles.
The equation seemed clear-cut enough: If they were not dependent on Harry's family to pay for Archie's adorable rompers and the household's weekly organic kale budget, then they would be able to have far greater control over their lives and autonomy from palace dictums.
A recent report in the Telegraph suggests this was a direction they had been thinking about for longer than previously suggested, claiming that the Sussexes had begun discussing their desire to become financially independent in April 2019, nine months before they went public with the new modus operandi.
While there is a certain cognitive dissonance involved in telling the world they are actively pursuing financial independence while still accepting money from Charles, their plan to support themselves seemed like a noble goal.
What 30-somethings with any shred of self-respect still let their family bear the brunt of their expenses?
Fast forward to today and the Sussexes are ensconced in a $27 million glitzy behemoth of a mansion on loan from Hollywood supremo Tyler Perry. Prior to this, they spent approximately four months living in a $20 million waterfront home on Vancouver Island, the owner of which remains an intriguing mystery.
Nearly two months into their new life, the question is, just how much freedom, financial and otherwise, have they found?
Music mogul David Foster arranged for their Canadian bolthole while Oprah Winfrey reportedly played a pivotal role in facilitating their stay in Perry's vast, faux-Tuscan home.
While Harry and Meghan are said to be looking for a home of their own to buy, so far they have traded being reliant on his family for their adobe, to being reliant on their celebrity friends for one.
Consider also their nascent American careers. Meghan was cast to narrate an elephant after meeting then-Disney chief Bob Iger at the London Lion King premiere, while Harry is producing his upcoming mental health documentary in tandem with Oprah.
Yes, everyone uses connections to advance their careers but where is their new-found independence to chart their own course if they need a cadre of A-list pals to help them set up megabucks deals?
In a way, Harry and Meghan have exchanged being dependent on the British royal family to being dependent on Hollywood's (and Wall Street and Silicon Valley's) royal family. In the past three months, the only thing that has changed about their financial bondage is who controls the purse strings.
The Sussexes' desire to make their own way in the world should be strenuously applauded, as should their commitment to being forces for positive, global change.
However, until the world truly reopens and those six and seven (or even eight) figure cheques start rolling in, just how free will they - and can they - be?
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.
Originally published as Awkward truth of Prince Harry's new life