Royal experts say Sussexes 'ruined' Africa trip with attack on press

The £240,000 slap in the face: Royal experts say Meghan Markle and Prince Harry would have justified year’s most expensive royal trip if they hadn’t used it to launch ‘personal’ attack on press

  • Royal accounts show £240,000 of taxpayers’ money spent on 2019 Africa tour 
  • Experts say tour, including South Africa and Angola, could have been a success
  • But they say couple scored ‘own-goal’ when they ended it with attack on press  

Royal experts say Meghan Markle and Prince Harry could have justified the sky-high cost of their tour of Africa if they had not ended it with a ‘personal’ attack on the press.

Royal watchers say the 2019 tour, which it was revealed today cost the taxpayer £240,000, could have been a ‘historic success’.

But on the final day of the trip, in which the Sussexes visited South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Malawi with son Archie in their last official tour before ‘Megxit’, Meghan announced she was launching a privacy lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday.

The couple also secretly recorded a bombshell documentary in which Meghan painted Harry’s family as uncaring by accusing them of failing to ever ask if she ‘was OK’.

The Duchess of Sussex also revealed in an interview with ITV’s Tom Bradbury, filmed as part of ‘Harry & Meghan: An African Journey’, that she was struggling to cope with intense scrutiny – saying she was ‘existing not living’. 

But the decision, which drew criticised at the time, has been described as an ‘extraordinary own-goal’ by royal watcher Richard Fitzwilliams. 

Royal accounts published today show £245,643 was spent on scheduled flights and a private jet for the couple (pictured in Cape Town) and their entourage, making it the most expensive royal trip of the year

Pictured: Baby Archie being kissed on the forehead by Archbishop Desmond Tutu while in the hands of his mother the Duchess of Sussex in Cape Town, on day three of their tour of Africa

The Duke of Sussex helps local schoolchildren plant trees at the Chobe Tree Reserve in Botswana, on day four of their tour of Africa

Prince Harry is pictured holding a container as he chats to a young boy carrying a spade at the tree planting in northern Botswana

His comments come after a new report today revealed that the tour costs £240,000 and was the most expensive royal trip of last year.

Mr Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator and public relations expert, told MailOnline: ‘Harry and Meghan’s trip to South and Southern Africa had all the hallmarks of being a historic success until Meghan launched a privacy lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday on its last day.

‘The Sussexes were representing the Queen in a Commonwealth country. This was no way to conduct matters, placing self over duty so publicly and it was also totally unprecedented. 

‘Had they not used it climatically for personal purposes this 10-day tour of Southern Africa would have gone down as a historic success with memorable events such as taking their son Archie to meet the iconic Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Harry retracing his mother’s footsteps in an Angolan minefield.

He added: ‘It was an extraordinary own goal.’

Another royal watcher, Phil Dampier, also said the timing of the interview ‘ruined’ the good will generated from the tour. 

Royal author Phil Dampier said the couple’s ITV interview overshadowed the tour, while Richard Fitzwilliams, a royal commentator and public relations expert, said the couple had scored an ‘extraordinary own-goal’

Speaking to the MailOnline, Mr Dampier, who has been writing about the Royal family for 33 years, and penned the book ‘Royally Suited: Harry and Meghan in Their Own Words’, said: ‘These trips are all asked for and planned by the Foreign Office where they want them to show support and good will.

£63,000 for three train journeys

Just three trips were taken on the Royal Train last year – at a cost of more than £63,000. Only the Queen and Prince of Wales are permitted to use the distinctive claret-liveried locomotive which has sleeping, dining and lounge carriages.

Charles used it to travel from his Gloucestershire home to Carlisle for royal visits, costing £20,822. He also used it to visit Wales at a cost of £19,737. The Queen travelled in the train just once last year, from London to Edinburgh, to spend her annual week at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. That journey cost taxpayers £22,696.

The royal train, pictured left with the Queen, has long been a point of contention but is normally used ten to 14 times a year. Asked if the drop in usage meant it should be scrapped, a royal source argued that the royal train was still an ‘effective and efficient’ means of travel.

Buckingham Palace maintains that it offers the elderly monarch a safe way to travel overnight, mitigating security costs.

‘I think it would have been money well spent had they not ruined it by attacking the press at the end.

‘It took away from any of the good will and the good causes they were trying to promote.

‘I feel the money was squandered because of that bad publicity.

On the interview (with Tom Bradbury), Mr Dampier added: ‘The interview she gave made all the headlines the next day, rather than the good causes they were trying to promote.

‘She could have done that interview from home and not spent a quarter of a million pounds.’

Another royal watcher, Robert Jobson, said: ‘The trip itself was a positive one. It was well received on a daily basis, making positive headlines for the work they did on behalf of the Government.

‘That said, the absurd timing of their unwanted attack on the press and the negative headlines that followed overshadowed all the positive work that was put in.

‘They took two steps forward and three steps back.’

The comments come as royal accounts published today show £245,643 was spent on scheduled flights and a private jet for the couple and their entourage, making it the most expensive royal trip of the year.

Sources defended the cost, saying it was a key visit approved by the Foreign Office and helped highlight the work of numerous charities.

‘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 [an anti-landmine charity championed by Princess Diana],’ the source said.

‘The visit, as an official visit funded by the Government, fulfilled the objectives that were set out for it.’

A further £210,345 was spent by royal officials on a private charter plane to take Prince Charles to Oman to pay official respects after the death of the king. 

Prior to taking a trip with the anti-poaching patrol, Harry revealed his deep affinity with Botswana, adding: ‘I came here in 1997 or 1998 straight after my mum died, so it was a nice place to get away from it all. I feel deeply connected to this place and to Africa’

In an ITV documentary, Harry hinted that his wife and son Archie could head overseas to the African nation when talking to broadcaster Tom Bradby (pictured together)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s tour to Pakistan last year was the third most expensive of the year, costing £117,116, but was considered a huge success by ministers.

Other costs include £15,848 spent to flying beleaguered Prince Andrew by private jet to the Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland for a two-day trip to the Open Championship last July. 

Princess Anne spent £16,440 on another private jet to take her from London to Rome and back to watch her beloved Scotland play in the Six Nations Rugby International against Italy.

She is patron of Scottish Rugby Union.

Meanwhile, figures show the total bill for royal travel in 2019/2020 was £5.3million, a 15.2 per cent increase on last year’s £4.6million, according to the palace’s annual report and accounts, published today. 

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