Royal foundations reported to charity watchdog after 'inappropriate' use of funds

20 July 2020, 21:57

The claim against the royals' foundations was brought by the pressure group Republic
The claim against the royals' foundations was brought by the pressure group Republic. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The royal foundations of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been reported to the Charity Commission for alleged "inappropriate use" of funds.

Republic, a pressure group that campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy and the introduction of an elected head of state, also claimed the foundations were guilty of alleged "conflicts of interest and lack of independence."

The group made the accusation after Harry and Meghan's Royal charitable body received £145,000 from William and Kate's Royal Foundation.

It also questioned the decision of the Royal Foundation to give roughly the same amount of money to Harry's budding not-for-profit sustainable travel organisation Travalyst, which also received the assets of the soon-to-be-wound-up Sussex Royal foundation.

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Graham Smith, Republic's chief executive, said in his letter to the Charity Commission: "The Royal Foundation gave a grant of £145,000 to Sussex Royal and £144,901 to a non-charitable organisation (Travalyst).

"In both instances, it appears the only rationale for the decision was the personal relationship between two patrons, the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge.

"Neither patrons are trustees of the Royal Foundation, so there is also a question mark over the independence of the trustees of the Royal Foundation.

"The Sussex Royal charity has since decided to close, and it is reported that they will transfer all their funds to Travalyst.

"Again, this appears to be a personal decision by a trustee (the Duke of Sussex) to fund another of his projects, rather than to ensure the funds are being used for the original purposes for which they were donated."

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The Royal Foundation had operated under the names of the Sussexes and Cambridges and was behind national campaigns like the Heads Together mental health project.

However, in June 2019 Harry and Meghan revealed they were formally splitting from their joint charity and forming their own not-for-profit organisation.

The now-defunct Sussex Royal foundation was established while William and Kate renamed their organisation the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Sussexes, who now live in Los Angeles - after choosing financial and personal freedom over being working royals - are establishing their new foundation called Archewell.

In Mr Smith's letter, he called on the Charity Commission to "investigate both charities for inappropriate use of charitable funds, conflicts of interest and lack of independence."

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A spokesman who worked with the Sussex Royal foundation said: "Grants made to the non-profit organisation Travalyst are for the ongoing development of projects that will support communities, wildlife, and the environment through sustainable travel and tourism.

"All grants have been made impartially and objectively, fully in line with governance requirements, and have been reported transparently in full accordance with regulations."

A Royal Foundation spokeswoman said: "The grants made to Sussex Royal were to support the charitable work of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

"They were fully in line with governance requirements and were reported transparently."

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: "We have received a complaint on this issue.

"As with all concerns raised with us we will assess the information provided to determine whether or not there is a role for the Commission.

"We have not made any determination of wrongdoing."

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