Prince Harry and Meghan did not break charity law, says regulator

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle did not break charity law: Regulator clears former Sussex Royal foundation of wrongdoing after ‘baseless’ claims over £300,000 in cash transfers

  • Harry and Meghan’s former Sussex Royal foundation cleared by Charities Commission of breaking charity law 
  • Duke and Duchess of Sussex have criticised ‘baseless’ claims that it acted illegally when transferring money
  •  Sussex Royal charitable body received a £145,000 start-up grant from William and Kate’s Royal Foundatio
  • Further sum of £151,855 transferred from Royal Foundation to MWX to deliver Harry’s Travalyst programme
  • Commission found fund transfers were lawful, but MWX Foundation failed to adequately document decisions

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s former Sussex Royal foundation was today cleared by a UK regulator of breaking charity law as the couple criticised ‘baseless’ claims that it illegally transferred nearly £300,000.

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, had reported the foundations of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Prince William and Kate Middleton to the Charities Commission in July last year.

The Sussex Royal charitable body, which later became known as MWX Foundation before being wound up, received a £145,000 start-up grant from William and Kate’s Royal Foundation.

A further sum of £151,855 was transferred from the Royal Foundation to MWX to deliver Harry’s Travalyst sustainable travel programme, and was later transferred by MWX to the Travalyst organisation.

The Commission found that all transfers of funds were lawful, but also concluded that the MWX Foundation failed to adequately document its decisions especially relating to its spending on legal and administrative costs.

It said trustees took a decision to close the charity just 12 months after it was established, ‘doing so during difficult and unexpected circumstances’, and that almost half its funds were spent on legal and administrative costs. 

Prince Harry and Meghan at Westminster Abbey on March 9 last year in their last official event before they quit royal life

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, had reported the foundations of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Prince William and Kate Middleton to the Charities Commission in July 2020. The four are pictured together in February 2018

A spokesman for Harry and Meghan said: ‘We are pleased that the Charity Commission has confirmed what we knew from the start: that MWX Foundation, formerly Sussex Royal, complied fully with UK charity law in its handling and transferring of funds and grants.

‘Today’s update provides complete closure to this review and ultimately underscores both the legitimacy of the former charity and the baselessness of the claims against it.’

Helen Earner, director of regulatory services at the Charity Commission, said the trustees at Harry and Meghan’s foundation ‘complied with their duties under charity law’

Republic had reported the Sussexes and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s foundations to the Commission for alleged ‘inappropriate use of charitable funds, conflicts of interest and lack of independence’.

But the pressure group today issued a lengthy apology on its website, saying that it ‘falsely claimed’ the transfer of funds was improper and likely to be unlawful, and that it failed to contact the Royal Foundation or Sussex Royal before going to the Commission and the media.

A Republic spokesman said: ‘If we had contacted the organisations directly, we accept we would have realised quickly that there was nothing improper in their operations.

‘The Charity Commission has now concluded its review and found that all activities of the charities were lawful and proper.

‘We apologise unreservedly to the charities and personally to the Duke of Sussex for our actions and the public damage that has been caused as a result of widely publicised untrue claims.’

The Charity Commission found that the transfer of funds to MWX – which was formerly Sussex Royal: The Foundation – was in line with the governing document of the Royal Foundation and allowed under charity law.

The Charity Commission cleared the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s former Sussex Royal foundation of breaching charity law

It also found that the transfer of funds by MWX to not-for-profit sustainable travel organisation Travalyst was lawful.

The Commission further found that Travalyst could receive charitable funds for the promotion of sustainable travel only, which is a charitable activity in law, and there was no evidence to suggest that any conflicts of interest between MWX and Travalyst were managed inappropriately.

The Commission did, however, find that the MWX Foundation failed to adequately document its decisions on spending.

It said: ‘The Commission has found that decisions on spending were not adequately documented, limiting the ability of the trustees to demonstrate the reasons behind those decisions.

‘The failure to properly record decisions does not represent best practice and is not in line with Charity Commission guidance.’

It noted that the trustees took a decision to close the charity just 12 months after it was established ‘doing so during difficult and unexpected circumstances’, and that almost half its funds were spent on legal and administrative costs.

The Charity Commission found that the transfer of funds to MWX Foundation (pictured) – which was formerly Sussex Royal: The Foundation – was in line with the governing document of the Royal Foundation and allowed under charity law

Helen Earner, director of regulatory services at the Charity Commission, said: ‘In this case we have found that the trustees complied with their duties under charity law, and the transfers of funds between different organisations were in keeping with the charities’ governing documents, with conflicts of interest being appropriately managed.

‘The MWX Foundation should, though, have done more to document its decisions, especially regarding the charity’s expenditure on legal and administrative costs.

‘We also note that a substantial proportion of funds went into setting up and then winding up a charity that was active for a relatively short period of time.

‘Trustees cannot predict future events when establishing a new charity – circumstances can change after a charity has been set up.

‘But all trustees, before setting up a charity, should think about the longer term, and consider carefully whether a new charity is the best way of achieving the intended aims.

‘This helps ensure that set-up costs are offset by longer-term impact.’

A separate case was opened into the Royal Foundation to investigate the decision to transfer funds to MWX Foundation.

The Commission found the trustees of the Royal Foundation acted in accordance with the regulator’s guidance and found no issues of concern.

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