Harry and Meghan charity did not break charitable law, regulator concludes

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Photograph: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Photograph: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

The Charity Commission has concluded that a charity set up by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not break charitable law in the transfer of almost £300,000 of charity funds. 

The regulator said in a statement today that its case into the MWX Foundation, which was opened in July, had concluded that the charity had acted lawfully in its use of grant funding from another royal charity. 

The funds had been received from The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, formerly the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had co-founded with Prince William and Kate Middleton. 

The regulator said the MWX Foundation, which is in the process of being wound up, received an unrestricted grant of £145,000 from the Royal Foundation to start up the charity in 2019. 

It said a further £151,855 was received from the Royal Foundation to deliver Travalyst’s sustainable travel programme, which was transferred by MWX Foundation to Travalyst.

Travalyst is a not-for-profit body, led by Prince Harry and founded in partnership with a group of online travel companies, that seeks to identify and implement changes to make sustainable travel more commonplace. 

The regulator concluded that the transfer of funds to MWX was in line with the governing document of the Royal Foundation and was allowed by charity law. This was also the case for the funds that were transferred to Travalyst. 

It said 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 that any conflicts of interest between MWX and Travalyst were managed inappropriately.

The regulator also looked at MWX Foundation’s expenditure, finding almost half of its funds were spent on legal and administrative costs.

It said trustees could legitimately use charitable funds for legal advice and other professional and administrative costs to set up and close a charity and ensure it can operate effectively. 

But the regulator found that decisions on spending were not adequately documented, which “does not represent best practice and is not in line with Charity Commission guidance”. 

The regulator also noted that trustees decided to close the charity just 12 months after it was established, “doing so during difficult and unexpected circumstances”. 

It said: “The commission accepts that trustees cannot predict future events when setting up charities. 

“However, its general guidance is that those establishing a new charity must carefully consider whether doing so is the best and most efficient way of achieving the intended charitable aims, ensuring as far as possible that initial costs are offset by the charity’s longer-term impact.”

The commission said it also opened a separate case into the Royal Foundation to investigate the decision to transfer funds to MWX Foundation, but this found no issues of concern. 

A statement issued on behalf of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex 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.”

The anti-monarchy campaign group Republic, which claimed that the foundation had acted improperly and reported it to the Charity Commission, apologised unreservedly for its actions. 

It said it “falsely claimed” that the transfer of funds was likely to be unlawful and widely publicised its claims to the UK media without knowing what it claimed was true. 

“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,” said Republic in a statement. 

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