Sussex Royal cleared over claims that it misused charity funds

The philanthropic foundations of both the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been cleared of breaking charity law following a 12-month review. Republic, the anti-monarchy campaign group, apologised to the Sussexes for the “public damage” it had caused in raising concerns about the “inappropriate use” of funds. The Charity Commission launched a review after the group asked it to look at the transfer of money from the Royal Foundation to the MWX Foundation, formerly Sussex Royal, and to Travalyst, Prince Harry's sustainable travel project. The grants of almost £300,000, included £145,000 given to Sussex Royal to fund its set-up and launch in 2019, and a further £150,000 given to deliver Travalyst’s programme. Sussex Royal in turn transferred the funds to Travalyst. The regulator found that neither of the royal charities had acted outside charity law. A spokesman for 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.” Republic said: “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 almost half of MWX Foundation’s funds were spent on legal and administrative costs after it was closed down in “difficult and unexpected circumstances” just 12 months after it was established. It said the spending was not unreasonable given the “unexpected events and unique circumstance which surrounded this charity”, and as such did not consider further action required. Helen Earner, director of regulatory services at the Charity Commission, suggested that the substantial costs incurred in setting up and winding down charities should have been considered when Sussex Royal was established in 2019. She said the MWX Foundation should have done more to document its decisions, especially regarding its 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," she said. “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.” The “regulatory and compliance case” examined concerns about Sussex Royal dating back to before the couple shut it down last July following their move to the US. Its name was changed after they were told they could no longer use the term “royal” after stepping back from official public duties. It is understood that some of the trustees of the Royal Foundation had expressed “disappointment" that the money given to Sussex Royal was effectively wasted on a foundation was soon to be dissolved. It concluded that the transfer of funds to MWX was in line with the governing document of the Royal Foundation, and allowed under charity law. The transfer of funds by MWX to Travalyst was also lawful as Travalyst could receive charitable funds for the promotion of sustainable travel, which is a charitable activity. The regulator said it had provided advice to ensure the funds are applied for solely charitable purposes. It also confirmed that there was no evidence to suggest that any conflicts of interest between MWX and Travalyst were managed inappropriately. MWX Foundation and subsidiary MWX Trading have both been formally wound down this month, with liquidators appointed. In their place, the Sussexes set up Archewell, their US-based non-profit organisation.