COMMENT:

In 2018, George Clooney earned $1.07 million a day. The same year, Oprah Winfrey was making about $492,000 a day from her Weight Watchers stock alone and Serena Williams was the highest paid female athlete, pulling in about $80,000 per day.

So, when it came to the ensemble of A-listers who frocked up and did their best not to gawp when the Queen majestically tottered past them in St George's chapel during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, there was a large gaggle who could command astronomical sums.

Though she might not have known it at the time, so too would the new Duchess of Sussex.

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Over the weekend, Norman Baker, a former British MP and of the Privy Council (the Queen's formal body of advisers) published an "audit" in the Daily Mail of what Harry and Meghan have cost UK taxpayers since 2018. His estimate? A staggering $87.8 million.

Baker, in his analysis, includes among other things, wedding costs, loss of tax revenue given the way the Duchy of Cornwall was established and the bill for the Sussexes' staff.

The figures are the sort that would more normally be associated with a Kardashian or Middle Eastern Sheik's son on a spending bender. For example, $13.92 million on security, $1.93 million on travel and the piece de resistance, their $66.40 million wedding (by contrast, William and Kate's 2011 nuptials cost an estimated $39.62 million. Hardly a bargain but still …)

Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, leave Windsor Castle after their wedding in Windsor. Photo / AP
Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, leave Windsor Castle after their wedding in Windsor. Photo / AP

Let's talk about another set of numbers, which is how many official days of work Meghan logged in her less than two-year tenure as an HRH.

According to the UK Telegraph, as of January, the Duchess notched up 72 days on the job for Queen and country. Add in the four days of events she undertook during the Sussexes' farewell spin around London in March and you get 76 days.

Therefore if we divide the total cost by the number of days, Meghan cost UK taxpayers just over $1.07 million per working day.

To be fair, these are costs that are associated with both Sussexes, but they are costs that Harry by and large did not generate pre-marriage. Likewise, William started to cost the British public far more once he married and more again when the Cambridges started a family.

Also, by no means am I suggesting that the Wales' boys should have stayed single to help Her Majesty's Treasury pinch pennies. It would truly have been a sorry sight if the two men were currently sharing a bachelor flat at Kensington Palace, spending their evenings with Marks & Spencer ready meals on their knees in front of the Downton Abbey re-runs.

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The issue here is that to be royal is to have to continually prove your cushy entitlements represent good value to the masses.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music at Royal Albert Hall in London. Photo / Getty Images
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music at Royal Albert Hall in London. Photo / Getty Images

Should the monarchy start to look like a bloated, ineffectual gaggle who squander money (which would otherwise be in government coffers) on hand-cut brandy snifters and crocodile smoking slippers and spend too little time energetically plugging the UK, they know they risk inciting the sort of groundswell of public anger that could lead to their ousting.

Like it or not there is something of an unspoken contract between the royal family and the public. No one looks too closely at the Firm's complicated, at times questionable, means of financing their lives and the Windsors in turn devote their working days to being conscientious champions for Blighty.

While British tax payers might not have got quite what they were paying for when it came to Meghan (decades of ladylike waving and cheerfully making small talk in regional rec centres) the argument can be made they got something far more valuable.

There is no doubt that the nascence of the Sussexes has indelibly changed the royal family. "Inclusive" and "race" were not words ever used in the same sentence as the whitebread Windsors pre-Meghan's arrival on the scene.

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex attend the 91st Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London. Photo / AP
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex attend the 91st Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London. Photo / AP

While Sophie Countess of Wessex has been quietly and impressively working on addressing sexual and gender-based violence, it was Meghan who put gender equality front and centre of a royal agenda, thereby shining a global light on the issue.

Each time that Harry and Meghan challenged the status quo, whether wisely or not, they were catalysts for starting conversations about things such as what privacy and normality should mean for the Queen's grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Most profoundly, Meghan revitalised global interest in the monarchy. She made the royal family not only relevant but interesting for a generation who otherwise would have been hard-pressed to pick Prince Charles out of a line-up of 70-something aristocrats wearing three-piece suits.

Meghan and Harry arrive for one of their last official engagements at the Endeavour Awards in London. Video / AP

Buckingham Palace is currently undergoing a $735.71 million renovation, paid for by an increase in the Sovereign Grant. It's work that was desperately needed to bring the 300 plus-year-old building into the 21st century.

Exactly the same thing can be said for the $87.8 million that Meghan "cost" – a lot of money that needed to be spent to drag the royal family into the 21st century.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with 15 years experience working with a number of Australia's leading media titles.