The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been told by King Charles to hand over the keys to the property they spent £2.4m decorating. The king has offered the royal residence to Prince Andrew, who has been told he must downsize from his Grade II-listed Royal Lodge property nearby.
The move is likely to cause consternation for the Sussexes, who regard the property has the one remaining high security space they have in Britain – putting any future visits to the UK in jeopardy.
However, the move could also see Harry stripped of his title as one of the people able to deputise for the king in his absence– as one of the requirements of the role is that whoever holds it is domiciled in the UK, and Harry will soon have no permanent UK address.
"If he is no longer domiciled in the UK, then Prince Harry could lose his 'status' (for want of a better word) as a counsellor of state," Dr Craig Prescott of Bangor University told Yahoo News UK.
"Prince Harry’s domicile of origin is British, and generally it is very difficult as a matter of UK law to replace domicile of origin with a domicile of choice. In this case, it would be the United States. To do this, he has show a genuine commitment to remain in the US, at least indefinitely or permanently, and have no intention for his main home to be anywhere else.
"If Prince Harry loses his lease of Frogmore House, then it’s easier for this argument to be made."
Counsellors of state are the spouse of the monarch and the first four in the line of succession, aged over 21, who are domiciled in the UK. They typically act in pairs and deputise for the monarch when they are unable to carry out their duties – for example, if they are on overseas tours or temporarily unavailable.
However, given that Beatrice doesn't carry out public duties, Andrew is no longer a working royal, Harry lives abroad and Queen Camilla would likely be travelling with the king, Charles added Princess Anne and Prince Edward to the roster under new legislation in December.
It was widely reported after Meghan and Harry moved to the US that Harry's counsellor status was among the reasons the Sussexes maintained a foot in Frogmore, even after they purchased a new home in California.
However, given his distance from the UK, Harry was unlikely to be able to stand in for the king and therefore his role as counsellor of state was largely ceremonial, UCL professor Robert Hazell told Yahoo News UK.
"In practise he cannot serve as a counsellor of state because you've got to be in the kingdom," Hazell said.
"He's still a counsellor of state but he's redundant [because of the new legislation], they don't need him."
Whether or not Harry retains his status, the move to ask the couple to vacate Frogmore Cottage has been viewed as the latest snub by allies of the Sussexes.
One source close to the couple told Yahoo News' royal executive editor Omid Scobie that the decision felt cruel.
“It all feels very final and like a cruel punishment,” a friend of the couple told Scobie. “It’s like [the family] want to cut them out of the picture for good.”
The couple have been given until summer to vacate Frogmore House, at which point the keys are set to be handed over to prince Andrew, who has been asked to leave the Royal Lodge property where he has lived for the past 20 years.