The clock is ticking for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
With a due date of late April, according to People, the royal couple have less than three months before their baby arrives. But at the same time, they’re in the midst of conducting $3.8 million in renovations to their new home, Frogmore Cottage. Given the extent of their upgrades—they’re converting five former servants’ quarters into one palatial 10-bedroom pad—one has to wonder: Will the house be complete before the baby’s birth?
Apparently Meghan and Harry are feeling lucky, since, according to ITV, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to move in in March. So, they have about six weeks to wrap things up. Yet as anyone who’s ever done any sort of renovation can attest, things rarely go as planned. So, what will it take to pull off these renovations on time? Can it even be done?
Inside Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s renovation: A reality check
“I would say that’s very tight,” says Ivan Khymych, CEO of INS Contractors in Brooklyn, NY. “If it’s a $4 million renovation, it’s nearly impossible because there’s a lot of coordination, there’s a lot of tradesmen involved, and if there’s a high level of detail, then it wouldn’t be possible.”
Khymych estimates that a project of this size would normally take around eight months. Plans were approved five days before Christmas, according to the Daily Mail, which would make August a more realistic end date for the renovations.
“In a realistic world where private civilians have to vie for contractors’ time and attention, no, [their timetable] is not realistic,” says California real estate developer Tyler Drew. He estimates that these renovations would typically take three to four months—plus additional time to obtain the appropriate permits and council approvals.
However, Meghan and Harry are royalty. Couldn’t that help speed things up?
“Since they are royalty, sure,” says Drew. “If the Queen of England asked me for a new fireplace in every room of Buckingham by March, you’d best believe she’s getting it.”
What will it take to meet the royal timetable?
“In the renovation business, anything is possible,” says Michael Hershkowitz, founder and contractor of REDOnyc in New York City.
According to Hershkowitz, it will take two things to get the renovations done on time: “A lot of people working together and a lot of money.”
Currently, Frogmore Cottage is encased in a white tent, which keeps the details of their work crew under wraps. But if Drew were to estimate, he’d wager that as many as 50 people could be working on the site on a busy day, with many more to take care of security during the project.
“Realistically, you’d want one designer, one contractor, and many, many subcontractors and day laborers for a project this size,” says Drew.
The most important person in this group, according to Khymych, is the contractor: “One good contractor who can handle all the trades involved,” he says.
As for money, let’s just say there’s no shortage of that, perhaps much to some British taxpayers’ chagrin. True to royal tradition, the renovation work is being funded by taxpayers, although the “fittings and fixtures” are being paid for by the couple, according to The Times.
Meghan and Harry are also working around constraints set by the Maidenhead Council to ensure the plans “protect and preserve” the 18th-century home, according to The Times. For example, they have been given permission to remove a chimney, but only if the roof is patched with original material, according to the Daily Mail. There’s no doubt the local council will be keeping a close eye on the project.
While $3.8 million may seem like a lot to spend on renovations, it could be much worse: In 2014, Prince William and Kate Middleton spent nearly $6 million to renovate their apartment at Kensington Palace. So Meghan and Harry are keeping things almost modest in comparison.
Only time will tell if they will get settled in their new crib before baby arrives, but where there’s royalty, rest assured, there’s a way!