A parliamentary committee has warned the House of Commons that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has just £1 million ($1.6 million USD) left in her reserve fund. In 2001, that fund held £35 million. HM’s courtiers appear to be spending like drunken sailors. While the British government is cutting departmental spending by as much as a third, the royal household has made savings of only 5% in the last five years. Rather than trying to fix the problem, it might be time to give the old girl a retirement package, buy off her offspring and declare a republic.
The Brits changed the way they paid for the monarchy back in 2012. Until then, there were four different payments covering different things, and it was a bit of a muddle. Now, there is the Sovereign Grant, which is 15% of the revenues from the Crown Estate. The Crown Estate is the property portfolio owned by the Crown (technically, the queen, but really attached to the throne so none of it can be sold off by Elizabeth to buy silver spoons for new Prince George). The Crown Estate is mostly urban property, but there is also 356,000 acres of agricultural and forest land, and places like the Ascot race course. The reserve fund is sort of the rainy day fund that covers any shortfall due to any decline in revenues of the Crown Estate.
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Steven Swinford covered this for the Telegraph (or as some call it, the Terror-graph, or as my mate Dominic Freely called it, The Feudal Times and Reactionary Herald), writing, “Margaret Hodge, the Labour chairman of the committee, said: ‘We believe that the Treasury has a duty to be actively involved in reviewing the household’s financial planning and management — and it has failed to do so.’ Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are reported to be in urgent need of repair. Staff must catch rain in buckets to protect art and antiquities, while the Queen’s old boilers were contributing to bills of £774,000 a year.”
A vastly better idea is to close the whole thing down. The argument that the country needs a monarch is nonsense. Would people still come to Britain as tourists if there were no queen? Of course they would. Would the nation still hold together in times of national crisis? Sure, and besides, the monarchy itself can be a source of crisis — Edward VIII and the abdication spring to mind, as does the whole kerfuffle over the death of Diana and the way the Windsors dealt with it.
Let’s just buy them off. HM Queen Elizabeth is 87, and HRH Prince Philip is 92. Let’s give the old dears a little peace and quiet in their twilight years, shall we? Hand them 10 million and we’ll call it quits. Charles, Andrew, Edward, Anne all have earning capacity yet, so they won’t go on the dole. William and Harry still have proper jobs. When little George is a grown man, will it have hurt him not to have had the things daddy had? Hardly — Prince Charles turned out OK, and he didn’t have the things Elizabeth had while growing up, like India, for example.
Above all the monarchy is unfair, even to the royals. They are stinking rich (despite the current finances, they haven’t missed many five-course meals), but they aren’t really free. The military has been one profession they have been able to pursue (the boys anyway), but most other careers are not really open to them. A life in politics, for example, is out of the question, and could one really imagine one of them deciding to be a coal miner or railway driver? One is reminded of the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito, who said he would much rather have been a marine biologist than emperor.
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Despite the fact that Britain doesn’t do arranged marriages any more, Prince Charles more or less had one with Diana — she always said there were three in that marriage (including Camilla Parker Bowles) and it was rather crowded as a result. Britain is comfortable with divorce and remarriage, but again, it was a huge problem for Charles and Camilla. When he is king, she will not be called Queen Camilla because of it.
In America, we tell our kids they can be anything they want, even President of the United States. Perhaps that makes Yanks overly aggressive and grasping; then again, maybe it makes us act on our ambitions. Brits don’t tell their kids they can grow up to be king or queen. That can only happen in one family, and they don’t get a choice about it.
I’ve got nothing against the royals; I’ve never met them socially (rumors to the contrary, I don’t find them to be beneath me). But when an 86-year-old woman’s ancient boilers become a matter of national importance, the system needs an overhaul as much as the central heating of the palace does.