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January 2014
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Monarchy money

In a recession, what price the monarchy? Most workers have had wages frozen for the past two years, and the cost of living has risen, so many are worse off in real terms. For the Royal Family, it’s a different story – George Osborne awarded the Queen a 5.2% rise (around £2 million) from next April, giving her an annual income of £37.9 million.  In return, her finances are subject to public scrutiny – and it seems that the Royal Household isn’t good at balancing their books – overspending by £2.3 million last year.

The Royal palaces are falling into disrepair and there’s only £1 million left in the kitty to patch things up. What’s to be done? At present, Buckingham Palace is only open for two months of the year – and it’s well known that the Queen loathes staying there, preferring to be based at Windsor (even with jets flying overhead).

Windsor Castle: The Queen’s favoured residenceShe also spends lengthy periods at the two huge country estates she owns, Balmoral and Sandringham. Buckingham Palace is used for official banquets and investitures, and when I attended a buffet lunch for successful women a few years ago, there might have been Old Masters on the walls,
but in the fireplaces were ugly two bar electric fires, the kind of thing my mum threw out in 1960.

By the way, we now have the third most expensive monarchy in Europe, after Norway and the Netherlands. Spain seems a bargain at £6.8 million a year. Mind you, the French presidency costs taxpayers a staggering £91 million – and they don’t even have a figurehead who wears fabulous clothes and a priceless crown!

I’ve got two simple ways for the Queen to cut costs – they are radical, but would send the right message to the electorate. Option one – all the Royals could live together in one London base. At present, they occupy Clarence House, St James’ Palace, Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace, meaning unnecessary duplication of security staff, cleaners, cooks, butlers, gardeners and footmen. Let them all fill up Buckingham Palace in one Royal Commune, they’d hardly run into each other. One kitchen for all. One centralized clothing care facility. One garage. A nursery for royal babies. You know it makes sense. The other palaces can be sold off or opened as tourist attractions. They all have country piles to spend the weekends in anyway.

Option two – the Queen could vacate Buckingham Palace altogether, and be based at Windsor, where investitures and banquets can take place. Then Buck House can be turned into a visitor attraction and conference centre, state rooms open all year round, along with the gallery. Weddings can take place in the chapel with brides paying extra for their Diana moment on the balcony (£1,000 for ten minutes). The kitchens can cater for big events, at a price.

The Queen is essential for tourism, but in the age of the theme park she needs experts to turn this white elephant into a money-spinner.

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