Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Queen's Purse

Queen Elizabeth II is making do with a heating system that's sixty years old and costing her a cool three quarters of a million pounds every year to keep Buckingham Palace warm.  She's also down to her last one million pounds in reserve funds after big overspends in recent times.  But it's not the Queen's fault.  A new report from the Public Accounts Committee says that Elizabeth II has been let down by the Treasury and her Household and the royal purse string holders now need to start saving more cash and making more money.

Luckily, she's staying at Sandringham as the weather gets colder.  A report by an influential committee of MPs says that the Queen's heating system at Buckingham Palace is sixty years old and costing a fortune

The Queen has already opened the doors of Buckingham Palace to visitors with a chance to wander round the royal corridors available in the summer months.  But the committee says that brings in around half a million pounds every year while other royal buildings do far better - the Tower of London made £2 million in the same year from ticket sales.  Now the committee is suggesting that the Royal Household look at ways to make efficiencies as well as exploring methods of bringing in more cash.

Open all hours?  A group of MPs suggested the Royal Household should find ways of making more money after overspends in recent times

The criticisms in the report were a surprise and are the first leveled at the royal finances for several years. The timing is also a bit of a shock as criticisms of a royal family's spending usually come when they're under fire on all fronts.  The last time the Queen faced real outrage over royal financial affairs was in the early 1990s when her family was fragmenting and Charles and Diana were going through a very public separation and divorce.  Perhaps the most surprising element of this latest angst over cash is that it comes at a time when the House of Windsor is riding high.  The Queen is enjoying huge personal popularity. The celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee and the 60th anniversary of her coronation as well as the already growing anticipation for the September day in 2015 when she overtakes Queen Victoria as Britain's longest reigning monarchs have all cemented appreciation for Elizabeth II and her family.  And the global superstar status of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and - to a lesser extent - her husband and her brother-in-law mean that the British royals haven't had it this good for decades.

The Queen has enjoyed huge popularity in recent years

This controversy over royal finances is small compared to previous criticisms and the fact that it is focused on the way the Queen's budget is managed for her, rather than on what the royals themselves are spending, means that the negative press reaction hasn't, so far, hit the House of Windsor directly.   But it does open up a vein of criticism that had lain dormant for a long time.  It will be interesting to see how the Royal Household reacts. 

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