Saturday 19 June 2010

Dunkirk Spirit and the Royal Palaces

In light of the looming cloud of cuts to be borne by the citizens of this country and in light of the fact that we are constantly being told what the nation can't afford, and of course in the Dunkirk spirit that her majesty has insisted on in her call to her family not to show ostentation. (Trips to the world cup and travel by coach and six aside.) I thought it would be interesting to look at the cost of the royal family itself and see if we could afford that. Well I have to say that it is quite a subject and one which would have occupied thousands of words in the form I had planned. So in order not to bore the readers of this blog I have decided to simplify matters and look at the property services grant that keeps the royals in palaces.

The property services grant-in-aid is the annual funding provided by the DCMS to the royal household to meet the cost of property maintenance, and of certain utilities and related services, at:
. Buckingham Palace;
. St James’s Palace (pictured top), Clarence House and Marlborough House Mews;
. The residential and office areas of Kensington Palace;
. The Royal Mews and Royal Paddocks at Hampton Court;
. Windsor Castle and buildings in the Home and Great Parks at Windsor (pictured middle).

The properties are referred to as the “Occupied Royal Palaces” or the “Estate”. The Estate comprises some 360 individual properties with an aggregate floor area estimated at approximately 160,000 square metres. Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Windsor Castle State Apartments, together with offices, service areas, workshops, stores, coach houses, stables and garages, represent approximately 75 per cent of the total area. In addition, there is the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, some 271 properties available for residential use, mainly by staff and pensioners, and 12 properties used as communal residential accommodation for staff.

The occupied royal palaces are held by the queen as sovereign. The DCMS has overall responsibility for the maintenance of and provision of services to the occupied royal palaces. With effect from 1 April 1991, however, management and operating responsibility was transferred to the royal household.

Estimates of the queen's wealth often mistakenly include items which are held by the queen as Sovereign on behalf of the nation and are not her private property. These include royal palaces, most of the art treasures from the Royal Collection, heirlooms in The queen's jewellery collection and the Crown Jewels.

The 'inalienable' items held by her majesty as sovereign, rather than as an individual, cannot be disposed of by the queen and must pass to her successor as sovereign. The queen and some members of the royal family past and present have made private collections – such as the stamp collection begun by George V. This is separate to the Royal Collection, although exhibitions and loans of stamps are sometimes made. This is an interesting discussion in its own right. Is property aquired by the royals over the generations, by whatever means, but undoubtedly with the aid of the state really their own personal property?

The queen owns Balmoral and Sandringham (pictured bottom), both inherited from her father. The queen also owns the stud at Sandringham (with a small amount of land in Hampshire). Her majesty owns no property outside the United Kingdom.

So there you go. Quite a property portfolio we have there then. I personally think that if we have to cut things to the bone we could do a lot worse than start here. Do the queen and her family really need 360 individual properties. And do they really need all that accomodation for servants etc, come to think of it do they really need all those butlers, footmen, equerries and so on. Not show ostentation? I think the royal status quo is ostentatious enough.


  1. In honesty, I reckon that if there were a UK referendum tomorrow on the future of the royals, they would come out with a handsome majority for their continuation. I say that as a republican. I reckon it would be more borderline in Scotland, and I think that the queen's successor will be a different kettle of fish.

    That said in the spirit of all being in this together a very slimmed down royal family is a must.

    I still don't understand why they need to have a variety of palaces for uncles and aunts, cousins and all to be housed, along with advisors and retired advisors....

    Let's sell them off.

  2. Not to mention the cost of those polite, cold eyed guys in landrovers surrounding EVERY one of them.

  3. How can the wumman tell her faimly no tae show ostentation, jist a fortnight efter dressin up as the world's maist expensive christmas tree? She could've opened Parliament in a nice twin-set an' pearls, an' naebody wid've said a word against her.

    Well they couldnae really, seein as that's high treason an' enough tae get yer heid cut aff.

  4. Fascinating post Munguin. You were precise and thoughtful in so specifically addressing only certain details of the broader issue of royal expenses. I'll need to paint my comments with a broader and much less informed brush.

    People here in the states (who are always fascinated by the royals) usually do not bother to separate the "inalienable" items from the family-owned assets. Surely the extended family of Her Majesty could live much more modestly than they do. But for those with any sort of public profile at all, questions of security would have to be considered. That's a hugely expensive item, and one that directly involves their personal living accommodations. And also one that addresses an indirect threat to the Head of State herself.

    The American President lives in a house that is small and plain (a "mansion" only by the standards of our poor new country in the late 18th century). And he has the Camp David complex. These are relatively Spartan quarters in the Maryland mountains, built as a public works project in the 1930's for FDR to escape the summer heat of Washington (in the days before air conditioning). That's it....all of it. So the American President lives relatively modestly.

    But ironically, and as almost everyone knows, the American presidency is HUGELY more expensive than the whole of the British monarchy. Most of the difference is the same thing you guys would have to consider too in thinking about new housing arrangements for the extended royal The bill for security for the president and his family (only his wife and children)....coupled with transportation using TWO super-secure flying palaces and a communications network to give him secure command and control of the nine worldwide military commands, and the naval fleets.....takes the total cost north of a Billion dollars, FAR north it is estimated. The actual total cost, involving as it does those security and military matters, is a closely guarded secret. (That estimate of a billion dollars or more is about twenty years old.)

    Your readers have little interest in the American president I'm sure, but it IS ironic that a modern presidency is so much more expensive than the traditionally-styled British monarchy, after you factor in the security cost. As for the Occupied Royal Palaces, it does seem that they might be rearranged as museums, with fees for tours. Weren't many of the historic old homes of the British aristocracy saved in this manner many years ago?

  5. Tris: I agree it’s ridiculous that we have a huge property portfolio for the queen and her family. Especially when the list of things that the country can’t afford gets longer and longer. Of course we are not entitled to know the details of royal expenditure as that is exempt from freedom of information legislation.

  6. Conan: security is of course a huge expense for all of then but again details are exempt from FOI.

  7. Sophia: seeing as she just reads a crib sheet handed to her by the PM I don't see the need for the expense of opening parliament at all. No matter what she wears.

  8. Danny: You have to bear in mind that your president is the executive branch of the US government and as such is bound to have the additional expenses that involves. In this country that task is embodied in the PM and his cabinet and we have expenses, house, security etc for them. The queen is simply the head of state and she is not very effective at that. She does what she is told at all times in order, in my opinion, to keep the crown on her head and on her heirs heads. That to my way of thinking is a selfish hidden agenda, to add insult to injury is the huge expense of this moribund part of the British state.

    What does she do? Nothing much really she may read and scrutinise everything but she never acts. People claim this lack of action as one of the benefits of monarchy but I dont agree. I see it as simply a mouthpiece of whatever government is in office, so what is the point?

  9. Very good point Munguin. The president is a working head of state and government, and that's very different from the British model. And I suppose that the isssue is inextricably linked to the much bigger question of the entire future role of the monarchy in the UK. Surely in the near term of this age of terrorism, and while the Queen remains Head of State (with all that implies to a nation state), the security issues for her and her family will remain a thorny issue.

    I'm just suggesting that once the accountants actually crunch the numbers, it may turn out that the security infrastructure now in place for the live-in palaces may have a very significant value compared with the more problematical value of those great heaps of stone on the modern real estate market.

  10. Danny: monarchists argue that the state would need to keep the palaces anyway so why not have them lived in. They would apparantly have no value on the real estate market because they are too big for anyone without state backing to afford. One wonders what the French state does with all the palaces of their ex kings, emperors etc

    We have to protect Tony Blair and his family as well as Gordon Brown and David Cameron and the Queen and her family. You figure out who is getting the better deal in terms of value for money security wise.

  11. Yep Munguin, the better value for money is surely spent on the Prime Minister's security. And there is no reason that the extended royal family should live in actual splendor.

    I would indeed hate to be the real estate agent charged with unloading a royal palace on the current real estate market. As you suggest, the Europeans have managed to find a way to maintain their palaces that are of historic significance, without actually having royals living in them.

  12. Evening Danny:

    I think that we could probably sell these palaces, which of course are of historic value, and interest. There are foreign royals (Saudi, Brunei, Emirates, etc, etc), who could afford to buy them. There are rich businessmen too who might be in the market.

    As they are protected by law from any alterations, it's not that someone like a super rich footballer (Wayne Rooney) or film star/pop singer (Elton John) with no taste and pots of money could come along and paint them mauve with sparkly bits on them like a Las Vegas bordella....

    Others could be paying museums, as the aristos houses often are. It would, as Munguin suggests, be interesting to know what the French have done with their palaces. Most of the Aristocrats in Fracne still live in apartments in their chateaux, and allow paid visits to the spendid public rooms.

    As for security, I'd make 2 points. The extended roayl family goes about its life without any security. Princess Anne's kids have none, nor do Princess Alexandra's, Prince Michael's, Prince Richard's, Princess Margaret's or Prince Edward of Kent's. However, it would seem reasonable that their kidnaps would be as dangerous to the Queen and state as that of Princess Beatrice or Prince Harry.

    Actually my plan would be to give them one palace, and they could all live in it, instead of them having 5 or 6.

    After all they all have private homes in the country in any case (some of them have many: Mrs Parker Bopwels has her own home separate from Charles' adding to the expense).

    There would be no increase in the cost of security.

    Munguin. You forgot to mention that we also provide round the clock security for Thatcher and Major and every SoS for Northern Ireland.

  13. I mean we supply security for our executive branch-the PM in the same way the US does for its President and for ex-PMs the way the US does its ex-Presidents. But we also have to secure the Royals, the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Prince of Wales, Princess Parker-Bowles etc etc etc and they all want to live in different palaces, houses, mansions etc etc. Would that we only had Presidents and ex-Presidents to secure like you do Danny.

  14. Me question my Queen? Never, I am merely her low subject. God bless her. Give her a pay rise I say, she hasn't had one in over 20 years!

  15. Nope Dean. We're all in this together, and your Dave wants to take the people with him.

    By this time next week I'll be hurting badly, maybe selling my car, giving up what few pleasures there are left in life.

    I know it would be truely awful for the Queen to ahve to live under the same roof as mrs Parker Bowels, but there are 400 rooms in the palace... and after all the Queen can always escape to Sandringham or Balmoral and Mrs P-B to Highgrove or her own personal house just up the road... In any case, doesn't P-B spend most of her life on holiday with her frineds, and away from Charles?

    Anyways it's not like they have to live in the same council house with only 2 bedrooms that you couldn't swing a cat in, is it?

  16. Dean why would you question? After all she doesn't or she might ask why her young subjects were being sent off to die in wars we can't afford and of questionable legality in HER name. And not a dicky bird from the royal lips.

  17. Unless we have a referendum and vote to dissolve the monarchy then it's all irrelevant really. All the palaces and trains and limos and security need to be paid for somehow. All the baubles pass on to the next weasel who slides out of the royal vulva and they will have to live the life of a royal until they die off aswell.
    So either pay for it or shut up really.

  18. NJO Pointless. It can be slimmed down. Don't tell me we can't have them all living in opne massive palace, like Windsor or Buck House.

    I could go in their and trim it down to half the cost, and you'd still have a monarchy. It would look more Danish in style maybe than British but we'd save money.

    That's what we are all being told we must do right now.

  19. tris
    The savings would be miniscule compared to the costs of Trident, Afghanistan, Iraq, the EU, Huhnes 2,500 windmills ( surprised he had the time to study windmills while cheating with another woman), public sector pensions, £160Bn annual deficit, £1.4trillion debt forecast for 2012, £3Bn for the BBC. The list goes on. The Royal Family actually create more than they cost ( tourism, deals with corrupt monarchies in Saudi etc )and should be left alone

  20. It's the principle pointless.

    The shutting of the old folks day centre will only save a few bob, but, as the PM says, we're all in this together, and 'mony a mickle maks a muckle', as my gran would say.

    We must all make sacrifices and if the best britian can do is make money out of crooked deals then there is plenty that can take over from them.

    Good idea though, cut the BBC licence fee in half and tell them to work with that.

  21. There is absolutely no justification for the money spent on the Royal family. They must think we're bloody stupid. The two Princes go on some jaunt to a country not a million miles away from S. Africa on some charity do. They are pictured riding horseback through a desert and the next thing, hey presto(!), they turn up at England's game in the World Cup. I wonder if the charity would have appeared had England not qualified and it had been one of the other home countries. Not. They probably didn't know whether to go to the England game or the German one!

  22. DL: opinion, I think, is divided on the good works that the royals do. In some ways it is a huge benefit as these peoples name alone is oxygen to any cause, and that must be a good thing. But by the same token the same publicity is oxygen to their own more selfish hidden agenda, that of keeping themselves as the unelected heads of UK society and keeping the crown on the head of the queen and her heirs and successors.

    In the instance you mention it is hard for those of us who do not support the royal family to not see William and Harry’s trip to Lesotho as anything other than an excuse to go to the world cup in neighbouring South Africa. And all conveniently timed to tie in with England v Algeria. But there was a charitable aspect to their trip and I think that however much you may disparage the royals that has to be a factor in the equation. To ignore it would simply serve to weaken your own argument. Let the royalists dress it up how they will but I for one will not disregard it.