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The Queen forced to make cutbacks after £35m shortfall due to coronavirus pandemic

Lockdown has hit tourist numbers at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle — as costs of royal charter flights revealed

Adam Forrest
Friday 25 September 2020 11:41 BST
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Queen to recieve government 'bailout' to top up income after Crown Estate hit by economic slump

The Queen will be forced to make a series of cutbacks in the royal household’s budget following a projected £35m financial blow due to the coronavirus crisis.

Lockdown measures have hit tourist numbers at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, leading to an estimated £15m loss of income over the next three years, according to the latest royal accounts.

The keeper of the privy purse also revealed a further £20m shortfall in money set aside by the Crown Estate for the 10-year refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.

The Treasury has confirmed that Boris Johnson’s government would meet an expected shortfall in annual revenues from the Crown Estate to make sure the Queen’s sovereign grant remains at its current level.

However, Sir Michael Stevens, the keeper of the privy purse, insisted that did not amount to asking for any “extra” money — and revealed the royal family would undertake a round of belt-tightening.

He said: “In responding to both these financial challenges, we have no intention of asking for extra funding and will look to manage the impact through our own efforts and efficiencies.”

The newly-published accounts also reveal that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s high-profile family tour to southern Africa cost the taxpayer nearly £245,000.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took their then four-month-old baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor to South Africa in September last year on his first royal overseas trip. The flights were the most expensive royal journey in the past year.

A senior royal source insisted the couple are under no obligation to pay money back for the trip after announcing their decision to quit as senior royals just three months later.

Yet the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have paid an undisclosed sum upfront for the rental and refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage.

Meghan and Harry’s trip to South Africa cost £245,000 (Getty Images)

Other costly overseas trips by members of the royal family included a two-day visit by the Prince of Wales to Oman to pay his condolences following the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, with the charter flights costing just over £210,000.

Princess Anne flew by charter to Rome to watch the Italy-Scotland Six Nations rugby match at a cost of just over £16,400. And Prince Andrew took a charter flight to attend the Royal Portrush Golf Club’s Open championship, which cost around £15,800.

A royal source defended his use of a charter flight to watch golf in Northern Ireland, saying: “In this particular case, we concluded that actually, the use of charter was the only way to get him to complete his engagements to fit in with his other programmes.”

Andrew — once dubbed “Air Miles Andy” for his lavish use of helicopters and other aircraft at public expense — has since stepped down from royal duties over his former friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

The amount spent by the royal household last year on official duties such as travel, as well as hospitality and property maintenance rose by £2.4m or 4 per cent.

Legislation governing the sovereign grant formula prevents the overall amount given to the Queen from ever being allowed to fall. Any profits made by her Crown Estate are passed to the Treasury, which, in turn, hands 25 per cent of the profits back to the royal family through the sovereign grant. 

Graham Smith, of the Republic campaign group, argued the amount spent by the royals on travel was unjustified. 

“At a time when public sector jobs are being lost and services cut, these figures represent a disgraceful abuse of public money by the royals,” he said. “There is no justification for spending a quarter of a million pounds on a trip to Africa or more than £200,000 to fly to Oman.

“And they’re all at. Thousands of pounds spent on junkets for Anne and Andrew, so they can attend sporting events. This is not public service, it’s daylight robbery.”

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