It’s time for the Queen and her 426 members of staff to think about downsizing

As well as being forced to temporarily vacate Buckingham Palace, the Queen is facing a £2.2m pay cut thanks to Nicola Sturgeon

Rosie Millard
Wednesday 24 June 2015 17:05 BST
Queen Elizabeth II (R) holds an audience with the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon at Buckingham Palace in London
Queen Elizabeth II (R) holds an audience with the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon at Buckingham Palace in London

She’s probably not purring today. If indeed she did ever “purr” down the telephone line to her Prime Minister about the fact that Scotland did not vote to break away. Now we learn that her favourite holiday destination is being jolly ungrateful, by threatening to pull out of the arduous task of paying for it.

The monarchy is funded by the Sovereign Grant, essentially 15 per cent of the revenues of the Crown Estates. Next year, this comes to £42.7m, (up by some £2.7m on this year), and as part of devolution, Scotland will take charge of the Scottish Crown Estates. It is not clear that Scotland will hand over its 15 per cent share. This would be tantamount to a £2.2m pay cut for the Queen. Thanks to that nasty Ms Sturgeon.

Coming hard on the heels of this “snub” is the news that Buckingham Palace is heading towards a £150m refurbishment which must be so colossal that the Queen and her 426 members of staff might have to move out. The move will cost the Queen dear, and not just thanks to the pesky roof or painting a few bedrooms (there are 52, which surely makes the state-funded residence fall foul of any Bedroom Tax).

Closing Buck House for a year will cause it to lose all that that useful cash from tourists. Damn! In particular, the Royal Household will lose the £4.5m it annually gets from people wanting to see the Royal Collection (which the Queen is kind enough to guard For The Nation, even though The Nation must pay for the privilege of experiencing it.) Then there is another £6m which comes from people organising events at Royal Palaces.

Oh, it is clearly going to be, in her famous phrase, an annus horribilis for HM. Who will pay for the refurbishment of the Palace? When Windsor Castle burnt down, the Queen started paying income tax in order to foot the bill. This time the bill will be paid by the Sovereign Grant, or in other words, the handy old Crown Estates. Readers might be interested to know this includes half of all office space in the West End, vast tracts of the countryside, 17 retail parks and the British seabed (incredibly valuable as the site for offshore energy farms and telecommunications cables). So the taxes paid by British people to use British countryside and office space is not going back into the coffers of the nation, but will go to refurbish one of the Queen’s eight official royal residences.

Eight. Who was it who said “you can only actually be in one of your houses at any one time”? Was it Elton John? Surely the time has come to rethink the Royal Household. Clearly any country’s Head of State, elected or not, must have an official residence. But eight? The refurbishment of Windsor Castle provoked a welcome rethink of royal taxes. So now, the proposed refurbishment of Buckingham Palace ought to provoke similar change. In these days of austerity, eight official residences and now, a £150m refurbishment bill, is madness. You don’t need to be a republican to see that.

The Queen is “said” to prefer Windsor Castle. It is not far away. It is also handy for Heathrow and state visits. So, relocate HM to Windsor. Tart it up, and then open up Buckingham Palace for the public so we can see the great works of art owned by the nation. The rest of the Palace can be used by the Civil Service. Can’t see it happening? The Louvre and the Hermitage have made the change pretty well. Alright, it took a revolution for them to achieve it but things have moved on since then.

There are 78 bathrooms in Buckingham Palace. 78. Just saying.

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