Many Britons feel poorer all the time. But their royal family is really very rich.
Now that the cinematic spectacle of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral is over and the national mourning over the beloved monarch’s death has subsided, attention is turning back to the royal coffers – a perennial sore point for certain sections of the British public.
As is customary at state funerals, British taxpayers will foot the yet-to-be-disclosed bill for 10 days of solemn, lavish pageantry, culminating in Monday’s funeral, an elaborate three-way ceremony that ends with the queen’s burial at Windsor Castle.
With hundreds of world leaders in attendance, including President Biden, and a mile-long line of the Queen’s subjects patiently waiting for a chance to see her recumbent, police officers in London staged what authorities in London said was the country’s biggest-ever security operation.
As the British public and millions of people around the world come to understand the meaning of words such as ‘catafalque’, ‘cortege’ and ‘crossifer’, the government says the cost of funerals will be revealed “in due course”.
Clearly, in the eyes of some, even reporting a check is heretical.
“May I ask who is paying for all of this, or will I be arrested?” David Baddiel, a 58-year-old comedian, inquired in a tweet that led to an angry outcry online.
Clearly, all this pomp and glory didn’t come cheap.
Some estimates put the total cost – the funeral, with King Charles’s impending coronation, the accompanying bank holiday and currency exchange for the new sovereign’s image – at more than $6 billion.
This level of spending creates a startling juxtaposition as the rising cost of living pushes more Britons into poverty than ever before.
In the consumer price index, the country is already facing 8.6% inflation. In October, gas bills will rise by almost a third, and this after the energy price cap imposed by the government.
Surveys show that at least 5.6 million people have been forced to skip meals in the past three months and nearly 8 million have sold personal belongings to cover the cost of living. The Federation of Small Businesses, a business lobby, says more than half of small businesses expect to stagnate, shrink or close over the next year; even hospitals and schools struggle to keep their doors open.
In addition to funeral costs, whatever they may be, the British government funds the so-called sovereign allowance, an annual payment given to the royal family to cover official travel, estate maintenance and the running costs of the monarch’s household.
This year it reached nearly $100 million and included additional funds for the restoration of Buckingham Palace. Security costs are not included in this calculation, but are paid by the government and are kept secret.
As in other parts of the Commonwealth and in the UK itself, all this has sparked anti-monarchists and those calling for a re-examination of how much the British public should pay for their hereditary dynasty.
“We give an awful lot of money to the royal families every year,” said Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, a group which – as its name suggests – is campaigning for the UK to lose its monarchy and replace it with a republic. with the elected head of state.
Smith noted that under a 1993 deal with the government, Charles does not have to pay inheritance tax, unlike his countrymen, who are taxed at 40% on any part of the estate worth more than £325,000, or almost $370,000.
Although state funerals are an expense accepted by the taxpayer, “it would be a useful gesture if [Charles] was willing to offer compensation for this huge cost given that we are struggling to pay for hospitals, police and schools,” Smith said.
Another sore spot for anti-royalists is the royal family’s sprawling estates. The main money maker is the late Queen’s Duchy of Lancaster, which is worth around $740 million according to the latest financial statements and made more than $27 million in profits; it now goes tax-free to Charles, depriving the Treasury, or Treasury, of billions in revenue.
Another, even more lucrative, holding is the Duchy of Cornwall, worth $1.3 billion and ownership of which automatically passed to Prince William after Charles ascended the throne, without paying corporate tax. This is all in addition to other assets the Crown owns but cannot sell, including Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and two Crown properties.
Other personal assets that passed from the late Queen to Charles include her investments, art collection, jewelery and rare stamps, as well as Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The size of the entire fortune is estimated at about 28 billion dollars.
However, monarchists point out that the royal family is a major draw for UK tourism and the National Trust pays just $1.50 per subject a year – hardly a problematic sum for such a symbol of soft power.
“I really don’t care how much it costs,” tweeted Isabel Oakeshott, a journalist and editor for Britain’s Talk TV. “I can’t imagine a better use of our taxes right now. It’s just who we are.”
He wrote that the funeral and the events surrounding it have been a reminder of all that is great about Britain. Tomorrow returns to normal with all its crippling bills, NHS waiting lists and delayed trains, but we can hang on.
The monarchy remains widely popular among Britons, with around 68% of the institution having a favorable opinion, according to recent polls. Younger people are less enthusiastic than their elders, however, with less than half of 18-24-year-olds saying the monarchy should continue in Britain, compared with 86 per cent of over-65s.
There’s no getting around the fact that royal send-offs are expensive. Princess Diana’s 1997 funeral cost between £3 and £5 million in 1997, or between $7 and $8 million adjusted for inflation. In 2002, the Queen Mother’s cost about $10 million in today’s dollars, much of which was for security.
But all of that is on top of the funeral expenses for Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, who reigned for 70 years and 214 days.
In addition to more than 10,000 police, 1,500 army personnel and thousands of marshals and volunteers for the funeral alone, not to mention a contingent of Britain’s elite Special Air Service on standby in case of terrorist attacks, there was another cost involved. : Bank Holiday on the day of the funeral.
Most companies were closed along with the London Stock Exchange. By comparison, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee public holiday in June saw the country’s gross domestic product fall by 0.6%, according to government figures.
“It cost a lot of people a lot of money, especially small businesses,” Smith said. And while public holidays can be associated with increased spending at restaurants and hotels, that wasn’t the case here, he added, because the huge crowds made getting around so difficult.
Certainly many vendors, including Brick Lane clothier Ryan Boyle, readily embraced the idea of closing down for the day.
“Look, I’m Irish, but I can’t bear his ill will,” the 59-year-old said. “He’s dead and I’m not. I’m grateful for that and I don’t mind paying respect.”
Others seemed less preposterous. Pio, a Soho tailor who did not want his full name used for privacy reasons and to avoid alienating staunch royalist customers, grumbled about having to give his staff the day off for the funeral.
“I’m the one paying for it,” he said.
The new king has spoken of a slimmed-down royal family, as well as a cheaper coronation for himself when it takes place next spring or summer. But the overhead costs of the royal transition – the funeral, the bank holiday weekend, the coronation and the new currency – “could cost us 13 million sis,” Smith said.
“It’s very much a one-way street,” he said of the royal family, “in terms of what we give and what they take.”