Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Cost of Tiaras Must Be Rising...

It's a royal scandal.

We all know that the cost of living never seems to keep pace with our incomes. And that's just as true for the House of Windsor, except that the public pays their bills. It now costs every Brit 69p (or about $1.15 as of this writing) to support the royal family in the style to which they have become accustomed for centuries.

Put in perspective, it's about the same amount (if not more) that Americans pay to keep the National Endowment for the Arts afloat.

But John Bull has chafed at the royal family's noblesse oblige with their hard-earned money for as long as the royals have been profligate with it. For example, in ROYAL AFFAIRS as well as in my upcoming NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES, I note that in 1794 the Prince of Wales's debts had mounted to the exorbitant sum of £600,000 (nearly $80 million in today’s economy). It was his father George III's promise to discharge them the day young George wed that spurred him to marry his odiferous and slovenly first cousin Caroline of Brunswick. The union was an unmitigated disaster.

Fast-forward 215 years to today's royals. Evidently, last year Her Majesty's expenses (which include those of the royal family) amounted to $68.9 million (41.5 million pounds), which reflects an increase of $2.48 million (1.5 million pounds) over last year's tally. That breaks down to an additional 3p (5 cents) per subject.

Buckingham Palace

Taxpayer pounds pay for the royal family's travel expenses as well as for the upkeep of their umpteen homes, castles, and palaces.

So why the cost of living increase? Evidently, the RAF (which is a bit busy in Afghanistan) made fewer jets available to the Windsors last year so they often had to (gasp!) charter commercial aircraft at a moment's notice. You know how pricey that can be.

Add to that the $661,302 (400,000 pound) price of updating the royal family's web site this past February. Who did they use?? Perhaps I should recommend Authorbytes.com which did my new site; their prices are somewhat more reasonable.

And then there's the housecleaning! A veritable army of someones have to dust those priceless tchotchkes and vacuum all those Axminsters. Think about how many people the Windsors gainfully employ! $496,000 (300,000 pounds) was spent on scrubbing the royal abodes. Last year's food bills (my invitation to tea must have been lost in the post) ran to $827,209 (500,000 pounds).

Windsor Castle

And then there was the high cost of Her Majesty's garden parties: (another 400,000 pounds). Was the price of hats factored into the total?

None of these expenses include the tab for security.

But Elizabeth R is probably considering herself quite thrifty because in order to meet expenses, she supplemented the 7.9 million pounds ($13.9 million) of public money with 6 million pounds ($9.9 million) from a reserve fund she'd built up over the years.

The royals have never understood how to work within a budget as the rest of us mere mortals are compelled to do. And if she keeps the purse strings loose, she will run out of funds by 2012 as she prepares to celebrate her 60th year on the throne.

So, what do you think? Is 69p a small price to pay to maintain a national institution (the royal family), whose existence still sparks such romantic feelings in many of us on the other side of the puddle that we spend our own hard-earned money to visit that sceptered isle, shop at stores that have been granted a royal warrant, if only to take home the shopping bag with the crest, purchase tea towels and coffee mugs with royal images and insignias, and tour Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle? Is it worth supporting the royal family because their existence brings in more tourist dollars per year than it costs the British taxpayer?

Or should a stricter budget be imposed to teach the House of Windsor a lesson in economy?

Or is it time to cut those tiara wearing welfare recipients loose?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Royal Updates

Hitting the shelves in January 2010, my second "Royal" work of historical nonfiction for NAL will indeed be titled...
NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny, and Desire.

Marie Antoinette

Louis XVI

They didn't go for the Rembrandt cover I suggested. However, I've seen the cover art they chose, though, and think it's "grabby" and fun. Since it may not be finalized I won't post it yet. It's a watercolor, and judging from the clothing worn by the man and woman, it's clearly from the 1780s or 1790s. So much for the "nine centuries" of the subtitle, but I guess they had to pick one of them!

And it's true, NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES does cover some of the great unions of the 18th century: the puerile Peter III and the powerful Catherine the Great; Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI;

Catherine the Great

Tsar Peter III

George IV, when still Prince of Wales; a miniature painted by George Cosway, c. 1792

the two marriages of the future George IV of England--his illicit one in 1785 with the Catholic widow Maria Fitzherbert

Maria Fitzherbert

and his 1795 marriage to his first cousin, the dumpy and odiferous Caroline of Brunswick.

Caroline of Brunswick

as well as Napoleon Bonaparte and his first wife, Josephine Beauharnais.



So we do spend a lot of time in the 18th century.

I'm really looking forward to the January 2010 release of NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES. If you have any questions, I'd love to hear them!