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.


Actual Education said...

ok I'll have a pop here being a Brit (and a Scot - not your typical Royalist from what I can see at times).

I'm all for the Queen although some of the Royals I'm not such a fan of. The other thing is that if you break down the cost of things to specifics then life gets quite interesting and as a non-smoking non-Euro person, who was against the Scottish 'Parliament' then I'd much rather save money in other places...hehe

Love the blog and am looking forward to taking a wander down to Waterstones to look for your books on Mary, Queen of Scots.

Have you been to Scotland before?

Leslie Carroll said...

Hi, there, "Actual" and welcome!

I have been to Scotland. Back in 1997 I visited Edinburgh (during the Fringe festival, but for some reason I never got the chance to catch any of the events, except for the somewhat spontaneous performances in the middle of the High Street.

I was on a small tour, which took about 7 of us, unrelated except for a common interest in Scotland, into the lowlands for a week. I absolutely love the country!

You can find my Mary, Queen of Scots writing in ROYAL AFFAIRS (if Waterstones doesn't have it, ask why not (and ask them to please order it for you!). And if you would like to pre-order the next "royal" book from them, or on Amazon.uk, NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES, which profiles all 3 of Mary, Queen of Scot's marriages, will be published in January, 2010.

Please stop by the blog often; it's nice to get your perspective!

Actual Education said...

Well thanks - I have a wordpress blog but I'm off work just now and I think blogger seems 'nicer' to get into. My wife and I visited Falkland Palace in June and I loved it. I come from a family that doesn't drive so its strange to visit places which seemed 'out of bounds' - even in a country which must seem so small by US standards. When did you write your 'Mary' books? was this before or after your visit?
Thanks for the welcome!

Leslie Carroll said...

I visited Scotland in 1997, and I wrote ROYAL AFFAIRS a couple of years ago; it was published by NAL (a division of Penguin Books) in June 2008.

So I did all the MQS research and writing after visiting Scotland. I did tour Holyrood House and was very moved back in 1997, but at the time I had no idea I would become an author. I didn't begin writing fiction until 1998 and didn't start writing historical nonfiction until 2007.

I also write historical fiction under the pen name Amanda Elyot, though I hope to sell my next novel under my own name.

Actual Education said...

Oooh I can't wait to get your book! I've been ploughing my way through the usual books by Weir etc as I'm working on one of my virtual tours of locations in Edinburgh relating to Mary. I think Lizzy might be interested in it so I'll post a sneak preview sometime soon. I'm miles away from having it anywhere near ready so it really will just be a collection of photos but it might be of interest. Some familiar names - Rizzio's 'grave' at Canongate, Morton's grave in Greyfriars, Buchanans (two) in Greyfriars and the site of the Prebendentaries House of Kirk O'Fields (sp!) which is now part of the Edinburgh Uni Old Quad. Ashamed to say I was an Edinburgh resident for years and didn't know any of them until around 2005.

You might want to ask Lizzy our theory on possible candidates for the role of Mary in any future episodes of the Tudors...might provide some light relief!

Apologies for the lack of formality in my writing!.


Leslie Carroll said...

Forrest, "dream casting" (or gag casting, as in, "Sylvester Stallone IS Othello") is always fun.

Considering that I can't watch an episode (or even a scene) of the Tudors without wincing in extreme pain at (a) the tortured history, or (b) the execrable performances by actors who are either dreadful by nature, phoning it in to pick up a paycheck in order to put their grandkids thru college, or chewing the scenery to such an extent that I want to shout "Sawdust alert!" I hope out very little hope that Mary, Queen of Scots would be well cast.

However, no one could do the role better than Janet McTeer could (she recently starred on Broadway in Schiller's drama Mary Stuart.

As Lizzy knows, I'm also an actress, so I watch other people's performances with more of a gimlet eye than the average viewer. Occupational hazard.

Actual Education said...

Ah yes, I suppose it is the equivalent of a teacher choosing names for their children - you can't be remote from it no matter how hard you try to remove past experiences!

Yes, Buckingham's execution was a classic example of 'Made for TV' history, it really is Dallas Does Henry...but I'm ashamed to say it is wonderfully watchable.

Having said that my favourite acting in historical 'factual' movies/drama has to be either the BBC version of I, Claudius or The Lion in Winter.

Leslie Carroll said...

"The Lion in Winter" is so flawlessly cast that you can't blame them for playing fast and loose with history (I cover Eleanor's marriage to Henry in NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES) -- and Richard I was not gay (in fact he slept with and impregnated various women while he was off "crusading"), despite the revisionist history that some 20th scholars, including A.L. Rowse, would like to put forth. Richard probably never consummated his marriage to Berengaria, but that doesn't mean he was gay! Scholars like to hypothesize, based on a single sentence -- that he and Phillip of France shared a bed at one point. Uhhh ... some medieval castles only had one room that could be closed off, as a royal bedchamber and it was common for a visting royal to be bunked with the host, if there was only one private chamber.

Actual Education said...

Yes that classic line "Why Henry I don't much like our children...". Added to the fact I had a huge crush on the actress who played the younger female in it...can't remember her name or her characters I'm afraid!

Leslie Carroll said...

I can't remember the actress's name either, but I don't think she worked much after that. You can go to imdb.com and type in the name of the movie once you click on the drop-down box and choose "titles."