The Queen of England’s Budget Crisis

The oh-so-shiny Imperial Crown of India, part of Queen's Elizabeth's Crown Jewels. Flickr photo by Pietro & Silvia.

The oh-so-shiny Imperial Crown of India, part of Queen’s Elizabeth’s Crown Jewels. Flickr photo by Pietro & Silvia.

I woke up this morning to what can only be described as a sign of the apocalypse: The Queen of England is out of money!  How can this be?!

Yes, in case you missed it, the British House of Commons’ public accounts committee has just released a report in which it states that the Queen’s reserve fund has dwindled from £35 million in 2001 to a measly £1 million today.  While many UK government departments have been making sweeping cuts as part of the coalition government’s austerity drive over the last few years, Her Majesty’s household has only managed to trim its expenses by 5%.

What is even worse is that, despite all the spending, the royal family’s properties seem to be falling into a state of disrepair that Lord and Lady Grantham (of Downton Abbey fame) would never dream of allowing.  I quote from the Daily Telegraph: “Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are reported to be in urgent need of repair. Staff must catch rain in buckets to protect art and antiquities, while the Queen’s old boilers were contributing to bills of £774,000 a year.”

Well, as Her Majesty likes to say, “Mo boilers, mo problems.”  Having come across this sad news on a U.S.-based website, I quickly rushed over to my favorite UK news sources to see how the British public was reacting.  Unfortunately, by the time I got there, they appeared to have all moved on to analyzing something called the “State of the Union speech”, which occurred not in Britain but right here in America.  How utterly disappointing!

Windsor Castle, one of the Queen's official residences, viewed from the air. Wikipedia photo by Mark S Jobling

Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s official residences, viewed from the air. Wikipedia photo by Mark S Jobling

Having visited semi-reputable sources such as The Guardian and the BBC without any success, I pressed on to an entirely nonreputable source – The Sun.  Surely the celebrity gossip mongers at the Sun would not let me down!  But, oh dear, they seemed to be rather obsessed with the revelation that the rapidly aging former romantic comedy mainstay Hugh Grant apparently had a love child with someone working in Swedish television. (Yes, they have television in Sweden, though this communication with the outside world has still not convinced them that IKEA directions should include words as well as pictures.)

Ditto for the Daily Mail, which was also good enough to bring me the following piece of breaking news: “Slender Gwyneth Paltrow shows some skin in a cut-out frock… but can’t compete with her curvier peers and their low-cut dresses”.  Oh, the humanity!  Somebody page Tim Gunn immediately!

Does nobody care about the Queen’s financial woes?  Now I really understand what Shakespeare meant when he wrote, “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” (Henry IV, Part II, Act III, Scene 1 – in case you were interested) I always assumed that it had to do with political maneuvering and the burden of leadership, but now I see that just like the rest of us, the Queen is losing sleep over whether she’ll have enough money to send young Prince George to Eton.  Sure, most of us dream of sending our kids to a slightly more pedestrian educational institution, but I think you can still sympathize with her position.

The Queen (on the right - not the man in the robes) taking part in Jubilee festivities last year. Official Ministry of Defence photo by Andrew Linnet

The Queen (on the right – not the man in the robes) taking part in Jubilee festivities last year. Official Ministry of Defence photo by Andrew Linnet

While the conservative-leaning Telegraph dutifully ran an editorial proclaiming “MPs should put their own house in order” rather than going after the Queen’s finances, America’s Washington Post responded in a way that only the descendants of a bunch of anti-royalist revolutionaries could.  They published a column by Charlotte Reather entitled “Cost-cutting ideas for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II”.  Suggestions include, “Put Fergie [Prince Andrew’s former wife] to work in the Tower of London doing tours with the Beefeaters,” and, “Cut booze bill in half. Philip [the Queen’s husband] won’t like this one bit.”

I have to say, the whole idea of “cost cutting” seems a bit, well, bourgeoisie. (I confess that I have never been able to spell that word correctly and had to use spell check just now.) Who really wants to see the pomp and circumstance of the British royal family brought down as part of an austerity drive?  Surely there are some things that are too sacred to place under the budget man’s ax, err, axe?

I mean, Henry VIII might have been borderline crazy and completely unconcerned about spending his peasants’ hard earned money, but he sure did throw a good party.  If it weren’t for those lavish occasions, we would only remember him for the two wives he had beheaded. (Perhaps you’re sensing a flaw in my logic?)

Instead of making suggestions as to where the Queen can cut back, I am going to recommend some areas in which she can make more money.  I dare say that this method will be much more appealing to Her Majesty, and given all of the wonderful things that the royal family has done for the British people over the years, it is a wonder that they don’t all just throw cash over the palace walls already.

Here it is: my humble list of money-making opportunities for the House of Windsor, or “the House formerly known as Saxe-Coburg-Gotha”. (If I, an American citizen, happen to be more ethnically British than the Queen of England, that is neither here nor there.  She chooses not to talk about that, and I really think it is for the best.)

  1. Rent out rooms when they aren’t occupied: When Windsor Castle suffered fire damage back in 1992, the Queen opened up Buckingham Palace for paid tours to bring in extra funds.  Given how little she uses many of her residences, it would not be that much more difficult to start renting out some of the rooms and pocketing the extra cash.  £4,000 a night for a room in Buckingham Palace looking out over The Mall, £50,000 for a weekend hunting at Balmoral (at least, as much as they allow hunting), £1,000 a plate for dinner at Holyroodhouse…the possibilities are endless.

    800px-Pembroke_Corgi_Image_001, Flickr mbostock

    Who can resist the Corgi? Flickr image by mbostock (Not actually one of the Queen’s corgis, but still darn cute!)

  2. Become a dog breeder: The Queen is famous for her love of Corgis and always has a good number following her around.  Why not breed them and sell the puppies?  Think how many thousands of pounds a puppy sired by one of the Queen’s pooches could raise!  This would be a sure-fire hit.
  3. Auction off the right to know what really happened to the Princes in the Tower: If you have had the good fortune to visit the Tower of London or are at all familiar with the story of King Richard III, you are undoubtedly aware of the mysterious disappearance of two princes of the realm back in the 1400s.  Shakespeare said their uncle Richard had them killed, but historians and archaeologists have never been able to conclusively prove it.  I suggest that the Queen auction off the right for one person to be informed of what really happened to the princes, similar to a tactic employed by Carly Simon in regard to her song “You’re So Vain”.  I bet some history geek would pay big money for that. (If the Queen does not actually know what happened, she can just make up something that sounds plausible.)
  4. Dissolution of the Cathedrals: As part of the Protestant Reformation back in the 16th century, King Henry VIII oversaw the Dissolution of the Monasteries, meaning that he had England’s historic abbeys closed down and rerouted all of their money and possessions as he saw fit.  Obviously, Queen Elizabeth II cannot pull that exact same move again given the current lack of abbeys (Westminster Abbey is not a real abbey anymore as it has neither monks or nuns.), but she does oversee plenty of goody-laden cathedrals as head of the Church of England.  She could dissolve them and commandeer all of their funds, boosting her own bank account in much the same manner as Henry VIII.
  5. Have Prince Harry star in a one man exotic dance show: Let’s just say his resume suggests he has the experience necessary for this job.
  6. Plunder and loot: Ever since the world got caught up with concepts like “private property” and “civil rights”, the age-old tradition of plundering and looting other civilizations has been either cancelled or creatively renamed.  Yet, during the glory days of the British Empire, the British were better than anyone at taking stuff that was not theirs and transporting it back home.  Just take a look at what is in the British Museum and you will see what I mean.  The Queen should look into reinstating this policy.  I am sure she can find some way to portray it as a legitimate capitalist tactic, perhaps using some fancy economic terminology that only fellow members of the upper-class will understand.
  7. Require a bribe for permission to form a government: Ever since someone had the rotten idea of allowing ordinary members of the British public to vote for their elected representatives, the Queen’s historic role of granting permission to politicians to form a government has been reduced to a purely ceremonial trip to Buckingham Palace for successive wide-eyed Prime-Ministers-to-be.  Technically, the party with the most votes still has to gain the sovereign’s approval in order to take over, so I suggest that the Queen use what limited powers she has left to her advantage.  Paying for the right to obtain high political office is such a well-established principle worldwide that I don’t see why anyone should take offense at the Queen requiring a little bribe here and there for the honor of being in Her Majesty’s Government.  Perhaps she can offer a special 2-for-1 deal for coalition governments.

    London mayor Boris Johnson poses with bicycles, one of his favorite things on earth. Flickr photo by Andrew Parsons for BackBoris2012

    London mayor Boris Johnson poses with bicycles, one of his favorite things on earth. Flickr photo by Andrew Parsons for BackBoris2012

  8. Hook the Mayor of London’s bike up to an electricity generating machine: London’s ever-quotable Mayor Boris Johnson is somewhat famous for riding his bike around the streets of his city and encouraging his fellow Londoners to follow his lead.  Why not take it to the next level and hook his bike up to a power generator?  As long as he keeps pedaling, the lights in Buckingham Palace can stay on free of charge. (Well, at least a few of the light bulbs in the servants’ quarters.) Some may argue that the mayor has better things to do with his time, but anyone familiar with Boris Johnson will know that is highly debatable.
  9. Let Charles grow all your food: The Prince of Wales is somewhat renowned for his love of all things green, even before it was fashionable.  Surely the royal family owns some arable land that can be put to good use.  Why not let him grow food for all the palaces?  Besides providing for royal meals, any extra produce could be sold to the public.  I am sure a can of “Prince Charles Pickles” could sell for at least 50p. (That’s 50 pence, Americans – similar to 50 cents.)

    Queen Elizabeth II in one of her many hats. Official NASA photo

    Queen Elizabeth II in one of her many hats. Official NASA photo…yes, NASA

  10. Sell advertising space on hats: Being a typical specimen of the English aristocracy, the Queen does love to wear frilly hats on special occasions.  Given the amount of times the woman is photographed, she could probably bring in a bit of money by offering to put the logo of the highest bidder on her head.  “Inform the royal milliner at once: this one is sponsored by Tesco!”

No need to worry, your royal highness.  If Sherlock can come back from the dead, so can you.  All it will take is a bit of clever accounting and a willingness to explore these new lucrative opportunities.  By the end of this year, I am sure you will be able to assure us all that your reserve fund is back on track when you give your annual holiday speech: “The Queen’s Christmas Message, presented by Carphone Warehouse”.

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