By Dr George Venturini
The Crown has other offshore money-spinners closer to home. The Crown Estate owns vast swathes of land around the United Kingdom. And that helps pay for the running of the Royal Household and the royals’ travel bills. But one of the most surprising things that it owns, dating back centuries, is the entire British seabed, stretching out 12 nautical miles from the coast. The Crown Estate has capitalised by allowing the building of wind farms around the coast. They made 37 million pounds last year. While 75 per cent of that goes to the taxpayer, one quarter of the wind farm profit goes to ‘The Palace’ through the Sovereign Grant.
It is all legal. Whether it is right is a different matter.
The Queen has her ways: “Good evening objects.”
Dani Beckett was firm: “I would love to see that money being generated by publicly-owned renewable energy. I think it would be a great situation for us to be where that is owned by us, as a country. But it’s not, it’s held by the monarchy. And that speaks to the power that they hold that is absolutely untouchable by the regular citizens of this country.”
The reporter could not help saying: “Another controversial aspect of the monarchy taking profits from Crown land is the fact that the Sovereign Grant pays for Royal Travel. ‘The Palace’ spent about three million pounds on official travel [in 2017].”
To which David McClure added: “Travel could be said to be the Royal Family’s Achilles heel. They spend an awful lot of money on aeroplane travel and also, the Royal Train. Last year the Queen only used the Royal Train three times and it costs hundreds of thousands to run.”
The reporter: “Most criticised for his travel spending is the heir to the throne, the Prince of Wales, who has now taken over much of his mother’s travel commitments.”
David McClure: “Charles has a large retinue, and when he goes to the Far East, he takes ten people with him – a press officer, a hairdresser, a butler or two, and these all cost a lot of money. So Charles has been criticised for having too large a retinue and spending too much money.”
Emily Andrews took the opportunity to say: “Year after year, you will see that Prince Charles is the highest spending royal, he will often charter planes, and then, on his tours, he does two or three big tours a year, he’ll charter a plane in the UK and take it all the way around wherever he is going and then back. And this costs hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
Lord Tony Berkeley cold not contain himself: “If Charles and Camilla go on a long trip, can’t they sit in first class rather than having their own aeroplane? The cost of these planes is enormous.”
The reporter added: “Prince Harry and his wife Meghan received a rock star reception during their tour to Australia this month. The Queen has recently appointed Harry her Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. But experts on the Commonwealth are sceptical about what this really means.”
Professor Philip Murphy explained: “Attaching the royal family to this buzzword of youth is a rather desperate way of trying to keep the Commonwealth going and keep it appearing relevant. The idea of the emperor’s new clothes, as something that everyone pretends is solid and wonderful and the greatest thing on earth, but actually is so insubstantial it barely exists. And I think the Commonwealth is a bit like that. The links between its member states are so tenuous. It barely registers on the world scene. There is no publicly available figure on the total cost of the Royal Family to the taxpayer.”
The reporter noted: “While the British public is having romance with Harry and Meghan, William and Kate, it’s less in love with the minor royals. The wedding of Princess Eugenie this month sent the tabloids into a tailspin. Eugenie wanted a carriage ride through Windsor like her cousin, Prince Harry, and that’s estimated to have cost at least two million pounds in security bills alone.”
Professor Philip Murphy: “There’s certain things the public are prepared to pay for. They’re prepared to pay for the royals they like. Let’s face it, Harry and Meghan at the moment are very popular. It depends on what sort of princess it is. Meghan is a wonderful princess, she’s come from Hollywood which knows how to do princesses. And, I think in showbiz, if you’ve got a popular star, the public will stump up the money.”
The reporter interjected: “This one, not so much?”
Professor Philip Murphy: “Not so much!”
The reporter: “The Royal Family’s security bill has been estimated to cost Britain 100 million pounds a year, according to a report by Republic, but that’s just an estimate as the total cost is kept secret by the British Government.”
Dani Beckett: “That should be public information – if that was any other public institution – if that was the Prime Minister, or MPs, we would have access to the amount of money that is spent on keeping them safe, out of the public purse.”
David McClure: “Most government agencies are open to Freedom of Information requests. But you know, the Royal Family is immuned. [sic]”
Upon request by the reporter: “Why?”
David McClure: “Well, I think they want to protect their own secrecy, really. I don’t think they’re making any horrendously powerful political intervention. I think they’re just overly protective, and they’ve always been secretive and they’ll continue with it.”
The reporter could see another side: “Whatever the critics might say about the Royal Family, it provides a sense of certainty at a time when Brexit and economic hardship is dividing the UK.”
What economic hardship?
Rita Clifton would concede: “Britain is having a slight collective nervous breakdown at the moment when it comes to social, political, in some cases economic issues. There is something enduring about the Royal Family brand. About the stability, the security, the longevity, the trust and so on, that actually is a very important property to hang on to at the moment. But there are challenges ahead. The preparations are quietly underway for when The Queen meets her maker.”
Emily Andrews: “I think it will be the end of an era for us in the U.K. when she dies. And her popularity is assured now. She will be one of the greatest monarchs that we have ever ever had.”
Robert Lacey: “It’s a funny old jalopy, the British monarchy, but the Queen has ridden it and steered the horses. And we’re very happy to keep on cheering it. And god, when, um, when people think about her going … Um, you know it affects me.”
Patrick Jephson: “There’s a whole generation of people now in old age who grew up with the Queen – a glamorous, young, innocent Queen, an inspirational figure that summed up so much of what people associate with the best of Royal virtues. The next monarch is going to be an old, white, bald man. Now, nothing against old, bald, white men, but in presentational terms, particularly in a society where youth is prized so highly, that’s not good.”
The reporter: “ ‘The Palace’ is hoping that ‘The Firm’ is well and truly back in business. And that the young Royals have future proofed the Monarchy. But the death of The Queen will be its next big test.”
Professor Philip Murphy: “And when she dies, there’s going to be a great sense of loss, a great sense of displacement. The popularity of the young royals is pretty high. But that could all change. They’re always only a scandal away from a dip in popularity.”
Patrick Jephson: “All I know is that the changes will be huge. And they will shake the institution to its roots and it will be an enormous stress test of what it thinks it is, what we think it is, what it’s for, what it stands for. And if it falls short on any of those, its prestige will suffer, it will I think encounter an extraordinary loss of confidence. And without confidence, monarchy becomes an empty shell.” (Windsor Inc. – Four Corners, abc.net.au).
A complete presentation of the Four Corners programme – a glaring example of infotainment – was, perhaps, not totally necessary. On the other hand, it would have been insufficient to say: the truth about the Royal Family and its members is being manipulated by expert PR-persons. It is the extensity of it which matters. It is the conclusion: that truth is becoming an abstraction, which matters.
Most of the participants are engaged in ‘constructing’ personalities which do not exist, or which exist only with their defects and cannot be taken for ‘reality’ in a show of truth-massaging, reconstructing or – as it seems the moment’s fashion – ‘branding’ and ‘re-branding’.
The imagined consequence of such activity is not a matter left to infotainment, innocuous, inane and perhaps just simply time-consuming.
The levity with which the subjects were approached, just mixed with some juicy information as to the wealth of the Queen and the ways-and-means of enrichment of the Royals, becomes even more intolerable if one looks at recent, and this time serious, information on Britain’s social conditions.
Continued Wednesday – Terminal adolescents (part 6)
Previous instalment – Terminal adolescents (part 4)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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