The British Royal Family are facing increasing pressure to tighten purse strings across the board after the latest royal accounts reveal that the establishment will suffer an estimated $44.5 million shortfall due to COVID-19 losses.
A sharp decline of tourist numbers at royal residences across the country due to the pandemic will see the queen lose over $6.3 million a year for at least the next three years, a senior aide confirms to BAZAAR.com. “In responding to both these financial challenges, we have no intention of asking for extra funding and will look to manage the impact through our own efforts and efficiencies,” Sir Michael Stevens, the queen’s treasurer, explains.
Despite not asking for extra funding as a result of the pandemic, the queen will continue to receive the same $110 million (£86.3 million) from the Sovereign Grant next year for the royal family’s official duties and ongoing $468.5 million refurbishment of Buckingham Palace. The queen’s income, a U.K. Treasury spokesperson confirms to BAZAAR, will be topped up by the British government to ensure that the Sovereign Grant remains the same.
Details of the royal family’s spending were listed in the annual Sovereign Grant report (for the period of April 2019 to March 2020), which reveals how the monarchy spends the allowance given to them by the Treasury for official expenditure. The public allowance is made up of profits from the Crown Estate property empire and British taxpayer contributions. (The queen typically supplements this figure with income from the Royal Collection Trust through visitors to the occupied royal palaces).
Amongst the documented spending listed in the annual report, which was shared with media outlets including BAZAAR.com, was a $20,346 (£16,000) charter flight for Prince Andrew to attend the Open Golf Championship in Northern Island. The September 2019 sporting event took place two months before he was forced to stand down from royal duties but after the FBI had requested the disgraced royal to cooperate with their investigation of Jeffrey Epstein. A palace source defended the spend, saying it was the “only way” to get the patron of the golf club to the one-day engagement.
Also featured in the annual report a further $762,000 (£600,000) spend for the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester to renovate their new home—bringing the latest total for modernizing the Old Stables at Kensington Palace to an eye-watering $1.3 million. The couple, who are 27th in line to the throne, are currently in the process of moving 350-meters from their Apartment 1 home to a smaller property on the estate.
Of the 3,200 royal engagements that took place in the U.K and abroad, a number of costly trips for Prince Charles featured in the report, including a last-minute private jet to Oman for the funeral of Sultan Qaboos bin Said costing $267,474 (£210,345) and a 250-mile journey to Cumbria on the royal train for $26,477 (£20,822).
Also on the list was Prince William and Duchess Kate’s $149,226 travel bill for their five-day Pakistan tour and a $20,905 (£16,440) chartered jet to Rome for Princess Anne to watch a rugby match, despite dozens of commercial flights being available that day.
Palace aides also outlined the travel costs for Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s 14-flight tour of Southern Africa, which totaled $312,000 (£246,000). The 10-day visit, their last as senior working royals, saw the couple represent the Queen and Prince Harry join efforts to recruit Angola to the Commonwealth.
As the report only covers accounts up until March 31, the Duke and Duchess of Sussexes’ recent repayment for renovating their U.K. home Frogmore Cottage won’t be reflected until next year’s statement. A senior palace source revealed that, alongside picking up the bill for the $3.1million renovations, the couple have also made a “substantial contribution to the Sovereign Grant” that covers rental obligations for the property, though the amount of rent the couple is paying will remain private.
Despite the spending revealed in the Sovereign Grant report, a number of items are not detailed in the accounts, including any trip costing less than $19,000 (of which there was over $3.5 million worth) and security costs. For security reasons, the budget for keeping family members safe is never revealed by Buckingham Palace, although it is believed to cost over $127 million a year.
In response to financial losses, a number of changes have been made within the institution of the monarchy, including a recruitment freeze and pay freezes, though staff have not been furloughed. They will also naturally save money on the official travel bill as the country continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The Royal Collection Trust, which oversees tourism at royal residences, has unfortunately had to make recent redundancies.
Reflecting on the past year, the queen’s treasurer Sir Michael Stevens added, “Although COVID-19 has temporarily changed the format of engagements and events, it has not changed the sense of continuity, reassurance and recognition they provide. Her Majesty’s programme, supported by Her family, will continue to develop meaningful ways to lead the nation through this time.”
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