Queen Elizabeth’s funeral calls attention to royal spending

Many Britons feel poorer all the time. But her royal family is very wealthy indeed.

Now that the cinematic spectacle of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral is over and national grief at the death of a beloved monarch begins to recede, attention is once again turning to the royal coffers – a perennial sore point for a certain segment of the British public .

As is customary with state funerals, British taxpayers will foot the yet-to-be-announced bill for 10 days of celebratory pageantry and splendor that culminated in Monday’s funeral, a trio of lavish ceremonies that ended with the Queen’s funeral at Windsor Castle.

With hundreds of world leaders including President Biden and a mile-long line of the Queen’s subjects patiently awaiting an opportunity to see her lying in state, police officers blanketed London in what authorities say is the country’s largest security operation.

After the British public and millions of viewers around the world learned the meaning of words like ‘catafalque’, ‘cortege’ and ‘crusader’, the government says the cost of the funeral will be announced ‘in due course’.

It is clear that in the eyes of some even signaling for the check is heretical.

“Are you allowed to ask who’s paying for all this or will you get arrested?” David Baddiel, a 58-year-old comedian, inquired in a tweet that sparked an angry mob online.

All this pomp and pomp, of course, did not come cheap.

Some estimates put the total cost — the funeral, along with King Charles’ upcoming coronation, an accompanying bank holiday, and the cost of converting the currency to the blazing image of a new sovereign — at more than $6 billion.

This level of spending makes for a staggering juxtaposition with a string of cost-of-living increases that will push more Britons into poverty than ever before.

The country is already facing an 8.6% inflation rate in its consumer price index. Gas bills are set to rise by almost a third in October, after a government-mandated cap on energy prices.

As many as 5.6 million people have had to go without a meal in the past three months and nearly 8 million have sold personal items to help cover living expenses, surveys show. The Federation of Small Businesses, a business lobby organization, says more than half of small businesses expect to stagnate, downsize, or simply close over the next year; Even hospitals and schools will struggle to keep their doors open.

Apart from funeral expenses, the British government funds what is known as a Sovereign Grant, an annual payment to the royal family for official travel, property maintenance and the running of the monarch’s household.

For that year, it totaled nearly $100 million and included additional funds for the restoration of Buckingham Palace. Security costs are not included in this calculation but are paid for by the government and kept secret.

As in other parts of the Commonwealth, and in the UK itself, all this has stirred up anti-monarchists and those calling for a re-examination of how much the British public should pay for their hereditary dynasty.

“We give the royals a lot of money every year,” said Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, a group which – as the name suggests – is campaigning for the UK to abolish its monarchy and have a republic in its place an elected head of state.

Smith noted that under a 1993 agreement with the government, Charles does not have to pay inheritance tax, unlike compatriots who are taxed at 40% on each part of an estate worth over £325,000, almost US$370,000.

Although state funerals are an accepted taxpayer expense, “it would be a helpful gesture if [Charles] was willing to offer some compensation for these huge costs as we struggle to pay for hospitals, police and schools,” Smith said.

Another sore point for anti-royalists is the sprawling holdings of the royal family. A major source of income is the late Queen’s Duchy of Lancaster, which according to the latest financial reports is worth around US$740 million and has made more than US$27 million in profit; this now passes tax-free to Charles and takes billions from the state treasury.

Another even more lucrative holding is the $1.3 billion Duchy of Cornwall, ownership of which automatically passed to Prince William upon Charles’ accession to the throne, with no corporate taxes paid. This is all in addition to other properties the Crown owns but cannot sell, including Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and two Crown estates.

Other personal assets passed on to Charles by the late Queen include her investments, art collection, jewelery and rare postage stamps, and Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Total assets are estimated at around $28 billion.

However, monarchists point out that the royal family is a major magnet for tourism in the UK and that the Sovereign Fund costs just US$1.50 per person per year – hardly a problematic sum for such a famous symbol of soft power .

“I really don’t care how much it all costs,” tweeted Isabel Oakeshott, journalist and editor at UK broadcaster Talk TV. “I can’t think of a better use of our taxes right now. It’s very simple who we are.”

The funeral and the events surrounding it, she wrote, “were a reminder of all that makes Britain great. Normal will return tomorrow, with all its crippling bills, NHS waiting lists and late trains, but we can hang on.”

The monarchy remains hugely popular with Britons, with the latest polls showing around 68% have a positive opinion of the institution. However, younger people are less enthusiastic than their elders, with less than half of 18-24 year olds saying Britain should continue to have a monarchy, compared with 86% of those aged 65 and over.

There’s no getting around the fact that royal farewells are expensive. Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 cost between £3 million and £5 million in 1997, or between $7 million and $8 million when adjusted for inflation. In 2002, it cost the Queen Mother about $10 million in today’s dollars, much of it for security.

But all of that is dwarfed by funeral expenses for Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Elizabeth, who reigned for 70 years and 214 days.

As well as billing for more than 10,000 police officers, 1,500 army personnel and thousands of marshals and volunteers just for the funeral, not to mention a contingent of Britain’s elite Special Aviation Service on standby in the event of a terrorist attack, there was another associated cost: the bank holiday on the day of the funeral.

Most businesses have been closed, as has the London Stock Exchange. For comparison, government data estimated that the bank holiday in June, which marked the Queen’s platinum jubilee, caused the country’s gross domestic product to plunge by 0.6%.

“It’s cost a lot of people a lot of money, especially small businesses,” Smith said. And while holidays could come with a surge in spending at restaurants and hotels, that’s not the case here, he added, because the immense crowds made the movement so difficult.

Of course, many sellers accepted the idea of ​​closing for the day, including Ryan Boyle, a clothes seller on Brick Lane.

“Look, I’m Irish, but I harbor no ill will toward her,” said the 59-year-old. “She’s dead and I’m not. For that I am grateful and I don’t mind closing out of respect.”

Others seemed less confident. Pio, a tailor from Soho, who declined to give his full name for privacy reasons and to avoid angering staunch royalist clients, bemoaned having to give his employees a day off for the funeral.

“I’m the one paying for it,” he said.

The new king has spoken of a slimmed down royal family and also a less expensive coronation for himself when it takes place next spring or summer. But the total cost of the royal transition – funeral, bank holiday weekend, coronation and new currency – “could net us 13 million nurses,” Smith said.

“It’s very much a two-way street,” he said of the royal family, “in terms of what we give and what they take.”

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-09-22/burial-fit-for-a-queen-yes-but-what-about-overall-royal-price-tag Queen Elizabeth’s funeral calls attention to royal spending

Alley Einstein

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