28 Jun 2009 Graham Smith
In what can only be described as one of the most breathtakingly dishonest pieces of political spin to come out of the Buckingham palace press office the Queen will again tomorrow claim that the money she costs the taxpayer is offset by revenue from the Crown Estate.
The monarch’s own website states:
Head of State expenditure is met from public funds in exchange for the surrender by The Queen of the revenue from the Crown Estate. In the financial year to 31 March 2008 the revenue surplus from the Crown Estate paid to the Treasury amounted to £200 million.
The implication here is that the taxpayer is getting a good deal – making a profit on the monarchy. It’s a line that is swallowed hook, line and sinker by many royal apologists who are all too eager to excuse the Windsor family’s abuse of public money.
On the Times article which reported attempts by the palace increase the Civil List one reader added the comment: “The Queen should take back her own estates and fund the operation of the Crown herself.”
Let’s be quite clear about the true nature of the Crown Estate: It is not and never has been the personal property of the Windsor family.
The key question is this: if we scrapped the Civil List or abolished the monarchy altogether, what would happen to the Crown Estate? The answer is simple: it would continue to raise revenue for the government.
That “exchange” the palace disingenuously mentions was not an exchange between the family and government, it was a transfer of revenue from one branch of the state to another.
The Crown Estate has always been there to provide funds for the running of the government. A long time ago the government consisted of the King and his Privy Council. To pay for the apparatus of the state, which was much simpler and cheaper back then, the Crown Estate raised revenue that went directly to the King.
In the 18th century the job of government was moving from the palace to parliament, so revenue from the Crown Estate was transferred to the Treasury. Of course that money had also been used to run the palace and fund the lives of the King and his family. So in order to ensure the King could continue to run his palace in the style to which he was accustomed the government of the day set up the Civil List, a payment to the palace by the government.
That’s it. There was no personal sacrifice on the part of the monarch. There is no personal claim on the Crown Estate from the Windsor family. If we become a republic the Crown Estate will remain as it is today, perhaps with a change of name.
So it is dishonest to claim the Crown Estate revenue somehow makes the £183m bill for the monarchy OK. It doesn’t.
One final thought. To those, like the reader of the Times article, who think the exchange should perhaps be reversed, be careful what you wish for. As I said, the Crown Estate was there to pay for the running of the state. When that exchange took place the Treasury took on full responsibility for funding state activities. If the exchange were reversed the palace would not only get the Crown Estate revenue back and lose the Civil List, they would also have to start paying the state’s bills – that’s billions of pounds for the NHS, the welfare payments, the armed forces, schools and much more besides.
The taxpayer is a net loser in this arrangement. The Civil List has survived long after the monarchy served any useful purpose. We can scrap the Civil List, keep the Crown Estate revenue and start talking seriously about sensible constitutional change.Tweet this post This entry was posted on Sunday, June 28th, 2009 at 10:46 am and is filed under Monarchy myths, Republic & Campaigns, Royal Finances. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Comments are now closed.