Royal archives need to open up and reveal official secrets: Republic

7 March 2017

Royal archives should be opened up to reveal millions of official secrets, according to a new campaign to be launched this weekend.

Campaign group Republic will be leading a new push to have royal archive material handed to the National Archives and subjected to the same rules as government records.

Graham Smith, Republic's CEO, said today:

"Millions of official papers, including letters to and from prime ministers and international figures, are locked away in Windsor Castle."

"Some experts have said the monarchy is more secretive than MI5 or the CIA.  That should be a cause of real concern."

"This secrecy means the official record of Britain’s head of state – evidence of exactly what’s been going on behind closed doors for decades – is kept a closely guarded secret."

"These are documents relating to the history and the job of our head of state, there's going to be all sorts of minutes and documentation and reports and discussions between civil servants, world leaders, those sort of things, that are completely hidden away."

"The British people have a right to know their past, they have a right to properly judge this institution and the people that serve in it and you can only really do that with full access to all the official records."

"The records of prime ministers, civil servants and minsiters are all handed to the National Archive and released after 20 or 30 years.  Why shouldn't the same be true of our head of state?"

The new campaign will be launched at this weekend's Members' Day and online over the following week.

Republic will be calling for the following reforms:

  •     A catalogue of Royal Archive material should be made immediately available to the public.
  •     Management and control of the Royal Archive should be handed entirely to the National Archive.
  •     The material held in the Royal Archive should be subject to the same rules for disclosure as any other official documents.
  •     The National Archive, rather than the Queen or her officials, should determine what material, if any, is strictly personal and private and hand it back to the royal household.
  •     The National Archive should establish a programme of systematically reviewing and releasing all material that is more than 30 years old.
  •     All material that is less than 30 years old should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
  •     Personal embarrassment to living people should not be accepted as a reason for non-disclosure, where the material is politically relevant and disclosure is in the public interest.
  •     All official material and records currently held by the Royal Household should be subjected to the same rules for archiving as any other official records held by the government and its agencies.

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