One of the stories which should have gotten more attention this week was the one about Queen Elizabeth ordering construction workers to go back to work on the Buckingham Palace renovations in early May. The Queen and the government authorized a decade-long, £369 million renovation of BP in 2017, and the work was paused at the start of the pandemic. The story was that the Queen ordered workers to restart before the government lifted the lockdown though. So, it’s just a series of reminders: Liz doesn’t actually care about the peasants, Liz got the taxpayers to pay for her extensive palace renovation, and the Queen is still in lockdown at Windsor Castle, and she’ll be locked down there for months. All of which means that no one is allowed to pay to visit BP, which means the royal family’s tourism money is going to take a big hit in 2020.
From Queen Elizabeth’s extended self-isolation at Windsor Castle to Prince Charles’s positive diagnosis in March, the coronavirus crisis has already seriously affected the members of the royal family. Now, as officials and experts prepare for a long and painful downturn that could last beyond the country’s lockdown, the palace is preparing for how the crisis might affect their long term financial future.
According to the Sun, the head of the royal household, Lord Chamberlain Earl William Peel, sent an email to his staff about the palace’s uncertain financial future. In the email, he estimated that revenue from tourism would be down by a third over 2020. Usually, Buckingham Palace opens state rooms to the public when the queen goes to Balmoral for the summer, but last week they announced that the palace will remain closed, as will many of the other attractions managed by the household, from the Queen’s Galleries to Windsor Castle and the estates in London.
“The crisis has already tested our resilience, adaptability and preparedness in many ways and at all levels across the organization. It has also had a significant impact on the activities of the whole Royal Household,” he said in the email, which was viewed by the Sun. “Although the U.K. appears to be over the peak of infections, it remains unclear when measures such as social distancing will come to an end. We must therefore assume it could still be many weeks, if not months, before we are able to return to business as usual.”
According to the Sun, some palace aides are facing pay freezes and job cuts, in addition to an already in-effect recruitment freeze and halt to new construction. “Many staff are loyal and will do what they do for a pay cut. But the email went down like a lead balloon,” an aide said.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said that these discussions have only just begun. “The whole country is very likely to be impacted financially by coronavirus and the Royal Household is no exception,” it read. “However, the time to address this will be when the full impact of the situation is clearer.” Over the weekend, the Sunday Times released their annual Rich List, and according to the queen’s net worth has decreased by £20 million since last year, due mainly to upkeep expenses on her portfolio of properties and the crash of the stock market, as her holdings are mainly in British blue-chip companies. However, they added, her stamp collection is still worth about £100 million.
I’ve always heard that royal staffers are paid abominably anyway, they just stick around because working for royalty looks good on a CV. And now they’ll have to take a pay cut? Because of the trickiness of how the Sovereign Grant is funded partially by tourism? I don’t know. It seems like the Queen could easily find *some* way to pay staff salaries at current rates, without having to fire anyone. That being said, I have no idea why royal households employ so many people anyway, so if staff needs to be culled, then so be it. But it looks kind of horrible if the Queen – one of the richest women in the world and the owner of a gold piano – is crying poverty and laying off staff.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.