Queen Elizabeth II’s personal finances are largely a mystery, and there is much we don’t know about the Crown’s assets. Those are two different things – the Queen has her own wealth, her own private property, her own portfolio of cash, investments, art and real estate (Sandringham, Balmoral). Then she has what amounts to the “guardian” of Crown assets, like Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace, the Crown’s extensive art collection, all of Crown jewelry, and of course, all of the Crown real estate across the UK. The Guardian has an interesting – and very complicated – story about why people don’t know much about the Queen’s private wealth. It’s because the Queen used her position as head of state to personally lobby the government to keep her “embarrassing” wealth and assets hidden.
The Queen successfully lobbied the government to change a draft law in order to conceal her “embarrassing” private wealth from the public, according to documents discovered by the Guardian. A series of government memos unearthed in the National Archives reveal that Elizabeth Windsor’s private lawyer put pressure on ministers to alter proposed legislation to prevent her shareholdings from being disclosed to the public.
Following the Queen’s intervention, the government inserted a clause into the law granting itself the power to exempt companies used by “heads of state” from new transparency measures. The arrangement, which was concocted in the 1970s, was used in effect to create a state-backed shell corporation which is understood to have placed a veil of secrecy over the Queen’s private shareholdings and investments until at least 2011. The true scale of her wealth has never been disclosed, though it has been estimated to run into the hundreds of millions of pounds.
Evidence of the monarch’s lobbying of ministers was uncovered by a Guardian investigation into the royal family’s use of an arcane parliamentary procedure, known as Queen’s consent, to secretly influence the formation of British laws. Unlike the better-known procedure of royal assent, a formality that marks the moment when a bill becomes law, Queen’s consent must be sought before legislation can be approved by parliament. It requires ministers to alert the Queen when legislation might affect either the royal prerogative or the private interests of the crown.
The website of the royal family describes it as “a long established convention” and constitutional scholars have tended to regard consent as an opaque but harmless example of the pageantry that surrounds the monarchy. But documents unearthed in the National Archives, which the Guardian is publishing this week, suggest that the consent process, which gives the Queen and her lawyers advance sight of bills coming into parliament, has enabled her to secretly lobby for legislative changes.
Thomas Adams, a specialist in constitutional law at Oxford University who reviewed the new documents, said they revealed “the kind of influence over legislation that lobbyists would only dream of”. The mere existence of the consent procedure, he said, appeared to have given the monarch “substantial influence” over draft laws that could affect her.
[From The Guardian]
The rest of the Guardian’s piece details just what kind of lobbying was made behind-the-scenes, especially when the Queen’s private lawyers got involved. The “embarrassing” quote is basically about how the Queen would be totally embarrassed if people… knew how much money she had and where she invested her private wealth. I’ll admit that it’s sort of confusing, but that’s the point. These are archaic mechanisms being exploited by a head of state to keep her double-dealing and enormous wealth a secret. It’s an abuse of power and “meddling” in parliamentary procedures. Omid Scobie updated his post with a statement from Buckingham Palace where they were basically like “nothing to see here, everything is above board, don’t worry!” Yeah we’re not taking your word for it, Petty Betty.
Buckingham Palace have denied the @guardian’s report which claims that the Queen blocked government legislation in the 1970s to hide her wealth, calling it a “purely formal” process.
The newspaper’s investigation was based on memos found in the British National Archives. pic.twitter.com/1ltnNd0Fnr
— Omid Scobie (@scobie) February 8, 2021
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