Parliament may have been informed that the Queen was ‘down to her last million’ and her palaces were crumbling as a result but the news of her financial embarrassment has done little to placate the Republican crowd (Boo! Hiss!) or ‘haters’ as they are technically known on The Royalist.
British author Kenan Malik has now weighed into the debate with a (rather well crafted) piece in The New York Times’s Room For Comment forum, in which he writes that, “trying to make sense of the royal finances is like trying to eat spaghetti with a spoon,” and points out that although her private fortune means the Queen is one of the richest women in the world, she is constantly ‘pleading poverty’ and has even sought public assistance to pay her heating bills. The piece is titled, "Britain's Welfare Queen." Ouch.
Malik provides a neat summary of the chain of events that have led to the current funding arrangements for the Queen. He writes: “The modern muddle began in 1760. King George III found himself £3 million in debt — a colossal sum, equivalent to more than £500 million in today’s money. To extricate himself, he surrendered to the government the management of, and revenues from, most of his property. In return, he received a fixed annual payment, known as the Civil List.”
So why is the monarchy so popular? Malik has a clever argument ; that the undemocratic head of state’s popularity is a predictable function of the contempt in which elected politicians are held.