The British Government, and presumably the British taxpayer, has once again made a particularly handsome profit from the monarchy - over £147 million, that is about A$350 million. The profit increased this year by about £7 million, that is over A$16 million. Latest reports from the Crown Estate indicate the profit next year will be even larger.
The profit arises because of the income the British Government receives from the Crown Estate and certain other hereditary revenues. In return, the government funds the cost of the British monarchy, which last year was £37.4 million. Until 1760, the costs of the Crown were paid by the king directly from these revenues. From that time the practice developed where the sovereign agreed, for the term of his or her reign, to hand over these revenues to parliament in return for, what was called, the Civil List. Even with other grants-in-aid, this has proved to be a bargain, at least in the present reign.
For each Briton, this year the cost of the crown is about 62 pence per year. Balanced against this is the fact that the government received, for each Briton, about £3.10. In other words, the annual profit from the monarchy for each Briton is around £2.48. When the annual report on the royal finances was released in London on June 28, Keeper of the Privy Purse, Alan Reid, stressed this was “… the annual cost, not the daily, weekly or monthly cost”.
“We are pleased that the total cost of the monarchy is lower in real terms than it was in 2001,” he observed. “The reduction in the amount of head of state expenditure reflects the continuous attention the royal household pays to obtaining the best value for money in all areas of expenditure. In the current year there was a real increase of 1.4 per cent, which mainly arises from long-haul overseas visits, undertaken at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”
He said other increases had arisen because of increased security vetting needed in response to members of the media attempting to gain entrance to royal residences by deception and for Freedom of Information inquiries. You can just imagine the sort of inquiries from the armies of gossip columnists and embittered republicans.
The largest area of funding is the Property Grant-in-Aid, which meets the costs of property maintenance, utilities, telephones and related services of the occupied royal palaces. Its core funding will remain frozen at £15 million until 2008-09 when it will have remained at that level for ten years.
It has to be emphasised that the total cost of the monarchy does not include any salary or annuity for the Queen. This is a misconception at times encouraged by malevolent interests in the press and among republican politicians. They try, dishonestly, to create the impression that the monarchy diverts vast amounts of the taxpayers’ funds for the Queen’s personal use. The plain fact is that unlike a president, the Queen is not paid - these are funds to maintain the official residences, the staff, the entertainment, and ceremonial and other functions.
Nor is the Queen paid as head of the Commonwealth, nor as Queen of Australia, nor indeed as Queen of Canada, New Zealand or any other realm. I do not mention these facts, as one reader has suggested, to create sympathy for the Queen. It is merely to ensure that the truth, and not falsity, is propagated.
The profit realised by the British Government does not take into account the considerable tourist revenue for the UK which the monarchy no doubt attracts; nor, more important, the stability, which flows from the crown there and in countries as far apart geographically, but not constitutionally, as Canada and Australia.
Of the world's seven oldest continuing democracies, five are constitutional monarchies. Elizabeth II is Queen of four of these. And although the Queen has been our sovereign for over half the life of our Commonwealth of Australia, she has never asked for, nor have we ever paid anything for her service to the nation. For all of her realms the Queen remains an extraordinary bargain.