Britain: Royal Golden Jubilee

THIS WEEKEND’S Golden Jubilee celebrations survived a crisis – Buckingham Palace started burning down. After the public were evacuated and firefighters efficiently got the blaze under control, TV commentators asked the question on everyone’s lips: "Has anything expensive got scorched?"

Royal Golden Jubilee

Who put the gold in the Golden Jubilee?

Contrary to some press reports, the Queen and her extended family are not skint – the royal household has personal wealth in the billions.

The Queen’s private wealth is valued at £1.15 billion, excluding royal palaces and property "held in trust for the nation" (most of which never sees the light of day).

These include the world’s largest private art collection, whose books of Leonardo ’cartoons’ are valued at £3.22 billion. The stones in the Crown jewels are priceless – the most prestigious being worth at least £80 million.

The royal estate owns 285 houses and apartments together with large parts of Britain. (Another four billionaire aristocratic families own huge and very profitable sections of London. While 99.9% live on just 9% of Britain’s land mass, the other 0.1% own much of the rest).

The Queen’s own properties such as Sandringham and Balmoral are worth £61 million. Income from the Duchy of Lancaster and Duchy of Cornwall give the royals extra spare cash.

Her Majesty and her advisers invest in anything which makes money. Ethical investors they’re not. The privy purse private estates pension fund holds shares in tobacco firms and arms manufacturers.

The royal coffers had about £20 million in 1952. From then up to 1992 a secret deal, letting the Queen reclaim tax on dividends and interest from investments, saved her about £1 billion.

Power and wealth

It’s hard to get the whole truth – there’s a lot of secrecy around about these finances. But her racehorses alone are worth £3.6 million, her inherited stamp collection £102 million, her 30 furs (kept in a fridge at Buckingham Palace) are worth £1 million, her wine stock £2 million, cars £7 million. Wedding presents worth £2 million in 1947 (austerity days for some) are now worth £50 million.

The Queen has power as well as riches. She signs assent to parliamentary bills, can appoint the Prime Minister and dissolve parliament. Armed forces personnel, judges, MPs etc swear allegiance to her rather than the elected parliament.

When push comes to shove, these powers could be used to dismiss a government and even use the armed forces against anyone who failed to uphold the ruling class’s interests.

In recent years, this family’s antics have made more and more people ask why they still command such wealth and power. We call for the abolition of the monarchy, and all other feudal relics and symbols of privilege.

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June 2002