Posted by: aboutalbion | July 19, 2013

The cost of the British Monarchy is …….

Family matters continue to take priority over blogging at the moment.  

But there is just time for one post that evidences the observation made by William Cronon at the American Historical Association in January of this year.  In his Presidential Address, he observed that popular understandings of the past are ultimately more important than professional understandings of the past.  Put another way, professional historians do not impose their version of human history on common people.  Rather, in the end, common people impose their version on historians. 

The illustration I want to refer to concerns the cost of the British Monarchy (about which I have commented before). 

I didn’t read it myself, but towards the end of June 2013 “The Times” of London published the following sentence: “the Queen will receive a 5 per cent increase on the money she receives from taxpayers next year”. 

To their credit, “The Times” published a letter from a reader in Wiltshire on Saturday, 29 June, 2013. 

“She will not.  The payment, as you explain later, comes from the Crown Estate, which was surrendered by George III in 1760 in return for an annual grant.  Given the value of this estate, the nation had a very good deal.  Not one farthing of the monies paid to support the monarch comes from tax paid by her subjects, and it is time that the propagation of this myth ceased.” 

As an amateur historian, my understanding of the current arrangement is that, by the Sovereign Grant Act 2011, the Royal Household receives a grant of 15 per cent of the income of the Crown Estate.  The value of the Crown Estate is around £7 billion, and the income from that estate (which is paid to the British Exchequer) is around £250 million.  The grant to the Queen (for the Royal Household) is around £37 million.  

I conclude that a historian could not reasonably claim that the Queen receives any taxpayers’ money.  Yet the myth of the Monarchy being a drain on the public purse is so strongly held.


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