The Queen turns 90 today, and as British Prime Minister David Cameron, who incidentally is also funded by the taxpayer’s purse, points out, she has been a “rock of strength for the U.K.”
How owning vast tracts of land, immense wealth, a huge property portfolio, and being the figurehead for Britain’s antiquated class system has been a “rock of strength” for the millions of the Queen’s subjects in the U.K. who belong to the growing ranks of the working poor, the unemployed, the homeless, and the hopeless is open to debate.
Not one to miss an opportunity to utter the sort of statement which beggars belief and makes him look like a prize plum, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron beamed that the Queen was “a rock of strength for our nation, for our Commonwealth and on many occasions for the whole world.”
The BBC, which incidentally is also funded by the taxpayer’s purse, and which is renowned for priding itself on propping up the establishment with its unquestioning and servile style of reporting, relates Cameron’s comments as if they were as indisputable as the rising of the sun.
They’re not. In the spirit of democracy here’s a few reasons why the Queen hasn’t really been a “rock of strength for the U.K.,” but more of a financial burden and a most peculiar figurehead for any country which prides itself on fairness and equality for all.
Show Me The Money!
If you can call the royal family one thing, you can call them rich. How rich, no one really knows because their finances are exempt from public scrutiny, courtesy of a controversial legal reform which grants them absolute protection from the Freedom of Information Act.
According to Buckingham Palace, the royal family only costs the British taxpayer £35.7 million a year to maintain. Which means every person in Britain has to shell out about 56p a year for the privilege of being a subject. Yet, beyond that the water is muddied somewhat.
The Independent reported in January, 2011, “Sweeping changes to the Freedom of Information Act will reverse advances which had briefly shone a light on the royal finances – including an attempt by the Queen to use a state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace – and which had threatened to force the disclosure of the Prince of Wales’s prolific correspondence with ministers. Lobbying and correspondence from junior staff working for the royal household and Prince Charles will now be held back from disclosure.”
“Buckingham Palace confirmed that it had consulted with the Coalition Government over the change in the law. The Government buried the plan for ‘added protection’ for the royal family in the small print of plans called “opening up public bodies to public scrutiny’.”
Ian Davidson, a former member of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), told the Independent, “I’m astonished that the Government should find time to seek to cover up royal finances. When I was on the PAC what we wanted was more disclosure not less.”
“Every time we examined royal finances we found extravagance and indulgence as well as abuse of expenses by junior royals. Everywhere we looked, there were savings to be made for the Government. This sends the wrong message about public disclosure and accountability.”
Buckingham Palace begged to differ and argued that the change to the law was necessary because the Freedom of Information Act had failed to protect the constitutional position of the monarch and the heir to the throne. So, in the future, when Prince Andrew fancies helping himself to £123,731 of the public purse to finance a 11 day trip to the Far East, the British taxpayer just won’t know about it.
Our Name Is?
Historically, any royal family are meant to be the living embodiment of the country they represent. In medieval times, the King and the land he ruled were said to be one. So it must be a tad disappointing for fervent traditionalists to acknowledge that the British royal family actually have German origins and the name “Windsor” doesn’t have its genesis in the mythical mists of time.
Since the time of Queen Victoria, the Royals went by the surname of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, which is a bit of a teutonic mouthful, to say the least. Anyway, to cut a long story short, on July 17, 1917, King George V suddenly declared that the royal family had a new surname — Windsor. Obviously you cannot get much more Anglo-Saxon than that, but why did old George do it? The simple answer is public and political pressure forced the King to distance himself and his family as far as possible from his mother country — Deutschland.
Germany had been at war with Great Britain for three long years and anti-German sentiments were at an all time high. To make matters worse, the much loathed Kaiser Wilhelm II was the King’s first cousin.
Letters to the palace from No. 10 Downing Street, asked how the Prime Minister could expect to defeat Germany when the Sovereign he served and the Sovereign’s relations were all Germans?
At the same time, the King was coping with violent public unrest over high unemployment and living conditions, increasingly fueled by militant labor unions and socialists. Not to mention an editorial in The Times by author H.G. Wells, who remarked on the King’s “alien and uninspired court.” To which the King furiously and memorably responded, “I may be dull, but I’ll be damned if I’m an alien.”
Help was at hand in the form of Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who devised a cunning plan. By shedding their ancient German identities, the royal family could declare their loyalty and devotion to the nation in one of the most powerful ways possible — by changing their name.
With a deft sleight of hand, potentially unruly mobs baying for royal blood were transformed into hordes of flag waving subjects. The final sting in this particular “tale” is that research into the Royal Archives later revealed that both the last will and testament of King Edward VIII and his father, George V, were still signed off with the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha surname.
Hitler And The King
The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip Mountbatten is often referred to in more plebeian quarters as “Phil the Greek,” which is ironic because although he was born on Corfu, he has a lot more German than Greek blood running through his veins and hails from the House of, wait for it, Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg.
In fact, the name Mountbatten is a name the young Philip Battenberg adopted because when he became a naturalized British subject, he wanted an Anglicized version of his mother’s maiden name. Incidentally, Philip’s sister, Sophie, was married to SS Colonel and aide to Heinrich Himmler, Prince Christoph of Hesse, the basis perhaps of Mohamed Al Fayed’s wild allegations about Prince Phillip. However, it’s always worth remembering in such instances that Prince Philip’s mother, who became a Greek Orthodox nun, once sheltered a Jewish family in occupied Athens.
It was, in fact, King Edward VIII whose Nazi connections have proved most problematic to the House of Windsor. Edward and his lady love, Wallis Simpson, seemed besotted with Nazism and even went as far to meet up and have a cosy chat with old Adolph himself and enjoy a personal guided tour of an actual concentration camp.
Of course, this was all before the outbreak of the Second World War, but even so, many Brits thought their King was far too sympathetic towards what was in effect was his “mother land.” As far as Hitler was concerned when King Edward abdicated to marry his American divorcee, it was disastrous because with Eddie on the throne, the Fuhrer had high hopes for a strong alliance between Germany and Britain.
Instead, with the UK under the rule of King George VI, Hitler got war. The Duke of Windsor would share Hitler’s lament and during his years in exile during the war, he reportedly said, “It would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler was overthrown,” but when in a more positive state of mind the Duke allegedly told a friend, “after the war is over and Hitler will crush the Americans… We’ll take over… They [the British] don’t want me as their King, but I’ll be back as their leader.”
Now while many staunch Republicans may claim in a metaphorical sense that the royal family are nothing but a bunch of bloodsucking parasites, who but the most fervent and fevered anti-monarchist would dare to suggest they were somehow related to the real-life diabolical villain who inspired the creation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula?
Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler, wasn’t a nice guy. In fact, he was a psychopath who enjoyed impaling people on spikes and drinking the blood and eating the flesh of his enemies. The Romanian party prince’s other hobbies included decapitation, gouging people’s eyes out, and having them boiled and skinned alive. So it leaves somewhat of an unsavory taste in one’s mouth to discover that the Romanian Tourist Board is busy promoting the alleged family ties between the British royal family and the Transylvanian tyrant in a bid to boost tourism to the area.
Apparently Vlad the cad was related to Queen Mary, consort of George V, Prince Charles’ great grandfather. And rather than play down his connections to the bloody and brutal slayer, in a 2011 documentary about the Carpathian mountains, Prince Charles made humorous references to “Grandpa Dracula” and quipped, “‘The genealogy shows I am descended from Vlad the Impaler, so I do have a bit of a stake in the country.”
When one thinks of the Queen’s culinary life, thoughts automatically turn to such refined delicacies as a grilled Dover sole, on a bed of wilted spinach, or cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
A suspicious looking burger of unknown origin perched on a stale lettuce leaf, topped of by a slab of processed cheese, sprinkled with what looks like a diseased alcoholic’s blood speckled vomit, is the last thing you could imagine Her Majesty wolfing down after a night on the tiles. Yet surprisingly, ‘fast-food Liz’ as she’s known in the seedier areas of Slough, owns a drive-through McDonalds in the town.
Yes! That’s Right! The Queen is Ronald McDonald’s landlady. She owns the Bath Road Retail Park in Slough, which encompasses not only a drive-through McDonalds, but is also home to a B&Q superstore, and branches of Comet, JJB Sports, and Mothercare. The Crown Estate purchased the site for a cool £92 million and are no doubt quids in for the foreseeable future. Although it’s highly doubtful that the Queen salivates like a playful bloodhound at the slightest scent of a Mctasty or breaks out in a cold sweat at the promise of a thick shake.
You Can Bank On It!
How much truth there are in wild allegations of the Queen’s personal wealth is open to interpretation but it is a simple matter of fact that the Queen has established a company called the Bank of England Nominees Ltd, whose investors and investments are exempt from all public scrutiny.
In practice, it allows any head of state complete anonymity when buying shares. So, in theory, because the Queen does not have to annually declare her interests, she could be investing in arms or firms performing controversial biotech research, we just don’t know. Of course, following her coronation in 1953, the Queen didn’t pay any tax on her vast fortune until she was put under pressure to start “voluntarily” doing so in 1993, but, surprise, surprise, how little or how much is still a secret. Now, how about that Jack?
The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind
Prince Charles has been a prime target for an awful lot of criticism during his time in the public eye and according to the Daily Mail, the Queen has also chipped in, by criticizing her eldest son for employing too many servants and taking his own personal white leather toilet suit with him to public functions.
In June, 2013, the Daily Mail criticized the Prince for speaking about the evils of “monstrous modern architecture” and then spending £38 million on a hideous looking giant supermarket depot near Milton Keynes. The paper has also insinuated that Prince Charles has waged a 20-year secret campaign to make him the richest King in history.
The Independent also had a pot shot at the financial situation of the future King when they reported in 2010, “The Queen is set to become one of the wealthiest crowned heads in Europe after the future of the British monarchy was secured in a historic deal with the Government that will give the House of Windsor a share of the £210m profits from government estates relinquished by George III.”
“The Civil List and the parliamentary system for funding the head of state are to be abolished, and from 2013, the Queen will receive her funding directly from the Crown Estate, which owns £6bn of British land and business. The deal means the Queen, and her successors, will not have to dip into her private wealth to help fund her crumbling palaces and staff wages, reducing financial concerns for Prince Charles when he ascends the throne.”
With assets covering Regent Street in London’s West End shopping area, Ascot racecourse, Windsor Great Park, and over 265,000 acres of farmland, The Crown Estate also stretches out to the 12 nautical miles which surround Britain. In other words, the Royal family owns the seabed which lies beneath 7,700 miles of the UK’s coastline and as the Daily Mail wasted no time in pointing out, “It’s no secret that the natural resources in our seabed are a goldmine that could hoist the Crown Estate’s income into the stratosphere.”
“That will certainly be the case if one development which Prince Charles has been pushing for with all his usual eco-enthusiasm — offshore wind farms — gets the go-ahead. Charles, a student and vociferous campaigner for renewable energy, is vehemently opposed to wind turbines being erected on land where, he says, they are a ‘horrendous blot on the landscape’. He refuses to have them on his Duchy of Cornwall estates. But he supports them being built offshore. And by a happy coincidence, any offshore wind farm will have to pay rent to the Crown Estates.
“By 2020, the number of wind turbines around the nation’s coastline is predicted to rise to almost 7,000 and could push the Crown Estate’s present income to something approaching half a billion pounds a year — and rising.”
It’s All Mine!
In 2013, the Queen struck a deal with her eldest to divvy up the spoils of a new gold bonanza discovered in Cornwall. After an old Cornish tin mine was reopened and traces of gold found there, potentially worth millions of pounds, no time was wasted in resolving a centuries old row between the Crown Estate and Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall over who has the rights to any profits found in that particular neck of the woods. Quite naturally, a deal was quickly struck to split the proceeds of any gold reserves successfully mined.
As someone once said, “It’s just like the Sopranos but with different accents.”
[Photo by Geoff Pugh/WPA Pool /Getty Images]