Buckingham Palace has become an iconic institution. It’s renowned worldwide as the bastion of the British royal family and an impregnable fortress where the Windsor clan can relax and unwind in privacy. To think of the royals losing their beloved ancestral seat would be unthinkable. Yet, according to Prince Philip, that’s what nearly happened 50 years ago, and for the most peculiar reason as well.
Alongside Buckingham Palace, the British royal family is associated with immense wealth. So it might shock you to realize that in the 1970s they nearly lost both.
The Express reports that way back in 1969, Prince Philip was just coming to the end of his 18-day tour of Canada and the United States when he shockingly revealed on television that the Royal Family’s financial circumstances were not in the best of health. In other words, the pot of cash was running out and they were scraping the bottom of the barrel.
In a desperate bid to make ends meet, the Duke of Edinburgh revealed to stunned viewers that cash-flow problems entailed he would probably have to give up playing polo. He also anticipated that the royal family would “go into the red next year.”
This would have suggested a period of indignity for the royals, but as the story goes, that wasn’t the worst of it.
Prince Philip also added that if some sort of bail-out was not forthcoming, they might even have had to say a fond farewell to Buckingham Palace.
“If nothing happens… I don’t know. We may have to move to smaller premises. Who knows”
Prince Philip’s remarks were not received well by a cash-strapped British public, according to royal observer Sarah Gristwood.
The end of the 1960s and dawn of the 1970s were a low tide in the British economy. Living standards and household income were in decline. A weak government aggravated matters, and many voices were calling for the reform of historic institutions that they perceived were preying on the Great British public like leeches.
The Royal Family were first in the firing line of many an angry agitator, and that’s why Prince Philip’s remarks about being “poor” went down like a lead balloon.
“We never quite know with Prince Philip, when he is joking and when he is really making a mistake,” Gristwood said.
“When he said, that goodness, yes he might have to give up polo. It really didn’t go down too well. That was exactly the feeling that the royals were infinitely overprivileged.”
These days, of course, thanks to the like of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, the royal family has never been so popular. The Sovereign Grant for 2017-18 was $99 million and there’s no danger of the Queen losing Buckingham Palace anytime soon. A 10-year refurbishment of the old building has been announced and it is set to cost $484 million. And with that in mind, Prince William and Prince Harry probably won’t have to make the sacrifices their grandfather almost made.