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News that the House of Windsor may have been a bit too dodgy with royal family finances has cheesed off a lot of Brits, who must feel the same way we Yanks do when we learn about bridges to nowhere and other wasteful government programs.
A report in London last week by parliament's public accounts committee found that Elizabeth II's reserves are down to a "historically low" £1 million ($1.65 million) because, as committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge noted, the queen had "not been served well" by her household accountants or by the Treasury, which is supposed to scrutinise royal spending.
"The household needs to get better at planning and managing its budgets for the longer term - and the Treasury should be more actively involved in reviewing what the household is doing," she said.
Frankly, we're gobsmacked. It wasn't too long ago, it seems, that Elizabeth II was hailed as one of the richest women on the planet, and the rest of the royals are forever being photographed rattling around in one castle or another, thank you very much.
In this country if a congressman is caught too often with his hand in the cookie jar we throw the bounder out on Election Day - but you can't very well do this with a queen, prince, duke or duchess.
So, forgive us for being cheeky, but we'd like to offer some modest suggestions on how the royals can get their affairs in order, through a combination of cost-cutting and revenue-generating measures:
- Cut back the Changing of the Guard ceremonies at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. This month they're scheduled every other day on even days, next month, on odd days, and then from April to July every day of the week, involving a battalion of the Household Division and occasionally by other infantry battalions.
At any given time scores of British Army Foot Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, Welsh Guards, Grenadier Guards and Coldstream Guards parade around in fancy scarlet tunics and bearskin caps and plumes. This nonsense has been going on for centuries. The dry-cleaning bills alone must cost a fortune.
We say, once every few weeks send out a soldier in a Denison smock, who would stroll over to a similarly attired soldier and say, "OK, laddie, take a break."
- Ditch the Gold State Coach, an enclosed, eight horse-drawn carriage built in 1762 and used at the coronation of every British monarch since George IV. This four-ton, 24-foot-long, 12-foot behemoth is a real hay-burner, not to mention heavy on the upkeep. The whole works is gilded, festooned with sculptures of cherubs and Tritons, as well as lined with Moroccan leather, velvet and satin.
We say, it's time to trade it in for a more sensible vehicle, such as a Toyota Camry. Better yet, follow NASCAR's lead and plaster it with Pennzoil stickers and other lucrative advertisements. They're missing a golden opportunity to cash in.
- On this note, Elizabeth II herself could be raking in a pretty penny by making commercials or consenting to product-placement promotions.
While it might be unseemly for the queen to appear in, say, a Dulcolax ad, we see nothing wrong with her pressing a pendant while calling, "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!"
At the very least she should consider making pitches for companies offering reverse mortgages, long-term health care and guaranteed payment of funeral expenses.
Prince Charles, meanwhile, would be an ideal spokesman for low-T products. And imagine how much Gerber or Aveeno would fork over for a 30-second spot featuring the Duchess of Cambridge.
- Sell off the Crown Jewels and replace them with charms from the Pandora Collection or Alex and Ani bangles. This is a no-brainer. St Edward's Crown, crafted of gold in 1661 and covered with four crosses pattée, four fleurs-de-lis and 444 precious stones, alone could pull in enough pounds sterling to keep the lights on at Frogmore, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Balmoral Castle.
- Speaking of royal residences, last week's report warned that palace officials were failing to invest in repairs, with nearly 40 percent of the royal estate considered to be in an unacceptable condition.
According to published reports, one MP noticed leaks in Buckingham Palace's picture gallery, allowing rain to come down on priceless paintings.
This can't go on. If the queen can't keep up her palaces it might be time to move into a condo, studio apartment, or maybe a double-wide parked out behind the Royal Mews.
We hope Elizabeth II can turn things around, so that the Brits don't have to change the words to their national anthem:
"Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour
Long may she reign."