The royal week: ambush selfies and a quasi scandalous engagement

The Queen checks out Game of Thrones and Prince William ponders another helicopter job


No Kate or Cheeks this week, but to compensate, we all got to see Queen Elizabeth II take a lot of time checking out the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones on a tour of the TV series’ set in Northern Ireland. As someone who’s spent considerably time on thrones, she seemed to be thinking, “That looks like the most uncomfortable piece of furniture ever created.” And no, she didn’t sit in it.

If that wasn’t enough pop culture for Her Maj, she also got an intro into the world of ambush selfies:

Someone who won’t be sitting on a throne any time soon is Prince William. If rumours are correct, the 32-year-old won’t be taking up the full-time royal duties, though his dad is 65 and his grandmother is 88. There are persistent reports that he’s going back to being a helicopter pilot in Norfolk. As the Daily Mail reports, “The duke of Cambridge will announce he is to become a helicopter pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance service rather than taking a full-time royal role. He and Kate are planning to base themselves at Anmer Hall, on the Sandringham Estate. Work is on a rota of five days on, three days off, for 365 days a year.” While William ponders his next move, younger brother Prince Harry was charming South America—first Brazil, then Chile—keeping his bachelor-prince babe magnetism firmly in check at the World Cup. Instead he chocked up gold stars by spending a lot of time with kids, playing sports and visiting rehab centres.

Ah, what a difference a week makes in Spain. A few days ago, the streets of Madrid were full as crowds celebrated Spain’s new king, Felipe VI, who promised a “new monarchy for new times.” But the tarnish and scandal that has plagued the family returned with a vengeance.

The monarch’s sister, Infanta Cristina, heard that the corruption cases against her and her husband are proceeding. The investigating judge didn’t buy her “I don’t know” defence, saying her husband’s alleged crimes would have been “difficult to commit without at least the knowledge and acquiescence of his wife.” She’s accused of spending embezzled money on home renovations and trips. There are still a few more legal steps before a trial, but the wheels of justice seem to be moving toward a court room.

Their father, King Juan Carlos, got slightly better news for yet another legal scandal. “Spain’s parliament has passed a law protecting former King Juan Carlos from lawsuits in Spanish civil and criminal courts, including two paternity suits filed in 2012 and 2013, to stem further damage to the monarchy’s battered prestige,” the Guardian reports. “Under the legislation passed on Thursday, Juan Carlos will only answer to the supreme court, Spain’s tribunal of last resort. Similar protection is afforded to high-ranking civil servants and people in political office in Spain. Without the legislation, the cases could have been brought in ordinary courts.”

Speaking of scandals, Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip got engaged to Sofia Hellqvist, a lady with “a past,” including posing topless with a snake strategically draped around her chest, plus taking part in a risque TV series, Paradise Hotel. Apparently his mum, Queen Silvia, wasn’t thrilled at all with the relationship. Since then she’s gotten all demure and princess-like, so much so that even Silvia grudgingly allowed her at more and more royal events. Finally, Sofia got the big reward: a ring, and we’ll get the spectacle of a tiara-packed royal wedding. But she’s certainly not forgotten the hard path to acceptance: she wore a flaming red dress to the official photo op.

Back in Britain, after a week of royal spectacle and displays of outrageous millinery at Ascot, the press delighted in picking apart the royal finances, courtesy of detailed annual reports released by Buckingham Palace.


It turns out removing asbestos and renovating a historic palace (technically a “Scheduled Ancient Monument”) after decades of benign neglect is really, really expensive and doesn’t involve a quick trip to Home Depot for some nails and asphalt (p. 17 of the report). And that $12-million helicopter the Queen got Prince William for his birthday was actually leased for use by the entire family and replaces other short-term rentals. Though the tabloids insist it’s “taxpayer” money being wasted, the reality is a bit more complicated. It always is, when it comes to royal finances.

Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs if you’re just not into Royal Finance 101.

The Sovereign Grant is derived from the Crown Estate (CE), the centuries-old lands owned by each successive sovereign. At the start of each reign, the profits are surrendered to the government and in turn, the Queen’s official expenses are met (Note: just the Queen’s official costs. Charles pays taxes and his own family’s expenses out of the Duchy of Cornwall, while the Queen pays the expenses of the other members of the royal family). So CE money passes through the Treasury on its way to the royal household. As the report says: “The Queen’s official expenditure is met from public funds in exchange for the surrender by the Queen of the revenue from the Crown Estate. The Sovereign Grant is calculated based on 15 per cent of the income account net surplus of the Crown Estate for the financial year two years previous. The Crown Estate surplus for the financial year 2011-12 amounted to £240.2 million thereby producing a Sovereign Grant of £36.1 million for 2013-14.

It’s the BEST DEAL EVER MADE BY POLITICIANS. They get pots and pots of profits (while successfully shielding their own expenses from such prying eyes), while the royals get all the nasty headlines. It must make the Queen long for her long summer vacation at Balmoral.

The palaces don’t slumber while the Queen’s away on holiday in the summer. The Art Newspaper reports that, for the first time in 500 years, a detailed survey is about to begin of the masterpieces in the Royal Collection, which includes a staggering number of Rembrandts, Vermeers and Bruegels. It turns out that every painting—an estimated 7,564 works in oil in all—hanging in all 13 royal residences will be carefully photographed and examined.

Next week?


The huge two-part Pippa Middleton interview landed by NBC’s Matt Lauer. It’s unclear as of now exactly why she’s talking, but don’t hold your breath for any juicy secrets about her sister, Kate, Cheeks and the rest of the royal family. There’s a rumour the interview is prelude to a well-paid job at, yup, the Today show. Hmmm.

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