This palace is a mess, Your Majesty
THE ROOF leaks, the wallpaper's peeling; there's no cash to fix it
ALEXANDRA SHIMO | July 9, 2008 |
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whose personal fortune is pegged at an estimated $670 million, cannot afford to change the wallpaper, fix the leaks, repair the crumbling masonry, nor remove the asbestos in her official residences, according to a new financial report. Most of the state rooms have not been refurbished since the Queen came to the throne in 1952, while parts of the electrical wiring at Buckingham Palace date from 1948. At Windsor Castle, only the state rooms that were damaged by the 1992 fire have been redecorated. According to royal aides, the Queen worries she will have to entertain guests in rooms with peeling wallpaper. Of particular concern is the leaky roof over Buckingham Palace's picture gallery, which houses works by masters such as Rembrandt. In 2007, a chunk of the facade fell off the palace, narrowly missing Princess Anne's parked car.
The Queen's accountant, Sir Alan Reid, who has the decidedly plum title of Keeper of the Privy Purse, says the backlog of essential maintenance and repairs has grown because the government has frozen the funds allocated to the upkeep of Her Majesty's official properties. (In return for the profits of the Crown Estates, the government pays to maintain the palaces.) For the past 12 years, those funds have been held at $30 million. The royal household has made repeated requests for more money, all rejected. The palace estimates it would cost $65 million to fix the backlog and rewire the buildings, a price tag that doesn't include redecoration costs. Aides believe Her Majesty is being squeezed out by the cost of the London Olympics. "We were unsuccessful in securing more money from the government," Reid says. "It was a major disappointment. That money was badly needed."