Royal spending is at a record high, having shot up by more than £14 million in the past year—even as much of Britain feels an economic pinch, and the royal family faces more scrutiny than ever. According to the Sovereign Grant report, published by Buckingham Palace on Thursday, expenditure is up by 17% compared to the previous fiscal year, for a total of more than £100 million.
Sir Michael Stevens, keeper of the Privy Purse, said in a meeting at Buckingham Palace yesterday that it was a “challenging” time for the monarchy.
The cost to the taxpayer, however, has not increased. The Sovereign Grant—the pot of money the palace receives from the government—has remained steady at £86.3 million, with the queen covering the additional £14.6 in expenses from her own pocket. The royal family continues to cost £1.29 per British taxpayer.
The controversial spring trip that Prince William and Kate Middleton took to the Caribbean was the most expensive royal tour, coming in at £226,000. The ongoing, 10-year-long refurbishment of Buckingham Palace and other travel costs—including the expensive royal train—accounted for many of the additional expenses. Prince Charles, for example, spent £32,000 taking a charter flight to the royal premiere of the James Bond movie No Time to Die, while his high-profile trip to Barbados to mark the country’s move to become a republic cost £138,000. Charles is also using the royal train more and traveling by helicopter, his least favorite mode of transport because of the pollution. The prince has lobbied to use sustainable aviation fuel on royal flights, and although it is more expensive, it is now used for the queen’s helicopter and the royal flight.
June’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations also accounted for some of the additional expenses, costing £28 million—though they also generated billions of pounds for Britain’s struggling hospitality industry. And though Buckingham Palace has welcomed more visitors in the past year, the numbers are still not back up to pre-pandemic levels, which has accounted for additional lost revenue.
The report also shows that despite her age, the queen remains an active head of state. She carried out 201 engagements last year, while all of the working royals racked up nearly 2,300 engagements between them. Aides say there was a desire to get back to in-person engagements around the country and the Commonwealth as soon as social distancing restrictions were lifted last year, and the busy year for international travel resulted in a hike in expenditure.
One thing that was not mentioned in the report was the palace inquiry into allegations that Meghan Markle had bullied members of her staff at Kensington Palace. Though the findings of the inquiry were due to be made public in the review, the results will remain private because no money from the Sovereign Grant was spent on the inquiry, .
Claims that the duchess had bullied two members of staff and undermined a third were leaked to The Times just days before the Sussexes’ Oprah Winfrey interview, in what Meghan’s lawyers described as a “calculated smear campaign.” Meghan has consistently refuted the allegations. At the time, the palace said that it was looking into the claims, and it was expected that the findings of the inquiry and any subsequent action would be announced in the report.
Instead, it is now understood that not even those who made complaints about the duchess will be told about the outcome of the review. One palace insider told Vanity Fair that the queen wanted the inquiry handled privately to avoid any further damage being caused to the royal family’s public image. “It was damage limitation, protecting the royal family and also the Duchess of Sussex,” according to the source. “The queen feels there has been enough drama around the Sussexes, and she wants a line to be drawn.”
A palace spokesman added: “The review of the handling of historic bullying allegations was aimed at enabling the royal households to consider potential improvements to H.R. policies and procedures. The review has been completed and recommendations on our policies and procedures have been taken forward. We will not be commenting further.”