Britain's royal family has been forced to cut back on luxuries due to the Covid-19 economic shutdown, which has left them short tens of millions of pounds, placing a major renovation project in jeopardy.
The royal family has taken a £35 million hit from the pandemic, the Queen's money manager announced on Friday. Keeper of the Privy Purse Michael Stevens reported that the royals are further likely to sustain a funding shortfall of £15 million over the next three years, deprived of a reliable income from tourism to their many castles and residences.
The funding shortage will severely impact a 10-year, £369 million renovation of Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II's London residence, leaving a £20 million gap in its finances, Stevens said. But the money manager kept a stiff upper lip, promising not to burden taxpayers with the palace's repair needs and pledging he would "look to manage the impact through our own efforts and efficiencies."
The palace's heating, plumbing and wiring have not been thoroughly updated since shortly after World War II, according to British officials who claim a "catastrophic failure" is likely if the renovations aren't completed. However, the Queen has been very much on top of the home improvement project, dragging workmen back to the palace in May even before the announcement of the two-month lockdown's end.
The financial records released on Friday also confirmed that ex-royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had paid an "undisclosed sum" to reimburse taxpayers for renovations to Frogmore Cottage, their home near Windsor Castle. After taking £2.4 million from the public purse - i.e. the British people - to fix up the home (which is not really a cottage at all, but a mansion in its own right), the couple formally renounced their royal responsibilities and moved to California - though not before taking the most expensive royal trip on record, a £246,000 jaunt to Africa with their son Archie. A lucrative Netflix deal has seemingly allowed them to pay back the British taxpayer, though the exact amount they contributed to the Sovereign Grant that funds the royal family's lavish lifestyle will not be made public until next year's accounts are published.
While the notion of the Queen having to make do with outdated bathroom fixtures for a few more years is heart-wrenching indeed, UK residents without multiple palaces and fabulous jewel hoards are unlikely to cry over their monarch's reported financial distress. As of last month, the country was mired in the worst recession of any global economy and the worst in its own history, with its economic output dropping 20.4 percent in the second quarter of 2020.
And while glimmers of recovery were noted in August, they've largely winked out in September, with a second lockdown seemingly imminent. A gradual easing of restrictions has been replaced by a directive to work from home once again, avoid gathering in groups of over six, and adhere to a 10pm curfew.