Yesterday evening, the mainstream media treated us to a series of stories whose central themes were to try and underline the cost of the Monarchy to taxpayers. In case you didn’t see, the first one of interest was from the Daily Mirror that was entirely wrong in all but one detail on the Royal Household leasing a new helicopter. The second piece, perhaps more invidious in its approach, was based around reported increased costs for improvements and repairs to Kensington Palace.
As everyone knows, the end of June is always a hot time for discussing royal finances as the impeding Sovereign Grant report on the Household’s management of funding the past year is released around this time, but this year some media outlets made a particular effort to get their readers worked up in a royal fuss over nothing.
The helicopter story in the Daily Mirror today says that Prince William has been gifted a new £8m helicopter as a present from The Queen. Within 10 minutes of this story going out, I was able to have the veracity of the story checked and the response I got certainly leaves a lot to be desired on the part of the Mirror.
Firstly, the helicopter is leased (not bought) and so nowhere near £8m is being paid by the Royal Household. Secondly, the helicopter is forming part of The Queen’s Helicopter Flight for use by all members of the Royal Family, in fact Prince William hasn’t even used it yet whilst Princess Beatrice was the first royal seen to make use of the new chopper on an engagement in Lincolnshire earlier in the week.
The most important fact to note here also is that the cost of leasing this helicopter is met by existing funding in the Royal Household, that is to say it comes at no extra cost to the taxpayer as it is covered by the Sovereign Grant (the fixed amount The Queen receives every year to cover her expenses).
Republicans were quick to jump on their high horse on Twitter, moving their followers into a tax-based frenzy of outrage though it didn’t seem any of them had read beyond the headline in their hysteria because they all seemed to be under the impression that this helicopter now incurs millions of pounds in cost on the taxpayer. As we know now, it pays to check the facts, even if you’re a republican.
The second article which didn’t really add up to much was the Daily Mail’s indignation over the increase in cost for repairs to Kensington Palace (a publicly owned building) for which the bill was incurred on the taxpayer. Leaving aside the obvious tendency for the Mail to sensationalise stories and ensure their readers are slamming their fists in fury on the breakfast table, at least this article had a bit more substance… Though it wasn’t much better.
Outrage at the “£4m cost” was false for two reasons. Firstly, as a publicly owned building, not owned by the Royal Family, the state has a responsibility to maintain the building as a place of historic and cultural significance. But the main substance of the point is that the repairs to the Palace were not personal furnishings, nor redecorating costs but were in fact essential repairs that would have been required irrespective of who was occupying the palace, including repairs to the Palace’s roof, plumbing system and an overhaul of the electric circuitry in the palace.
It was made patently clear that the cost of furnishing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s apartments was met by them.
Perhaps today shows more than anything how an ounce of restraint to check the facts before becoming incensed at how “taxpayer’s money is spent so profligately” goes a long way.