The Royal We: The Queen's Family of Freeloaders

By , Writer/Historian

As expected, Prince William and his wife are to move into the late Princess Margaret's end of Kensington Palace in London. I quite like it even though it's falling down. There's a load of asbestos in the ceilings. The electricity is almost dangerous. I once fell asleep in a backroom in the rough end of Shaukiwan that had better plumbing. On the good side, it's very comfortable, has fabulous sized rooms, although if memory serves, the fireplaces need re-setting.

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It will take a couple of years to knock it into shape, by which time most royal watchers will be reaching crescendo-pitch practicing Ahhhs! Oooohs! for the new heir to William's throne. And there we have it. The thing about royals is that they have thrones so reasonably, they can't live in buy-to-lets or even bijou Decimus Burton. So I certainly don't begrudge the Cambridges their "des res" in Kensington Gardens. What makes me uneasy, is the fact that a lot of the others get a pretty good deal as well.

prince-charles11.jpgA couple of them are really worth it. Prince Charles is the next monarch - should he live that long - and is a state-owned eccentric and worth every penny of the Civil List that funds royalty because he appeals to middle-aged women. As that lot are the spine in an otherwise too often spineless British society, he has a loyal and knowing fan club. So does his sister Anne, the Princess Royal. Like Charles, she's been around some time and on her second husband - a cheerful and enormously competent admiral - and most would say more than earns her keep. But the rest of them?

Let's take another resident of Kensington Palace, that doss house of British Royalty hangers-on, the likable Prince Richard of Gloucester who keeps appearing in Royal Air Force uniform that clearly has been fished out of the dressing up box. The Gloucesters are very sincere people and turn up on time to cut ribbons and pull memorial tassels.

But the truth is, as nice as they are, why should the British tax payer fork out scarce money to house, feed and travel them around as substitute ribbon cutters? The poor old fundraisers of care homes and village halls, really would like the ones with the crowns to declare the latest bricks and mortar open. Tiara and coronet royals really don't rate. The Queen and Prince Philip are brilliant, but they can't do it all. So the tax payer has to find second raters and frankly, not everyone likes that.

SNN3007AA---280_1174260a.jpgTake Prince Andrew who is still billed as Air Miles Andy. In spite of his fine record in the 1982 Falklands War, he is seen as a freeloader. So is his younger brother, Prince Edward who couldn't hack it as a Royal Marine so set up a film company trading on his royal background. As for Andrew and Fergie's two daughters, they are expensive jokes. In the tragedy theory game played by royal watchers, one of them could find herself on the throne - prompting most in the country to join the Republican Movement.

There is, an honourable exception - the queen's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, the royal family's own Romanov look-alike. He's officially out of it because he married a Catholic divorcee and so had to give up his place in line for the throne. Also, he doesn't get public handouts. Yet, at enormous cost and even greater dedication, Michael of Kent is an example of how all those below the immediate heir and the next one in line should behave and be treated. The queen can pay their rent, but the British public should not pay a penny.

If they need to live in Kensington Palace or any other grace and favour property, then don't expect the public to have to find a penny towards their daily cornflakes.

Incidentally, when William and Kate move out of their one bedroom cottage at Kensington Palace, Prince Harry will move in. Charles will pay his and William's expenses. That's how it should be, even though publican opinion polls suggest William and Harry are the only ones with real jobs. Just one afterthought: Prince Philip was born in a bungalow in Corfu. Could be a nice little day job soon going in that part of the Mediterranean that would suit him to a T.

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Christopher Lee is a noted British historian, author and correspondent. Lee may be best known for his origination and writing on the 3-part BBC radio series, "This Sceptered Isle" and is a former BBC Royal Correspondent. He is advising BBC Radio 4 on the constitutional and historic aspects of the wedding…

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