Faced with £17 billion ($25.2 billion) in budget cuts, Britain's new government is showing Queen Elizabeth the axe. The pay axe, that is. Her subjects are imposing a 10-year freeze on her pay.
The 84-year-old monarch's allowance of £7.9 million ($11.7 million), which hasn't budged in two decades, is largely used to fund her day-to-day operations, including about 70% for her staff. Her finances are paid by a combination of grants for various purposes, and her expenses include £300,000 ($445,000) for stationery (Smythson of Bond Street gets her brisk thank-you note custom) and a reported £1.2 million ($1.78 million) just to entertain dignitaries. For example, Catherine Zeta-Jones was just made a CBE (or Commander of the British Empire, a figurehead honor), and an appropriate party was planned at Buckingham Palace.
Let's be frank. The royal family, the Windsors, remains one of the most fabulously wealthy in the Western world, and they are propped up by a number of tax loopholes and side budgets. But their finances are not just about their income. Much of it is on paper, sometimes literally. She inherited the combined stash of centuries of British plundering, including 7,000 paintings, 30,000 watercolors, half a million prints, and heaven knows how many priceless pieces of furniture, jewelry, and artifacts of historic import. But she holds that stuff in trust for the British public. It's not as if she can sell it on eBay or hold a yard sale at Windsor.
But it's also not as if she's spending the cash on yachts and vacations. Her days are filled, from dawn to after dark, with ribbon-cuttings, charity appearances, delicate diplomacy, and government-minding. Her extravagant pay buys her a prison of duty from which she and her family can never escape. Still, the palaces are pretty nice.
You might recall that the Queen has suffered the slings and arrows of economic vicissitudes before. In 1992, as part her so named annus horribilus that included the divorce of two sons and a fire at Windsor Castle (things got worse), she bowed to public pressure and voluntarily began paying taxes. Strange to think that she did it with money that had her own head on it.
Just as she did in 1992, she agreed to the demands of austerity, although the British press reported that she asked for a raise.
So you're not the only one who didn't get one this year.