Picture the scene: a little old dear in her 80s huddled in gloomy light by a gas fire, trying to eek out the last vestiges of warmth before the meter ticks down to empty again. She's just received a knockback from the government-heating fund after pleading poverty. Your heart bleeds, doesn't it?
Except the old dear in question was our very own Queen, already receiving £1 million for the Royal Palaces, on top of an apparently "inadequate" £15 million government grant. Enough, you might think, to keep the radiators on in the chilly months.
The Independent obtained this request as part of a Freedom of Information claim. In it, the Queen's deputy treasurer, a man with apparently no self-awareness whatsoever, enquired, "Since we are already grant-in-aid funded we would like to know whether the Household [would] be able to benefit from these grants. I look forward to your comments."
Look forward to your comments? If I'd been at the receiving end of that email my comments would have included the phrases "first against the wall", "remember what happened to Charles I?" and possibly some dark muttering about getting a job.
My leanings, clearly, are republican. When I was at university, I had a picture of Colonel Thomas Rainsborough of the Levellers on my wall – not, it must be the said, the most likely of pin-ups. So clearly my views are inclined towards, well, the guillotine quite frankly. But surely even the most die-hard royalist must blush at the sheer nerve of the royal household seeking to divert money away from the elderly and fragile who would seriously struggle to survive the winter without it?
It's only one of many astonishing displays of obliviousness to financial reality from our royal family. Recently, Prince Charles spent £50,000 of taxpayers money on a four-day trip to promote sustainability. In a private train. Apparently no one in his household dared to mutter at the planning stage "Err... is that maybe just a bit... err, unsustainable?". Presumably the Prince of Wales also doesn't go round turning the heating down in his mum's house, muttering about climate change. Shame, he might have lowered those bills a bit.
The revelations also included a previously-unpublished memo detailing how ministers under Labour were given the right of veto over royal spending, and over the £38.2 million the Queen gets a year. The wonderfully-named Professor Gary Slapper, director of the Centre for Law at the Open University, was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: "The legal power and influence of the British monarchy has been slipping away for centuries and this memorandum makes clear and concrete that the ultimate power over the monarch and money is held by a minister from an elected government."
Well, yes – this is public money – so why on earth should the lucky beneficiaries not be accountable to the public for it? Maybe they should also try living on a little less of it. I can suggest a saving to start with – why not swap that expensive Duchy's Originals marmalade for a cheaper supermarket own brand one – and buy a hot-water bottle.
Perhaps, though, we should feel sorry for them. Labour MP Paul Flynn commented that, "The Royal Family is part of the dependency culture in the same way as Mr Cameron spoke about people living in a council house for life." I advocate some form of therapy to wean them off the butler-service and pampering – a house swap with a family stuffed into a tiny, stinking council flat in a dive-bomb estate should do it.
By: Kate Carter