It is a dangerous thing for a monarchy to be out of step with its people. The French revolution of 1789 was in large part caused by the gaping disparity between the oozing wealth of King Louis XVI and his starving subjects.
We are not about to have a revolution here. The British have too much sang-froid, as the French might say. But there is a growing disquiet about the ever-widening gap between the oozing wealth of Charles III, and millions of ordinary Britons who are finding it increasingly difficult to put food on the table.
The point about this is not just that the Royal Family are fabulously wealthy, although how wealthy they refuse to say. It is that the British tax payer has perversely put them on an escalator to ever greater riches, widening the gap with the subjects – the tax payers – in the process.
This is wrong and needs to stop.
But to say it like that is a simplification – and a distortion: the windmills belong to private enterprise, the British state and foreign states, not the King. The seabed is ours, not his. The fact that we give him so much of the profit is our own stupid fault – or the fault of former Chancellor George Osborne, at least.
It happened like this.
Back in 2011 the Civil List gave the Queen £7.9m to undertake her duties.
In a disastrous move for the taxpayer, but one for which the royals had been angling for years, Osborne replaced the system that had survived for 251 years with one that linked financial support for the royals to the income of the misnamed Crown Estates (land handed over to the taxpayer in 1760 in return for Parliament picking up the bill for matters previously funded by the King, such as the cost of the armed forces and the civil service.)
There is no logic whatsoever in linking the Crown Estates to royal income. Lord Turnbull, a former cabinet secretary, calls it ‘silly’.
It is also very expensive.
As a hugely successful property company, the Crown Estates regularly produces profits in excess of the inflation rate, meaning the royals get a real terms pay increase every year.
2011’s £7.9m has this year become £86.3m. And just in case the Crown Estates underperformed, Osborne agreed that the money the taxpayer gives the royals can never go down!
Not that it will underperform. Quite the reverse.
Britain now has the biggest offshore wind complex of any country in the world, and it is built on the Crown Estates’ seabed. So millions that would have before 2011 gone 100 per cent to the taxpayer now has 25 per cent sliced off to go the royals.
Nice non-work if you can get it.
Charles wisely anticipated the fuss this would create by announcing at the start of the year that he would give back some of the loot to the state.
A bit like Dick Turpin handing back some of his booty.