Cost to us: £0.7 million*
Residents of the palace include the so-called “Rent-a-Kents”, Prince and Princess Michael, cousins of the Queen who carry out no public duties. They have lived in the five-bedroom apartment since 1979, and until 2002 paid (at most) £69 rent per week. The Queen has since paid for their accommodation from the public purse, an arrangement that ends next year.
* Annual maintenance
St James’s Palace
Cost: £1.7 million
Prince Harry and Prince William have, as of this year, set up a joint household based at St James’s Palace complete with office, staff and stationery with their personal letterheads. The palace’s high running costs might have something to do with this development: Prince Charles’s spending on office equipment and stationery for 2008-2009 came in at £218,000, up almost a fifth on last year.
It would be unfair to lay all the blame on the princes, however: redecoration of a four-bedroom apartment for Princess Beatrice to use while she studies at Goldsmith’s College reportedly cost £250,000.
Cost: £8 million
With 775 rooms to look after – among them 188 staff bedrooms, 78 bathrooms, a cinema, swimming pool and an NHS-funded surgery for the staff – it’s not surprising that the Queen is looking for extra millions to pay for home improvements. Couldn’t the palace earn its keep by opening more often? Well, yes, but Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, argues that members of the royal family don’t want the place open when they are at home. Yet, as the Commons public accounts committee has pointed out: “You cannot close the whole palace because the Duke of York is sitting upstairs in his flat.”
Cost: £0.5 million
The one-time residence of the Queen Mother, which she described as a “horrid little house”, is now Prince Charles’s London home and, according to Tatler magazine, the setting for Prince Harry’s post-Mahiki parties.
Charles apparently wanted to preserve the late Queen Mother’s “ambience” and kept her paintings of horses and corgis. She lives on in Harry’s apartment at the palace, too, which reportedly “does smell slightly of grannies”.
Cost: £3.3 million
In 1992, when fire ravaged the world’s largest inhabited castle, the government’s first reaction was to hand over a blank cheque for the repairs, which ran to tens of millions.
Given the 250 firefighters taxpayers had already paid for, the reaction in the Commons, and from the public, was less warm. The Queen graciously agreed to pay for 70 per cent of the damage herself.