More visitors to Buckingham Palace needed to help Queen pay bills

Buckingham Palace White Drawing Room


Is the royal family running out of money? Buckingham Palace looks set to open its doors to visitors to London much more frequently - because the Queen has overspent her budget by £2.3million.

According to the Public Accounts Committee, which has been scrutinising the royal finances, the family is given £31 million a year to fund royal duties, pay staff and maintain the palaces. But last year it overspent by a well over £2million.

MPs say she the only way to make up the shortfall is to open the palace for more of the year in order to balance the books. But is that practical?

Buckingham Palace State Rooms Summer Opening



According to the BBC the overspend meant the royals had to dip into their reserves - leaving them at a historically low level of contingency. There's just £1 million left in the coffers - compared with 2001 when there was £35 million spare. Chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: "They're spending above their means, they're dipping into the reserves and the balance now stands at an all-time low."

The royal family made £11.6 million last year, but MPs say they could do more. One of their suggestions is to open up Buckingham Palace whenever the Queen was not at home. At the moment half a million people visit during August and September, but the MPs would like to see more paying customers through the doors.

It's not known how workable this will be, or how easy it would be to prepare the palace for a couple of weeks at a time. However, there are plenty of aristocrats happily sharing space with tourists at country houses around the UK. They prepare the state rooms for customers and ramble around the rest of the building in peace.

It would be a major step for the royals to have to do the same, but there is a real risk if nothing is done. One major criticism in the report was that buildings are not being properly looked after at the moment. The Telegraph recently reported that staff were catching rain in buckets to protect art and antiquities, while out-of-date heating systems means the Queen faced heating bills of £774,000 a year.

Buckingham Palace drawing room


It may seem bizarre to think of the royal family running out of money. However, it's not the first time the notion has been raised. In 2009 the Queen had to borrow £6.5 million from the reserve, and commentators were predicting that the family would be broke by 2012.

Opening the palace to tourists is arguably one of the less dramatic steps royalty has taken in the past when money was tight. Charles I had a weakness for paintings and a habit of getting into expensive wars. Finances were one of the key reasons why he fell out with parliament in the first place - which sowed the seeds for the Civil War.

Meanwhile, before George IV took the throne, he ran up enormous debts. Parliament had to pay off the equivalent of £17 million.

And even Queen Victoria's father Edward Duke of Kent had money troubles. He and his wife ran out of money when Victoria was a baby, and were forced to move into a modest family house to make ends meet.

Should the Queen open up to visitors more frequently? Tell us in the comments below.

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More visitors to Buckingham Palace needed to help Queen pay bills

After being closed for a decade, the charming royal residence Kew Palace was opened in 2006. Set in Kew Gardens, the palace is in fact the size of a manor house and some of its highlights include the People's Library, Queen Charlotte’s Cottage and George III's waistcoat. For an exclusive visit go on a Sunday evening tour where you'll be led by a palace expert and go behind the scenes to discover more about Kew Palace with a glass of wine in your hand!

Its alumni include Princes William and Harry and you can walk the hallways of prestigious army officer training academy Sandhurst too on a 90-minute tour where you'll get to see the Royal Memorial Chapel, the Museum Room, the Indian Army Memorial Room and the Hastings Room. The end of term Commandant's Parade takes place three times a year in April, August and December. The event is a full dress rehearsal of the Officer Cadets’ Commissioning Parade and is a great time to combine a tour of Sandhurst with watching the parade.

The Queen's much-loved country retreat in Norfolk is a great place to visit and experience what the royals do when they escape to the vast estate. In the house you can see inside the ground-floor rooms that the royal family use when they visit and the medieval Sandringham Church is where they worship. The glorious 60 acres of gardens are delightful for walks throughout the year and there are royal motor vehicles in the museum, including a 1900 Daimler Phaeton, which was the first car owned by a member of the British monarchy. You can also holiday at Sandringham in the Garden House and The Granary cottages and stay in the Park House hotel.

Did you know that Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world? As one of the Queen's official residences, it’s worth a visit to see the magnificent State Apartments, fine art from the Royal Collection, the Gothic St George's Chapel and the most famous doll's house in the world, Queen Mary's Dolls' House. Foodies should head to the Great Kitchen for a behind-the-scenes tour and until October 2012 you can see the fascinating exhibition The Queen: 60 Photographs for 60 Years, displaying photos of the Queen on official occasions and relaxed family gatherings from the past 60 years.

This yacht served the royal family for more than 40 years sailing over one million miles. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh designed the interior - apparently, the Queen chose the deep blue colour on the hull instead of traditional black. Did you know? Shouting was forbidden on the ship and orders had to be given by hand signal to preserve the ship's tranquillity. Visit: You can take a tour of the ship in Leith, Edinburgh where it's permanently berthed. Explore Britannia's five decks and discover the Sun Lounge, the State Dining Room and The Queen’s bedroom, as well as the working side of the ship, like the Sick Bay and the Engine Room. On Sunday 3 June 2012, The Royal Yacht Britannia’s Royal Barge will carry the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

As the office and official residence of the Queen, Buckingham Palace is one of London's most famous landmarks. The Changing the Guard ceremony takes place each day from May to July and alternate days throughout the rest of the year, where you can see the royal guards in action. During August and September the Queen opens her home to visitors, giving you the chance to view the opulent State Rooms, the lush Garden and this year the special exhibition Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, fell for the isolated charm of this abandoned Scottish castle while mourning the death of her husband King George VI and decided to save it. She renovated and restored the building and created the beautiful gardens. The castle, which is located in the very north of Scotland, is still set out as the Queen Mother had it. Within the Great Wall of Mey there's a working garden, where fruit and vegetables are grown and used in the castle kitchen. Don't miss the exhibition throughout Easter 2012 in the Chauffeur's Cottage, where the Queen Mother's chauffeur used to stay. The display will showcase works of three themes - The Queen Mother in the parish, The Queen Mother in the county and the Diamond Jubilee.

Prince Charles' home at Doughton is a charming example of an English country retreat. It's well-known for its pretty garden, designed by Prince Charles himself, which has over 30 varieties of plants in the wild flower meadow, vegetables like Charlotte potatoes and spring cabbage, which are favoured by Prince Charles growing in the Walled Kitchen Garden and wildlife thriving in the environment. Tours of the gardens are available between April and October. In the Highgrove Shop you can buy high-quality goods ranging from spirits to silver, with all proceeds going to charity.

This pretty seaside palace on the Isle of Wight is a true gem and a must-visit to discover the island's royal history. Osborne House was once a holiday retreat for the Queen's great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria and her nine children. The Italianate-style house has lots of stunning features, like the terraces, cottages and spectacular views over the Solent. Don't miss the Swiss Cottage Garden located three quarters of a mile from the main house. Its timber house was built in 1853 so that the royal children could experience being 'ordinary citizens'.

Visit boys' school Eton College in Windsor, which Princes William and Harry attended and discover the ancient buildings that date back to the 1400s. The School Yard lies at the heart of the school, the Lower School was the first classroom to be built and is still in use and the College is where Foundation Scholars were and still are housed. You can also visit the College Chapel and marvel at its Perpendicular Gothic architecture and explore the original dining hall, College Hall. Don't forget to stop at the Museum of Eton Life in the vaulted undercroft of College Hall. It contains over 400 exhibits illustrating the life and history of Eton since it was founded in 1440.

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The Public Accounts Committee has been scrutinising the Royal finances. The family is given £31 million a year to fund royal duties, pay staff and maintain the palaces, but last year it overspent by a massive £2.3 million.

According to the BBC this meant they had to dip into their reserves - leaving them at a historically low level of contingency. There's just £1 million left in the coffers - compared to 2001 when there was £35 million spare. Chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: "They're spending above their means, they're dipping into the reserves and the balance now stands at an all-time low."

The Royal family made £11.6 million last year, but the MPs said they could do more. One of their suggestions was to open up Buckingham Palace whenever the Queen was not at home. At the moment half a million people visit during August and September, but the MPs would like to see more paying customers through the doors.

It's hard to know how workable this will be, and how easy it would be to prepare the palace for a couple of weeks at a time. However, there are plenty of aristocrats happily sharing space with tourists at country houses around the UK. They prepare the state rooms for customers and ramble around the rest of the building in peace.

It would be a major step for the Royals to have to do the same, but there is a real risk if nothing is done. One major criticism in the report was that buildings are not being properly looked after at the moment. The Telegraph reported that staff were catching rain in buckets to protect art and antiquities, while out-of-date heating systems means the Queen faced heating bills of £774,000 a year.

It may seem bizarre to think of the Royal Family running out of money. However, it's not the first time the notion has been raised. In 2009 the Queen had to borrow £6.5 million from the reserve, and commentators were predicting that the family would be broke by 2012.

And opening the palace to tourists is arguably one of the less dramatic steps royalty has taken in the past when money was tight. Charles I had a weakness for paintings and a habit of getting into expensive wars. Finances were one of the key reasons why he fell out with parliament in the first place - which sowed the seeds for the Civil War.

Meanwhile, before George IV took the throne, he ran up enormous debts. Parliament had to pay off the equivalent of £17 million.

And even Queen Victoria's father Edward Duke of Kent had money troubles. He and his wife ran out of money when Victoria was a baby, and were forced to move into a modest family house to make ends meet.
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