When you think of a palace your mind likely pictures high ceilinged rooms and the very finest finishings – a picture of opulence and grandeur. Pity then, poor Queen Elizabeth II whose London abode boasts asbestos, electrical wiring past its best, antiquated plumbing and a sub-par boiler necessitating the use of electric bar heaters.
The Queen’s 775-room London abode is long overdue a lick of paint – many of those rooms haven’t been decorated since before the Coronation – but time is also running out to deal with a litany of more sinister problems. Leaking roofs place priceless paintings in peril with buckets required when it rains and crumbling masonry is starting to put more than Princess Anne’s car in danger .
The recent publication of the Royal accounts shows the scale of the problem - £2.1million has been spent on repairs at Buckingham Palace in the last year with asbestos removal from basement floor ducts in the East Wing accounting for a £300,000 chunk. Factor in repairs on the rest of the Royal estate and you’re looking at a £11.7million spend.
The Queen’s income last year was £37.9million (representing 15% of the profits of the Crown Estate, which manages the monarch’s £11billion property assets) against expenditure of £35.7 million. That £2.2m surplus income (paid back to the Treasury) is unlikely to be sufficient to fund the repair work alone, so it’s understood that the Royal Household will have discussions with the government about additional funding. It’s likely to be a delicate conversation as the taxpayer also has a substantial cheque to write to restore the Palace of Westminster.
It’s understood that a number of options are being considered and costed but initial estimates, based on a 10-year property maintenance plan, suggest a £150million price tag depending on whether the work is done in stages or all at once. That in turn will determine whether the Royal household would need to move to allow the works to proceed.
The Queen currently spends around a third of her time at Buckingham Palace, with the remainder split between her other residences including Windsor Castle near London, Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham House in Norfolk. She last left the Palace for an extended period during the Second World War when she was moved to Windsor Castle with her sister Princess Margaret.
A look at the design and development of Buckingham Palace.