… AND WHAT DO YOU DO? What the Royal Family Don’t Want You to Know
Biteback Publishing, 2019, 390 pages
Review by Phil Shannon
It seems to be mandatory to have a regal presence to unveil a plaque at the opening of a local council’s latest pride-and-joy. The royals’ ribbon-cutting function is not just ceremonial, however. Strictly-observed royal etiquette on such occasions (the lowly people must never speak without being spoken to, arrive after the royal personage, sit in the presence of royalty or be allowed to look down upon a royal from a height) delivers an important lesson about the subordinate place of the great unwashed in Britain’s social hierarchy.
The King was in his counting-house …….
Tax accountancy for fun and profit!
The royals are a dab hand at wealth maximisation through tax minimisation. They are exempt from inheritance tax, capital gains tax and stamp duty on share transactions. They were exempt from income tax until a series of palace scandals in the early 1990s prompted a PR change of course whereby the royals pledged to pay income tax - on a ‘voluntary’ basis, however, and only then after massive ‘deductibles’ for ‘business expenses’ such as the upkeep for Charles’ polo ponies. As well as this legal tax avoidance, Monarchy Inc. is adept at underhanded tax evasion - a majority of the Queen’s in-theory taxable income is sheltered from Britain’s tax authorities in offshore tax havens.
How to live well
The Royals are famously profligate with other people’s money, primarily taxpayers’ dosh, but also in-kind freebies from their elite peers in Hollywood and the like who offer up their private jets, cruise yachts, posh ski resort chalets, Kenyan hunting lodges and luxury holiday villas in the Caribbean for free royal use.
They are, however, infamously miserly with what they consider their private money. The Queen Mother’s frequent, extravagant dining occasions had a liveried footman posted behind each guest’s chair pouring champers from £300 bottles of the stuff but when it came to tipping Royal Marine bandsmen on the royal yacht, Britannia, she protested bitterly to the Exchequer that the token gratuities had to come out of her own pocket (the tips were just 12½ pence per head!).
The royals are tireless charity workers – nothing as common as doing a shift in the local op-shop but, rather, tapping rich celebrities for donations, a task which might be more impressive if the royal charities didn’t divert large executive salaries and expense accounts from the charities’ funds to the court favourites who head them, or if the royals didn’t charge appearance fees to guest at other charity fund-raising events (the asking price by Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, is $30,000 a pop in the US, for example) which comes out of any event proceeds.
The preferred mode of travel for royalty is expensive, CO2-intensive helicopter and private jet rather than commercial flight or train. Prince Harry, for example, chartered a helicopter from London to Birmingham where he lectured an audience to ‘wake up and act’ on climate change. For added green hypocrisy, Prince Philip, a serial master blaster of wildlife, was a founder member of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), whilst Charles became head of the WWF’s UK arm at the same time as he was adding wild boar in Liechtenstein to his big game trophies.
Agents of political disease