The Windsor Looting
In 2011 and 2012 the news media gave much attention to public anger about bankers' bonuses. In particular Stephen Hester's proposed £1m bonus and the £703,000 a year pension that was to be paid to Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of the failed bank RBS, from a "pension pot" of £16.9m. The exploitation of the parliamentary expenses system by avaricious legislators also caused outrage.
But there was hardly a peep from the British people when Charles Windsor, son of the hereditary head of state, took £19m of their money in one year. This was more than the Hester bonus and Goodwin's pension "pot" combined. And Windsor takes a similar amount every year.
In most countries this would be thought an excessive amount to give to the head of state in spending money, never mind to her son. Indeed, even in the UK the head of state does receive less.
This seems crazy. But is it?
Why do the British allow Mr. Windsor to pick their pockets on such a grand scale? Why are banks and legislators censured for their excesses while members of the Windsor family who make the most avaricious financial wise guy look like an amateur are off limits?
Ignorance of the facts is a part of the explanation. And the majority do not question a monarchy and its obscene privileges that are woven into the fabric of British life. Legislators are forced to swear allegiance to the Windsors and are not allowed to question the monarchy. Parliament is gagged.
But equally important is the Windsor story that much of the money belongs to them, not to the people.
Mr. Windsor's £19m was made up of £3m in state grants and income of £16m from the Duchy of Cornwall, a vast real estate holding largely in south west England. Charles' mum also takes the income from a "duchy", that of Lancaster. But it paid her just £11.9m in 2007-2008. (By 2016 the Duchy of Lancaster was generating £16.6m and the Duchy of Cornwall £20.5m.)
This income is exempt from corporation and capital gains tax but the Windsor family kindly agreed in a 1993 "memorandum of understanding" that Mr. Windsor should pay income tax on his earnings from the Duchy!
The Duchy's administrators and the British government claim that it is "a private estate not a publicly owned entity". But the same Downing Street Web page that once said the Duchy is a private estate, but which has now been removed, also declared that "The Duchies, like the Executive arm of the Government, are part of the Crown and have a similar status in law". When we are told that an "arm of the Government" is also a private estate we must know we are being conned. The missing Web page may now be found on the WayBackMachine.
The Duchy is certainly not the personal property of Mr. Windsor. As heir to the office of head of state he collects the Duchy's income. But he is not allowed to take the proceeds or profit on the sale of its capital assets. If he saw the light and renounced any claim to being head of state, he would lose the Duchy income to whichever member of the Windsor crew replaced him. So it's clear he does not own the Duchy. It is equally apparent that as the income is so definitely attached to a public office, to an office that is ultimately in the control of the people, the Duchy also belongs to the people.
Although the accounts of the Duchy of Cornwall are audited by a private auditor appointed by Mr. Windsor and not by the National Audit Office, they are presented to Parliament. It's a strange "private estate" that has its accounts scrutinised by Parliament.
The Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall (Accounts) Act 1838 requires state authorisation for all transactions of more than £0.5m. Private estates are not usually governed by such laws.
The claim that the Duchy is private property is, of course, a fiction that uses the feudal blending of personal and public power and wealth to obscure the truth about the Windsor take. The pretence hides from the people the truth that the son of the head of state is paid a salary that should enrage any democrat.
It must also be in the minds of the Windsors that keeping income from the Duchies off the books could mean that these supposed "private estates" will provide a very generous pension when they are finally kicked into the detritus of history. A pension that would make the CEO of any bank envious.
A plea of insanity would be the only defence if we let them get away with that.