Queen Windsor once used an extraordinary provision in the unwritten constitution to keep her extraordinary wealth secret, according to a report in the Guardian.
The newspaper reported that records in the National Archives show that in the 1970s Windsor sent her lawyers to put pressure on ministers to change a proposed law that would embarrass her by revealing the wealth that she has accumulated through her country’s undemocratic monarchical system.
The new law would have made Windsor’s share holdings public. She wanted to be exempt from the law.
Windsor’s pressure was successful. A clause was added to the law to exempt heads of state and some others from the transparency requirements of the law. Windsor is head of state under the UK’s undemocratic system. Consequently from the 1970s until 2011 she was able to hide her holdings. A state-backed shell company was set up to make this possible.
The Guardian unearthed the secret while looking into the use of a procedure called “queen’s consent.” This requires the government to alert Windsor to new legislation when it affects the royal prerogative or her private interests. Because the UK does not have a written constitution this privilege is based on convention, not a written document.
The convention gives the monarch a privileged ability to lobby to protect her private interests unknown to parliament or the people.
At the time of Windsor’s lobbying a civil servant reported that her lawyer justified her demand for a change to the legislation “not only because of the risk of inadvertent or indiscreet leaking to other people, but more basically because disclosure to any person would be embarrassing”.
Despite the great wealth of the Windsor family the British people are obliged to spend around £345m a year on maintaining them in their positions of privilege.