Long time readers know of my antipathy towards any monarchical system. The relics of feudal systems seem to me to have no place in any Democratic society and the British royal family is a prime example of an institution that should no longer exist. Its members tend to think of themselves as above the law, as indeed they often are, using their wealth and privileged position to shield themselves from the consequences of the most shameful behavior.
For an example, one needs to look no further than the Queen’s son Andrew and his disgraceful role in the whole ugly Epstein-Maxwell affair. The latter has just received a sentence of twenty years in prison for her role but Andrew managed to settle with Virginia Giuffre the person who brought charges against him that she was forced to have sex with him while she was underage.
Even though the family are supposed to play a purely ceremonial role in British public life, behind the scenes they play a significant role in getting the government to protect their privileges. This is because due to a weird practice, they get to view legislation before it is presented to parliament. I fail to understand the reasoning behind this practice, other than as an act of traditional courtesy to the monarch that is merely a waste of time and should have no practical effect whatsoever. But recent revelations show that they abuse this privilege to benefit themselves.
Prince Charles exploited a controversial procedure to compel government ministers to secretly change a proposed law to benefit his landed estate, according to documents uncovered by the Guardian.
The disclosure of the documents provides further evidence of how the royal family has used the secretive procedure known as Queen’s consent to alter legislation to benefit their private interests.
Under the procedure, the monarch and her eldest son are given copies of draft laws in advance so they can examine whether the legislation affects their public powers or private assets, such as his Duchy of Cornwall estate or the privately owned estate at Sandringham.
Ministers must obtain the consent of the Queen and the prince before relevant legislation can be approved by parliament. This procedure is different than the better known procedure of royal assent, a formality that makes a bill become law.
[T]he newly revealed documents, concerning a leasehold reform act that became law in 1993, provide detailed evidence of Charles applying pressure on elected ministers to ensure an exemption to prevent his own tenants from having the right to buy their own homes.
The Windsor family has used the consent procedure to vet at least four draft acts that have changed leasehold laws since the 1960s. Under such laws tenants live in properties for a specific number of years on a lease, instead of owning it outright. The changes have given tenants across the country the legal power in certain circumstances to buy their homes from their landlords.
Letters and internal memos from September and October 1992 show Charles took a “close personal interest” in Newton St Loe, a small Somerset village that is part of the £1bn Duchy of Cornwall estate, and insisted his properties there should be excluded from the proposed bill. His lobbying secured a special exemption for the village that has to this day left the tenants financially worse off.
Sir George Young, the housing minister at the time, and another minister, Tony Baldry, believed it was not justified to prevent the Newton St Loe tenants from buying their homes when others in the country had that right, according to a letter. It was feared it would create a precedent for other major landowners.
On 22 October, Roberts advised: “On the basis that it is important to avoid a major row with the Prince of Wales … there is a case for letting matters rest … It is open to the minister to fight if he wishes, recognising that this is likely to have costs on both sides.”
However, Baldry replied: “We have probably got as far as we can with this … we should let the matter rest.” Young agreed: “I could live with this – reluctantly.” On the same day, the prince gave his consent to the bill.
It baffles me as to why the Major government buckled under the pressure from Charles on this issue. What is the constitutional crisis that would have been triggered? What could Charles have possibly done if the minister had refused to go along with this special carve out? Surely if the dispute had been made public, the public would have sided with the government? Even supporters of the monarchy might have been disgusted as this self-serving pressuring of their elected representatives.
This is by far from the only occasion that they have obtained special exemptions for themselves. The Queen is portrayed as a sweet old lady with lots of dogs but when it comes to protecting her wealth, she is as ruthless as any corporate CEO trying to get favorable laws for themselves.
The Queen successfully lobbied the government to change a draft law in order to conceal her “embarrassing” private wealth from the public, according to documents discovered by the Guardian.
A series of government memos unearthed in the National Archives reveal that Elizabeth Windsor’s private lawyer put pressure on ministers to alter proposed legislation to prevent her shareholdings from being disclosed to the public.
Following the Queen’s intervention, the government inserted a clause into the law granting itself the power to exempt companies used by “heads of state” from new transparency measures.
The arrangement, which was concocted in the 1970s, was used in effect to create a state-backed shell corporation which is understood to have placed a veil of secrecy over the Queen’s private shareholdings and investments until at least 2011.
The true scale of her wealth has never been disclosed, though it has been estimated to run into the hundreds of millions of pounds.
The royal family is enormously wealthy without having earned any of it. But that does not prevent them from trying to get even more money into their grubby little hands.
What a revolting crew.
Matt G says
The royal family is a royal embarrassment. And yet their mindless subjects continue to venerate them. Humanity can’t seem to grow up.
Rob Grigjanis says
Indeed. And in the US, the people choose revolting people to lead them.
Steve Morrison says
And they said the peasants were revolting…
Marcus Ranum says
I assume you’ve heard about Charles coming home from the middle east with bags of cash worth millions? Can’t make this stuff up. He’s loaded but he can’t live within his humble means…
Mano Singham says
I wrote about the cash exchange here.
John Morales says
That cash thing is not really a thing.
He’s already rich and secure enough to live his life in luxury, and he’s (at least in my estimation) never sought to enrich himself further; that would be pointless.
Looking after his interests, that’s a different kettle of fish.
No; it’s about being polite. It would be far more rude to reject the “gift” than to just accept it and move it on. Middle-eastern culture is not the same.
Marcus Ranum says
No; it’s about being polite.
It’s about appearances. His motives and excuses are irrelevant.
Middle Eastern culture involves handing bags of cash to influential foreigners?
Greedy is not a greedy enough term to describe these pigs
I can only thank God they aren’t human