Survey shows increased support for the idea of a leaner monarchy
The year ended with the revelation that most Britons believe the privileges enjoyed by the Royal Family should be curbed. A survey has revealed that backing for some minor royals has fallen to its lowest – though the majority thought the Queen, Queen Mother, Prince of Wales and Princess Royal are hardworking and good ambassadors for the country. Charles also had one of the highest levels of support for marrying Camilla Parker Bowles and succeeding to the throne, at 55%.
The Civil List was the main cause of disaffection, with more than one in three believing the £8.9 million annual payment and allowances should be axed, and 57% saying it should be reduced to £5 million or less. The controversy that has dogged the Earl and Countess of Wessex over the past year was also reflected in the poll, with 69% saying younger royals should be allowed to set up their own businesses, but should not receive any cash from taxpayers. Edward and Sophie – who have endured heavy criticism since the “Sophie Tapes” scandal – receive £141,000 a year channeled through the Queen from the Civil List to carry out public engagements.
Meanwhile, 82% of the 3,692 online respondents thought the monarch should pay inheritance tax and 63% believe the public should not have to pay to visit royal palaces owned by the nation. “Non-working” members of the Royal Family such as Prince and Princess Michael of Kent should also pay a commercial rent for their apartments in royal palaces, according to 82% of people.
The Queen’s position remains relatively safe, with only 26% saying she should abdicate on her Golden Jubilee in February, and 12% believing she should do so at some point in the future. A final thought – elsewhere you will read that Jordan’s Queen Rania, who was a striking success during her husband’s three-day state visit to Britain, has ordered two pairs of golden shoes! What would Queen Elizabeth’s loyal subjects have had to say is she had tried to mark her coming Golden Jubilee in 2002 with such flamboyance?
Queen Mother misses Christmas Church Service
The Queen Mother has missed the Royal Family’s Christmas church service at Sandringham.The 101-year-old is reportedly suffering from a cold. It was a bitterly cold morning on the Queen’s Norfolk estate. The Royal Family also rallied round the Countess of Wessex, who made her first public appearance, since she lost her unborn baby. Sophie, 36, seemed to have lost weight and was supported, on each arm, by her husband Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, and the Princess Royal’s husband, Commodore Timothy Laurence.
The Countess, who underwent an emergency operation earlier this month after suffering an ectopic pregnancy, arrived at the Church of St Mary Magdalen with the Queen in a
Rolls-Royce. Prince William was given Christmas kisses by a young admirer who refused to take “no” for an answer.The Prince at first did not see tiny Katherine Bennett, aged six. But Katherine, the daughter of an American major stationed in Britain, was determined to be noticed and to give William her special Christmas gift.
She chased after the Prince and presented him with a large bag of Hershey’s Kisses – American chocolates which she said are the next best thing to royal kisses.
Princess Alice celebrates her centenary
Princess Alice, the Queen’s aunt, is celebrating her 100th birthday. As is traditional she gets a congratulatory “telegram” from The Queen. The dowager Duchess of Gloucester joins the 101-year-old Queen Mother as the Royal Family’s second centenarian.
Earlier this month, the royals threw a 100th birthday party for the Princess at her Kensington Palace home.Frail and forgetful, but said to be in good spirits, Alice rarely appears in public. She has endured the death of her elder son Prince William, who died in a plane crash in 1972, and the loss of her husband Prince Henry two years later.
Princess Alice had been devoted to Barnwell Manor, an impressive Elizabethan house, complete with adjoining 13th-century castle, set in 2,500 acres of arable farmland, near Oundle, Northants. But the sprawling house proved too expensive to run and the farm hit relatively barren years. It was announced in January 1995 that the Princess would move to Kensington Palace in London to be with her son, the present Duke of Gloucester and his family.Lady Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott, third daughter of the seventh Duke of Buccleuch, was born on Christmas Day 1901 at Montagu House, the family’s London home.”
Catholic Cardinal speaks out on Royal marriage bar
The head of the Catholic Church in England says the constitution should be changed so members of the Royal Family can marry a catholic.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor says politicians should look at the issue because it is an anomaly and rather odd.He told the BBC: “I think in due time when it is right, I think the issue about the question of whether one of the Royal Family can marry a Roman Catholic is something that should be addressed, certainly. It is rather odd. A member of the Royal Family can marry probably anybody, except for Roman Catholics, so I think there are some anomalies there.”
He says the issue is something he will have to consult other church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, about. He says it is something that should be looked at in the near future.
“I think a lot of people in this country would think that it is an unnecessary bar and anomaly which should be removed.” A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “We would welcome conversations about that or any other subject from the Cardinal.”
Calls to scrap oath to the Queen
A former frontbench MP is claiming MPs should no longer be required to swear their loyalty to the Queen.Kevin McNamara is trying to bring in a bill to re-write the parliamentary oath. He says his package of reforms will “strike at the discrimination and intolerance that lie at the heart of the British constitution”.
Mr McNamara has described the oath of allegiance sworn by MPs at the start of each Parliament as “a relic from another age”.He also claims it could breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
In 1999, the European Court on Human Rights ruled that religious references in a similar oath in San Marino violated the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The proposed bill would also overturn a 153-year-old act which makes it an offence to advocate a republican form of government for Britain.
Mr McNamara, a Labour front bench spokesman from 1982 to 1995, said: “My bill aims to modernise our constitution and the House of Commons to ensure they become truly representative of society and also to reassert Parliament’s belief in the values of inclusivity and pluralism.”
Queen Mother’s wedding dress being displayed
The Queen Mother’s wedding dress is being seen in public for the first time since 1923, to promote a Royal exhibition. The dress is on display at Kensington Palace promoting the forthcoming Century of Royal Wedding Dresses exhibition.
The chiffon moire appliqued dress has had its veil replaced but needed minimal work to restore it.
The then Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon wore the dress to marry Prince Albert, Duke of York, on April 23, 1923. It will be seen together with the wedding dresses of Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and the present Queen for the first time.
Each dress will be displayed on a mannequin of the exact shape and height of the queen who wore it.
The dress, designed by the couturier Mrs Handley Seymour, was described in The Times in 1923 as “the simplest ever made for a royal wedding”.
The exhibition will also feature pictures and footage from the weddings with information about each dress and its designer.
Joanna Marschner, curator of Kensington Palace, said: “The exhibition will appeal to a variety of people. “For many it will conjure up memories of the weddings and for others it will be a fascinating opportunity to look at historical dresses.”
Prince donates money to deprived estate
Prince Charles has donated money to a housing estate which was the scene of protests following the murder of an asylum seeker. It will help buy equipment for a number of community projects in Sighthill, Glasgow.
St James’s Palace has refused to disclose the amount, but it is understood to be a four-figure sum.
Charles visited Sighthill in Glasgow on September 21, with Prince William, who was making his first full day of public engagements in Scotland three days before he started university at St Andrews.
A spokesman for St James’s Palace said: “The Prince was very moved by what he saw at Sighthill. He wanted to do his own bit to help the community there.”
The Sighthill estate came to national prominence during the summer when a 25-year-old Kurdish refugee, Firsat Dag, was stabbed to death in August. Charles Riddle, secretary of the estate’s Fountainwell Tenants’ Association, has welcomed the Prince’s gift, saying: “I think everybody in the community is grateful for this donation.
“When he visited Sighthill the Prince spoke to various people in the community and at the end of his visit he spoke to local officer bearers and some young people from the local youth group
“One of the kids gave him a list of things they felt were needed in the area and he took it away and it appears he has responded to that.”
Glasgow Springburn MSP Paul Martin has also welcomed the Prince’s donation and says it has highlighted the need for much greater investment in the estate: “The Prince has set an example to others, particularly in relation to those that distribute lottery funding.”
Jeweller to make gold shoes fit for a queen
An Indian jeweller has been hired to make golden shoes for Jordan’s Queen Rania Al-Abdullah. The Calcutta jeweller, who wants to remain anonymous, has been asked to make two pairs of 22 carat gold shoes. Each pair will weigh 750 grams and will be embellished with diamonds and topaz.
The Bengali daily newspaper Anandabazar Patrika reports the jeweller said: “The queen used to get her shoes designed in Peshawar but they were not made of pure gold, only gold threads were used on the leather. The shoes she wants now will be made from pure gold without leather or foam.” The newspaper says Jordanian officials had reportedly paid an advance of £34,468 for the job and the remainder, “a substantial amount of money”, will be paid after delivery. The jeweller says he has imported three kilograms of gold from London to be used in the making of the shoes over the next two months.
BOB HOUSTON – Royalty’s founder and Editor at Large reads between the week’s Royal headlines (2 Jan., 2002)