Last Tuesday morning royal biographer and friend Gyles Brandreth tweeted: “The Queen is Queen of Bermuda – & the Cayman Islands, too. If she can’t invest her own money in her own countries, what’s the world come to?”
I mean, it’s a view, isn’t it? Considering the royal household appears desperately to be trumpeting the notion that the Queen had no idea about the tax havens her money has been getting funnelled into for the last 12 years, I can’t imagine it’s a view she particularly wants putting about, but I doubt it’s going to make a huge dint on her reputation.
Even when the Queen herself appears to be royally unpatriotic to her subjects, we roundly let her off. Royalists have been quick to remind everyone just how much money the Queen brings in to the country through tourism, which does seem rather like clutching at straws when it’s in reaction to the news she’s been bundling that money straight back offshore.
A spokesperson for the Duchy of Lancaster, which handles the Queen’s private wealth, says she voluntarily pays tax on any income she receives from the Duchy, but there are extra irony points for the Paradise Papers revelation that one of her investments is Brighthouse, a high interest rent-to-buy firm fined by the Financial Conduct Authority for not assessing whether its customers, some with learning disabilities, were able to pay. The poor are penalised for their situation while a woman born into wealth, who receives £82m a year from the taxpayer on top of an estate worth £500m, creams off the rewards. These benefits scroungers, eh?
The royals will no doubt weather the storm. They’ve survived worse. They’ve done worse; if we can get behind the mass executions of the English Reformation, the plundering of those British territories (née colonies – see above) and all the rest then the fact the Duchy of Lancaster is squirrelling away unimaginable extra wealth thanks in offshore holdings is hardly going to prove the indignity that finally has us proles baying for their abolition. It is actually illegal, under the Treason Felony Act 1848, for me to call for the abolition of the monarchy here so I’ll leave it at that for the Queen. But I do wonder why we seem so accepting of aristocratic bad behaviour.
Take Boris Johnson. His bumbling English eccentric act saw him voted mayor of London and, just like Prince Phillip, his racist remarks are widely met with a collective “posho buffoons say the funniest things” shrug. He jokes about dead bodies in Libya and remains the UK’s foreign secretary. Even his grave misinformation about a UK citizen held in Iran on spy charges has been widely reported as a “gaffe”. Silly old Boris, blundering about and potentially condemning Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to an extra five years in an Iranian prison.
Then there’s Jacob Rees-Mogg. The manor-born MP has suggested the UK could do away with many safety regulations (“if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here”) and consistently voted against equal rights laws but stick him on Question Time and the nation coos over his plummy accent and expensive suits.
I can’t work it out. Are we suffering from a nation-wide inferiority complex? Or is it because our experience is so very far removed from such born and bred landed gentry that they provide a welcome fantasy, where normal moral standards don’t seem to apply? In which case, perhaps every time a toff does or says something whiffy we should consider: would I accept that behaviour from a colleague or neighbour? If we’d not put up with it from Dave, then why do we put up with it from Elizabeth et al?