Royals face backlash over Beatrice flat

Jun 30, 2009
Danielle Dsane

Taxpayers angry over £250,000 makeover for princess' student digs at St James' Palace

Fergie and her elder daughter, Princess Beatrice. The family has enjoyed many holidays in Verbier

After the politicians and the BBC executives, taxpayer fury has a new target: the royals. The latest figure in the spotlight is Princess Beatrice, the elder of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's daughters, whose apartment was recently renovated to the tune of £250,000.

Beatrice, who has started studying for a degree in History and the History of Ideas at Goldsmiths College in southeast London, was judged too big a security concern to go to the bog standard £88-a-week student halls of residence, and so she moved into a four-bedroom apartment at St James' Palace instead.

But the apartment, which had previously been inhabited by a senior palace official, was apparently somewhat derelict, and needed a quarter-of-a-million pounds in extensive refurbishment. This has put palace officials on the defensive.

"People have this image of what a palace apartment looks like but the reality is very different. It is a small set of attic rooms reached only by a spiral staircase of 60 steps", one said. "We used money from the Government to undertake a basic programme of refurbishment and any extra requirements that were more personal to Princess Beatrice herself were paid by the Duke of York or the Queen."

In response, anti-monarchist groups, who point out that Beatrice doesn't carry out any official engagements, have vented their anger. Graham Smith, a representative of the protest group Republic, said the "scandal" of Beatrice's apartment "puts the rows about MPs' expenses and duck houses in perspective. This bill eclipses any put in by MPs in their expenses," he said. "The level of scrutiny being given to MPs' expenses should apply to royal spending."

The monarchy's finances have come under scrutiny after it emerged that the price of keeping the royals has increased by all of three pence to 69p per person per year, or £41.5m in total. There is even growing concern that, unless the Government increases the amount it gives to the Civil List for the first time in 20 years, the Queen could run out of the money she needs for upkeep and staff salaries in 2012 - Diamond Jubilee year.

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