Recent reports reveal that the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, is urging the Queen’s treasurer to consider the “commercial success” of the Sandringham Estate as it tries to plug a gap in the Royal household’s finances.
During a recent evidence session about the Sovereign Grant (the deal between the Royal family and the taxpayer), it was revealed that during essential maintenance work on the occupied royal palaces asbestos was removed from the basement of Buckingham Palace.
Who would have thought that a historic building such as Buckingham Palace would contain asbestos? Well, if you think about it – it makes perfect sense. Buck House has obviously undergone constant maintenance and refurbishment during its 300 year old history in order to keep up with changing fashions and changing ways of life. Indeed, during World War 2, the Palace was actually bombed by the Luftwaffe.
A bomb fell into the palace quadrangle while King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were in residence. Nobody was hurt during this attack, but windows were blown out and the chapel totally destroyed. This led to the famous declaration by the Queen (later to become the Queen Mum) “I’m glad we have been bombed. Now I can look the East End in the face”. This resulted in the British population considering that the royal family were sharing the same hardships as their subjects. It looks as if the current Queen is also sharing similar hardships to her subjects.
In July of 2012 it was reported that £1 million had already been spent on removing asbestos from electric cabling ducts under the floor of the south wing alone. It’s estimated that further work to remove asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs) will take more than 20 years and that the total bill will roll in at several million pounds!v
In accordance with government legislation, a spokesman for the Royal Household revealed that “extensive records” are kept to ensure that maintenance workers were safe from the risk of contracting asbestos related diseases will carrying out the repair work. The Royal accounts divulged that electrical and mechanical services at Buckingham Palace were mostly installed in 1949 and are now in need of replacement. With the mains distributed around the palace in ducts that run under the basement floor of three of the four wings, this means the removal of every duct and clearance of ACMs discovered.
So, those of us who discover asbestos in our homes and are facing bills for asbestos removal work can consider themselves in good company – Royal company in fact. However, for the ordinary householder, the cost of removing asbestos and ACMs will be a fraction of the cost being faced by the Queen. Maybe instead of envying the Royal family their luxury palace accommodation, we should be feeling grateful that we’re not facing the steep maintenance and refurbishment costs that go hand in hand with living in a palace fit for a queen.