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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Chapter XIII. — The Cost of the Crown

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Chapter XIII.

The Cost of the Crown.

These gilded flies,
That bask within the sunshine of a court,
What are they? The drones of the community!
They feed on the mechanic's labour;
The starved hind for them compels the stubborn glebe
To yield its unshared harvest.
And yon squalid form, leaner than fleshless misery,
Drags out his life in darkness in the unwholesome mine
To glad their grandeur;
Many faint with toil
That few may know the cares and woes of sloth."


"The bitter cry of outcast London" has at last, let us hope, smitten the dull ear of society. All the fashionable world has gone "a-slumming." The journals teem with suggestions, and the pulpits follow suit. It is conceded on all hands that the poor are altogether too poor and miserable, and that something must be done for them, and done quickly. But where to begin is the difficulty. The rich and powerful are willing to give charity, but the dwellers in the slums ask for something very different. Their demand, however inarticulate, is for political equality and social justice, and these are precisely the concessions that the so-called upper classes never do make, except on compulsion.

The community is divisible into three great classes—beggars, robbers, and workers. The robbers make the beggars, and the workers toil for both. Now, is it not very remarkable that among so many philanthropic advisers it should seemingly occur to none that the first thing to be done is to get rid of the robbers? Who are the robbers? An ill-defined company, doubtless, but their chief, their shield and buckler, is, as a matter of course, the occupant of page 102 the throne. Hereditary royalty, at the top of society, necessarily implies hereditary poverty at the base.

Here we have a single family of perfectly useless royal people making away with a million per annum in the very teeth of the apostolic injunction which forbids those who will not work to eat. A million per annum would support 20,000 East-end of London families, say 120,000 souls, in comparative affluence. Yet philanthropists stand aghast at the inadequacy of the remedial means at their disposal. The Queen and her family must already have cost the nation considerably over twenty millions sterling—an almost fabulous sum to pay for purely imaginary services. The indirect cost of the Crown as the fountain of corruption in church, army, navy, and diplomacy, it is impossible to estimate. How any people not absolutely demented could ever have permitted such a senseless expenditure is well-nigh incomprehensible.

Before Norman William landed in England there was hardly a manor or ecclesiastical benefice in the country that he had not by anticipation apportioned among himself and his fellow robbers. His own share was, to be sure, a handsome one, and though repeatedly confiscated and largely alienated, the Crown lands were still of considerable value at the Revolution of 1688. If they ever did belong to the kings of England as individuals—that is to say, as private estates—they completely lost that character when James II. fled to France. They then reverted to the nation, and parliament, as representing the nation, used them as it had a mind. The pretence that the Guelphs have some personal right to the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, from which they are permitted to draw large revenues, is as hollow as their more general claim to all the Crown lands. The Crown lands are in the strictest sense national lands, and ought, for the sake of accuracy and clearness, to be always so designated. Any revenue accruing to royalty from such sources is contributed by the nation as surely as if it arose from the tax on tea or on tobacco. It is important to remember this, as apologists of the monarchy have succeeded in breeding considerable confusion in the public mind on the subject.

If the whole of the royal salaries were taken directly from the Consolidated Fund the cost of the Crown would then page 103 appear in all its shameful enormity. But its exact amount it is all but impossible to set down, so numerous and varied are the royal perquisites that turn up in the most unexpected sections of the national accounts. Sir Charles Dilke and Mr. Bradlaugh have both gone into the matter energetically, and both have in a measure been foiled. The Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be made to furnish an exact balance sheet, setting forth every farthing of royal income and expenditure. Patriotic Mr. Broadhurst will perhaps see to this when he can spare time from the more pressing duties of coercing Ireland and preserving working men from the abominations to be seen in art museums on Sundays.

Let us now look for a moment at the little bill of costs so far as we are permitted to know it.

The Queen.
Civil List £385,000
Perpetual pension in lieu of prisage and butlerage on wines in Duchy of Lancaster 803
Ancient fee voted in Civil Service Estimates 101
Net income from Duchy of Lancaster 41,000
Repairs of palaces and appurtenances occupied by the Queen 15.665
Repairs of palaces partly occupied by the Queen 6,350
Royal yachts as estimated by Sir Charles Dilke 100,000
Naval aides-de-camp to the Queen 1,460
Military aides-de-camp to the Queen 1,150
Queen's Plates for Scotland 218
Queen's Plates for Ireland 1,562
Queen's bounties in Scotland 1,300
Queen's bounties in historiogarpher 90
Queen's limner 97
Queen's limner historiographer 184
Queen's limner clockmaker 16
Windsor Castle turncock 201
Ratcatcher, turncock, and labourers at Buckingham Palace 201
Albert Memorial attendants 120
Expenses of royal household in naval estimates 1,290

Altogether this retiring German lady, according to the estimate of the Financial Reform Almanack, costs the nation no less than £619,379 per annum! She receives from a grateful people for doing nothing more in one year than an American Chief Magistrate does in sixty, for being about the hardest worked man on the Continent. Truly, "always a wonderful people the English!" as Mr. Carlyle would have said.

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Nor is this robbery—and it would be a misnomer to call it by any other name—perpetrated in a straightforward Captain Kidd-like manner. When the House of Commons settled the amount of the Civil List it was careful to divide the vote into so many fixed portions. Thus: for the Queen's privy purse, £60,000; for household salaries, £131,000; for tradesmen's bills, £172,500; for bounties, £13,200. It was intended by parliament—foolishly intended, no doubt—that all the moneys not appropriated to Her Majesty's privy purse or private use should be rigorously spent in maintaining the dignity of office of the Chief of the State. Indeed, so careful were the faithful Commons to secure this object, that they inserted a clause in the Act to prevent savings, except of trifling amount, in any one category from being carried to any other. Now, it is well known that a good many sinecure offices in the royal household have been abolished : but what has become of the savings? Have they gone back to the Exchequer, as they were clearly bound to go? Not at all. They have, in defiance of the Act, found their way into the privy purse, or the Queen is very much belied. But what is worse, the £172,000 allocated for "tradesmen's bills" have notoriously never been spent. For many years there has practically been no court; consequently it is safe to conclude that a good £100,000 a-year have gone into the privy purse from that source alone. Ministers who have been parties to such breaches of trust, whether Liberal or Conservative, deserve not merely moral reprobation, but legal impeachment : and there have been times in the history of England when they would have been impeached. They are very much more to be blamed than the Queen, who, according to "our glorious constitution," can, of course, "do no wrong."

It is one of the many perfections of the said constitution that if the Monarch were to commit a murder to-morrow, there is no provision for bringing her to justice. The Queen against the Queen, in an indictment at the Old Bailey, would be a constitutional reductio ad absurdum, which would nonplus the united wisdom of bench, bar, and parliament.

But though it is surprising enough that the nation should have to pay over £600,000 a-year to a Queen Do-Nothing, it is yet more astounding that the lady cannot maintain her page 105 own family out of that sum. With a grasping avarice that nothing could exceed, she has called on parliament time after time to quarter her sons and daughters on the taxes wrung from the toiling masses. The sin of bringing into the world children whom they cannot or will not support is one frequently hurled at working men and women. When their offspring come on the rates, there is not a voice lifted up in their justification. But what does this royal person do with impunity? She charges the nation some £170,000 per annum for the maintenance of her able-bodied sons, daughters, and relatives.

Now, the amazing feature of this unheard-of imposition is that the whole family are absolutely unfit to render the State any responsible service whatever. The royal supersition aside, what part, for example, in this world's business would any discerning man be disposed to assign to the Prince of Wales? Could he be trusted to drive a 'bus or a hansom? If so, that would be about the likeliest occupation for him. When the noblesse were happily cleared out of France, many of them earned an honest, if not very useful, livelihood by turning dancing masters; but the Heir Apparent is altogether too clumsy to compete in any such line of life. As for any form of intellectual labour, that would clearly be beyond him. In a Republic political life would be closed to him. In the United States it is not too much to say that he would have no chance of being elected even a parish constable by reason of his "record." As for the Duke of Edinburgh, does anyone imagine that he could ever have become an Admiral of the Fleet, had he had to rely on his merits instead of his birth? He might have attained to the state and dignity of an A.B.; but it is extremely doubtful if he would have had talent and perseverance to get further up the ladder. As for Connaught, nobody could imagine him any more than the Commander-in-Chief ever getting beyond the rank of drill-sergeant. Of the late Duke of Albany it might have been safe to predict that, had he lived longer he would have been fit to assist with advantage at penny readings, or even to act as a copying clerk. But surely there is nothing very extraordinary in this—nothing to justify the oceans of mendacious ink that have lately been shed in his praise. In a world of sorrow, where "every moment dies a man, every moment one is page 106 born," his death was of no public consequence whatever. His most memorable achievement was, characteristically enough, a heartless speech at Liverpool against out-door relief for the poor! Yet let us see how a grateful and starving people delight to reward such nonentities.

Crown Princess of Prussia £8,000
Prince of Wales 40,000
Princess 10,000
Duke of Edinburgh 25,000
Princess Christian 6,000
Marchioness of Lome 6,000
Duke of Connaught 25,000
Late Duke of Albany 25,000
Duchess of Cambridge 6,000
Duchess of Mecklenburgh-Strelitz 3,080
Duke of Cambridge 12,000
Princess Mary of Teck 5,000

If these indisputable figures represented the entire cost of the Guelphic brood there would be less to be said though much to be condemned. But there are, as in the case of the Queen, sundry tantalising perquisites, difficult—nay, impossible to fix, and indeed almost surreptitious in character. For example, the Prince of Wales has £55,000 from the Duchy of Cornwall, which, by a fiction, is treated as his private property. He has likewise, as Duke of Cornwall, a snug perpetual pension of £16,216, granted in lieu of "post groats and white rents." When this little job was perpetrated in 1838 the entire revenue of the duchy was £11,536; so that compensation was given on the principle that the part is greater than the whole, a discovery that would certainly have astonished Euclid. Altogether Wales and "the Sea King's daughter from over the Sea," cost the nation over £120,000 per annum, or twelve times as much as the American Presidency! Always a wonderful people the English!

There are, besides, innumerable other thoughtful provisions made at the expense of the taxpayers for the convenience of travelling royalty; and when they condescend to take up their abode in public buildings it is amazing what sums have to be expended in "repairs." These tenants of the State are the worst imaginable. They are about twenty degrees worse than the worst Irish tenants ever known. They not merely pay no rent, but they recklessly destroy their land- page 107 lord's property. They are Socialists with a vengence. The State does everything for them on a scale of munificence, and they do nothing for the State. Is there a Socialist working man in Soho or Clerkenwell who ever in his wildest dreams made such heavy demands on the State as these insatiable Guelphs, whose muddy German "blood" constitutes their sole claim to public consideration? It may be asserted without exaggeration that there is scarcely a family in England with a less creditable record.

Is it possible that this degrading monarchical superstition can survive in England much longer? Has the schoolmaster now been abroad so long in vain? Will the English people never take their destinies into their own hands, and close the long era of monarchical and aristocratic robbery? Are we never to have a Government that can hear the bitter cry of the outcast, and hearing, act? We know the goal. The goal is the Democratic Republic. Every minor reform is a delusion and a snare. Let us therefore walk in faith, and listen to the prophets. Listen more especially to the Right Hon. Sir Charles Dilke, at Newcastle-on-Tyne (6th November, 1871):—"There is a widespread belief that a Republic here is only a question of education and of time. It is said that some day a Commonwealth will be our Government. Now history and experience show that you cannot have a Republic without you possess at the same time the Republican virtues but you answer, Have we not public spirit? Have we not the practice of self-government? Are we not gaining general education? Well, if you can show me a fair chance that a Repubic here will be free from the political corruption that hangs about the Monarchy, I say for my part—and I believe that the middle classes in general will say—let it come!" Amen.