Buckingham Palace should be open year-round – like the Vatican and the White House – to pay for its upkeep, according to anti-monarchy group Republic.
This weekend, the palace welcomed its first paying visitors since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
But after the cost of renovation rose this year ahead of the Platinum Jubilee – building work paid for by the taxpayer – questions have been raised about who should pay the price.
Graham Smith, chief executive of anti-monarchy group Republic, said Buckingham Palace was important to the nation and should not be overlooked.
But something has to change, especially now that the Queen is spending more time in Windsor, he said.
He told Sky News: “For years MPs have been saying you need to open the palace to tourists all year round.
“With that ticket revenue that you generate, you can then fund those kinds of repairs and restorations without going back to the treasury.
“We have hospitals and schools, police departments struggling to make ends meet.
“An absurd waste of money”
“We have arguments that public sector wages are being cut and all the while we are pouring millions and millions of pounds into fixing this building.
“It’s an absurd waste of money.”
Explaining how palace officials have been under pressure for years to change the funding status, he added: “It has been pointed out that the Vatican is open all year round, the seat of the Catholic Church.
“It has been pointed out that the White House is open to tourists most of the year, the home of the President of the United States.
“So at all times Buckingham Palace should be open all year round, but it’s now largely a ghost building, people don’t live there.
“The Queen is in Windsor, Charles lives in Clarence House or Highgrove or one of her many other homes, and a lot of that is just staff accommodation as far as I know.
“There’s simply no justification for leaving it there unused, all year round, except for the occasional garden party.”
A popular tourist attraction
The Queen decided to open the palace to the public 30 years ago, following a fire at Windsor Castle.
The idea was that income from visitors to Buckingham Palace would help pay for needed repairs to Windsor Castle.
The first visitors arrived the following summer in 1993.
This year, visitors can view an exhibit marking the platinum jubilee as well as the results of the renovation.
The repairs are funded by the Sovereign Grant – that is, taxpayers’ money.
In 2017, MPs controversially agreed that the grant would be increased over 10 years to allocate £369m to refurbishing Buckingham Palace.
Last year costs were the highest at £47.8million, £16.2million more than the previous year.
There’s no doubt that every summer the opening at Buckingham Palace is a popular tourist attraction, and in years when there are major royal celebrations the interest is even greater.
“The interest really comes from Her Majesty the Queen herself”
Caroline de Guitaut, who organized the platinum jubilee exhibition, told Sky News: “I think these exhibitions and displays are definitely increasing interest, but I think the interest is really coming from Her Majesty the Queen herself.
“She is obviously a global figure and the scale of the celebrations and the interest around the platinum jubilee that we celebrated just a few weeks ago, I think, is indicative of how that is really manifesting.”
The exhibition traces the Queen’s reign through photos, including those taken by renowned socialite photographer Dorothy Wilding.
These were used to produce stamps and banknotes bearing the likeness of the Head of State.
There are also jewels from the Queen’s collection.
The opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace runs until October 2.