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  • Rachel Burchfield

Royal Potpourri, Volume 5

It’s been a little quiet on the Royal front lately. That’s normal for this time of year. The Queen is already out at Balmoral, where she will stay for the remainder of August and into September. Kate is also summering, so we likely won’t hear much from her in August. Meghan is still on maternity leave, despite her guest-edited British Vogue dropping on Friday – I’ve ordered a copy and can’t wait to break it down for you once I receive it. (Did you know, in the 103-year history of the magazine, this is the first time anyone has guest edited the September issue? And do you know how this opportunity came about? She asked. Sometimes asking is the way to see your dreams become a reality.) And even though she is “on a break,” she’s still grinding – it was just announced today that she is partnering with her friend, designer Misha Nonoo, to design a clothing line, and with every article of clothing bought, an article will be donated to Smart Works, a charity of which she is a patron – think the U.K. version of the U.S.’ Dress for Success. The line will be a capsule collection of women’s workwear. Love it.

All of that to say, August will be a pretty slow month around here – but we’ll still have solid content coming in.

It’s been a little bit since I took your questions, but they have been trickling in. Let’s see what you’ve got on your mind.

Question: What’s with the black and purple bow that Kate keeps wearing at Wimbledon?

Answer: We talked about Kate and Meghan’s patronages on the blog last week, and one of Kate’s patronages is the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC), which is another way of saying Wimbledon. Only certain members of AELTC can wear that pin or a corresponding necktie to Wimbledon events – and a patron is entitled to wear it (the only others so entitled are the president, committee of management, vice presidents, and four members of executive staff – so, basically, it’s a high mark to be able to wear it). So, really, it’s a badge of honor. The club’s colors are dark green and purple, so you were a little off on the colors, but close enough. She also presented the trophy to the winner of the Gentleman’s Singles Final, Novak Djokovic, further stepping into her role as patron.

Question: On the Facebook group you talked about Kate’s “HG.” What is that?

Answer: Okay, so I thought Kate might have looked a little expectant in her green Dolce & Gabbana dress at Wimbledon, but I think it was a goof on my part. (Although I’m still holding out hope!) And we had a chat about it on our Facebook group – which, if you don’t follow, you should, as well as our Instagram! – and we talked about how thin she gets during her first trimesters with all of her babies because of a condition she has called “HG,” which is short for hyperemesis gravidarum. (I’m lazy and didn’t feel like typing all of that out, nor did I feel like looking up the correct spelling at the time. Sorry. So, HG it was.) HG is a severe form of morning sickness that Kate has had with George, Charlotte, and Louis, and, one can surmise, if she were pregnant again she’d likely suffer from it again. It usually passes after her first trimester and she’s able to resume normal life, but for the first trimester, it’s rough.

Question: Is Eugenie pregnant?

Answer: At Royal Ascot, she was seen talking to Kate and Zara and putting her hand on her stomach, which apparently is the universal symbol for “I’m pregnant.” But, sorry folks, at least for now, she’s not – mom Sarah Ferguson shot down the rumors this week.

Question: What is the significance of the earrings Kate wore to Archie’s christening?

Answer: Kate wore a pair of drop pearl earrings to Archie’s christening that were the same pair of earrings Diana wore to Harry’s christening in 1984. A simple, sweet tribute to the grandmother that never was. Except, in true to form media fashion, the press had to make unnecessary drama where there was none, accusing Kate of, first of all, looking miserable in the portrait, and second of all, not loaning out the earrings to Meghan so she could wear them on this special day – further igniting the Kate/Meghan feud rumors that thankfully have pretty much been quashed since the christening on July 6. (This is what happens when I take forever to answer your questions. Sorry.) Look, I can’t imagine Kate didn’t offer the earrings to Meghan; she likely turned the offer down, choosing instead to wear the same Cartier diamond earrings she wore to her wedding. So Kate, being thoughtful, still wanted to include Diana and have a nod to Harry, so she did. End of story.

Question: Where does the Royal Family get their money from? Does all of it come from taxpayers? Is there any oversight on how they spend it?

Answer: The Queen herself is worth 360 million pounds ($470 million). Her three main sources of income are 1.) the Sovereign Grant, 2.) the Duchy of Lancaster estate, and 3.) her personal property and investments. The Sovereign Grant is an annual lump sum from the government and is essentially an expense account, covering costs of travel, security, staff, and the upkeep of Royal palaces. In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, for example, the Queen received 42.8 million pounds ($58 million) tax free from the Sovereign Grant. This number is not fixed and can fluctuate to accommodate happenings in the Family, such as a recent major renovation to Buckingham Palace. The Sovereign Grant comes from the Crown Estate, a collection of properties and farms across the United Kingdom that generate hundreds of millions of pounds each year. Most of the money from the Crown Estate goes into government coffers, but about 15 to 25 percent is given to the Queen in the form of the Sovereign Grant.

The Duchy of Lancaster is a private estate of commercial, agricultural, and residential properties dating back to 1265. In the most recent fiscal year, the Duchy produced 19.2 million pounds ($26 million) in income for the Queen. This money is used to pay for official and private expenses, including the costs of Family members like William and Kate or Harry and Meghan who undertake official engagements on her behalf (like their upcoming trips to Pakistan and South Africa, respectively).

Finally, the Queen makes money from her own personal assets, like Balmoral (where she is now) and Sandringham, which she inherited from her father. The Queen also owns a valuable stamp collection, numerous works of art, and a stock portfolio. One might think the Queen could count the Crown Jewels as a part of her personal assets, but they, and many works of fine art, are owned by the Royal Collection Trust, a charity.

(This probably should have been its own blog post…)

Now, for Charles and Camilla, over 90 percent of their income comes from a private estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, established in 1337 to provide an income to the heir to the throne. They received 20.7 million pounds from this in the most recent fiscal year ($28 million), and also received 1.3 million pounds ($1.8 million) from the Queen’s Sovereign Grant (used for official travel and property expenses) and an additional 461,000 pounds ($627,000) from various U.K. government departments (some official overseas trips and the salaries of the members of the military who protect them). Half of Charles and Camilla’s money goes to official duties and travel, a quarter goes to taxes, and the remaining quarter – 6.6 million pounds or $8.9 million – goes to William and Harry, non-official purchases, and a Royal savings account.

So, for William and Kate and Harry and Meghan – they get roughly let’s say $4 million from dad annually, and they also have private, inherited wealth from Diana’s estate. They also are reimbursed for costs when performing official duties – like official tours – on behalf of the Queen.

Part of the reason people were so pissed about Archie’s christening being private is that it came on the heels of a $3 million renovation Harry and Meghan did to their home, Frogmore Cottage, which was widely reported to be paid for by taxpayer money. In fact, the Queen gave the couple the money from the Sovereign Grant, paid for totally by the government and not by the taxpayer at all. In fact, none of the Royal Family’s money comes from taxpayers.

I am positive there is oversight as to how money from the government – the Sovereign Estate, et cetera – is spent, but as for their private money, there is no and should be no oversight. It’s theirs to do with as they wish, though I’m sure every penny is accounted for by the Royal Family.

Question: How does the Queen fit in with the Prime Minister and Parliament? Is the monarch really anything other than a figurehead?

Answer: Here’s a good link from the Royal Family’s website about the Queen’s role in government. The Queen is Head of State, so she is politically neutral, not even able to vote in elections. That said, she does have important ceremonial and formal roles in relation to the government of the United Kingdom.

The Queen has a special relationship with each Prime Minister – Boris Johnson, who just became Prime Minister, is the fourteenth the Queen has worked with, dating all the way back to Winston Churchill. The Queen retains the right to appoint and meet with him (or her) on a regular basis. There’s great examples of this relationship in The Crown. Where is season three, by the way?

As for Parliament, the Queen opens each new session of Parliament, grants Royal Assent to legislation, and approves Orders and Proclamations through the Privy Council.

The British legislature consists of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. So yes, the Queen is more than just a figurehead and has influencing power, but she is obviously not an elected official. It is a unique balance.

In addition to playing a specific role in the U.K. Parliament based in London, the Queen also has formal roles with relation to the devolved assemblies of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Question: What is the difference between a fascinator and a hat?

Answer: Women in the Royal Family – and in high British society in general – are famous for their hats but also for their fascinators. A fascinator is a formal headpiece for women, made of lightweight knitted fabric and worn as an alternative to a hat. It is a large, decorative design attached to a band or clip. The way I see it, a hat often covers the face (at least in part), and a fascinator doesn’t. It doesn’t cover as much area, let’s say. The term fascinator, by the way, only came about in the 1990s, and was only really popularized in 2011 at William and Kate’s wedding, when everyone wore fascinators, from Victoria Beckham to Beatrice and Eugenie.

Question: What do you think about the new Royal podcast?

Answer: I am a huge fan of podcasts and a huge fan of the Royal Family (bet you hadn’t guessed that one!), so there seemingly is a podcast made just for me – Noble Blood. It just launched this summer and only has two episodes out so far, so it’d be easy for me to catch up. The abstract says: “Author Dana Schwartz explores the stories of some of history’s most fascinating Royals: The tyrants and the tragic, the murders and the murdered, and everyone in between. Because when you’re wearing a crown, mistakes often mean blood. New episodes every two weeks, on Tuesdays.” This one seems a liiiiiittle dark for me, honestly; in terms of Royal podcasts, I prefer the light and airy Royally Obsessed, which I binged on my marathon drive to the beach and back earlier this month.

Question: How many kids do you think Harry and Meghan will have?

Answer: Well, Harry told us himself in an interview with Dr. Jane Goodall in British Vogue – two, max.

That’ll do it for now. On Friday we’ll talk about British Vogue – and how Meghan isn’t the only Royal to appear in the mag! – and during the month of August we’ll cover Kate and Meghan’s burgeoning friendship, the difference between the Middletons and the Markles, and, I’m sure, some other good stuff that’ll pop up, including Meghan turning 38 on Sunday! The duchesses may be on vacation, but The Duchess Commentary is still here!

Until Friday!

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