LONDON — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her family are facing a 35 million pound ($45 million) hit from the coronavirus pandemic, partly due to a shortage of tourists, the monarch’s money-manager said Friday.
Releasing the royal household’s annual accounts, Keeper of the Privy Purse Michael Stevens said a lack of income from visitors to royal buildings was likely to bring a general funding shortfall of 15 million pounds ($19 million) over three years.
He said the impact of the pandemic is also likely to cause a 20 million-pound ($25.4 million) shortfall in a 10-year, 369-million-pound program to replace antiquated heating, plumbing and wiring at Buckingham Palace, the queen’s London home.
Officials have said the palace’s aging infrastructure, which had its last major upgrade after World War II, is at risk of a catastrophic failure if it’s not replaced.
Stevens said the royal household would not ask for more government money but would “look to manage the impact through our own efforts and efficiencies.”
Buckingham Palace has already introduced a staff pay freeze and a halt to hiring.
The accounts show that the monarchy cost British taxpayers 69.4 million pounds ($88.2 million) in the year to the end of March, an increase of 2.4 million ($3.1 million) on the previous financial year.
In a statement released by the palace, Stevens said the majority of the year under review took place before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic set in. Among a variety of engagements, the queen hosted President Donald Trump on a state visit and led national commemorations for the 75th anniversary of D-Day and for Armistice Day.
“Although COVID-19 has temporarily changed the format of engagements and events, it has not changed the sense of continuity, reassurance and recognition they provide," Stevens said. "Her Majesty’s program, supported by her family, will continue to develop meaningful ways to lead the nation through this time.”
Despite squabbles over money involving Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex, and notwithstanding the anti-monarchy views of republicans, most Brits believe the queen and the monarchy in general give good value for money, says royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams.
"The monarchy is an invaluable symbol of national unity," Fitzwilliams said. "The benefit to Britain through using it to further soft power in trips abroad, work for charity, having the headship of the Commonwealth, and tourism is enormous. It is worth bearing this in mind when considering the cost of monarchy."
The accounts confirm that Harry and Meghan paid an undisclosed sum to reimburse the public purse for rent and refurbishment of their Frogmore Cottage home on the Windsor Castle estate, which remains their base in Britain even though they are now living in California. The exact sum they paid will appear in next year’s accounts. The renovation costs alone for the home were 2.4 million pounds ($3.1 million.)
Harry, 36 and the former Meghan Markle, 39, married at Windsor Castle in May 2018. The couple announced early this year they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said was the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house for more than $14 million in Santa Barbara County.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Maria Puente, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Queen Elizabeth, royal family facing $45 million hit from COVID-19