Docking her own pay

December 03, 1992

The Queen of England understands the psychology o recession better than many chief executives. Times are bad. One in 10 Britons is out of work. The royal children are getting negative press.

More people are complaining that she is overpaid, but she took the wind out of their sails. She reduced her own remuneration before anyone else could.

The hysteria over the monarchy whipped up by England's tabloid press is remarkable. It assumes domestic bliss of royal persons to be the bedrock of the constitution.

Few kings and queens going back to Saxon times would meet the test. When kings were really kings, rules were for the common folk and royals did as they pleased. Now that is reversed. As lifelong monogamous marriage recedes in British life, it is more required of royalty.

On top of everything, part of Windsor Castle burned down and while it is indisputably the nation's and not the queen's property, an unpopular government's decision to pay for repairs brought outrage. Small wonder the queen said it has been a horrible year.

So Prime Minister John Major, who is even less popular than the younger princes, was allowed to announce that the queen had decided to pay tax on income and to take over from the taxpayers the burden of supporting five family members, including her sister and two younger sons. Suddenly, all was silence. The tabloids are experimenting with stories sympathetic the royals.

Everyone wants to tax the queen because of her priceless paintings, but Britain has no wealth tax. People are taxed on income. It is rent, dividends and interest on which the queen will pay. How much, the British people will probably never know.

Twenty-one years ago, Parliament was in a ferment over requests to raise the "civil list" or state reimbursement for salaries in the queen's household. A parliamentary committee did exhaustive research and published a report with unique insight into the queen's work. What it did not find out was how much money the lady had.

Expect no more candor this time. But don't count the monarchy out. Queen Elizabeth has read every important government paper for four decades. She has met weekly with every prime minister since Churchill.

This is the best-informed person in Britain. Yet unlike many lesser folk with big pretense, she knows when to dock her own pay.

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