Voyeur's Fee

May 12, 1993

After the Baltimore Museum of Art and Walters Art Gallery introduced admission fees a few years back, could Buckingham Palace be far behind?

It took the convergence of fire at Windsor Castle, the soaring unpopularity of the royal family and the embarrassment of the exchequer faced with the Windsor repair bill to bring Queen Elizabeth II into trade like some common aristocrat.

She will open her London home, Buckingham Palace, which belongs to the Crown and not to her personally, to tourists in July and August. For eight pounds ($12.50), they get to see the rooms of state and many pictures -- not her private apartments.

That should go a long way for repairs at Windsor Castle. Visitors already pay through the nose to visit Westminster Abbey, so this won't be a shock. Foreign tourists are stout monarchists. The English will not notice, because they are not in London in July and August.

This is not tradition falling but new tradition being made. The White House in Washington and Japan's imperial palace in Kyoto are still free.

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