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Makeover madness at the palace
Court Circular, Issue 1475
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Prince Brian, self-appointed national arbiter of taste, who doesn’t do things on the cheap
THINGS rarely move at speed in the royal world, and the Buckingham Palace refurb is no exception.

To everyone’s surprise, in 2016 Theresa May and Philip Hammond, acting as royal trustees, agreed to fund the whole £369m project, phased over ten years. David Cameron and George Osborne had been unwilling to commit more than about £50m for a make-do-and-mend job.

Two years on, most energy seems to have been expended on hiring a “multidisciplinary design team” and a project management team, and finding an area of the palace suitable for a legion of hard hats in pinstripe suits to make coffee and chat. The Buck House basement canteen is now off limits and work is under way on turning the area into a “collaborative work space” (aka an open-plan office).

Plush furnishings and wallpaper
Surveys are also being carried out and tenders prepared: just the sort of stuff you might have assumed would have been done before May and Hammond agreed to hand over the dosh. Already costs are on the rise, and the £369m may well not be enough.

And there is another problem: the posh furnishings and plush wallpapers will need Brian’s imprimatur. Brenda isn’t too interested in interior design and prefers things to look the way they always have done. Her eldest son, however, the self-appointed national arbiter of taste, agonises over such things. With the palace destined to be his within the next few years, he may as well get his way now: the last thing officials want is him moving in and demanding another expensive redecoration. But Brian doesn’t do things on the cheap. When he moved into Clarence House after the death of the Queen Mother in 2002, the nation had to hand over £4.5m for him to redecorate.

It remains a mystery why May agreed to foot the whole of the latest bill. After the 1992 Windsor Castle fire, John Major had to rapidly backtrack on a similar offer after a public outcry. Instead, Brenda was obliged to open Buckingham Palace to the masses to fund the work. That proved such a money-spinner the original intention to shut the doors after five years was abandoned. Income from Buck House admissions in 2017 was £10.35m, and it is expected to be even higher in this double royal wedding year. Admission fees for all the Queen’s palaces have raked in just short of £181m over the past five years. A contribution towards keeping the Buck House roof on would have been a perfectly reasonable request.

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