Buckingham Palace’s refusal to reveal recommendations made over its handling of bullying allegations against the Duchess of Sussex is a “huge step backwards” for palace transparency, critics have said.
Palace officials cited “confidentiality” and the fact it said no public money was used for the review by an independent legal firm into the royal household’s handling of allegations– denied by Meghan – that her behaviour left some staff traumatised.
While the palace undoubtedly recognises the public’s right for transparency on certain matters, in particular involving the public purse, officials did not believe it applied in this case.
“To my mind, this perceived desire for complete transparency has taken a huge step backwards because of their reluctance to expand on the report into the palace handling of the bullying allegations,” said Joe Little, a royal commentator and managing editor of Majesty magazine.
“They could have said more without going into specifics. And it is, 我认为, this total reluctance to give any details whatsoever that has made uncomfortable headlines on the front pages.
“So soon after all the positivity of the platinum jubilee celebrations, it’s all gone off in a different direction: the cost of the monarchy, the bullying report, Charles and the bags full of cash. The palace certainly won’t welcome those headlines.”
There is a difference between the public’s wish to know and right to know in a world where royals have an almost soap-opera status. On matters of health, few would dispute the Queen and her family are entitled to privacy.
“But on finances, on allegations of racism and bullying, then I think they ought to be handled in a more transparent way,” said Little. “除此以外, it reflects badly on the institution. The inference will be that something is being covered up for the benefit of somebody.”
Royal finances are complicated. The Queen receives a portion of the crown estate profits for official costs through the sovereign grant. She also has private income from the duchy of Lancaster. 查尔斯王子 receives his income from the duchy of Cornwall estate.
“They call it private when it suits them and they call it public when they want some money from us,” said Norman Baker, former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister and author of And What Do You Do? What The Royal Family Don’t Want You To Know.
“例如, Charles insists the duchy of Cornwall is private but he won’t pay corporation tax, which every other private estate in the country would pay. So he calls it public when it comes to not paying tax, but private when it comes keeping things secret.” The Freedom of Information Act, as amended in 2010, tightened up exemptions for senior royals, 他加了.
The delineation between the public and private purse is not always appreciated, or understand.
In the complicated saga of Frogmore Cottage, Harry and Meghan have repaid the £2.4m refurbishment costs met by the public purse, but this apparently also covers rent for the home they use in the UK on visiting from the US. Officials say commercial sensitivity reasons as well as privacy prevent them from explaining further, but insist the deal “represents” good value for the sovereign grant.
“You could say if there is no public expenditure on Frogmore Cottage, then there is no need for us to know anything more about it,” said Little. But it might lead to the public perceiving the royals as not being as open as they might be.
“The issue of transparency seems to have regressed by several years. And in my opinion an element of doubt about the degree of that transparency has been reintroduced,“ 他加了.