Buckingham Palace "should open more to tourists"

Tue Jun 2, 2009 8:51am EDT
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By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Buckingham Palace should open its doors to tourists more often and the money raised spent on maintaining crumbling royal buildings, a parliamentary watchdog said on Tuesday.

Queen Elizabeth's London residence is open to paying visitors for around 60 days in the summer but says any longer would interfere with official functions.

But the watchdog contends: if the Houses of Parliament in London and the White House in Washington can stay open longer, why can't the palace?

The Royal Household has built up a 32 million pound ($52 million) maintenance backlog for the so-called Occupied Royal Palaces Estate, which includes Windsor Castle to the West of London, Prince Charles's residence Clarence House and the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh.

But it receives less than half that amount a year in government funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said.

The repair list includes the burial site of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert at Frogmore House, near Windsor Castle, where 3 million pounds of work is urgently needed.

Their mausoleum, completed in 1871, has been awaiting restoration for 14 years and is on English Heritage's buildings at-risk register, but a lack of funds means there are no plans for repairs to start.

Admissions raised 7.2 million pounds in the last financial year, indicating the potential for additional income.   Continued...

<p>A general view of Buckingham Palace in London, May 24, 2009. REUTERS/Stephen Hird</p>