Buckingham Palace is filled with asbestos — what's a queen to do?

Jun 24, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. ET
Image: Brian Dowling/WENN.com

If you imagined Queen Elizabeth II living a life of luxury, surrounded by modern furnishings and construction, you’d be wrong. A new report revealed that the Queen’s abode is in need of repairs to the tune of £150 million.

Buckingham Palace isn't just home to the royal family. It also serves as the administrative headquarters of the Monarch, hosts many state events, meetings with the Prime Minister and is a popular tourist destination, which makes it all the more surprising that it hasn't been renovated since 1952. Vintage curtains and old carpeting aren't the only issues though. The electrical system and the plumbing system are in need of a modern update and the biggest need, perhaps, is to remove a large amount of asbestos.

The royal family will probably have to leave their primary home while the renovations are being completed. The Queen hasn't spent a significant time away from the palace since World War II when she, then Princess Elizabeth, moved into Windsor Castle with her sister. Anti-monarchy activists think the move should be permanent, as reported in The Guardian. Graham Smith, chief executive of the group Republic, wants to see the palace turned into a museum. "Buckingham Palace already houses one of the world's greatest art collections — so let's see it handed back to the people," he said.

The majority of the cost will be covered by the Sovereign Grant but additional funds may be necessary given the large cost of the project. The monarchy cost taxpayers £35.7 million over the past year, with £11.7 million going towards property maintenance. The cost to taxpayers is the reason some would like to see the palace turned into a museum, rather than be a continual drain on taxpayer funds.

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The 10-year property maintenance plan, produced by an in-house palace team, is being reviewed by external experts. The £150 million cost is just an initial estimate and could be impacted by whether the renovation is done in stages or all at once. Of course, it also depends on any additional issues they may come across during the process.

The long list of renovations isn't new news, though. Major repairs were put off in 2014 to prioritise repairs to Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace, home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Formerly Princess Margaret's home, the space was given an update to allow the Duke and Duchess to move in with then baby Prince George. In addition the plan is similar to the one created for the renovation of the Palace of Westminster, most of which is a similar age to Buckingham Palace.

The central London landmark sees upwards of 50,000 guests each year, excluding tourists, so it will be interesting to see how the renovations may impact social and political events that have taken place in the palace for decades.

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