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God save us, it’s the Queen

For the first time in nearly a century, a ruling British monarch has set foot on Irish soil. Queen Elizabeth II, decked out in bright green from head to foot and looking for all the world like a well-tailored leprechaun, today began a four-day visit to a country her royal predecessors spent untold amounts of money, manpower, manipulation, mayhem and malevolence to subjugate.

A spate of bomb threats, security nightmares for the police force and military, lots of booming voices of protest emanating from the pubs of Dublin and other communities around the Republic of Ireland certainly wasn’t much of a welcome. Quite the opposite of the sort of silly adulation showered on one of her grandsons during his recent nuptials.

The Queen began her official whirlwind tour — the first by a sitting Brit ruler since Ireland gained its independence in 1917 — by shaking hands (above) with Irish President Mary McAleese in front of the Aras An Uachtarain, then moved inside to be greeted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and sign the visitors’ book. Prince Philip, every bit the Royal Afterthought as always, jotted his name below hers.

(For those unfamiliar with Irish terminology and surprised that not everything there is in English — it is a bilingual country, with Gaelic much in evidence, “Aras An Uachtarain” is the name of the president’s mansion, and “Taoiseach” means “chief” and is the title held by the prime minister.)

Although this is QEII’s first trip to Ireland, she and the President have met elsewhere numerous times and chatted animatedly in public view. The role of President is largely ceremonial in Ireland, but has its moments as a public relations force. Such McAleese predecessors as Mary Robinson have been able to lobby other nations for trade improvements and such things from the bully pulpit. So, it will be interesting to see how McAleese’s public demeanor toward QEII this week will be cited as a negative when the next national election is held in October.


• The Queen and the coin


News Item: Government ministers and Queen Elizabeth II’s most senior officials have been heavily criticized by a committee of Members of Parliament for allowing historic buildings on the Royal estate to fall into disrepair.

The Queen will be urged to open Buckingham Palace to the public more often in return for millions more pounds from the government to to pay for a backlog of repairs. It now is open only about 60 days a year.

Some of the grandest state rooms at Buckingham Palace have not been redecorated since the Queen came to the throne in 1952. The palace wiring, which should have been replaced 10 years ago, was installed in 1949. The Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, near Windsor Castle, which houses the tomb of Queen Victoria, has been designated by English Heritage as “at risk” after part of the ceiling fell in. A large stretch of roof at Windsor Castle and at Buckingham Palace also needs replacing.

Royal Tidbits: The queen has an estimated fortune of $571.033 million, according to Forbes magazine. That is her personal wealth and does not include properties held in trust for the nation, such as Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Crown Jewels, and the Royal Art Collection are excluded. Also not included in the estimate are her privately-owned properties such as Sandringham House, Balmoral Castle, and the Castle of Mey. The worth of Balmoral alone is estimated at $261.8 million. The Crown Estate Lands also are not included in that estimate. They are said to be worth more than $12 billion.

The Queen’s annual income is about $20.45 million from the Duchy of Lancaster, and the income generated from the Crown Estate land, that had belonged to the royal family since 1066, that generated about $180 million a year, out of which about $65.5 million is paid back to the British government to cover the monarchy’s costs. Thus, she makes at minumum $135 million a year.

• The worth of a turkey

Which of these is the real turkey?

This question occurred to me as I was watching the BBC News on cable. I like the channel because the British Broadcasting Co. is head-and-shoulders above U.S. commercial and “public” television (motto: “Keeping the B.S. in PBS”) in providing a broad look at the news of the world and putting it in some kind of perspective with deep reporting and insightful analysis. Most of the time.

On this particular evening, the newscaster — a Brit based in Washington, D.C. — couldn’t restrain himself when it came to making fun of a seasonal American custom: the annual presidential pardon for a turkey just before Thanksgiving.

This year the freed bird will range down to Florida to, I am not making this up, serve as grand marshal for a Thanksgiving parade at DisneyWorld in Orlando, just as one did last year.

The newscaster got his jollies at this event. I agree it’s a particularly stupid thing, and I have no idea how it came about — unless it had something to do with the poultry industry public relations gimmick to show the sitting President has a sense of humor.

But that doesn’t give a foreign guest to our shores license to poke fun at our gallant leader and our favorite holiday bird. England has some pretty odd customs, too, and most of them involve a certain Queen Elizabeth II. She doesn’t even serve as much purpose as a tasty turkey and costs a lot more per pound, even in pounds.

The turkey breast I bought for Thanksgiving this year cost $2.97 a pound. The queen, even after you take away all her freebie perks like rent and staff and travel and clothes and all sorts of other goodies, is conservatively worth $3.2 million a pound. I’d like to see her acting as grand marshal in a DisneyWorld parade!