Europe's Royals Tighten Their Belts (A Bit)

King Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Letizia of Spain.
Pool-Fotonoticias | Wire Image | Getty Images
King Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Letizia of Spain.

Spain's Crown Princess Letizia has a penchant for haute couture. Queen Elizabeth II's Bentleys are spotless. Belgium's King Albert II maintains a villa in the south of France. But now, many of Europe's royals are feeling a pinch of the austerity sweeping the continent as it deals with its debt crisis.

The latest in royal belt-tightening comes from Spain, where King Juan Carlos has cut his own salary, and that of his son and heir Prince Felipe, by about 7 percent. The avuncular king, who is generally respected by his people, took the step after being engulfed in a public relations nightmare over an expensive elephant-hunting safari he took this spring as Spaniards endured hardship.

Here is a look at how austerity is affecting the royals in European countries that still have royal families:


Juan Carlos's salary this year will be reduced to about €272,000 ($334,000) and that of his only son, Crown Prince Felipe, to €131,000 ($160,000). The cut is in line with a new austerity package unveiled last week that features, among other things, the suspension of one of the 14 paychecks into which Spanish civil servants' yearly salaries are divided.

The Spanish royal budget is relatively small compared with those of other countries — €8.26 million, and now down to €8.16 million with the king's gesture. Even the original figure was down 2 percent from 2011.

The king acted voluntarily, and in the cuts he included Felipe, Queen Sofia, Crown Princess Letizia, and his daughters, princesses Elena and Cristina.

The female royals do not get a salary per se. But the pool of money available for their expenses is being trimmed, also by about 7 percent, to €292,625. The newspaper El Mundo put it this way: "So, among the four, they will not be able to spend more than €292,625 a year on clothing, shoes, accessories or hairdressing."

Then, there's this: since last year, Royal Palace staffers fly coach.


In recent years Queen Elizabeth, long known as one of the world's richest women, with her priceless collection of fine art, jewels and real estate, has opened some parts of Buckingham Palace to tourists, raising money on admission tickets. Palace officials say they have met targets that call for a 25 percent cut in the use of public expenditures to support the monarchy.

That's meant a pay freeze for royal staff, an increased emphasis on generating income from royal properties, and a reduction in planned property maintenance — although the royal Bentleys and other classic cars always appear spotless in public.

But travel costs have stayed high, in part because the queen is dispatching senior royals, including Prince Charles, Prince Harry and Prince William, to far corners of the Commonwealth for festivities celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, to mark six decades on the throne.

Official accounts showed British taxpayers spent 32.1 million pounds ($49.5 million) supporting the monarchy in 2011, 5.3 percent less than the previous year. Much of the saving came from cutting the maintenance bill of royal residences from 15.4 million pounds ($23.8 million) to 11.9 million pounds ($18.4 million).


Queen Beatrix, who lives in a state-owned palace in a forest on the edge of The Hague, is paid a salary of €829,000 a year and receives €4,314,000 for "personal and material" expenses. The budget for Queen Beatrix, Crown Prince Willem Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima was cut in 2011 by €422,000 to €39.2 million, according to the Royal House website.

Most of those savings came in the form of cuts to private travel expenses. And the queen forked over €163,000 from her own pocket for maintenance on her private yacht, the Groene Draeck.


King Albert II pledged this year to use part of his salary to help pay for the upkeep on his properties.

He made a rare public statement in January saying he wanted to freeze the €10.8 million ($13.8 million) he gets from the state. He intends to use an automatic 2012 salary inflation adjustment of some 3 percent — roughly €350,000 ($446,000) — to help pay for some property maintenance normally borne by the government.

The amount may be relatively small, but even such a symbolic concession could help ease pressure on the royal family, which increased when it became clear the Belgian constitution forces the government to pay the inflation adjustment under any circumstance.


The exceptions. Norway — one of the richest countries in Europe per capita — has not cut its royal budget, nor have neighbors Denmark and Sweden. The countries of Scandinavia have largely dodged Europe's debt crisis. Their budgets are in order, as they did not spend beyond their means. They are suffering indirectly, of course, because a weakened Europe is a big export market for the Scandinavians.