The Queen is so frugal it would appal Henry VIII, historian says
With a two-bar electric fire in the Balmoral library and cornflakes in Tupperware containers, the Queen has a thrifty approach to running a royal palace. But while her frugality is admirable by modern standards, her Tudor forebears would have been dismayed by the lack of pomp, according to the former curator of Historic Royal Palaces. “Elizabeth and Henry VIII would be absolutely appalled because, unlike our queen, they lived in a very public environment,” said Simon Thurley. Meals and ablutions were conducted in front of an audience in Tudor times, he explained, “so there was a necessity to maintain status, magnificence, dignity in a way that our queen – very fortunately for her – doesn’t have to do.” He added that the Queen’s thriftiness is “a generational thing, rather than anything to do with being monarch”. Thurley, former chief executive of English Heritage, has written a book about Tudor palaces – and claims that the Tudors invented flatpack furniture centuries ahead of Ikea. When the monarchs made their annual progress from palace to palace, their furniture went with them. Elizabeth’s wardrobe accounts provide descriptions of the giant packing cases that were used to transport everything from beds to throne canopies. “Everything was flatpacked,” Thurley said. “Everything that was taken around had a beautifully-made case that went with it. Those big throne canopies were all demountable and all went into cases.” There was also a red monogrammed case for the Elizabeth I’s nightie. Thurley said the movements the current Queen – weekends at Windsor, winter at Sandringham, Balmoral for grouse season, Buckingham Palace the rest of the time – are a hangover from the Tudor era. Also appearing at the festival to promote his latest biography of Charles II, Earl Spencer disclosed that the Queen is a thoughtful godmother and giver of excellent gifts to children. Asked to name the best present she had ever sent him, the Earl said: “I remember I was the envy of my boarding school when I was 10, because she gave me a radio that looked like a book. “So I could keep it at school and no master ever rumbled the fact it was a radio. And I thought that really showed some understanding of a young boy’s needs.” The Queen has more than two dozen godchildren. The Earl’s father was a former equerry to the Queen and the two families were close. The Earl and his sister, Diana, Princess of Wales, spent their early years in a house on the Sandringham estate.