King Harald costly for taxpayers

Norway’s King Harald is the third most expensive monarch in Europe, according to a Belgian professor who has studied the finances of modern royal houses.

King Harald has suddenly emerged as the third most expensive monarch in Europe. PHOTO: Kongehuset.no

Belgian newspaper Volksckrant published a report, cited by Oslo newspaper Aftenposten, detailing the study by Professor Herman Matthijs of the Free University in Brussels. He compared royal expenses attached to the reigning monarch and charged to taxpayers in their respective countries.

Matthijs admitted that his study was difficult because of various degrees of transparency from country to country. He also didn’t include expenses tied to security, state visits or maintenance of royal palaces, because some of that is covered directly by the state involved instead of by the monarch’s own budget. Such expenses would have boosted the costs to Dutch taxpayers, for example, by EUR 100 million a year.

Rather, Matthijs tried to establish costs directly tied to the reigning monarch. England’s Queen Elizabeth, not surprisingly, came out on top. She and her immediate family cost British taxpayers around EUR 47 million a year, according to Matthijs calculation.

The Netherlands Queen Beatrix, who will sail into Oslo on Tuesday for a state visit, was second, costing Dutch taxpayers EUR 40 million a year. King Harald was third, costing Norwegian taxpayers EUR 28 million a year.

That’s more than twice what the Danish and Swedish rmonarchs cost their taxpayers, leading some Norwegian royal watchers to question Matthijs’ figures

“Historically speaking, the Norwegian royal house has been cheap,” claimed Tor Bomann-Larsen, who wrote a highly publicized series of books about King Haakon, Norway’s first modern monarch after sovereignty. The Norwegian royal house, Bomann-Larsen said, “was supposed to be a simple court in comparison to the Swedish and Danish courts. I can’t see how that can have changed.”

King Harald and Queen Sonja, however, have recently received extraordinary grants for refurbishment of several of their properties. At a time when other royal families are being asked to swallow cuts in their taxpayer endowments, because of the budget crises in Europe, King Harald also has requested a 22.7 percent increase in his annual state endowment, while the crown prince has asked for a 7.2 percent raise. They’re likely to get it, despite controversy earlier this year over a lack of disclosure over King Harald’s overseas fortune.

The state budget for 2010 provides NOK 175 million (about EUR 22 million) in royal funding, but several items like operation of the royal yacht aren’t included in that. Matthijs sets the total cost at NOK 233 million. Palace spokesman Sven Gjeruldsen declined comment.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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