On her visit to Australia last year, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh presented gifts to Australian officials, just as royals have done on every visit to a Commonwealth nation.However, a row between Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Buckingham Palace has revealed the gifts may have been paid for by the receivers themselves, the Telegraph reports.
Gillard’s office initially said the gifts – worth £10,000 ($15,600) and including framed photographs and a silver box – were paid for by the Australian public under a protocol for “visits to the realm”, just as they also paid for the royal couple’s entire trip. The norm has allegedly been in place for decades.
The Australian PM’s statement on Tuesday prompted a rebuttal from a Buckingham Palace spokesman.
“The Royal Household pays for gifts given by The Queen – not Australian taxpayers,” the spokesman said, according to The Australian Daily Telegraph.
The reports drew public ire, with numerous online comments describing the Queen as a “parasite”. An online poll found 84 per cent opposed “fork[ing] out for gifts presented to our leaders by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh”.
“She is one of the richest women in the world,” said one comment posted on the Herald Sun website. “I can’t comprehend how Aussie taxpayers should get lumbered with the bill for her giveaways. A gift is a gift and it should be given away freely, not with an underhanded “provided by the Australian Taxpayer” sticker.”
However, later that same day, Gillard’s office said the Palace had advised it would pay for the gifts.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman confirmed that Australia would only pay for the trip itself.
The costs of the 2011 trip were reportedly expected to be about £650,000 (about $1 million).
Supporters of an Australian republic used the incident as an opportunity to demonstrate the need to end the country’s “kowtowing” to the British monarch, The Herald Sun reports.
But Australians for Constitutional Monarchy chairman Professor David Flint said the Queen should not be expected to personally pay for the gifts, nor should an Australian president of any future republic.