civil list

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civil list. The civil list is the grant made by Parliament for the monarch's personal support and for that of the household, and has frequently proved controversial. It was started in the reign of William and Mary and fixed at £700,000 p.a., out of which the monarchs had to pay pensions and salaries. Walpole's desire to retain office in 1727 led to George II receiving an extremely generous settlement, since his income rose as trade increased. George III, young and inexperienced in 1760, agreed to a fixed sum of £800,000 p.a.—a ‘most disastrous step’, according to his biographer, since the growth of the royal family soon eroded the value of the grant and made repeated and embarrassing applications to Parliament necessary. The influence of the crown diminished accordingly. Although in later reigns pensions were dealt with separately, the civil list continued to provoke criticism. Victoria, a secluded widow for many years after Albert's death in 1861, spent very little and was repaid with a pamphlet entitled What does she do with it? It was presumed that vast savings were being transferred to the private purse. Edward VII and George V were given a basic £470,000 p.a. but post-war inflation in the 1960s brought the issue to the surface again in the reign of Elizabeth II. A select committee in 1971 recommended that any savings should return to the public purse and that there should be regular reviews of the civil list award. In the 1980s and 1990s there were persistent complaints that too many members of the royal family were supported at the taxpayers' expense.

J. A. Cannon

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civil list Annual grant voted by Parliament to supply the expenses of the royal establishment in Britain. In 1993, the number of royal family members on the civil list was reduced to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Queen Mother.