Queen's royal homes to reopen within weeks as staff braced for job cuts

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JUNE 10: A general view of Windsor Castle on June 10, 2020 in Windsor, England. Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh turns 99 years old today. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Windsor Castle will reopen for visitors on 23 July. (Getty Images)

Some of the Queen’s royal homes are to reopen to the public before the end of the month, following news the staff face job cuts and pay freezes amid a dip in income.

The Royal Collection Trust (RCT) announced on Wednesday it is able to reopen Windsor Castle, where the Queen is currently living, as well as her Edinburgh home, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, from 23 July, with measures in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Queen’s Galleries at Buckingham Palace and Holyroodhouse will also open, as will the Royal Mews, but the state rooms in the London home will remain closed.

The Queen has previously been in residence at Windsor Castle when it’s open to public visits.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “It is not unusual for the Queen to be in residence when tourists are visiting. It happens frequently.”

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 13: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II attends a military ceremony in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle to mark her Official Birthday on June 13, 2020 in Windsor, England. It was decided that due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic The Queen's Birthday Parade, known as Trooping the Colour, would not go ahead in it's traditional form at Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards Parade, but a small military ceremony in line with the Government's Social Distancing Guidelines would take place at Windsor Castle instead. Soldiers of 1st Battalion Welsh Guards (whose Colour was due to be Trooped this year) will carry out a series of military drills and Royal Salute. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The Queen's official birthday was held at Windsor Castle this year. (Getty Images)

At this time of year, she would usually be in Scotland, for the annual garden party in Holyroodhouse and then to spend her summer break at Balmoral.

Her love of the Scottish retreat is well-known, and while she is sure to hope she will be able to spend time there, new considerations will be made during the pandemic.

The travel restriction in Scotland has lifted meaning people can travel more than five miles for exercise, leisure and recreation, and the ban on using second homes has also been removed.

Holiday accommodation with no shared services can also be used.

It means in theory, the Queen’s trip to Balmoral could be above board.

There are reports that the Queen may return to Windsor Castle after a Scottish holiday, rather than returning to Buckingham Palace as she usually would.

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A memo seen by The Daily Telegraph says there is a possibility the royal household will not be fully operational until 2021.

The memo, written by the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Peel, states: "Even when lockdown measures are relaxed, social distancing and changing attitudes to travel will mean that visitor numbers are likely to be reduced for several years."

On Tuesday, the RCT confirmed it would be implementing a voluntary redundancy scheme, which will be open to all 650 of its staff.

The RCT is a charity set up to manage the royal households and artefacts and makes most of its money from the summer openings of the palaces.

Previously the RCT indicated the summer openings would not go ahead in 2020 because of “operational difficulties” in adhering to social distancing.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II hosts the annual garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on July 4, 2018. (Photo by Jane Barlow / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JANE BARLOW/AFP via Getty Images)
The Queen usually hosts a garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. (Getty Images)

Read more: Palace to implement job losses and pay freezes as Royal Collection Trust set to lose £30 million

But on Wednesday, it confirmed new procedures including timed ticketing, hand sanitiser along the routes through the palaces, one-way routes and perspex screens, would allow it to open up to visitors again.

A press release stated: “With these measures in place, Royal Collection Trust has acquired the ‘We’re Good to Go’ Industry Standard mark, recognised by VisitEngland and VisitScotland.”

The palaces and shops will open five days a week, closing Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the cafe in Holyroodhouse will also open for takeaway only.

The RCT is facing losses of £30 million this year, forecasting an income closer to £13 million, having previously predicted £77 million.

The palaces summer openings usually book up quickly, but this year all guests had to be refunded.