Revelations about the Royal Family's investment portfolio have a habit of surfacing from time to time and so we here at The University of the Bleeding Obvious have taken it upon ourselves to investigate some of their lesser known financial dealings. The most interesting of these must surely be Regina Loans Ltd.
Regina Loans, wholly owned and operated by the Royal Family, has been trading for just over six years and is, legally speaking, a perfectly legitimate investment for Her Majesty. However, questions have been raised about whether it is entirely appropriate for a head of state to tout herself as a money lender. Of rather more concern are suggestions that the company's collection methods may not be entirely ethical. We spoke to one of their clients, who did not want to be identified.
University of the Bleeding Obvious: Karen... I mean 'Judy' - tell us how you first got involved with Regina Loans.
'Judy' It was about six months ago. Things were really tight. The kids' birthdays were coming up and I found that there was nothing left for me to live on after the rent went out. That's when I went to Regina.
UBO And why did you choose Regina Loans?
'Judy' Not sure really. I guess it was because they had the brightest, cleanest shopfront in the high street. Actually, I think theirs was the only shop in the street that wasn't boarded up.
UBO I see. Carry on.
'Judy' I was just about to carry on.
'Judy' Why did you interrupt me, just to tell me to carry on?
UBO Yes, very sorry.
'Judy' You're weird. Anyway, I took out a load for £120, just to see me through the month. But then my hours got reduced at work and when the time came to pay it back, I couldn't afford it.
UBO And what happened then?
'Judy' Well... I couldn't pay it back. Like I said.
UBO Yes, I mean, what did Regina Loans do then?
'Judy' Oh I see. Well, for each week that went by they applied a late payment fee, so the amount I owe has risen slightly.
UBO I see. How much is it now?
'Judy' Thirty-eight thousand pounds.
'Judy' Bless you. So anyway, that's not really a figure I can stretch to right now, and they were less than sympathetic when I told them this. First there were the terse letters demanding payment. Then came the phone calls, day and night, some of them quite angry. Then they sent 'The Duke'.
UBO The Duke?
'Judy' The Duke of York. He's their enforcer.
UBO And what did The Duke do?
'Judy' Well he smashed the place up, obviously. Take a look around you: you don't think I usually live like this, do you? You see that hole in the front door? That was him - put his foot through it. Then he tore through the whole place, breaking up the furniture, hurling our stuff out of the window, and all the while he was screaming 'Do you know who I am? Do you know who I am?'
UBO And you did, of course. He was the Duke of York.
'Judy' Well yes. Anyway, when he'd finished he told me that if I didn't have the money in seven days he'd have me executed for treason. Then he took a shit on the hearth rug and went off to beat up my neighbour.
UBO Ah right, I wondered what that was.
'Judy' Yes, sorry about that. You might want to wipe that off your shoe before it stains the leather.
Whilst there may be many others who, like 'Judy' (Karen), have received rough treatment at the hands of royal debt collectors, very few are willing to talk about their experiences openly. Take, for example, the Kenwright family who, being unable to repay their loan, came home one day to find that their house had been demolished while they were out shopping. Several eyewitnesses reported seeing a bulldozer being driven by someone who looked uncannily like the Duchess of Cornwall.
Despite this and other evidence, the Kenwrights have chosen not to make a complaint, believing that their house must have fallen down because they 'left a window open'. Even the housing association which owned the house has not felt the need to raise any objections and are quoted as saying that 'things fall over all the time'. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the palace has categorically denied any involvement with the incident, stating that the Royal Family does not own a bulldozer, and even if it did, which it doesn't, and the Duke of Edinburgh hadn't already hidden the keys, the Duchess would have no idea how to drive it.
Episodes like these prompt us to question why so few people are prepared to share their experiences. Is it purely out of fear or is something else at work? The Royal Family has always been able to command a loyal and unquestioning following - does this perhaps provide the explanation? Certainly it would seem to explain the reactions of people like Derek Sideboard, a man who proudly admits to being in debt to the crown.
UBO Mr Sideboard, I believe that you currently owe Regina Loans something in the region of two hundred thousand pounds?
Sideboard Yes sir, that's right sir.
UBO And is it true that the Princess Royal shot your dog?
Sideboard She most surely did sir? She didn't want to - I could see it in her eyes as she squeezed the trigger - but she knew her duty, God bless her. It was in the agreement, see.
UBO The agreement?
Sideboard The loan agreement. Right there in black and white. I couldn't pay so BOOM! Bye-bye, Fido.
UBO I see that your feet have been encased in cement. Did the Princess Royal do that, also?
Sideboard No sir.
UBO She didn't?
Sideboard No sir, it was the Earl of Wessex that did the cement. That was in the agreement too.
UBO Wasn't that rather inconvenient?
Sideboard Oh, I should say so. He had to fetch the cement especially. Then he had to find something to mix it up in. And once he'd done that he had to wait around until it set, which was quite good of him really, as I'm sure he had much better things to be doing.
UBO No, I mean wasn't it rather inconvenient for you?
Sideboard Oh right, well, not so much, actually. I don't go out all that often these days anyway, although I suppose getting to the toilet has been a bit of a challenge.
UBO Some people might say that encasing your feet in cement is a bit 'cruel'.
Sideboard No? What people? Who would say that?
UBO Well, normal people, I suppose.
Sideboard Oh, them. What would they know? It was all explained to me: you see, they didn't want to encase my feet in cement but it was all there in the terms and conditions. As I understand it, they would have got into trouble with the regulator if they hadn't done it. They're a wonderful family though, aren't they sir?
UBO You don't think you've been exploited? Maltreated?
Sideboard Oh now steady on sir, I think you're going a bit far now. These people do a wonderful job for our country - the sacrifices they make!
UBO They shot your dog.
Sideboard They had every right to shoot my dog. Marvellous people!
UBO They also set fire to your mother.
Sideboard She was a very flammable woman. She would have gone up eventually anyway. Not like the Queen - you wouldn't get a woman of Her Majesty's calibre catching fire so easily. Do you know, that woman is a hundred and twenty years old and she's never had a day off work in her life. No sir, there's never been a day when she's said 'Oh, I don't feel like being Queen today, I'm a bit under the weather'. No sir, she just soldiers on, being royal.
UBO And do you think it's fair that she lives a life of opulence and luxury, swanning around her various palaces, completely unfettered by building materials, whereas you've been cemented to the spot because you can't afford to repay the loan you took out to put food on your table?
Sideboard Are you a communist?
UBO I'm just trying to say -
Sideboard Or an anarchist? You're some kind of 'ist' anyways. See, the thing is, I'm British. Do you know what that means? It means that I'm a subject of the Queen and if Her Majesty chooses, by whatever means available to her, to render me immobile then it is my patriotic duty to submit. She is not at fault here. If anyone's to blame it's me for not reading the small print when I applied for the loan.
Ultimately what lies behind the phenomenal success of Regina Loans is this remarkable union of the callousness of their business practices combined with the unswerving and inexplicable devotion of their customers. It's this that provides an impenetrable barrier for the likes of investigators like us, and prevents us from discovering the identity of the real brains behind the operation: the dark figure that waits in background, directing the family's operations from the shadows and known variously as The Governor, The Big Cheese, The Duchy Original, Prince Bluebottle or just simply 'Chuck'.