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Queen Inspects Gold Bullion Deep Below Bank Of England

 

As the financial crisis hit in 2008, she spoke for the nation when she asked a group of economists: ‘Why did nobody notice?’

Four years on, the Queen finally got her answer – although it didn’t seem much to her liking.

The monarch was visiting the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street yesterday when she was buttonholed by one of its financial policy experts.

Royal inspection: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were shown the vaults at the Bank of England where thousands of gold bars are keptRoyal inspection: The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were shown the vaults at the Bank of England where thousands of gold bars are kept

Sujit Kapadia said he wanted to put her mind at rest after she famously described the credit crunch as ‘awful’ during a visit to the London School of Economics in 2008.

At the time, she asked academics how the onset of the crisis could have been missed when it was so enormous.

Yesterday Mr Kadapia told her that it was partly because financial crises, like flu pandemics and earthquakes, are hard to predict.

People, she was also informed, got complacent because they thought the risk was being managed better than before.

The Queen grimaced at this and said: ‘But people had got a bit…lax, had they?’

Usually, she is notoriously discreet about her views on international events.

But, remarkably, the Queen went on to suggest that the Financial Services Authority may not have been aggressive enough in its policing. She said: ‘The Financial Services – what do they call themselves, the regulators – Authority, which was really quite new … it didn’t have any teeth.’

Hands-on: The Queen thoroughly inspects the gold vaults during her visit to the Bank of EnglandHands-on: The Queen thoroughly inspects the gold vaults during her visit to the Bank of England

Value: The vaults contain thousands of bars of gold worth billions of poundsValue: The vaults contain thousands of bars of gold worth billions of pounds

The Duke of Edinburgh didn’t help matters much, asking: ‘There’s not another one coming, is there?

He then fixed Mr Kapadia and his group with a typically gimlet eye and barked: ‘Don’t do it again!’

Afterwards Mr Kapadia was optimistic as he assessed the encounter, saying: ‘It was a real pleasure to be able to offer some explanation. I think she recognised that these things are very difficult and it’s not a straightforward exercise.

‘The strongest thing I got [from the Queen] is what are we trying to do so it doesn’t happen again.’

The FSA, which is being disbanded after failing to spot the financial crisis which engulfed Britain, later issued a stiff response to the Queen’s remarks.

It said: ‘We’ve widely acknowledged that the regulatory approach before the financial crisis in 2008 was flawed and has since been completely changed.’

It was the Queen’s ninth visit to the Bank. On her first, as the 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth, she signed a thousand pound note.

Queen Elizabeth II waves during her visit to the Bank of England in central London where she inspected vaults with thousands of slabs of gold
The Duke of Edinburgh with a £1m pound note during his visit to the Bank of England in central London.

Interesting discussion: The Queen was taken with the discussion on how another downturn could be prevented, while the Duke joked with the Bank’s staff Reason why: The Queen spoke to Sujit Kapadia who explained why the financial crisis wasn't foreseen

Reason why: The Queen spoke to Sujit Kapadia who explained why the financial crisis wasn’t foreseen

 

During yesterday’s visit, she and Prince Philip were each given the honour of each signing a £1million banknote, known as a ‘giant’ by staff.

As she scribbled her signature next to the 1937 note, she muttered: ‘It hasn’t improved, really.’

On their tour, the Queen must have been a little over-awed by the £27billion worth that glittered in the Bank of England’s basement vault.

The Queen makes her way to the Bank of England for a tour today
Regular visitor: Today's tour was the Queen's eighth visit to the Bank of England

Visit: A large crowd had gathered outside the Bank as the Royal couple toured inside, which included an inspection of bank notes

 

It’s one of nine vaults dotted around London, in which the Bank stores around £200billion of gold.

This one contains 63,000 gold bars stacked in eight rows.

Each four-tonne stack is four pallets high, and each pallet carries 80 bars.

While, at 13kg – around 2st – a gold bar is a little heavy to steal, the Duke of Edinburgh did seem tempted by the £1million banknote he was asked to sign.

He joked ‘is this just lying about?’, adding ‘you won’t miss it, will you?’.

Signature: The Queen and the Duke each signed a £1 million bank note to go into the guest bookSignature: The Queen and the Duke each signed a £1 million bank note to go into the guest book

Afterwards the Governor of the Bank, Sir Mervyn King, thanked the Queen for her visit, describing the Bank’s staff as ‘unsung heroes’ who had kept the economy going ‘in the most difficult circumstances’.

And he asked the Queen for two early Christmas presents. One was her signature on the banknote, and the other was the Royal Assent on the Financial Services Bill.

‘When is the Bill due?’ The Queen asked. ‘It has gone through Parliament and should be with you before Christmas,’ Sir Mervyn replied.

Sweet view: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall views a gingerbread model village on the Queen Victoria cruise ship at Southampton docksSweet view: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall views a gingerbread model village on the Queen Victoria cruise ship at Southampton docks

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