Buckingham Palace bowed to pressure yesterday and revealed the outlines of the Queen Mother's will, which it last month went to the high court to keep confidential.
The move, which infuriated some Labour MPs, means that the full details of the will are not being disclosed but a statement showed that previous assessments were not wide of the mark.
The Queen will not have to pay inheritance tax on her mother's estate, valued at between £50m and £70m, thanks to a deal reached with John Major's government nine years ago when she agreed to pay tax for the first time. The agreement meant that the sovereign's bequests are not liable to taxation. The palace maintains the arrangement is necessary to preserve the sovereign's financial independence and to compensate her for not being able to earn her own living.
For ordinary members of the public the tax is levied at 40% once the value of an estate exceeds £250,000. But although the Queen herself will not have to pay the tax, the undisclosed bequests her mother left to her generally underpaid staff will be liable to the taxation.
The palace also announced that many of the items in the Queen Mother's private art collection, including a Monet and some Faberge eggs, are being transferred to the royal collection, held in trust for the nation. They will be placed on display at the new Queen's Gallery at the palace when it opens to the public next week.
The palace also announced a reallocation of some of the properties used by the Queen Mother. As expected, the Prince of Wales will move across the road from his present quarters at St James's Palace to the Queen Mother's former London home, Clarence House, part of the ground floor of which will in future be open to the public while the prince is away during August and September.
Prince Charles, whose move will be paid for by the government as part of the royal family's property services grant-in-aid, which pays for the upkeep of royal residences, will also be given the use of Birkhall, the Queen Mother's large holiday home on the Balmoral estate in Scotland, after he reputedly beat off a claim to the property made by his father, the Duke of Edinburgh.
His brother, Prince Andrew, is moving out of the large modern mansion that he shared with his former wife Sarah, the Duchess of York, near Windsor. He will move into the Royal Lodge, the Queen Mother's home in nearby Windsor Great Park, once refurbishment there is complete, though the prince is expected to pay for the move.
Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC television news last night, Sir Elton John praised the tradition of the royal family.
Sir Elton has confounded the expectations of the 12,000 members of the public who are attending the golden jubilee pop concert at Buckingham Palace in a fortnight's time by recording his contribution in advance, because he will not be able to attend.
"I don't know how much the Queen likes pop music- she grins and bears it. And she is probably the best in the world at grinning and bearing it on every occasion.
"She'll be very pleased that people from my generation and the younger generation will come here and perform because they want to," said Sir Elton.
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