One's having the builders in

Tim Ewart

Former Royal Editor

It's no secret that Buckingham Palace is the least favourite of the Queen's various homes.

She's at her happiest during summer at Balmoral and Christmas at Sandringham, both of which she owns personally, and in between she and Prince Philip retreat to Windsor Castle as often as possible.

Neither of them was very enthusiastic about moving to the palace when the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952.

But Buckingham Palace may soon be a rather more attractive place to spend one's time.

It is to be given a £369 million facelift in a programme spanning a decade that will be paid for by increasing the Queen's sovereign grant from parliament.

It is no secret the Queen prefers Balmoral or Sandringham. Credit: Reuters

The royal income, in the end taxpayers' money, is calculated on 15% of the profits from the Crown Estate. That will go up to 25%, giving the monarch what's being described as a pay increase of 66%.

The palace, of course, belongs to the nation, not the House of Windsor, and the argument is that as the setting for so many formal events of state it's renovation is long overdue.

The building will be re-wired (for the first time since the '50s), and water pipes and the heating system replaced.

Short term expenditure will lead to long-term savings, or so the argument goes.

Garden parties and other royal ceremonies will continue to be held at Buckingham Palace. Credit: Reuters

Inevitably, the plan has once again focused attention on the cost of the monarchy.

The anti-monarchist Republic group has dismissed it as "an absolute disgrace" and "an indictment of the Queen's scandalous mismanagement of royal finances over six decades".

In the face of such fury, a palace official hoped the restoration of the palace would appeal the public's "sense of nationhood".

The need for repairs, if not the eye-watering cost, has been signalled by royal aides for some time now.

There was even a suggestion last year that the Queen would have to move out while the work was undertaken. That won't happen.

Garden parties and other royal ceremonials will still be held at Buckingham Palace.

But the monarch will still be moving to a home she prefers whenever she can.