News from England last week about the royal art collection would have you think that art was made for the high-born. “Masterpieces Kept in royal palaces out of sight of the British public” was The Guardian screamer.

Masterworks in the royal collection – a reported 5,641 now in King Charles’ possession – is the last of the European royal holdings to stay in a sovereign’s hands.

To the manor born

From The Guardian you learn that Buckingham Palace keeps paintings by art greats like Titian and Rembrandt for royal eyes only. This revelation invites comparison with days of old when royal courts vied for artists’ works for their private enjoyment.

It was from such princely collections that the earliest art museums evolved. By the 18th century, they included the Louvre and the Vatican museums. Clearly, Buckingham Palace is a showplace of a different kind.

The public is allowed an “exclusive guided tour” of the palace with 5 to 10 minutes in the art gallery. But visitors must pay 90 pounds for the privilege. Converted to dollars, that comes to $112.36.

King Charles is said to be thinking about opening the palace to the public to a greater extent, not only to allow for greater access but also so increase revenue. The crown needs money to restore Windsor Castle after the fire in 1992.

Of course, the British public has already given millions of pounds toward the maintenance of royal real estate.

But more is needed. Supporting pomp doesn’t come cheap.

But the king’s subjects have their own problems – bread and butter issues like dealing with England’s cost-of-living crisis.

Meanwhile, back at the palace, Charles has said he’ll slim down the monarchy. So, one wonders if he’ll give Brits a break on the price of gazing at his collection – especially his favorite painting.

The king made known his favorite artwork on his 70th birthday when in celebration, Buckingham Palace allowed the public a look at “The Tribute of the Uffizi” by 18th-century painter John Zoffany.

What you see is a hodgepodge of famous paintings and sculptures from the Medici collections in the styles for which they’re known.

To me, seeing them simultaneously is like having too much food on your dinner plate and losing your appetite.

Zoffany’s overstuffed picture is the kind of thing you’d expect King Henry VIII to favor given his tendency to excesses. I’m thinking of his six marriages and extravagant spending.

Anyway, Charles favorite picture is not a good image for a monarch bent on slimming down the trappings. Just as well Zoffany’s picture is kept from public view.

The question now is not only whether Charles will put his favorite work on permanent viewing, but also whether he’ll allow his art collection to become a museum, like, say, the former Spanish royals' collection that became the Prado.

Going public

In case Charles gets to read this, here’s something for him to consider.

An art museum is a universe apart from bloodlines. It’s a place where time stops and artists from long ago live to recount their story. It’s a form of public education in picture form – a legacy for everyone, not just those who inherit titles.