Not-so spoiler alert: The Queen has an ATM and it’s in Buckingham Palace. You’ve probably known that for a while. You may even have read about it back in 2001, when then-head of Coutts Bank, Gordon Pell, told The Standard that the bank had installed one in the basement for the royal family’s personal use (via Hello Magazine).
In 2019, when the queen’s ATM turned up in a TV documentary and caused a new round of whispers, The Sun questioned whether or not Queen Elizabeth had ever used her own personal ATM. After all, if The Standard is right and Her Royal Highness is so frugal that she insists on using a heater worth 30 British pounds during the winter, then she might not be inclined to take money out at all. (Except perhaps for expenditure on her horses, or perhaps, on bottles of her favorite gin.)
Regardless, anytime that Queen Elizabeth or members of the royal family do choose to take money out, pictures of Coutts ATMs in The Daily Mail indicate that all such transactions would likely be free of charge. But the story here isn’t really about the somewhat extraordinary fact that the queen of England and her family have an ATM for their own personal use. It’s about its symbolism, embodied by the institution behind it.
What's special about a Coutts ATM?
The Guardian writer Stephen Moss describes the inside of Coutts as a sanctuary modeled after the Royal Botanical Gardens, complete with a pond. It’s filled with clients in pin stripes, marble-topped tables, and wild strawberries. Tatler says that until 1993 the bank sent documents to the British royal family via horse and carriage to Buckingham Palace. (There were, for the record, perfectly pompous cars in 1993. For example, Aston Martin’s DB7, which was certainly worthy of James Bond, and per Auto Express, was created through a collaboration between Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Ford.)
Horse and carriage, however, is the way that Coutts rolls. The bank is the living embodiment of excess and extravagance. Reuters says that Charles Dickens used Coutts. The Guardian notes its history with rock stars, pop stars, famous actors, soccer stars, golfers, Formula One race car drivers, and successful video gamers. Per Tatler, banking at Coutts is free of charge, as long as you have £1 million (about $1.3 million). Although, there are other requirements. The Guardian, for example, writes that “Coutts prefers its clients to have at least £500,000 to invest.”
What’s the point? Although anybody may be able take money out of a Coutts ATM, Coutts would almost certainly not install an ATM in just anybody’s household. You can be certain that that is a privilege reserved almost exclusively for Queen Elizabeth.
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