“Don’t do it again."
That was the pithy advice that Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, had on Thursday for Britain's top central bankers, after a royal tour of the gold vaults inside the Bank of England turned into a royal scolding over the way the protectors of the pound sterling had missed the run-up to the global financial crisis of 2008.
The remark came after Queen Elizabeth II herself, in her first visit to the central bank since 1998, politely but firmly questioned a select group of men from the Bank of England who were giving her the tour about the precise reasons why the Bank never saw the crisis coming and other regulators did little to prevent it.
"I suppose in money terms it is very difficult foreseeing (things). But people had got a bit ... lax?," the Queen asked.
Sujit Kapadia from the Bank of England’s Financial Services Committee agreed with the Queen, but he also noted that part of the problem was that no one had any idea how interconnected the financial system was. He also suggested that financial crises are like earthquakes: rare and "difficult to foresee." He also introduced the other people giving the tour as "some of the staff who hopefully will spot the next one coming."
To that statement, the chipper Duke of Edingburgh, the Queen's 91-year-old husband, quipped, "There isn't another one coming, is there?"
As a figurehead monarch, the Queen rarely delves deeply into politics. However, it is not the first time she has held economists responsible for not sounding the alarm bells prior to the global economic debacle, notably asking in 2008 during a radio address, "Why did nobody notice?"
In a statement released in response to Her Majesty's comments, the U.K.'s Financial Services Authority, the country's main markets regulator, said, "We've widely acknowledged that the regulatory approach before the financial crisis in 2008 was flawed and has since been completely changed."