As the nation again, according to the media at least, is gripped by royal fever, this article will stir some controversy, I’m sure – a portion of the country has an almost fetishised love of the monarchy. But what has the monarchy ever done for us? What have they done to deserve this nauseating outpouring of love and loyalty? Isn’t it time to re-assess their worth?
It infuriates me how people will still kowtow to these very ordinary and somewhat flawed people as if they’re better than any other average joe – just because of the circumstance of their birth, no other reason than the family they have been born in to. Members of the royal family are in no way biologically superior to anyone else. Yet your average punter would likely swear they would give their own life for the Queen. Madness.
The British monarchy represents a feudal society of medieval England in a modern democratic state. It underpins our ghastly class system and the vast inequality present in the nation. It represents a lot of what is wrong with the society we live in.
Some may argue that the Royal Family sum up who the British are, they are the essence of Britishness. But the Windsor’s are so far removed from the experience of what it is to be British. Most people go to a comprehensive school, rely on the NHS, have to work silly hours and jobs just to make ends meet. Some even rely on foodbanks to feed their children. The Royal family have never wanted for anything. They sit on chairs of solid gold, have hundreds of staff attending to their every whim.
The Royal PR team described Kate and William’s palace apartment as a “normal family home”. It’s effectively a four storey house with three kitchens, all fully staffed. £4.5 million was spent on redecorating it. Which is what every “normal family” spends on redecoration, right?
Some may argue that the monarch provides balance to our political system. But there’s no public scrutiny of the monarch as head of state, that’s the opposite of democratic. It is debatable to say that the “Royal Prerogative” can be described more accurately as “prime ministerial powers” due to the huge amount of power the government exercises in the name of the monarch.
Some argue that the Royal family brings in huge amounts of revenue from tourism. It’s absurdly naive to believe that people would not still come to Britain without an active monarch in residence. People will still come to explore the history and visit the attractions. Versailles in republican France is in the world’s top 50 tourist destinations, people still visit Washington DC, Berlin and other locations despite the absence of a monarchy. Would London’s museums, the Lake District, Edinburgh Fringe Festival be empty if we didn’t have a monarch? Of course not.
If anything, there is a potential tourist goldmine to be harvested by moving the Royals out of Buckingham Palace and opening it up to the public. The taxpayer is footing the £370 million repair bill for the house. I say that if the Royals want to stay there, they should pay the bill themselves.
When you factor in all the grants, minor royal costs and everything else, the Royals certainly take more money than they give back. According to research, the Royals cost us £345 million a year – a lot more than the official figure pumped out by Buckingham Palace. There seem to be no checks and balance on their spending. They even get grants to cover repair costs of royal homes even though said costs would barely dent their £67 billion fortune anyway.
Some may argue that the monarchy is good for our image abroad. But how can we scrutinise other nations for their lack of democracy when we have such a flawed system ourselves – and I daresay there is a reason that the majority of Commonwealth countries are now republics.
So what are we holding onto? Is it simply tradition? Is it simply for the pomp and circumstance?
The monarchy epitomises the notion that your life chances are determined not by what you can do, but to whom you were born – which is the very cornerstone of a society riddled with class prejudice and privilege. It enshrines the notion that power can be unaccountable at the very pinnacle of our system of government.
Elizabeth got the job simply because her dad had the job, her dad got the job because his dad had the job, his dad got the job because… you get the point. People in America and other countries would not be happy if their head of state passed the job down to their offspring, so why do so many of us seem unbothered by this? Why should someone be given the opportunity to be head of the nation according to birth and not ability?
So what do the Royals do to earn their taxpayer paid for lifestyle? Talk to people, tick boxes and cut tape. That’s the sum of it. If a bit of chatting and box ticking really deserves all they receive, then most of the working population who are told to be grateful for minimum wage and zero hours contracts are being royally screwed over.
Why should the average taxpayer be paying out of their hard earned money for the Royals up keeping and their lavish lifestyles? The Queen’s personal fortune alone, including stocks, shares, property, art and so on is estimated at somewhere in the region of £3 billion.
When you think of nurses, police and other members of vital services giving so much to our society, and getting so little in return does it not seem unscrupulous that the Royals get to live a life of luxury for an hours work here and there, for politely shaking somebodies hand? When you think of parents working long hours and still struggling to feed their children, compared to the royals deciding whether they would prefer smoked salmon with truffle, or pheasant for dinner after their afternoon nap how can the injustice not make you swell with anger?
All this at a time when public services, public sector jobs, wages, terms and conditions have been slashed by governmental austerity measures. We can’t afford the royals. They do not represent value for money. We cannot continue to fund their way of life. Remember, “we’re all in it together” as David Cameron famously said. Yet they seem to get more and more of our public money every year – whilst most of us take home less in real terms.
And on the issue of the Royal wedding, yes I’ve managed to avoid mentioning it to press, the security cost for the event alone is set to cost the taxpayer an estimated £30 million.
And don’t get me started on how anybody can justify spending £300,000 on a wedding dress, especially when an estimated 72 people lost their lives at Grenfell tower to make a saving of £293,000 on fire-retardant material – this makes it look like one day in one person’s life is more important than the entire lives of the 72 people who perished.
Set aside the money, the inequality, the nauseating display of riches, power and privilege we continue to fund simply due to accidents of birth. It’s the affront to democracy that is the real regressive state of affairs. Hereditary appointments are simply incompatible with democracy and meritocracy. Royalists say this does not matter because the monarch no longer “runs” Britain and does not, and would not, use her powers. Yet the monarch still has considerable powers: to wage war, sign treaties, dissolve Parliament etc. Were the next monarch more (openly) assertive with their powers, as fictionalised in Mike Bartlett’s award-winning plan King Charles III, then a constitutional crisis would be inevitable. We must begin treating the Royals like political actors instead of sedate reality TV stars, and recognise their power is real – and wrong.
We should have a Head of State who is there by merit, not by coincidence of birth. One that has been democratically elected, and doesn’t need to flaunt multi-million-pound crowns and thrones to command respect.
Just to remind you, the monarch is exempt from prosecution for any offence at all. Literally above the law of the land. Long to reign over us. Outrageous, disgraceful and absolutely impossible to justify.
So let’s abolish the outdated institution. Or if we must keep the monarchy, it should not be in its current form: major reform should be on the table. Belgium, for instance, is a popular monarchy. But its constitution makes clear that sovereignty rests in the people – the monarch becomes monarch not by right, but by taking an oath to uphold the people’s constitution.
Move the Royal family out of Buckingham Palace and open it up to the public, end the sovereign grant, make them pay for their own weddings and repairs as the rest of us have to, and remove the monarch’s status as Head of State – then we might eventually begin to think about joining the 21st century.
The system of monarchy is overbearing, overexuberant and quite frankly, vastly outdated. Britain, as a modern and democratic society, deserves better.