The Big Debate: the British monarchy
“The royals are a money-spinner”
Whenever a major event in the royal circle occurs, such as this year’s royal wedding, the same argument seems to constantly arise. Why does the United Kingdom still host a monarchy? Bitter men and women that are tired of working a full time job to support themselves just don’t seem to relish seeing the royals enjoying the carefree and subsidised lifestyle to which they are accustomed.
And who can blame them? Every year the British monarchy costs us around £40 million – or sixty-six pence per person per year – in tax that’s going directly to the royal family and financing their indulgences. Why can’t these expenses be put to better use, or redirected into social investment, rather than supporting the royals’ affluent lifestyle? What these naïve people may not consider (or may tactically ignore) is the overwhelmingly large profit the royal family blesses Britons with, due in thanks to King George III, who offered Parliament the profits from royal land in exchange for a fixed annual salary.
Each and every British monarch since then has voluntarily agreed to the same deal, equating to revenue of approximately £200 million every year for Parliament. Or, in more individual terms, two pounds and sixty pence per person in the UK in profit.
However, this net profit of £160 million is rather small change when compared to the goldmine that the royal family creates for Britain in tourists, millions of whom travel halfway across the globe to dump buckets of money on the UK and see castles which aren’t plastic. The reason that our castles are so attractive to tourists is because the Tower of London isn’t just a stuffy ancient memory, but an embodiment of the stature of the living, breathing Queen.
In London, banal objects such as telephone booths, post boxes and road signs are suddenly interesting and attractive when emblazoned with the royal crest.
Of course, there will always be republicans who simply tire of the tourism figures, or question them entirely. They resent the political power the monarchy holds – after all, the government technically obtains its right to rule from the Crown, and not the people.
While it is true that in some matters it is necessary for ruling to be given by the Queen, she is neither biased nor corruptible. While an elected politician retains the capacity to be persuaded or corrupted (I’m sure a few come to mind), the royal family is born into neutral grounds, not aligned to any political party.
If that doesn’t convince you, consider this – losing the royals would affect more than just our wallets.
If the monarchy were abolished, we would no longer be the magical United Kingdom, but the much more boring and frankly, rather arduous ‘United Republic of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’. Some would also argue that with the royals would go our history, which, for the most part, is something to be proud of. Through triumph and disaster, there has always been a monarch to unite the nation and offer wisdom and support. I’m happy to admit, I’m not a conventional Royalist – you aren’t required to adore the monarchy to enjoy the perks of their existence. In fact, I slept through the royal wedding and then proceeded to use the day to mooch free food from the various street parties that were happening in town.
As far as I’ve seen, our age group (or as it’s referred to, the ‘post-Diana generation’) isn’t as inclined towards such patriotism, and spent the run-up to the wedding happily mocking the proceedings on Facebook. But to many, and perhaps even us when we turn grey, the Royals are an important embodiment of British power and unity, and perhaps even pride. It would be nothing short of foolish, fiscally, politically and socially to remove them, even if not everyone cherishes their presence.
“The royals are a national disgrace”
The idea of a Royal Family that are unelected is undemocratic, immoral and socially divisive yet the UK continues to divert already limited financial resources to a dysfunctional, antiquated system of monarchy. The entire system of monarchy undermines the supposedly democratic foundations of our society. It is impossible to claim the United Kingdom as a democratic nation when an unelected minority still hold a supreme position of influence and power. It is entirely unjustifiable that a mere coincidence of birth entitles an individual to a greater proportion of influence over the British political system.
The monarchy is simply a painful, obsolete reminder of Britain’s undemocratic past, holding us back from attaining a truly democratic system of government. The monarchy represents an institutionalisation of the class system, a national endorsement of the division of society; a system which places people of great merit and achievement second to those who have accomplished little else beyond their birth into the Royal Family.
The fanciful notion that we unite as a country under a monarch is unfounded: in practise the monarchy both enforces and rationalises the divisive system of class. It shows the idea that complete social mobility is both realistic and attainable to be merely fantastical, in that no matter how great the achievements of a commoner may be they are still unable to entirely break through the barriers of their heritage.
In an unelected system of monarchy the Royal Family are not held accountable by the public for their actions. Answerable only to themselves, they are left free to behave in a manner which shows them to be nothing short of morally bankrupt. Their dubious behaviour is frequently flaunted publicly, projecting a negative and unrepresentative image of Britain in the global media.
This image presents our nation as locked in the past, a country still lusting after the days of imperialism. It fails to recognise and depict an image of the reality of modern Britain as a progressive and contemporary nation. Instead, the Royals blunder freely from one embarrassment to the next – racial slurs and illicit affairs having all seemingly become par for the course – resulting in untold damage to Britain’s international reputation.
In short, they are a laughing stock and a cause of national embarrassment.
Aside from their dubious moral standing and drain on British integrity, the monarchy also creates a real drain on resources. We are living in times of economic crisis; the debate surrounding cuts to public services is a hugely contentious issue and with sweeping cuts taking place across all areas of society few remain unaffected.
However, despite cuts to many areas of essential public spending, the budget for Her Majesty’s civil list remains unchanged. Millions of Pounds of taxpayers’ money still continues to be poured into sustaining the royal family in a lifestyle of luxury to which they have become accustomed. This irresponsible squandering of money which is used to finance extensive estates, staff and security, continues regardless of the fact that many of the UK’s tax-paying families who contribute to the funding of this excess are themselves struggling to remain solvent.
The Royals’ lavish lifestyles only distances them further from the reality of the lives of the general population who finance them and they therefore lack the experience necessary to lead with any level of sincerity. They are an expensive investment which sees little real return yet succeeds in removing financial resources away from front-line public services.