Love/Hate Monarchy

By Lucy Mapstone

AS THE wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton approaches all eyes are on the Royal Family. It’s a real-life fairytale, Kate, a normal girl, fell in love with a prince and will someday become Queen. The wedding, however, with its media coverage and worldwide fixation has thrown up some recurring questions. Are the Royals relevant in modern society? Do they justify our time and taxes or should we simply abolish the monarchy? While it’s difficult to imagine a life without the Royal Family (after all, England has had a monarch for millennia and its customs are firmly rooted in our culture) there might be sufficient grounds for eradicating them in our current economic and social climate. We have to question whether the Queen and her brood are too much of a drain on our economy, whether they still matter to us, the other Commonwealth nations and even the rest of the world and if every member of the Windsor family deserves to be put on a royal pedestal because of birth or marriage.  Windsor family deserves to be put on a royal pedestal because of birth or marriage. >>

 

1. They add value to our nation

The Royal Family represent our culture and our values entirely. They’re a little bit imperfect (and not ashamed to admit this – how very British), they stand for propriety and are a key contributor to  the structural design of our great land. There are good grounds to use Buckingham Palace or Sandringham House as reasons our monarchy is so unique to our country: these stately constructions are internationally revered so it would be deplorable to abolish the Royal Family and these historical monuments along with them. Additionally, over the centuries the rulings of our various royal families may be littered with scandal but that’s what makes our country great. Compared to a relatively new country, like America, we can boast of our detailed history – the good, the bad and the ugly.

2. The royal family are appealing to tourists

Of course, Britain is more than just the Royal Family – you only have to take a wander through one of our diverse cities or sip a customary cup of tea to realise that – but there is no denying how much they add to our economy. The rest of the world is fascinated with the Royals. Visit Britain has estimated the Royals bring in £500m in tourism revenue every year. And it’s not just the Royal Family as an entity that aids us – as individuals they attract a lot of attention. Princess Diana may not be with us anymore but she is still an icon; an example of decency and elegance, traits that we are proud to be associated with.

3. It’s a small price to pay for what we get in return

The cost of the Royal Family has gone down in recent years. In fact, the current upkeep of the Royals is 62p per person per year. That’s just over 1p a week, this doesn’t seem much when you think about how much we get in return: a highly profitable tourism industry, a cultural USP for our country and the chance to rejoice in esteemed customs. A couple of years ago Sir Alan Reid, keeper of the Privy Purse and Treasurer to the Queen, announced that the Windsors were conscious of our current financial state and had responded accordingly. “The Royal household is aware of the difficult economic climate and has taken action to reduce civil list expenditure by 2.5% in 2009,” he explained. Our royal family may be expensive but the cost is small change.

4. The Royals are integral to our national identity

They’re an on-going part of our zeitgeist because of their ability to adapt and change. We’ve had a monarchy for 1000 years and we can’t just throw it away because it’s 2011 and some of our values have changed. They do fit into modern society – the younger royals are as normal as they can be and Clarence House even updates us on Twitter. While Britain isn’t the global super-power it used to be, we should still be proud of how at one time “the sun never set on the empire”. YouGov recently ran a poll to find out how we as a nation feel about the monarchy and the findings prove that we largely believe the monarchy should remain – we’re proud of it and still think it necessary element to our national indentity. Former Conservative minister Edwina Currie supports this view. “The Queen is a good thing…she’s been bashing away at that thankless job for 60 years and is still trudging around being nice to medal-laden dictators.”

5. They’re human, and entertaining to observe

The Royals have always been what some may call a tad corrupt – remember Henry VIII and his six wives? It just adds to the intrigue and makes them more accessible. They’re a useful source of entertainment, a real-life soap opera and, whether you love them or hate them, they’re an attention-grabbing bunch of people. You can’t help but laugh when Prince Phillip drops a clanger, or roll your eyes when Harry stumbles around after a night out. Princess Diana is one of the most captivating public figures of all time; she’ll forever be tied to the UK. And, in this time of doom and gloom, isn’t it nice to have something to look forward to? The royal wedding is a global event, highlighting just how important our nation and our traditions are. Some may say to focus so heavily on two people saying “I do” is disproportionate, but what’s wrong with celebrating a happy occasion? It’s also giving us a reason to toast an age-old institution that, by the looks of things, isn’t going anywhere.

 

1. They have no real power

While it’s fair to say our reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has some command it is important to note she is only a constitutional monarch as she does not govern the country politically. She may be the Head of State, but she is mostly redundant from the major decisions that shape Britain. Would we miss the ceremonial aspect of all that the Queen and her family do? Perhaps for a while, but we’d soon move on and there will come a point when we realise we’re better off without their pomp and rituals.

2. There are other British things that draw in tourists

Britain is a beautiful nation and there is so much more to us than a family of rich people who swan around knighting the odd public figure and showing up at polo matches. Our architecture, art, music, luscious landscape, cities, multi-cultural population and even our charmingly unpredictable weather make us what we are. Richard Dowden, head of the Royal African Society, sums it up perfectly: “Monarchy is good for tourism but not society – it is divisive and expensive.” Yes, tourism brings in millions every year but our country is more than just a holiday destination for foreigners.

3. Keeping the royal family costs us all

The royal wedding is said to be costing around £10m, while other sources claim the figure is actually closer to £50m. Most of the money will be going on security around the event itself, with the cost to the Metropolitan police on the day alone around £20m as police working the ‘royal wedding shift’ will earn double pay courtesy of David Cameron naming April 29 a Bank Holiday in light of the nuptials. Of course the full cost of the wedding won’t be our complete responsibility as taxpayers – the Queen and even the Middletons are adding their fair share to the wedding day kitty – but the cost to the country as a whole will be monumental in security and transport. Also, sources claim that the extra four-day Bank Holiday weekend, following the four-day Easter weekend will cost the economy around £5bn in lost business. That’s a lot of money for one wedding.

4. There is no need for old fashioned traditions

It’s 2011, not 1511. They’re neither important nor relevant in today’s culture. Political activist Peter Tatchell says: “The British people do not hate the Royals, but I’m not sure anyone loves them either.” The royal family’s archaic traditions look dusty in our modern lives and they are largely no more than an addition to our obsession with celebrity culture and superfluous news. In addition, it’s often noted that the Royal Family are mostly about formal engagements and are rarely involved with issues on a day to day level. Australia and Canada, two member states in the Commonwealth overseen by Queen Elizabeth II, both have republican movements that argue that their Heads of State should be a citizen and resident of their countries. It’s not exactly a social uprising but the movements are there, highlighting the fact that people are unhappy at being ruled and watched over by an old-fashioned and, some might say, archaic form of government.

5. They are regular people with too much money

They’re too human to be special – they all have their idiosyncrasies. They are only in their positions due to the fact they were born (or married) into the family. One of the biggest technical flaws of the monarchy is that it’s all down to heredity. If these people were born into any other family or lifestyle, they’d just be normal citizens and nobody would care about them. A prime example is Prince Andrew, fourth in line to the throne. He is never far from the focus of the tabloids. The most recent controversy involved his affiliation with billionaire American financier (and convicted sex offender) Jeffrey Epstein, and let’s not forget his well-chronicled marriage and divorce to Sarah Ferguson. Prince Harry has also earned himself a bit of a reputation as a “lad about town”, and has been photographed on numerous occasions reportedly drunk in public. He was also condemed for dressing in a Nazi outfit at a fancy dress party back in 2005. One has to wonder if people like this should have so much status…

 

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Image: AP/Reuters

 

 

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