The monarchy in the United Kingdom is the epitome of that most defining of human characteristics- survival. This is an institution that has managed to survive The Levellers, two world wars and the subsequent collapse of its empire, the rise of a democratic parliament, numerous personal scandals, and a wave of revolutions around the world propagated by social media and globalisation. Whatever else might change- we just don’t seem to be able to rid ourselves of this family. Having said all this, it might be worth considering that the monarchy anthropomorphises a virus more than it does a human. This will no doubt cause outrage and condemnation- the royal family is one of this country’s most beloved assets. But why is that? What do we gain by having them, and just as importantly (though often overlooked) what do we lose?
What we (supposedly) gain
- Money- A lot of proponents of the monarchy would have you believe that we actually benefit financially from having the Royals. The problem with this argument though is that on both sides of the debate figures are manipulated ruthlessly, making a clear picture very hard to emerge. If we take what we can absolutely measure (though both sides attempt to add additional money- perhaps sometimes justifiably) then total expenditure of the royal family comes out roughly as £38.2 million. Republicans however claim this figure fails to include security or travel costs (that as you can imagine pile up considerably when you’re a royal- they spend more than 2,000 times what a normal family do on household expenses). Apparently we gain more money from the Royals through tourism than we lose- this is hard to calculate but only 2 of the royal residences feature highly in tourist attractions, and Windsor castle is estimated to only bring in £9 million. The tourism argument also relies on the fact that if we got rid of the royals, no one would come to see there buildings anymore. You also need to seriously consider what this argument says- THAT YOU ARE PREPARED TO SELL YOUR DEMOCRACY.
- A rich and unifying history- No disagreements here- much of British history has been influenced by the kings and queens down the ages. The point about this though is that it’s history. We won’t lose it if we get rid of the Royals now. And what about the unifying part? What does it say about your own self-esteem that you need an unelected pensioner in a mansion that you’ll probably never meet to give you a coherent sense of identity?
- Uniqueness- This one is simply untrue- almost 30 countries still have a functioning monarchy that isn’t Queen Elizabeth. The suggestion with this argument is also that a large amount of tourists come to Britain because of the monarchy, even if they don’t actually visit royal buildings (that in itself seems a bit odd- I wouldn’t go to Paris because of the Eiffel Tower and not bother to go and see it). But the countries that the majority of tourists come from are countries that either have/had a monarchy, or violently threw off the shackles of our rulers.
- A voice and influence around the world- Just like America has you mean? The country that was born out of defying a British monarch? Our international standing is down to being one of the largest economies in the world, that has a relationship with both the U.S and the E.U, was the birthplace of the industrial revolution and parliamentary democracy, and generally likes to stick its nose in other people’s business.
- A “fail safe”- A check against an insane extremist party getting into power. For starters I’d like to have a little more faith in the British voters than that, but secondly, there’s no reason why an elected head of state couldn’t fulfil that role for us.
And what do we lose from having the Royals?
- DEMOCRACY- Allowing an unelected head of state to preside over us, determined purely on the basis of who they were born to completely flies in the face of democracy, something this country prides itself on. I am sure the Queen is a lovely old lady that does the best she can in a situation she never asked for- my issue is not with her- it is with the institution. This is a throwback from a feudalistic and oppressive England that needs to be removed from our country once and for all. I implore the British people to see sense and embrace the spirit of democracy, by calling for a removal of the institution of the monarchy. Let’s use the palaces to house the house the homeless instead.