According to a poll by YouGov last year, 68% of people think the monarchy is good for Britain, while 18% favoured an elected head of state in the future. The seemingly excessive and unfair wealth inherited by the Royal Family is enough to put many people off, but many Britons still value the institution of a traditional monarch.
While Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, insists that, at a cost of 56p per person annually, the monarchy “continue to provide excellent value for money.” Official figures show that the Royal Family spent £35.7 million in the 2014-2015 tax year, with £5.1 million devoted to travel alone. This profligate expenditure seems particularly offensive, considering the economic recession of recent years, and led Kevin Maguire to describe the Queen’s role as applying “a royal gloss to grotesque inequality.”
On the other hand, royal events, such as William and Kate’s wedding in 2011, and their vast range of merchandise generate huge profit, as well as community spirit. In 2012, almost 10 thousand street parties were planned in England and Wales for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and over one million people braved the wind and rain to watch the Jubilee Thames Pageant, over one in 10 of the population of London.
The Royal Family also maintain good international relations and attract an impressive amount of tourists. Between March 2014 and March 2015, Windsor Castle welcomed over 1.3 million visitors, each paying up to £20 (the standard adult ticket price), as stated by the latest Royal Collection Trust annual report.
Charitable work is also a principal occupation of the Royals. According to The Guardian, as of June 2012, the Queen alone has helped to raise £1.4 billion for the 510 charities in Britain to which she is a patron.
Some argue that the monarchy is undemocratic in modern society, and that the public should have the right to vote for their chosen leader, rather than watching a huge amount of wealth filter down through one lucky family.
Recent discoveries regarding the remains of Richard III suggest that today’s Royals may not even have the right to the throne, as a result of an adulterous affair which took place sometime after the reign of Edward III. In the same vein, Prince Charles’ controversial relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles is certainly one of the principal causes of hostility towards the Royal Family, as many claim such an institution should stand as an example of integrity to the rest of the nation.
Evidently, today many view the monarchy as an outmoded institution (as suggested by numerous comments made on the way Prince George and Princess Charlotte are dressed), but complaints regarding misspent wealth and an unelected head of state are ultimately outnumbered by those in favour of the Royal Family and of its traditional ideals. Perhaps Queen Elizabeth II will be the last reigning monarch, but for now, it seems that the British public, as well as visitors to Great Britain, remain captivated by the real-life fairy tale played out by the Royal Family, their lavish palace, and the historical crown jewels.
Words: Alice Tuffery
Copy edited by: Elena Stanciu