How useful are The Royal Family?

The British Royal Family is one of the more idiosyncratic aspects of Britishness. Some see them as a national icon to be cherished, whilst others acknowledge them as no more than a drain on the taxpayer. Junior members of the Royal Family appear to incur luxuries that many think the country should not have to afford. In 2009, Scotland Yard estimated that it cost over £50 million to provide round-the-clock police protection for the junior Royals, the most notable of these being Prince Andrew’s daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. Debate was sparked over whether Princess Beatrice, a low security risk, justified the £250,000 per year fee for her protection with many seeing this as a gross misuse of taxpayers’ money. Contrast this with Princess Anne’s children, Zara and Peter Phillips, who eschew the need for 24/7 protection in favour of a more normal lifestyle. Zara and Peter do not bear the Royal titles and are thus relieved from carrying out official duties.

The role the Royal Family plays in British life was reviewed with the announced engagement of Prince William of Wales to Kate Middleton, with many arguing that the taxpayer should not have to foot the bill for their wedding. Due to the less than prosperous economic climate, concerns have been raised over whether the superfluous cost of a Royal wedding can be justified when spending cuts are being made across the board. Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding was estimated to have cost over £30 million, so it’s clear as to why the Taxpayers Alliance is lobbying against a ‘lavish’ wedding. The Windsors and the Middletons will cover the cost of the wedding, with the taxpayer covering the cost of additional security. St James’ Palace stated that they, in conjunction with the happy couple, would continue to be “mindful of the economic situation” as they plan the nuptials. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has even offered City Hall as a venue for the wedding reinforcing the need for the Royals to have a “cost-effective wedding in keeping with our cost-effective times” – unsurprisingly, they’ve opted for Westminster Abbey as their venue instead.

On the flip side ‘VisitBritain’ estimates that the Royal family as a national institution generates over £500 million in tourism and many argue that the impending wedding could provide a massive boost to the economy, providing a two-year surge in tourism what with the Olympic games taking place the year after their wedding. The wedding takes place on Friday 29th April 2011 and is estimated to bring in £120 million more that year in tourism.

Expensive and superfluous though the Royal family may seem, or rather specific high-maintenance members of the Royal family, they are something of a national treasure and generate more for the country than what they cost to keep up. The cost of the Royal family last year is said to have been £38.2 million or 62p per person excluding security costs. The reason that most tourists were said to have visited Britain in 1981 was because of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding, and many are predicting that in 2011 it will be no different. A fundamental facet of British identity, the Royal family will do much to boost Britain’s global profile. This, in conjunction with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, will mean only good things for Britain’s future. Emma Boon, campaign director of the Taxpayers Alliance urges moderation, summing up that “Of course it should be an event for the whole nation to celebrate, but ordinary taxpayers should not be left with a bill fit for a king.”

Settit Beyene

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14 Comments on this post.
  • Neil Welton
    18 January 2011 at 16:00
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    What a terrible article. Lack of balance, an obsession with cost, and also a scant attempt to put forward any positive arguments. Typical middle-class guff. Obsessed with the cost of everything, but not knowing the value of anything. Whilst at the same time (I no doubt) expecting taxpayers to fork out billions for student fees every year. I hope you are not a journalism student. It would be a waste of my money.

  • vanessabrown
    19 January 2011 at 19:10
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    Neil, as the leader of “Monarchy Wales”, you clearly have your own distinct biases!

    “Obsessed with the cost of everything, but not knowing the value of anything.”

    Well ‘in the current economic climate’, cost and value need to be weighted very equally as we, as a country, don’t have excess money to throw away when key services are being cut and unemployment rates are rising. The Royal family are wealthy enough to pay for the majority (if not all) of their own wedding. Additionally, Kate Middleton’s parents are millionaires for goodness sake!

    I personally think that the article is very well-balanced. If you don’t think so then all I have to say is that you’re entitled to your own opinion (but that doesn’t make you right!).

  • Neil Welton
    19 January 2011 at 22:15
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    We “don’t have excess money to throw away”. Hence the need to cut student funding – clearly needed after reading your reply, Vanessa Brown. For The Royal Family and the Middletons’ are paying for this Wedding. The taxpayer is only paying for the security. As I suggested, it pays to do some research. I was only offering my advice. I do take it the writer wants to be employed after leaving university.

  • VanessaBrown
    20 January 2011 at 00:51
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    Lol – which is ‘student talk’ for the act of laughing out loud.

    How much is ‘only paying for the security’ going to cost us? The current estimates are around £5 million. Boris Johnson wants to try and claim this money back from the Government as that will be £5 million taken out of an already reduced Met Police budget. But who really cares how many more police officers lose their jobs and the resulting affect on patrolling the streets and convicting criminals? Forget all of that as long as the Royals get a great wedding, right?

    I’m not saying that you don’t have a point but you are not making it very well. Try to make constructive comments rather than petty remarks.

  • Neil Welton
    20 January 2011 at 01:45
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    At least you acknowledge that I was right all along. 🙂

    For all you below par students cost us billions every year.

    Taxpayers should not be funding middle-class students, but our police and Royal security instead.

  • JDA
    20 January 2011 at 07:48
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    I’ve got us a few major issue with this article: First off is the assertion that the Royals bring in £500 million in tourism revenues a year in tourism revenues. Really? Will tourists suddenly stop visiting Britian just because the Royals no longer exist? That seem highly unlikely for me-France is still the most visited nation dispite not having a Monarchy for 250 years and Versilles is the most visited attraction, the US doesn’t seem to struggle for visitors (especally in DC) and the Scottish Highlands are the second most visited place in the UK dispite a notable lack of Royalty. I very much doubt that hundreds of thousands of tourists will suddenly disappear from Londons streets without a monarch. Indeed removing the monarchy could actually raise tourist money and for Britian generally-we could open up the various palaces and royal grounds for tours (thus raising money) as well as beginning to tax and gain from the various Crown domains (Cornwall, Lancaster, the right to various tresures and so forth) which are currently protected.

    Indeed when you say the state is paying ‘only’ for the security of the wedding (which is a fair wack anyway at £5m) your being disengenerious-the Royals share of the wedding is coming from the profits from the various lands which the Crown owns which should rightly belong to the people…

    As for students costing billion of pounds you forget that we’re the ones who’ll be contrbuting to maintaining the state the future (as well as the Royals, of course) and that universities cotribute directly to 3% of the GDP and indirectly to around 50-60% via the buisness our high level of education brings in.

    The Royals are, quite simply, an expensive waste who fail to have justification either on principle, on a financial basis or through their role constitutionally. On principle: the heritary principle is outdated and has no validity and gaining such a privilaged position via an accident of birth is simply wrong. On fincial grounds the royal family cost well over £100m a year (32.5m maintainance, 50m security and untold millions from lost tax revenues). On a constitutional basis Parliament established it role as ‘law-giver’ through the act of settlement and the ‘crown in parliament’ has long been outmoded terminology. There is nothing that the Royals do which could not be easily fufiled by the speaker acting as head of state and giving assent or an elected president which would be cheaper, better in principle and could well fill a constitutional role more effective.

  • ejohn
    21 January 2011 at 10:00
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    @ Neil Welton
    Perfect example of generational myopia. I presume you never were a student yourself? Your are ignoring the fact that Britain needs these very “below par students” to maintain the economy. You might think the economy is doing bad with students, but imagine what it would be like without them. The matter of fact is, universities train and supply this country with thousands of doctors and lawyers and teachers every year, and to lump the socioeconomic diversity of the student body into one archetypical category just boils down to plain, old bigotry. For one, not every student is middle-class!

    This article isn’t even about students, so your comments just sound like another knee-jerk reaction from a person with a massive chip on their shoulder. If you have such a huge problem with students, why are you even on a student magazine website?

    @ JDA
    I very much agree with your comment. I am not so much for abolishing the Royal Family, simply because I think that could have unprecedented effects on the British psyche. Not being British myself, I would say that the Royal Family is an integral aspect to your culture and getting rid of them would be as traumatic as the French losing their Eiffel Tower. I just think it should be downsized a bit. Queen Elizabeth can go without a gold-encrusted sitting chair in her bathroom, I presume?

    The Royal Wedding is injecting some positivity in what promises to be a rather dreadful year, so I can see why many Brits are keen to dig in to their pockets for the sake of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that cuts are being made left, right and centre and that the money that is being spent on the Royal Wedding could really go to some good use elsewhere…

  • Luke Place
    21 January 2011 at 15:45
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    “Obsessed with the cost of everything, but not knowing the value of anything.”

    I’m pretty sure this phrase is widely used within republican and socialist movements, funnily enough. I believe it’s been attributed to Tony Benn and Oscar Wilde.

  • Rob
    26 January 2011 at 00:39
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    Clearly you dont deserve a vote. EVER! This fucking country!

  • Sean Milner
    27 January 2011 at 02:19
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    The Royal Family is not just ours in the UK, the monarch is also the Head of the Commonwealth. Any debate on the usefulness of the monarchy must include representatives of those nations. It is for this reason that I feel the article lacks balance. Many smaller commonwealth nations have a great deal of respect for the monarchy and what they bring to their nation in terms of a voice to a larger group that would otherwise not hear them. In addition to that, the monarch is the longest serving head of state and has a huge amount of experience to bring, not just to our PM but to the elected leaders of other commonwealth members.

    It is right that cost is raised as an issue, particularly in the current economic climate, and I am not aware of the contribution from the commonwealth states, if any, to their cost. Is it all borne by the UK taxpayer? I am sure it is a debate that will keep doing the rounds…

  • Rob
    31 January 2011 at 23:35
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    Sean Milner = fan of imperialism and misunderstands what democracy should be about and how it runs in the UK. Please dont vote, ever, ever, ever!

  • jeff
    17 March 2011 at 15:00
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    Let’s see- a family that, as the result of a string of historical circumstances (much of which is a long progression of intrigues, murders, and wars), has come to occupy a position whose sole claim to power and prestige originated with the ancient idea that it was “ordained by God” that they rule the land. The fact that this nonsense is still considered valid, or considered seriously at all, is evidence of human ignorance and our tendency to cling to “tradition”, no matter how absurd. The Royal Family was, and is, Britain’s earliest and longest-running “soap opera”,and the energy the public devotes to dwelling on the RF’s every move only subtracts from Britain’s efforts to correct its problems, which are many. Is a sovereign country, supposedly full of intelligent people, doomed to continue to be a “theme park” for the activities of a bunch of inbred, unjustly privileged, corrupt individuals who offer little or nothing in the way of help in running the affairs of the country? The RF is the last state-sponsored vestige of a class-system that has divided Britain for centuries, cut its productivity, and caused immense suffering and injustice. Out with them!

    “The death of an old idea, however, is a protracted and ungainly thing.” Dr. Robert D. Morris

  • Goosbye Neil
    8 April 2011 at 11:24
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    Oh Neil save your idiotic comments for elsewhere-I’ve seen you make other comments on Impact. Go back to the day job mate and stop criticising student media.

  • ken eaton
    11 July 2013 at 23:31
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    The Monarchy should set an example to the other lazy bastards, by coming off benefits.
    The 67 pence per peasant it takes to keep them in luxury would be appreciated far more were it changed into a weekly draw of £3,000,000 restricted to people in meaningful employment.on less than £25,000 per year, qualifiers would need to be registered
    The Queen to draw winning national insurance numbers on Saturday TV for a fee of an hours minimum pay.

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