I have frequently written about the British monarchy as consisting of a parasitic bunch of grifters that should abolished. I feel that way about all monarchies and indeed all forms of hereditary privilege since that goes against the egalitarian idea on which democracies should be based. The British monarchy is simply one of the most extreme examples of this kind of privilege. We may never be able to erase all forms of inherited advantages but doing away with monarchies is one of the easiest steps we can take.
Almost always I get a response from some, like this comment in response to recent my post where I pointed out how the monarchy shields itself from the laws that everyone else must follow, and that results in a feudal system for its employees. These responses state that since I am not British, I simply cannot understand the love that the British people have for the royal family and that besides, the institution brings in loads of tourism revenue that justifies its existence. It is an immoral argument that just because they bring in revenue to to country because of tourism, they should be exempt from laws that they do not like and be able to treat their employees like peasants. If that argument is accepted, why should not anyone who brings in money to the country, like exporters of goods, also be exempted?
The British royal family’s ‘private’ properties were basically appropriated from the common weal, claiming land that had originally been held in common by people. The fact that they did so a long time ago and that this makes their claim to the land valid is indefensible. It is similar to the justification that the land stolen from Native Americans and the wealth that white slave owners squeezed out of the blood of African Americans now belongs to white people is acceptable because it occurred so long ago. Returning that land to its original Native American owners is problematic since no single family owns the land that was stolen from them. In some cases, it may be possible to trace ownership and make reparations, like the way that a valuable beach property that was once owned by a Black family and was seized in 1920 under eminent domain, has now been returned to their descendants.
In the case of the royal’s family’s lands however, there is a simple solution to this ancient theft of land that properly belongs to the people. Since it is now in the hands of a single family, the government should just appropriate the royal estates and return them to its rightful owners, the people of the UK. The palaces could all be converted into museums. After all, the Palace of Versailles in France has a lot of visitors even though their monarchy was abolished a long time ago. All the Queen’s castles could similarly be converted to museums and their grounds into public parks for the people to enjoy, just like Versailles and all the other major historical sites around the world that once belonged to royals.
The claim that the royals bring in a huge amount of tourist revenue is often made without evidence and it is worthwhile to examine it. This article fact-checks the claim that the monarchy is a major source of tourism revenue and finds it to be largely spurious. (Many of the points made here were also made by commenter cartomancer and others to a previous post.)
Britain only ranks 10th in the global tourism stakes and the majority of UK visitor attractions have nothing to do with the monarchy.
[T]he biggest visitor attractions in the UK are not the royal palaces. And royal weddings are episodic events which hardly form the basis for a sustainable tourism industry. In 2019 (pre-Covid) the biggest visitor attractions in the UK were the Tate Gallery, the British Museum, and the National Gallery – each with more than 5m visitors. In Scotland, the National Museum in Edinburgh clocked up 2.2m visitors. Even Chester Zoo got 2m – many more than Windsor Castle. The biggest draw in recent times was the London Olympics, which attracted some two million visitors over several weeks, dwarfing the one-day wedding of Kate Middleton.
In fact, the UK (even with its monarchy) comes only 10th in the international tourism stakes, measured by visitor numbers. France comes top, with 89m visitors pre-Covid compared to the UK’s 39m. Spain clocks up 83m, Italy 62m, Turkey 46m and even Germany gets more than the UK. This might suggest that in terms of a financial return, precious investment funds might be channelled into better tourist infrastructure in Britain rather than the royal family per se.
[T]here is a legitimate question regarding the sheer scale of the royal housing estate. There are currently some 23 official royal residences – seven occupied by the Queen, five by the Price of Wales, and the rest by assorted family members. There are 10 royal residences in London alone.
While state funding would obviously be required to house any head of state, it is open to question whether the amount of public funding that goes to cover so many royal residences is entirely justified.
What about the supposed great love for the family by the British public that I fail to appreciate? Leaving aside the fact that the history of the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh people at the hands of the British monarchy makes it unlikely that they share that presumed love, that claim too is suspect.
Despite immense coverage in the print media and BBC regarding the Queen’s 70-year Jubilee, there is evidence that the bulk of the UK is unexcited by the event.
A poll conducted by YouGov at the start of May found that 54% of Britons were uninterested in the Jubilee – 29% were “not very interested” and 25% “not at all”. Which suggests the tourism impact of the celebrations might be exaggerated by the media.
Another recent opinion poll found that support for the monarchy as a whole has fallen from 75% of the population to 60%, in only the past decade. Some 25% are in favour of its outright abolition.
What is undoubtedly true is that the media loves the royal family and have a symbiotic relationship with them, largely giving them fawning coverage and persuading the public (including, inexplicably, many in the US) that we should give a damn about who they marry, what babies they have, and what they do, and gives it a vast amount of coverage that makes them seem more loved and significant than they are. This is not unlike the way the Kardashians are covered. Neither family has done anything of note. They are famous for being famous and milk that celebrity status for their own benefit and the benefit of the media. One difference is that the British royals are also subsidized by taxpayers.
Let’s face it. Almost no one actually sees members of the royal family except on special occasions such as weddings or births when they wave from the balcony or drive past. What people see are the palaces and the Beefeaters and the elaborate ceremonies and costumes such as the changing of the guard. Those ceremonies could continue without the royal family.
If you think my suggestions for what to do with the monarchy are harsh, back in 2013, Hamilton Nolan did not mince words in calling for the abolition of the British monarchy.
The Royal Family is no better than a family of mobsters. It sucks its sustenance from the public coffers, enriching itself greatly at the expense of poor taxpaying citizens. It operates not as a meritocracy, but through strict nepotism and strategic alliances. And its strength is a rough measure of the lack of civilization in a particular culture. To be completely clear, we are not suggesting that people should “pay less attention” to the Royal Family, or that the UK should reduce the amount of money it spends on this obscene relic of a brutal monarchical past. We are suggesting that the Royal Family should, as an institution, be completely abolished, and that its remaining members be imprisoned and forced to work for the remainder of their lives to, in some token way, repay the public for all of these years of financial support. Perhaps by making license plates, or breaking rocks.
It is amusing to reflect upon the imperial past of England, and the inherent assumptions of racial and cultural superiority that fueled it, while also noting the fact that the UK still to this very day continues to offer slavish financial, political, and cultural support to a tiny family elite notable for nothing except the lineage of the particular person’s vagina from which they slunk. The persistence of the Royal Family, and the worshipful attention that it draws from the British public, is the sort of primitive superstitious voodoo that puts to shame any of the animist rituals that the colonial British would have derided as uncivilized.
It is often suggested that the Royal Family is “affordable” or a “bargain” for taxpayers, because their cost is minor compared to other costs, and besides, they help to “generate tourism.” This is incorrect. Tourists would continue to go to the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace whether or not the Royal Family was being subsidized to the tune of tens of millions of dollars annually. Money from the public treasury spent on the Royal Family is a sunk cost, a charity payment to the world’s most undeserving charity. The Royal Family does not “work” for that money. The Royal Family does not sit inside Buckingham Palace from 9-5 every day, posing for pictures with tourists for $25 a pop. And even if they were, we certainly wouldn’t pay them $50 million a year for that. Six pounds thirty one pence per hour, maybe.
The Royal Family did not “work” to acquire its property. The Royal Family did not “work” to acquire its wealth. The Royal Family did not “work” to acquire its prestige. All of these things have been passed down to them, due to the accident of their birth, after being accumulated over hundreds of years during which the humble citizens of the UK were obligated to give these things to the monarchy, lest they lose their heads. Though European history is littered with the corpses of royalty, it is littered far more heavily with the corpses of all of the millions upon millions of regular people who toiled in the shadows of grand castles and died in poverty as their taxes paid for the members of one lucky family to live in opulence.
The Royal Family is a grotesque relic of a less civilized time.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.