By Théo Renault.
The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch and head of state, ascended the throne on 6 February 1952. But the Birtish Monarchy lasted far too long and sould be abolished, and here is why.
First of all, an important part of the British Monarchy is money. One can see the British Monarchy as an economic advantage: British Monarchy brings money to the country. But is it true?
Let’s say that ‘Monarchy is not too expensive.’ Officially, the Royal Family costs only 56p per person in the country. It’s not a lot and remove this fee will not make anybody richer. And even if it could be invested in another way, for health or any other services. It’s how taxes work. However, the real cost of monarchy seems to be quite different. According to the group Republic, ‘The estimated total annual cost of the monarchy is £334m, around eight times the official figure published by the royal household.’ Apparently, 56p are not enough to cover monarchy expenditure. According to them, ‘The royal family's security bill is picked up by the metropolitan police, for example, while the costs of royal visits are borne by local councils.’ And who is paying for all of these? Taxpayers, of course. And even if this anti-monarchy group is not to be 100% trusted and spendings may be lower than what they say, it shows that this 56p are strongly underestimated. Monarchy costs more than that to taxpayers and the only way to stop that would be to say to the Royal family to stay at the same place all the time. A Queen would be very useless at this point…
Let’s continue. In one hand, the Royal Family life is expensive, but in the other hand, one could say that the family brings money to the country. Sure, selling mugs with a beautiful picture of the Queen is great for the country. Ok, but it is not creating a lot of works and is only bringing money to a limited number of people. Ending selling this kind of products would have a very low impact on Britain’s economy. But a very important area may be impacted by the monarchy: tourism. Visiting Palaces like Windsor Castle brings a lot of money. And it is the same for Buckingham Palace: in 2013, 522 000 people visited it. This is a huge number and get even bigger knowing a standard ticket is £37. But what if the Queen were not living in Buckingham? In other words if there were no Queen. Let’s take as example France and the Château de Versailles. As everyone knows, no king ruled over France for a very long time. Nevertheless, the castle of all former kings that governed the country is still there, in Versailles. In 2013, more than 4,5 millions people visited the Château de Versailles. And this is only the paying visitors. During the same year, only half a million people crossed the doors of Buckingham. Why? Because it is only opened from July to September. What if the Palace was open all year long, with its 775 rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms, its cinema and swimming pool, for a total of 40 acres. An empty is cheaper to maintain, and would bring much more money than it is today. And why not to convert it as a luxurious hotel or resort?
Buckingham is not opened to tourists all year long, this is a fact. However, we could think the monarchy is bringing tourists in the country: Buckingham is not the only Palace in the United Kingdom. As an example, Windsor Castle is always opened. It closes only when Buckingham is opened. Once again, it’s not as easy as it seems. In fact, according to ALVA (Association of Leading Visitors Attractions) the most visited place in the UK is The British Museum, with more than 6,5 millions visits in 2014. It is followed by The National Gallery, the Southbank Center and the Tate Modern. At the bottom of the Top 5 attractions, we have the Natural History Museum. In a nutshell, none of the 5 most visited places in the country is linked to the British Monarchy. And it is needed to look further in the chart to find any monarchy related attraction. And why is this significant? Because it means dissolving the British Monarchy will not have a big impact on tourism, and as we’ve seen before could even increase benefits.
Of course, the British Monarchy can not only be seen with an economic view. The Queen is a political figure, and values are linked to this political system.
Because of the monarchy, the Prime minister has a lot of power. At least much more than in other countries like in France, in Italy or in Germany, where the head of government is composed by a prime minister and a president - or the equivalent. In addition to the fact the power is better divided, it offers more possibilities for people to be heard. If the country is not satisfied by a government they elected it is possible for the president to change the prime minister. And why is that better? The president does not always have the choice to take a member of his party but a member of the strongest party in the Parliament. It happened in France during Jacques Chirac Presidency. In 1997, he has named prime minister Lionel Jospin. Chirac was from RPR (Le Rassemblement pour la République) party, while Jospin was from PS (Parti Socialiste). It was in France the third coalition. It allows people to show to the government their discontentment and to change the political strategy through parliament election but with the same president.
Another aspect of the monarchy is religion. It is a fact, unlike France, the United Kingdom is a religious country. The first example is the anthem: ’God save the Queen’. It is quite strange knowing that christianity is not anymore a majority and half of Britain population is saying they have no religion, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA). But the anthem is not the only problem here. The Queen - or King - of Britain takes her - or his - power from Church. It means all the country is influenced by Christianity. Of course, other religions are accepted in the UK, but the problem is not there: the Queen is part of Britain political life. Firstly, it is a political figure, representing UK inhabitants over the world. Is it normal to have a Christian figure for a country mostly composed of atheist? Secondly because the Queen still has power in Britain government. House of Lords members are named by the Queen and keep their role until death. It is clearly unequal and shows the Royal Family still have some kind of powers that they should not have anymore. No one should be part of political life for his whole life just because the Queen said so. And even if the power of the Lords is decreasing over time, they sill have influence. And anyway, what is the point to have a house of Lords if they are useless?
Finally, someone defending the monarchy could say that the Royal Family power is legitimate. They rule over UK for centuries. However, in 2016, is it legitimate to born as a future king or queen? And even if you will not be, living in the Royal Family gives a lot of privileges making a life much easier. At the same time, English government is claiming to work on equality. But as Thomas Paine write few centuries ago, everyone should share the point of view that ‘for all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever.’ And monarchy is incompatible with this value. And even if a king is kind with his people, no one should rule or have any sort of power or privilege without being elected or by deserving those rights with hard work.
Well, we can see that a good part of the arguments in favor of monarchy are not true, or not entirely. The idea that it brings money to the country is not true and changing the government to a republic could be profitable for the United Kingdom economy. In today political and moral view monarchy does not have its place. Leaders are claiming equality and monarchy is incompatible with it. A country respecting equality needs to be non-religious and to fully abolish privileges. It is why the British Monarchy should be dissolved.