So Natalie Bennett wants to evict the Royals from Buckingham Palace and put them in a council house – but it isn’t just a very big council house anyway? Lewis Waller comments.
On a Question Time last month an audience member quoted a maxim doing the rounds during the Falklands Conflict that went along the lines of ‘I won’t do it for the politicians but I’ll do it for Queen and country’. It’s a remark that has some weight in the armed forces but I presume it’s meant figuratively: that the men and women of the army don’t hold a literal allegiance to the whims of the Windsor clan.
In the same week Natalie Bennett was quoted as saying that if the Greens came into power the Windsors would see themselves evicted from the opulence of Buckingham Palace and relegated to a council house. Although said with a hint of irony, the comment was praised across the trenches of social media. But in the minds of serious political voters a benign monarchy is the least of the countries concerns, and in fact, is less of an affront on our society than many would like to admit.
It also demonstrates a modicum of ignorance on the topic of monarchy, which I hope to argue for tersely here. According to the Independent the cost of the Monarchy to the taxpayer in 2013 was £35.7million, although £13.3million of that went towards the upkeep of property, which, unless privatised, would have to be spent publicly anyway. That’s a total of £22.4million, which is around the same amount the government spends on International ‘Visit Britain’ advertising.
Looking at this purely fiscally may be irrelevant to some, and I’m no royalist, but the Queen and her descendants are some of, if not the most, famous people in the world, and to many countries – especially those of the commonwealth – the Royal Family are an iconic, entertaining, romantic image that encapsulates the beauty, history and magnetism of the British Isles. The pull they have for our tourist industry, worth an estimated £127 billion annually, is invaluable.
Some may scoff at tradition but there’s no denying its utility. In a world of nations the worth of a unifying image, if you do want to reduce them to that, is a surprising psychological anchor that, like it or not, affects the sub-conscience of the nation. That’s why a soldiers allegiance may lie with the queen and not with the politicians: it’s an image of unity and fraternity. It’s the reason the American’s invented Uncle Sam, and it’s why the French spent their revolutionary years replacing art of the monarchy with art representing ideas of liberty – they knew just how powerful images can be.
It’s not us that should want to get rid of the Royals, it’s them. They’re born into a choiceless role of responsibility and, what some may call, privilege, I call an unwanted curse. Their freedom of career choice and privacy are automatically taken from them at birth and replaced with hollow trinkets and public scrutiny; if you even had a shred of intelligence questions of self-worth would surely haunt you at some point in your life. I argue that being a walking tourist attraction is not the great pleasure it looks to be from the outside. So I implore you, lowly citizens, to bow, curtsy, and leave those swans alone!