It's a question I asked myself several times while binging "The Crown": why does the UK still have a royal family? It's a question on the minds of a rising number of Britons therefore the probability of abolishment seems to be inclining. But what would the UK look like without its iconic royal family?
It's a picture most of us have seen before: a group of men dressed in ornate military uniforms adorned with badges or sashes & women in elegant pastel dresses paired with adorable hats waving at the myriads of enthusiastic supporters standing outside the palace they call home. They are the British Royal Family, an institution as old as Britain itself & an institution whose sole primary purpose is to be the face of the UK. Some call them the nation's biggest strength whilst others prefer to view them as a monumental financial burden on the people they work for. However, they've persisted for almost a millennium so they must've done some things right.
Those 900 years haven't been close to void of criticism & scandals. Every secret that leaks out of their several castles & estates becomes an international headline. Every mistake they make is examined by the world. Every new face they welcome into their folds suffers the scrutiny & bafflingly stupid conspiracies drummed up by the British tabloids. When you view them from that perspective, the fairytale life they supposedly lead feels closer to a nightmare dictated by codes of conduct. It's hard to look at them & not ponder about why a group of people who neither choose to be born into their roles nor elected to their positions are considered to be more important than other British citizens. It's a question on the minds of a rising number of Britons who believe it's about time to abolish the monarchy & the peerage. Some republicans even vouch for the abolishment of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament. Unlike the House of Commons, membership to the HoL is either hereditary or granted by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister so it is naturally considered the least democratic house. Similar to any other argument, there are two sides to this.
People often make the mistake of assuming that the UK is an absolute monarchy. Unlike Brunei, where the monarch holds supreme autocratic authority, the UK is a constitutional monarchy which means that the monarch is the Head of State, not the Head of Government. That role belongs to the Prime Minister. In essence, being a royal in a constitutional monarchy is a ceremonial role & the magnitude of their power isn't a fraction of what it used be back when the king or queen had absolute control. But this doesn't at all mean that the Queen & her descendants have no duties other than being figureheads. The BRF supports around 3,000 charities worldwide & 2,415 charities in Great Britain. Some patronages are more well-known than others but all of them keep the royals busy. The monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth ||, is also the Head of The Armed Forces. With that fancy title comes the power of initiating or ending wars. However, she usually lets the government decide on whether it's time for battle or not. She's also the Head of State of Canada, Australia, & several other countries that exited the British Empire via diplomacy. This gives her & the Governor-General, the Queen's representative, the power to dissolve parliament in these countries. The most noteworthy use of this authority was in 1975 when legislature failed to fund the Australian government which in turn caused the government to shut down. The Governor-General simply fired the Prime Minister (due to his incompetence & inability to reach a compromise), dissolved the government, & held elections from scratch. Australia's government hasn't ever shut down again.
The BRF is also the physical embodiment of centuries of British history & traditions. A key requirement for all British Royals (other than not being Catholic) is that they mustn't share their political beliefs. They aren't allowed to criticise a member of parliament or politicians of any country. The Queen can only express her views & provide her counsel to the Prime Minister. The entire royal family is supposed to present themselves as above day-to-day politics & welcoming to politicians from all sides but if you compare pictures of them with foreign dignitaries, it's subtly clear whose company they enjoyed & whose they didn't. Although this rule strips them of their right to vote, it surprisingly adds to their prestige. Almost every English person I know agrees that messages from the Queen feel special & reassuring simply because they know that she isn't a politician so partisanship plays no role whatsoever. People look for hope & encouragement when they look at the monarchy & if they're charming enough, royalty have the ability every politician dreams of having: being able to unite the country. They've kept the people stable & collected through extremely distressing times such as wars & economic crises. This is partly because most people feel an unexplainable loyalty towards their monarch.
Turns out hosting foreign dignitaries, maintaining medieval castles & paying personal staff isn't cheap. The Sovereign Grant, as its name suggests, is the payment made by the UK Government to the royal family in order to finance their expenditures & keep them working. Its value depends on the amount of money brought in by the Crown Estate (properties across the UK that belong to the royal family). The latest Sovereign Grant accounts show that the monarchy was paid £69.4 million in 2020. The cost has been growing for a while now & people aren't happy about it. This amount is almost the double of what they were being paid before 2017. Maintenance & the renovation of Buckingham Palace are to blame for this increase. But to their credit, the relationship between the UK & some of its most crucial allies has remained stable. That's what you'd expect when you realise that princes & princesses are trained to represent their country, host dignitaries, & give speeches from a very young age.
The BRF now needs to deal with a major threat to their existence; many surveys conclude that one in five Britons want the monarchy abolished. That number will only rise when Queen Elizabeth, the most beloved member, passes away. Her oldest son, Charles, Prince Of Wales & Duke of Cornwall, is not well-liked due to how his marriage with Princess Diana ended. It's been twenty years since the princess's tragic car crash in Paris yet she still lives in the hearts of many & the bitter confessions she made during her interview with Martin Bashir still haunt Prince Charles's reputation. Luckily, his eldest son & daughter-in-law, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, & Duchess Catherine Middleton, are quite well-liked. Their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, & Prince Louis of Cambridge, are adored by the people. But what will a sans royal family UK look like?
Firstly, the tourism industry will take an immense punch. What most Britons don't understand is that having a royal family adds an element of charm & elegance to their country in the eyes of citizens of republics. This makes them want to splurge on a ticket to London, tour many of the palaces owned by the royals, & make all kinds of purchases which will in turn add to the UK's GDP. It's estimated that the monarchy generated over $2.75 billion for the British economy in 2020 (the figure is above $2 billion after you deduct the Sovereign Grant). Their weddings & funerals are watched by tens of millions of people all around the world. If the monarchy disappears, so will that money. On the other hand, the UK will become more democratic. For the sake of the argument, we shall assume that the House of Lords has been abolished as well. This will leave the country with just the lower house of the UK parliament, the House of Commons. So unless the UK creates a senate or similar legislative body, there will be no one to debate or amend laws passed by the Commons. Also, what will happen to the Pound Sterling? Hundreds of millions of notes feature the monarch's face & the design of entirely new notes & coins will have to be done in order to satiate the republicans. What will happen to the currencies of all the countries the British monarch is the Head of State? Will the hypothetically former BRF become the Canadian Royal Family? Or perhaps the Royal Family of Turks & Caicos if they want to ditch the gloom of Great Britain. Everything gets much more complicated in a heartbeat. There will come a day when the UK will bid farewell to its royal family. But, if you ask me, that day's not in this decade or the next. At least not until they have solutions to some of the questions I've mentioned.
It seems as if every time a former member does an interview, there's at least one worker drowning in distress in Buckingham Palace. Sometimes it's more than one. Sometimes it's the entire castle. But no matter how salacious the reveals are, the royals always power through with a stiff upper lip & their ratings rise back to normal after a while. The royals have survived everything from the Norman invasions to King Edward's numerous controversies to Princess Diana's shocking revelations. Prince Harry & Duchess Meghan's claims are as hurtful to The Firm as an ant bite. But why have the royals persisted despite ubiquitous threats of abolishment, assassinations, & kidnapping? It's because they do their job & they usually do it well. Nobody is paid for doing nothing & the royals are no exception. My opinion is that if they want to avoid the thoughts of abolishment from manifesting into reality, the BRF needs to become & feel more accessible. The biggest issue the British people are going to have with the monarchy (& have always had) is that they always feel a bit snobby & hard to connect with.The home videos released by the Cambridge family always offer a rare glimpse into their private lives & make the family just a bit more loveable. When royals talk about their personal experiences with sensitive topics such as mental health, abuse, etc, hearts are always stirred. That needs to continue. But these are just my two cents. Their future lies in the hands of their subjects &, well, God save The Queen.
-by Rayansh Singh