The myth of 62p

29 June 2006

The Queen and the rest of the Royal Family cost the taxpayer 62p per person, Buckingham Palace has revealed.

Oh, please stop telling us the Royal Family cost us ‘only’ 62p a year (even the bloody Guardian is in on the act). Why? Because it’s a mixture of lies and disingenuous bullshit.

The ?37.4m cost (given some, but not very much detail here) covers the Civil List (the Queen’s payroll), Grants-In-Aid (maintenance of royal palaces & travel) and expenditure for state visits, but does not cover security or military ceremonies (such as Brenda’s 80th birthday bash the other week). The costs of these are conveniently folded up into domestic security and military budgets; as far as I can tell there is no detailed breakdown of these costs available anywhere, but some indication is given by individual cases, such as the bungled planning of Charles & Camilla’s wedding costing local taxpayers over ?1million, that this is no small figure.

Furthermore, trying to reduce it down to a miniscule figure is over-simplistic. The division of the ?37.4m cost over the entire population of the UK would only make sense if there were some direct benefit to any sort of sizeable proportion of the population. And no, don’t cite the charity work (it’s not as if any of them run marathons; if we didn’t have a royal family charities would just find some other celebrity for fundraising and patronage) or the tourism argument (if that’s your priority, you would support opening up all the royal palaces, art collections and estates to visitors all year round, and charging them top dollar). The only direct beneficiaries are the royals themselves; even the understimate of ?37.4m, divided by the twenty or so major royals, is nearly ?2m each. “Royals cost ?2m per head” doesn’t sound as nice a headline for the Palace, though.

Even more insulting to the intelligence is the grandstanding that money the royals gouge out of me would only buy me a minute of England v. Portugal, or it’s the equivalent of a couple of pints of milk. I’m not in Germany watching England play football because I have better things to do with my money; I don’t buy milk either as I don’t like the taste. I can and have opted out of both these options, but no such chance of doing the same with the royal family.

Judging from the diverse comments on the BBC’s “Have Your Say” there appear to a good number of people who resent paying a single penny, and an equal proportion who would gladly pay many times that sum to keep the Royals going. Which surely opens it up to a neat solution: privatisation. Well, maybe not actually privatising them fully, but at the very least, decouple them from state funding altogether. You could set up a charitable foundation, and those who love the Royals enough can set up a direct debit and pay whatever they like per month to keep the royals going. You could even throw in a few gimmicks – natty wristbands (I’m thinking some sort of jewels & ermine version), “Royal Aid” gigs (I’m sure Elton and Geldof would sign up like a shot), a letter every month from a royal of your choice (“Dear Mrs. Timpkins, Thank you for the generous ?2 you donated last month; it went a long way to paying the ?11,555 it cost to fly me to St Andrew’s to hob-nob with other golfers. Yours, Prince Andrew”).

It’s a perfect solution – it would probably raise many times the revenue the royals currently receive (if only a tenth of the population paid just a quid a month, it would still raise double the “62p a year” figure and probably cover the true cost) while at the same time removing the controversy and giving us whiny republicans less ammunition to aim at the royal family. Best of all, it fits in with the shiny vision of 21st century Britain which encourages charitable sector over the state for delivering government policy. I’m surprised Citizen Dave hasn’t made it a central plank of Conservative policy already…


8 Responses

Two words – “Royal Lottery”. A special National Lottery game that exclusively goes to fund the Royal Family. You could even have a big Jet Set-style gameshow tacked on, where each week Eamonn Holmes offers contestants the chance to win a place in the Royal family each week: “For the past week, Sarah, a beautician from Salford, and her boyfriend Keith have been living in St. James’s Palace. They opened a museum in Sussex, watched a traditional Maori greeting dance, and went shooting with the Duke of St. Albans. Can they stay as Royals for the fourth week running, or will one of our competitors rob them of their divine right?”

The Napoleon of Notting Hill by GK Chesterton has that very concept – a Royal Lottery – at its heart. Chaos ensues when history-enthusiast Auberon is appointed King, and for a lugh partitions the boroughs of London into City States.

Fin

How about a Royal Debate? Something such as “Hang them or shoot them?”…

Matt

Hi Chris, I’m just about to donate 62p to a liberal think tank on your behalf. You can now wash yourself of the guilt of funding the monarchy, as I have paid your share, and I do it with pride.

Thanks Matt. As I am never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, you can send your payment on my behalf to Republic, PO Box 69, Brighton, BN50 9GS. You might even be able to do it online, though 62p might be below the minimum amount required.

Matt

I thought I said “liberal think tank”, not anarchist, pro-American campaign group…

I’m not entirely sure how you’ve concluded they are either anarchist, or pro-American. Republic advocates a ceremonial presidency and parliamentary democracy, a la Germany, India, etc. That’s not exactly anarchy, nor do they want an American-style executive presidency. Why don’t you read what they have to say, and then report back to me?

andrew duffin

Winston Churchill allegedly said that democracy was the worst form of government apart from all the alternatives.

Exactly the same could be said about the monarchy.

Because you just know (don’t deny it) that if we got rid of Her Maj, we would end up with one of T. Blair’s old flatmates as president, if not actually T.Blair himself.

I know which I would prefer, whether it costs me 62p or 162p each year.