And so the subject of royal finances has arisen again after the publication of the Public Accounts Committee report on how the Royal Household manages its money. In recent times, republicans’ annual outrage at the cost of the Royal Family has become part and parcel of every piece of news on royal finances – but is it justified? I’m about to explain why I believe it’s not.
It is a well established part of the republican prose to make it sound like Monarchy is the only form of Head of State that would cost money, which of course is not the case. In fact, the type of head of state is to all intents and purposes irrelevant to its cost. The idea that a presidency would be cheaper by its nature is simply not true, in fact there are many presidencies in the world with a similar function to the British Monarchy which cost a lot more and deliver a lot less.
France is one such example of this. The French presidency was recently weighed in at £91 million per year, around 3 times the cost of the British Monarchy and with a similar function to The Queen (only the French president probably doesn’t do much for tourism).
Some people also like to argue that the Monarchy doesn’t do enough to fund itself and whilst republicans like to evade the tourism argument as much as possible, it is one of the many reasons why a Royal Family is preferable to a president.
For some reason, republicans refuse to believe [deny] that the Monarchy brings tourists to the UK, which is ludicrous and it makes me think they’ve never walked past Buckingham Palace and seen the tourists gathered there.
Buckingham Palace itself is open for two months a year to visitors and in this time typically generates around £600,000 – which is used for the upkeep of the royal palaces. For the rest of the year, the Palace is occupied by The Queen and because of a combination of security concerns and practicality issues with keeping it open to the public with Her Majesty in residence, it isn’t open for the rest of the year.
On this matter, republicans say we should ‘abolish the Monarchy and keep the Palace open all year round’, often accompanied by the line about how the Palace of Versailles does well with 5 million annual visitors. What they fail to mention is; this is not France – in Britain, unoccupied palaces don’t do nearly as well as those which benefit from the use of the Royal Family. For example, Hampton Court Palace, one of the largest unoccupied palaces in England, gets only around 500,000 annual visitors.
The cost of maintaining the royal palaces is an issue which also arises frequently, but it doesn’t take a genius to realise that these palaces would still have to be maintained in a republic.
Let’s be clear about this, I’m not suggesting that there isn’t room for improvement with royal finances, there’s room for improvement in every institution – but my point is that to say a presidency would automatically be cheaper is the biggest myth perpetuated by republicans in the Monarchy versus Republic debate.
Of course, cost alone is not the only reason the Monarchy is preferable to a republic financially. As well as tourism to royal sites, its existence is beneficial to the economy – big state events = royal memorabilia = big business for the UK. In fact, the birth of Prince George in July was estimated to have benefited the economy to the tune of £243 million.