Column Road Comment

Paying the price for royalty

By Karis Pearson

All too soon, somehow, it’s that time again. The spectacle which see’s union jacks spread across the nation, and sparks debate among neighbours and co-workers over how power, money and influence is organised in British society. No, I am not talking about another General Election, but in fact I would much prefer another one of those to another royal wedding.

It’s only been five months since the last royal wedding, which was really more like a shin dig for every famous face imaginable, and they’re already having another one. Surely one per year is enough? Last time, it took over the news, the conversation; I couldn’t handle the number of people I’d encounter who were genuinely excited. On the whole, I try not to follow the royals, but it’s nearly impossible not to when it’s plastered all over the news for days at a time. However, some things are worth taking notice of, even if you have no interest in the royal family, especially if your money could be funding their big day.

On the 12th of October, Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank. For those who haven’t the foggiest who they are, and why their wedding warrants the use of tax payers’ money, Princess Eugenie is the Queen’s sixth granddaughter and is ninth in line for the throne. The cost of the security for the big day, which is to be paid for with public money, was estimated to be somewhere between two and four million pounds. Why, might you ask, should tax-payers have to front this cost? Well, the way it works is that the police are obliged to provide protection and security to an event where figures are high-profile enough to attract a level of attention which may pose a risk to the public. Surely, it would make more sense, to downscale the event if it poses such a risk, instead of holding it at Windsor bloody castle, televising it and inviting every single celebrity under the sun. If they want to have a big wedding, then fair enough, but if they want to ride through the streets in an open carriage, they should pay for the security themselves.

There is a fair argument to be made that royal weddings bring in revenue through the tourism they attract to the nation, but this is really more the case for royals that everyone has actually heard of. The key cast members in the royal saga. In 2011, Prince William’s wedding saw some four-million visitors come over to the UK, bringing in around two-billion pounds in tourism for the country. With William and Harry having grown up before the eyes of the nation (and the world), for so many people it’s almost like watching someone they know get married. People feel genuinely invested. In contrast, Eugenie is a supporting cast member, and isn’t even recognisable to most people under the age of sixty, who are increasingly disenchanted with the royals altogether.

I am by no means endorsing special benefits for the luckiest, cherry-picked royals by making these comparisons. While William and Kate’s wedding, in economic terms, was a national success, William just happened to have the right amount of royal blood to make him the future King, and should this justify the expenditure more than Harry’s or Eugenie’s? It’s ridiculous to make tax-payers, plenty of whom couldn’t care less about the royals, front any cost for things relating to the monarchy. Political organisation Republic are a pressure group who campaign for an elected head of state. They’ve publicly criticised the use of public money to pay for the security and have even set up a petition which urges the government “to commit no public money” towards the wedding. I’m inclined to agree with them on this.

The unelected aspect of the monarchy reduces it to a birth right; more like a birth lottery. Has anything ever sounded so undemocratic? We live in a liberal democracy and yet we mindlessly accept that there is a family living in Britain who, just through being born, will be some of the most important and influential people in the world.

It’s instilled in us as soon as we take our first intake of great British air that we should be proud of our royals; they represent everything that’s great about our nation and its past. The level of pride some people feel for the royals is exemplified at no better time than a royal wedding. Of course, there’s never any mention nowadays of how the royals monopolised the slave trade for over one-hundred-and-fifty years, now it’s all “Ooh Harry’s getting married let’s have a street party”. Even in Australia, the Queen is still their official monarch, a sweet reminder of how the Brits colonised land that they happened across back in 1788, casually ignoring the fact it was inhabited. The royals and the spectacle, not to mention public cost, their weddings create, are a continuing reminder that as democratic a nation as we claim to be, we’re still to some extent living in the past.

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