Prince Harry was recently part of a campaign advocating HIV testing, famously having gotten tested live to illustrate how quick and easy it is. Prince William has revealed he sought help after finding his work as an air ambulance pilot traumatic. This is great, and the younger royals have shown they can make good use of their position in society and culture. Their campaign “Heads Together” and the work of Prince William, Prince Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge and now the Duchess of Sussex have done to promote mental health discussion is fantastic. However, the cost of the royal family is still incredibly large. The Sovereign Grant was £76 million in 2017-18 and the Royal Wedding this year cost £20 million. While certain members of the family may be making an impact like those mentioned above, many do not show their relevance.
The prime example of a member of the Royal Family using their position for good, rather than live off the people, is Princess Diana, the so-called “People’s Princess”. Her AIDS advocacy work changed the way society looked at AIDS patients and helped to remove the stigma surrounding the disease. In 1987 she was pictured holding the hand of an AIDS patients, this demonstrated that AIDs and those who had it weren’t something to be afraid of. Her advocacy showed that the royals can be beneficial to society. This work is seen as the inspiration for Prince Harry’s continued campaigning for AIDS issues.
There are only about 4 or 5 royals that consistently make the headlines but the Royal family is much larger than these select few in the limelight. Many of these more distant and less high-profile royals such as Princess Alexandra and the Duchess of Kent continue to be supported by the sovereign grant – public money – but I doubt that unless you are a royal enthusiast you’ve heard of them. This begs the question would the royal family still be as effective, and more cost-effective if the size of the monarchy was reduced or the number of its members supported by public money reduced?
My school had a visit from Princess Michael of Kent in 2017 with the purpose of this visit was to open a new reception and science labs. It is hard to see how these more distant royal family members are necessary when their work is having a very limited impact. Quite honestly, I don’t think opening the reception of a grammar school in a well-off area is the most beneficial use of the Royal Family’s time. Personally, I was angered with the time and money that my school spent in preparing for this visit because it demonstrated that while yes some members of the royal family do good, often their work causes a lot of time and money to be wasted on very little long-term benefits.
Many royalists argue that the royal family add to our economy through tourism. They cite the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle as an example of this. The firm Brand Finance has stated that the royal family added £550m to tourism revenue in 2017 and was said to have boosted the British economy by 1 billion in one day. While these may seem like significant sums of money, it must be seen in the context that international visitors spent £22.5 billion in 2016. So while they do add to the economy and our tourism industry, it could be argued tourists are still likely to visit and spend in the UK anyway.
Additionally, when royalists argue the wedding of Megan and Harry is beneficial to our economy, they fail to mention that the security costs, paid for by the public, were about £20 million. In total security costs for the Royal Family can cost £100 million a year. Therefore if the number of recipients of the Royal Grant was reduced, the burden on the public would also be reduced.
So, yes, there are benefits to the monarchy. The core members show that they can add to our society and have a positive impact. The work of Princess Diana and Prince Harry through his AIDS campaigning and service in the military being examples of this. However, at present the monarchy is far too big. Many members are irrelevant, don’t make an impact, and the cost of maintaining them too high.
Main Image Credit: Chris Jackson, Pool Photo.