Sunday, 5 July 2009

God save the Queen?

Early this week it was revealed that British Royal family spent £1.5 million more last year that the year before, taking the total to £41.5 million. This figure does not include the ‘Civil List’, which pays for the running of the Royal household (£7.9 million per year) and the undisclosed cost for protecting the royal family. All told the total amount that the Royal Family costs the British taxpayer is almost certainly over £50 million. This figure is set to rise as the Royals have been digging into a reserve fund in order to make up a deficit in the Civil List for several years now. When the current deal expires next year the Queen will almost certainly have to go cap in hand to the government and ask for money. If whoever is in government at the time has any backbone they should refuse her.

£50 million is small change compared to the billions that the government has been pouring into the banking sector to try to prevent a wholesale economic meltdown. Nevertheless, the Royal Family remain a meaningless, archaic relic of a bygone era. The Queen performs no real constitutional purpose; she is a figurehead whose place as Head of State is merely for the sake of meaningless and every more irrelevant ceremonial formalities. Essentially the Royal Family represent £50 million which might as well be thrown into the ocean.

It would be unfair to say that the Royal Family do nothing of any use; they do extremely valuable charity work and provide a constant source of amusement and ridicule, but this is not the point; we supposedly live in a country which adheres to the principle of democracy, freedom and justice. Maintaining an unelected Head of State with unearned wealth and privileges completely discredits these ideals. The Royal Family is absurdly rich when you take into account the value of the multiple palaces and stately homes, all by virtue of being born; they have done nothing in their lifetimes to deserve the wealth they own. This unearned wealth is obscene when you consider the millions of people struggling to make end meet across the globe.

This is not to say that I abhor wealth; I regard entrepreneurs like Bill Gates; men who have earned their wealth by virtue of their own ingenuity, to be among the greatest men alive. I do abhor unearned wealth; wealth gained, not by virtue of your own intellect, but through force, fraud or by the chance of your own birth.

The only man who deserves his inheritance is the man who has no need for it; if he could make that inheritance on his own, without the help of those who have come before. There is no way that any member of the Royal Family could and ever would be able to create the kind of wealth that they inherit. There is no way any of them could even create the £50 million grant they get every year from the taxpayer; they couldn’t make it in a lifetime, let alone a year.

The Royal Family is a pointless drain on the taxpayer and it is time that we shook of the needless burden of a redundant and increasingly absurd relic from our history. The only thing keeping them there is a vague sense of sentimental patriotism; we should not allow our emotional attachment to our past to stop us from moving forward. The Royal Family is a nostalgia inducing relic which reminds us of the time when Britain was the greatest superpower on the planet, we need to get over our imperial hangover and start moving forwards if we are ever to be more than a pushy ex-power with an overinflated ego.

We currently strut around on the world stage, pretending that we still matter, throwing our weight around in an attempt to fool ourselves into believing that anyone still cares. It’s time we moved on and we should start off with getting rid of the most redundant institution of them all; the monarchy.

This is not to say of course that the beautiful palaces and statues of former greats should be removed. We can and should still remember our history; it can teach us a lot about ourselves and the way the world works. Our history reminds us that greatness is fleeting, it reminds us just how fickle and world can be. It can humble us and drive us onto to do better than our forbears. These are valuable things that everyone needs, however it is equally important that these things stay exactly where they belong; the past.

By allowing our past to live on into our future is potentially extremely damaging; it is the kind of sentimental attachment to our past that allows extreme nationalist like the BNP to get a foothold. It may seem rather innocuous, but the sentimental patriotism attached to the Royal Family can be directly harnessed by extremists and used to make themselves seem more plausible. To refuse to increate the money afforded to the Royal Family would be a small step on the way to revitalising the country and combating the dangerous rise of extremist nationalist groups. Unfortunately I doubt any government would have the backbone to tackle the monarchical relic and hence drastically change our constitution for the better.

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