I see the debate about the cost of our Monarchy has been kicked off again by the revelation that they cost the country £41.5 million last year, not including the cost of security.
“They” is an interesting pronoun here, though. What the media never make clear is that these costs are not the personal “wages” if you like of Mrs. Elizabeth Windsor; they are the cost of running the institution of monarchy, the cost of actually having a Head of State.
For example, Royal Palaces are not the personal property of the Queen but instead belong to the Crown (a subtly different institution). In effect, they belong to the state, so all the arguments about who pays for their upkeep are actually rather fatuous. We wouldn’t be surprised at the government paying for repairs to the “Palace” of Westminster, 10 Downing Street, or an office block full of government workers. The same applies to Buckingham, Saint James and Holyrood Palaces, as well as Windsor Castle. (It does not, though, apply to Sandringham or Balmoral, which are the private property of Mrs. Windsor.)
Costs for security would not be any different if we were providing it for an elected official.
The Queen is 83 and still working a full schedule. How anyone can’t admire that amazes me.
So yes, I am a firm supporter of the monarchy. This is not out of some forelock-tugging subservience (as those who know me will attest!). Nor is it because of some perceived benefit to tourism. (I don’t consider that having a monarch causes people to flock here wanting to see her; and frankly I should know! After all, people flock to Versailles and that’s not had a resident monarch for some time…….)
Instead, my enthusiasm for monarchy is fuelled by its giving our country a sense of continuity and identity. In an era when such things are often unfashionable, I am proud to be a Briton. And an Englishman. And a Brummie! (And a European, too, for that matter.) None of these things is exclusive of another. I like the trappings of government and power, symbols and traditions which tell the story of rights wrested by the people through the centuries in a process of evolution rather than revolution. Indeed, these things tell the history our our country far more effectively than, ahem, any tour guide could. Ours nation’s is a story of hard won rights, now guaranteed by a delightfully British system which perhaps shouldn’t work but does.
Republics always seem deeply artificial things to me. They are the Milton Keynes or Bracknells of nations, as opposed to our being a Stonehenge or Canterbury! I know a lot of people like the idea but are the Nicolas Sarkozys or Barak Obamas of this world any more “of the people” than the Queen? I would consider not. They may come from a variety of backgrounds but they end up in the same rarefied atmosphere of power and seclusion. At least ours are born for it.
Long may they continue.