By Pieter Cranenbroek, International Politics Blogger
European society has altered dramatically in the past centuries, yet one component has survived the test of time: the royal family.
Despite our efforts to make society fairer, more democratic and with equal rights for everyone, this symbol of inequality has proved irremovable. ‘Keeping’ the royal family cost British citizens £36.1 million in 2014, but continuing to fund the royals is a luxury we should no longer want and one we can no longer afford.
Queen Elizabeth is down to her last million, well the last one of the cash reserves British citizens have provided her with. In a time where everyone needs to think twice before spending their money, the royals have been spending their astronomically high allowance like there is no tomorrow.
The past decade the royals have proved unable to adequately cut back on expenses and unwilling to increase public funds by opening Buckingham Palace to tourists for a longer period. And yet, instead of dipping into their own infinite pockets, they expect the British people, who are preached austerity by Tory parrots day and night, to cough up more money to fund their extravagant lifestyle.
I challenge you to come up with a more fitting example for the word parasite.
Of course the Queen isn’t entirely to blame for the £34 million loss in cash reserves in little more than a decade, she “has not been served well by the household and by the Treasury”. It is curious how negative publicity involving the royals is always paired with people defending them because they are, in fact, quite indefensible.
We are continuously remembered of the vital role the royal family plays in society but these arguments lack merit. The most frequently used argument is that the tourism sector would take a considerable blow if we ceased to fund the royal family, even though it is highly unlikely that people will stop visiting Buckingham Palace when the royal family has moved out.
As Morrissey put it last November: “people do not refuse to visit the Eiffel Tower simply because there is no Queen of France.”
Another argument intended to justify the royals’ ludicrous benefits is that they have a binding factor. Even if that were the case, it would seem that paying them millions of pounds per year is a rather steep price for ‘a bit of cornflour to bind society’ as a Dutch comedian eloquently described it.
Make no mistake, the royals are our biggest benefit abusers. Despite being among the wealthiest people in the country, the British royal family receive tens of millions of pounds from British taxpayers which would put most benefit claims to shame. This is no different from other European countries. Dutch citizens pay £31.6 million to their royals, Norwegians contribute over £23 million to their monarchs’ income, Swedes and Belgians give their royals approximately £12 million in subsidies whereas Spaniards pay their royals £6.8 million.
The least they could do is show their gratitude by behaving immaculately and staying out of trouble. If only! The British royal family, most notably Prince Andrew, has been involved in arms deals, corruption, and bribery matters, princess Cristina of Spain recently had to appear in court after having been accused of fraud and money-laundering, Dutch princess Christina is almost exclusively known for her tax avoidance and Belgian prince Laurent spent funds of the Belgian Navy on the renovation of his personal villa.
Considering that the blue-blooded are only expected to mate with their own kind, it seems that this tradition has produced quite a few rotten apples in European monarchic circles.
This is not to say that countries without a monarchy never have any scandals. Earlier this year French president Hollande had his entire affair played out in the media whereas Silvio Berlusconi has become more known for his bunga bunga parties than his politics.
There is a key difference though: politicians can be held accountable for their actions.
When fed up with the current administration, people can go to the streets to protest or at the very least vote in a different government in the next elections. For the royals, such a platform does not exist as there is a zero-tolerance towards criticism of the royal family. Republican activists protesting at the royal wedding of William and Kate were subjected to unlawful searches and arrests, just like the Dutch police unlawfully apprehended people protesting at the inauguration of King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands.
These are economically difficult times and spending £10 million of taxpayers’ money on a wedding and £4.7 million on a middle-aged man dressed like a buffoon accepting a meaningless title is, for many people, a bitter pill to swallow. Still, any criticism is silenced straight away.
It is time we only start reading about kings and queens in fairy tales. The royals are relics of the past for which we no longer have a use as their presence in modern society is fundamentally undemocratic. It is incomprehensible that Treasury informs citizens without a flinch about benefit cuts for the poor while at the same time justifying subsidies to a queen with estimated assets of £341 million.
The royal family’s relationship with the public is a one-way street: they simply take without giving us anything in return. The transformation to a classless society will only be complete once the royal family has been brought down from their cloud. Considering they have already been stripped of their political influence in most countries, relieving them from their purely symbolic role should be a small step. After all, do we really need to pay millionaire families millions per year to cut a few ribbons? I don’t think so.
God save us a queen.