The British monarchy has reigned for over 1200 years, with 11 royal dynasties moulding Britain into a hugely powerful force. Today the royal family remains at the very top of the social ladder, making news daily and generating around £500 million in tourism yearly. However, in 2022 the need for the royal family fails to go further than their use as a tourist attraction. In fact, in the modern day it is absurd that the ultimate ruler of our country is not elected. We are a country that is often too obsessed with tradition, and now is the time to take a step forward.
Those who support the monarchy will often argue that it’s reign is purely symbolic, creating a national identity. Supposedly a hereditary monarch, in the modern day at least, holds no real power and exists as a figurehead for British identity. If this is true, why is it so that Queen Elizabeth II has the power to appoint and remove ministers, declare war, and recognise foreign states? Above this, she must give consent to have any law that may affect the monarchy’s interests discussed in parliament. In essence, the queen can say no to the discussion of a law that may lessen her power, a right she has exercised 39 times in her reign. Moreover, the nature of democracy is undermined by this structure and what is known as the royal prerogative. This refers to the right of a monarch to go above the law and make important decisions themselves. However, this is often exploited by the government, with ministers making decisions on behalf of the crown. For example, when John Major deployed troops to fight in the Gulf War in 1991, he did this without consulting parliament on behalf of the crown. While it is unlikely the queen would use this power for such things as declaring war, this rule creates a nation that borders on elected autocracy, the Prime Minister having opportunities to go above the law. This sort of power should not be held by an elected official and certainly should not be held by a monarch born into this power through sheer luck.
When discussing the monarchy, it is key to consider the money side. A favourite pro-monarchy argument regards the revenue generated by the royal family, through tourism, merchandise and media coverage. It cannot be argued that the presence of the royal family is detrimental to the economy. However, the argument fails to consider how much we as a country spend on the royals ourselves. A huge majority of the Windsor’s spending is covered by the government or taxpayers. For example, £102 million is spent annually on security for the family, which is funded by the metropolitan police. On top of this a grant, which last year amounted to £87 million is given to the family to pay for costs such as palace maintenance and royal visits. This grant is of course funded by taxpayers. A great deal of the money privately owned by the royal family is earned through their private estates. However, the aristocracy and gentry of the UK combined own 30% of the UK’s land. A great deal of this land is simply passed down generation to generation, never touched by the general UK population. The positive uses for this land are simply limitless and could grow our economy, but it’s potential goes untouched so the elites of our country can essentially show off. Therefore, though the monarchy may bring in money, it cannot be said that the UK’s economy would not be better without them.
The UK leadership structure is officially known as a “constitutional monarchy”, in which a monarch runs the country but does not make any important decisions. However, this system is outdated and it seems the correct step forward would be for the UK to become a republic. Today more than ever, we are being let down by our government and royal family, exploiting the system that exists to serve them. Prince Andrew, who in coming months faces his trial for crimes that need not be mentioned, exploited the power and the outdated morals that come with his position. Our country clearly values democracy, or the Queen would have absolute power, so why not cut out this unnecessary misuse of power? Becoming a true republic or democracy simply ensures that supreme power rests in the citizens who vote. The general public have the power, and exploitation of this system is simply not possible in the same way.
In June, the Queen will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee for 70 years of reign, making her the longest reigning monarch in our history. For this I congratulate her, and say now is the time to end the monarchy on this achievement, stepping into the future with optimism.