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Why the cost argument just doesn’t wash with Monarchy

And so the subject of royal finances has arisen again after the publication of the Public Accounts Committee report on how the Royal Household manages its money. In recent times, republicans’ annual outrage at the cost of the Royal Family has become part and parcel of every piece of news on royal finances – but is it justified? I’m about to explain why I believe it’s not.

It is a well established part of the republican prose to make it sound like Monarchy is the only form of Head of State that would cost money, which of course is not the case. In fact, the type of head of state is to all intents and purposes irrelevant to its cost. The idea that a presidency would be cheaper by its nature is simply not true, in fact there are many presidencies in the world with a similar function to the British Monarchy which cost a lot more and deliver a lot less.

France is one such example of this. The French presidency was recently weighed in at £91 million per year, around 3 times the cost of the British Monarchy and with a similar function to The Queen (only the French president probably doesn’t do much for tourism).

Some people also like to argue that the Monarchy doesn’t do enough to fund itself and whilst republicans like to evade the tourism argument as much as possible, it is one of the many reasons why a Royal Family is preferable to a president.

For some reason, republicans refuse to believe [deny] that the Monarchy brings tourists to the UK, which is ludicrous and it makes me think they’ve never walked past Buckingham Palace and seen the tourists gathered there.

Buckingham Palace itself is open for two months a year to visitors and in this time typically generates around £600,000 – which is used for the upkeep of the royal palaces. For the rest of the year, the Palace is occupied by The Queen and because of a combination of security concerns and practicality issues with keeping it open to the public with Her Majesty in residence, it isn’t open for the rest of the year.

On this matter, republicans say we should ‘abolish the Monarchy and keep the Palace open all year round’, often accompanied by the line about how the Palace of Versailles does well with 5 million annual visitors. What they fail to mention is; this is not France – in Britain, unoccupied palaces don’t do nearly as well as those which benefit from the use of the Royal Family. For example, Hampton Court Palace, one of the largest unoccupied palaces in England, gets only around 500,000 annual visitors.

The cost of maintaining the royal palaces is an issue which also arises frequently, but it doesn’t take a genius to realise that these palaces would still have to be maintained in a republic.

Let’s be clear about this, I’m not suggesting that there isn’t room for improvement with royal finances, there’s room for improvement in every institution – but my point is that to say a presidency would automatically be cheaper is the biggest myth perpetuated by republicans in the Monarchy versus Republic debate.

Of course, cost alone is not the only reason the Monarchy is preferable to a republic financially. As well as tourism to royal sites, its existence is beneficial to the economy – big state events = royal memorabilia = big business for the UK. In fact, the birth of Prince George in July was estimated to have benefited the economy to the tune of £243 million.

  • Tamarindwalk

    I’m American and we have Republicans in our country, too. I’d replace the Republicans with the monarchy any day. They’re a bunch of naysayers who do nothing but begrudge others!

    • Carol Lang

      An American Republican is not the same as a British Republican. lol… A true American Republican is more apt to be a monarchist.

      • Tamarindwalk

        American Republicans are backward if anything.

        • DPJ

          Yeah right, because American democrats have so much in common with British Monarchy. I’d say they are polar opposites.

    • DPJ

      A more logical response would be that I’m an American and we have an elected head of state which costs far more than the Royal Family, despite which party it is, and, our elected head of state doesn’t bring in tourism dollars remotely close to that of the Royal Family. No matter which party is in the WH, or Congress, very few people come to the US to see a glimpse of the President or members of Congress.

  • Dan

    Well, the tourism argument is not clear cut one way or the other. If there was a republic I doubt that there would be fewer people going to Buckingham Palace (and would probably more), but there’s only one way of finding out …

    But the money argument is really a red herring. The figures we’re talking about are loose change. Even if the monarchy brought in say £1/2 billion (which is wildly optimistic) Id still happily pay the extra to have all the benefits of a republic.

    • Anni

      I live in a republic but love your monarchy. I’d switch with you in a heartbeat.

      • Dan

        Depending which republic, so would I!

    • Amanda

      I think you’re forgetting about how much the treasury gets from the Crown Estate. All of those properties are currently being held by Parliament – and most of the profits go directly into the treasury. 15% is taken out and given to the Sovereign as an annual allowance, but the government gets the rest. (To give an idea of what this means in numbers, in 2012, the Crown Estate brought in £240 million. QEII was given £39 million, with £201 million going into the treasury.) If the monarchy were abolished tomorrow and the Windors forced to become private citizens, the government would have to relinquish the Crown properties and give it back to them, as per the agreement made with King George III. That’s a huge amount of money each year to throw in the waste bin and keep in private hands.

      • Dan

        Not forgetting that at all. There are lots of agreements made at the time of George III and we aren’t bound by them. Also, there would arguably be an increase in revenue without the Royals.

        But as I say, we can go round in circles about whether it would save money or not (and there’s only one way to find out), but that’s by the by. Even if it’s 1/2 billion a year that is a v small price to pay to be an adult democracy. The benefits of an elected president would more than justify that.

        • Netizen

          if i may ask, what are these “benefits” of an elected president?

    • Carol Lang

      I would have no reason to visit England, if not for the chance to see one of the British royals. You can pretty much see everything else on YouTube or internet….

  • Scion

    Republics have no advantages and many dangers. God Save the Queen!

  • Mark

    I can confirm, as a staunch Danish supporter of our beloved monarchy that
    the British monarchy was one of the strongest reasons I ventured to England.
    Seeing the sites for such a proud and culture-rich institution was rather
    enriching and it has ensured that I will return in the near future.

    England and indeed all of the UK would be a lesser place without the honorable
    royal family.

  • JJ Jones

    The President of the United States, gets a salary of $450K a year, but with all of his traveling and his family of 4 he cost over $1 BILLION a year and that doesn’t include transportation or the upkeep of the White House. The monarchy- for $35 million you get, The Queen, Prince Philip, 4 Children, their 3 spouses, and their children, along with misc cousins. That amount keeps up Buckingham Palace, St James Palace, Windsor Castle and Hollyrood Palace, not to mention the various apartments of other royals, staff wages, pensions, and running the entire project, something that the White House cannot manage to do, the $1Billion doesn’t even pay his office staff or pensions for them. The royals are a bargain in comparison! Plus I think it is silly how the government wants her to pay for the repairs on the buildings that the Crown Estate (aka the government division) OWNS, not the Queen. They profit hundreds of millions yearly in the estate revenues, yet they cannot spend the money required to fix up the building that they own! The arework alone is worth the investments to keep them protected inside the palaces

    • DPJ

      Don’t forget this – that the President also costs the taxpayers even when he’s out of office as well as when he’s not even sworn in yet (President-elect). As well, by the fact that the President is elected, he’s also owned by special interests; while HM is not owned by anyone and owes no one any special favors for votes, etc. There is a savings in that.

      • Jason

        This is very true as well. Once outbid office former presidents are free to pursue careers as writers, speakers which make them millions on top of their salaries they get for life- or in work in any job position that they choose to work as long as it is not another government position or office and while they do that the tax payers still pay for a full Secret Service detail to be attached to them and their spouse and families for their lives, the security cost at their private residence, their postage needs, plus building them a library AND a full office and staff. All so they can work to make a personal fortune and do nothing more for the nation. Jimmy Carter has been the one exception though- anytime North Korea needed someone to negotiate with he could be dispatched and through his temperament and ability to listen he was always able to sort things out with them. Plus he worked Habitat for Humanity and single handedly nearly wiped out the Guinea worm in Africa all things for the betterment of others and it reflects good back on the USA, unlike the others who use the title of President for personal financial gain- something else the queen does not do is use her titles for the promotion of herself but for promotion of all of her realms and the Commonwealth. And any money spent on royals means they are actually working to earn they are NOT sitting back and collect it and doing nothing in return for it because It’s “due” to them like a former president does either. The Queen cannot and never will retire and will still be going day in and out for the rest of her years, Prince Charles will have to work years before ever coming close to the job he was born to do and has waited to be passed along to him, and William has many years left to do the same. Prince Charles is known to want to trim relations off the official duties list, which they think would save money, but I think it will be used as a tool to cut monarchy funding instead- as they will say less people to support, and they would have a point because that also means less royal feet and faces on the ground and at events than Charles Camilla Wiiliam Kate and Harry could all do alone and the government could argue less work being done and cut their money further instead. But cost wise royals are by far a better bargain than presidents. Plus the monarch makes the governments function as the Queen holds the ability to be able to dismiss governments if they become ineffective and can’t function- which in the USA that threat is nothing. Special interest groups lobby politicians and own them but to change the government that’s not functioning is impossible. Only Congress and remove the Presideht but unless one party has complete 2/3rds control it does no good to try to impeach as their own party wouldn’t remove their own party leader.

    • DPJ

      A very simple way to see this is take the cost of the Monarchy to the taxpayers divided by the number of taxpayers or population and get a per person cost. Do the same for the President. We all know the Brits spend less PP than we Americans, despite which party is in the WH.

  • Dorrie M Galea

    Why do you pander to the Republicans? They are not that many, after all. You give the impression that they are a majority. Do you feel you have to justify the Monarchy?
    The Financial report was published. It made a good read. It served its purpose. Now we move on.
    It is time to highlight the Queen’s ‘commemoration’ (?) of the length of her reign.

  • DPJ

    I amuses me when British republicans complain about the cost of the Monarchy. I believe the cost of the Monarch to the general public is about less than $2/tax payer. Compare that to the cost of the Obama’s and their massive travel they do, much much more than HM costs. Then, how many people actually come to America to see Obama? I’d say not many at all. But untold numbers go to Britain to not only hope to catch a glimpse of HM, but just to visit the many royal venues. The Royal Family gives Britain stability, tradition and a sense of purpose and being. What does an elected President give? I say not much since they change very four or eight year.

  • LANcashire lass

    They are worth every penny. I live in SA and the president and all the spongers in his family and in our corrupt government here have just about bankrupted a well off country in around 10 years, be glad you have the Royal Family they bring in more money in visitors to the UK than what they cost.

  • bearzy123

    But, latest news reports contend Buckingham Palace is not maintained and is crumbling.

  • Jessie

    What the heck they are talking about!
    The Queen,I believe is the right hand of God, why try to get rid of Her?! Her Majesty never did put her foot wrong!These Republicans are totally insane! The truth is that, you envy the previledge of your Sovereign!

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