Why the cost argument just doesn’t wash with Monarchy

28 January 2014 - 09:36pm
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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.

photo credit: marcjohn.de via photopin cc

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  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

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