London Bridge Is Falling Down

The monarchy’s deteriorating role in modern society resembles the ancient crown on the skull.

The monarchy’s deteriorating role in modern society resembles the ancient crown on the skull.

Queen, Palace, The Crown, Royal family—these are probably some of the first phrases you associate Britain or London with. Rightfully so, the monarchy is deeply rooted in British culture due to its long-standing history and public appeal which, according to the Atlantic, generates $767 million annually in tourist revenue alone. Looking at it from a broader perspective, however, the royal family’s economic and symbolic contributions barely justify its impractical (and subtly racist) role in modern society. 

The monarchy receives a substantial amount of public funding in the form of citizens’ taxes to cover official duties, personal expenses, and maintaining and renovating historic properties like the royal palace. According to Forbes, the Sovereign Grant, which is used to cover expenses such as staff costs, palace maintenance, travel, hospitality, and housekeeping, totaled $99.6 million in 2022. 

Supporting the queen’s doubtful responsibilities isn’t worth the $99.6 million. The monarch’s “official duties”, according to Times, include appointing prime ministers, hosting foreign leaders, and approving legislation. However, they don’t even get much say in who those prime ministers are or what laws cross their desk. In a more informal manner, The Mirror reveals that the Queen used to stay busy answering letters and greeting knights and top dogs (yes, dogs). It’s safe to say that the British monarch serves as a high-maintenance figurehead. 

Introducing a formal head of state or President to the British Parliament system would be more politically practical compared to maintaining and offering special attention to a rather unqualified royal family. Tax money would finally go towards addressing important social needs, such as education and healthcare, instead of supporting a single family. 

The issue is that it’s difficult to accept the royal family as role models or even worthy public figures. From the slave trade in the 1500s to modern-day society, the residents of Buckingham Palace have shown hints of racism through various incidents. More specifically, Queen Elizabeth I supported the capture and trade of Africans in 1562, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle admitted that racism involving their own child (an heir to the royal family), followed by other instances of discrimination, motivated the couple to move out of the UK. Additionally, it is alleged that many of the pricey and precious jewels on the queen’s necklaces were stolen from Africa during colonial times. 

Insider emphasizes that these events have gone unaddressed by the main members of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II failed to speak up, apologize, or even support Markle following the racist comments Markle faced from British tabloids and the press. Instead, the queen stood by Buckingham Palace’s “no comment” policy in response to press statements.

 Especially in the modern and progressive world we live in, it’s expected that the Queen would address the monarchy’s past actions and show willingness to improve their institution after recent scandals. After all, the tabloid statements affected Markle’s mental health, leading to a feeling of being “unprotected” by her own family, as described by many sources. The royal family ought to stand up for its own members and address its troubled past, but it hasn’t. Is it really a family worth providing with immense public support and funding? 

In essence, yes, tourism and culture are important. But the monarchy’s questionable actions and replaceable role in politics outweigh any benefits of its continuation. Regardless, its history and tales can still be taught to children, its “official duties’’ can continue to be carried out by a formal political figure, and the Buckingham Palace can still contribute to tourism. In fact, the absence of the royal family leaves the Buckingham Palace open year-round for tourists to experience more closely, increasing tourism in its own way. 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle withdrawing from royal duties, along with increased public support (25% according to PBS) for abolishing the monarchy after the queen’s death, is truly a sign that it is nearing the end for the (in)famous royal family, monarchy, and informal head of state all at once.