Stick A Fork in the British Monarchy . . . It’s Done

The royals have no role to play in a post-pandemic world

Queen Elizabeth II

People often say Queen Elizabeth II, the world’s longest reigning monarch, has been “in service” to the British nation her entire life. It is hard to understand exactly how one of the wealthiest women in the world “serves” the people of England.

The privileged lives of the Queen and her family are often on public display, usually during lavish and costly taxpayer-funded celebrations specifically orchestrated to remind her subjects of the importance of maintaining a monarchy. These over-the-top rituals do not serve the interests of the public as much as they serve the royal family. These events enable the royals to perpetuate the myth that England cannot survive or would somehow be less of a country if “The Firm” were disbanded.

Even before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry allowed us to peek behind the curtain in the land of Oz, it was obvious to most reasonable people that royalty has no place in a modern society. The royal family is a living, breathing anachronism whose members would better serve their country by stepping aside and releasing the populace from its legal obligation to subsidize their opulent and excessive lifestyles. The grand lives of these few royals should not be supported with tax money that would be better spent on citizens who need the money more.

In a post-Covid-19 world, the stark contrast between the people who have so much and those who have next to nothing could not be clearer.

During the pandemic, average people in England have been cooped up in their tiny, rented apartments and houses with small children and extended family members. Many have no outdoor areas to spend time in, and with all of the public spaces closed, the lack of living space is magnified. Aside from losing their livelihoods and living with the stress of limited resources in cramped quarters, worries about possibly contracting a deadly virus added to their misery.

Contrast that experience with the royal family’s. The virus has barely impacted their ultra-privileged lives. The biggest decision the Queen and Prince Phillip had to make during the pandemic was choosing which palace they were going to isolate in. They decided to head out of town to stay at the Queen’s favorite castle, Balmoral, a baronial revival estate in the Scottish countryside.

Balmoral Castle (Queen’s “holiday home”)Credit: Harper’s Bazaar

Balmoral has 828,000 square feet of indoor space and 50,000 acres of outdoor space. Sandringham House, another private residence of the Queen, also measures 828,000 square feet of living space, set on 20,000 acres of land. Between the two palatial estates, there is more than 1.65 million square feet of indoor space and 70,000 acres of outdoor space, for one elderly couple. Those are just two properties from the Queen’s vast real estate portfolio. Surprisingly, her in-town residence, Buckingham Palace, also has about 828,000 square feet. The number 828,000 must represent some kind of royal gauge for the standard palace. It is a far cry from the British care-homes where so many have died.

Bedfordshire Apartment House

The average Brit’s house size is 818 square feet, over 1000 times smaller than one of the Queen’s castles. Many have no outdoor space at all. Yet, tens of millions of pounds in taxes paid by people living in those 818 square foot homes are handed over to the Queen and her family for the upkeep of millions of square feet of palaces and thousands of acres of land. It is unconscionable and simply wrong for the British government to continue to give financial support to the Queen and her family.

Until 1992, the Queen paid no taxes on her income or property. That privilege allowed her family to continue to accumulate more wealth than anyone could ever imagine.

The Queen insists the royals are “in service,” and therefore, are not allowed to run businesses that trade on their royal titles. That claim is pure hogwash. All of the royals use their connections to the Queen to make money. Despicable Prince Andrew and his cohort Sarah Ferguson are prime examples of talentless royals peddling their titles for profit. Charles is the poster-prince for making money from his royal connections, using his title to turn his personal Duchy in Cornwall into a billion-dollar business while skirting English tax laws.

The Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1377 by King Edward III to provide a tax-free income for his son. Since that time, the eldest surviving son of the reigning monarch was made the Duke of Cornwall. All the land and the money the Duchy generated was inherited by the Duke. Charles was officially named Duke of Cornwall in 1973 and his son and heir, William, has already begun taking over the bank accounts since Charles will soon be King.

In 2020, Prince Charles’ income from the Duchy of Cornwall was £22.2 million. The Duchy sells a line of products stamped with a royal seal but that is the least of its lucrative sources of money. Rents from tenants and vacationers are paid directly to Charles and the Duchy also has an impressive portfolio of investments in areas outside of Cornwall. The Duchy has purchased two homes for its CEO, Charles, the ethereal estate called Highgrove and another estate called Llwynywermod in the Welsh countryside. Charles lives a luxurious life on his properties and writes off all the expenses. It illustrates what Leona Helmsley, known as the Queen of Mean, was referring to when she boasted “only the little people pay taxes.”

The Duchy is a business in every sense of the word and Charles deftly injects his title into all of his money-making business ventures. He uses his title to escape paying the capital gains taxes he should have paid on his considerable holdings since 1973. Until 1992, Charles did not pay a shilling of taxes on his income. He agreed to start paying a nominal amount on a small portion of his income from the Duchy because he was getting some bad press on the issue. All the estates Charles owns are maintained through the Duchy from the extremely undertaxed or tax- free income he receives annually.

Charles says he raises millions of pounds for charity through the Duchy. But he cannot claim to be philanthropic and still fail to address the fact that he and his family have been ripping off the government treasury for decades. The tens of millions of pounds the royals receive every year to supplement their non-taxable income could go directly to programs the royals say they support through their faux benevolence.

Are royal trains, planes, and yachts necessary for the Queen and her family to give service to the people of Britain? The older crew is taxied around town in their custom Bentleys and Rolls Royces. For special occasions, the Queen’s horses will pull her golden carriage around Buckingham Palace. The younger set prefer Range Rovers, Aston Martins, and Jaguars. Paying very little in tax and getting the British people to foot the bill whenever you need a new roof or an updated bathroom allows you a lot of extra funds to buy things, like a fleet of high-end cars, country castles, Swiss ski chalets, and all the other trappings that come with being royal.

The royal women adorn themselves with thousands of carats of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires set in oceans of platinum as they smile and shake the hands of average citizens in an effort to show how down-to-earth they are.

Some in the British press say the people expect the royals to be decked out in their finery because it is, after all, a show. But one taxpayer-funded production after another highlighting people dressed up in silly costumes performing for the crowd is obscenely expensive. It drains money away from those who need it most.

Entertainment can only be had after the necessities of life are addressed. If the government wants to pay for the sideshow, it should first make sure its citizens’ basic needs are met. The Queen, who refers to herself as “sensible,” should agree.

Do taxpayers really want to give money to a woman who said she had a hard time holding her head up at her coronation because the gem-packed crown she was wearing was too heavy? If the royals really cared about the people of England, they would start paying their own bills and stop taking money from hard working Brits trying to live a decent life.

Forbes magazine estimated the royal family’s net worth to be $88 billion. The British people should not support one of the wealthiest families in the world with tax subsidies and then allow them to evade paying taxes on a good portion of their income and assets. I’m sure the Queen and her family will not pack up and leave England if they begin to be treated like other citizens in the UK who are required to support themselves and kick in money for the common good.

The royals have always yearned to be looked upon as ordinary folks, often engaging in scripted moments to appear to connect with average citizens. Doing things typical people do, like contributing their fair share of taxes, will go a long way in endearing them to the British people.

The Queen and her family will always be part of England’s cultural heritage. Taking away their unearned subsidies will not alter their place in the history of Britain. But it is no longer acceptable to ask the public to give this entitled family millions of pounds a year to put on a show for people’s amusement. They have plenty of funds to support whatever lifestyle they choose and can continue to maintain the charities most important to them. They should not have to be paid to perform good deeds.

The royal family should emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic with a renewed sense of service to the people of their country who have given them so much.

Lena is a writer, dog lover, and master gardener. She writes about family, politics, and society.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store