The British Royal Family is one of the more idiosyncratic aspects of Britishness. Some see them as a national icon to be cherished, whilst others acknowledge them as no more than a drain on the taxpayer. Junior members of the Royal Family appear to incur luxuries that many think the country should not have to afford. In 2009, Scotland Yard estimated that it cost over £50 million to provide round-the-clock police protection for the junior Royals, the most notable of these being Prince Andrew’s daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. Debate was sparked over whether Princess Beatrice, a low security risk, justified the £250,000 per year fee for her protection with many seeing this as a gross misuse of taxpayers’ money. Contrast this with Princess Anne’s children, Zara and Peter Phillips, who eschew the need for 24/7 protection in favour of a more normal lifestyle. Zara and Peter do not bear the Royal titles and are thus relieved from carrying out official duties.
The role the Royal Family plays in British life was reviewed with the announced engagement of Prince William of Wales to Kate Middleton, with many arguing that the taxpayer should not have to foot the bill for their wedding. Due to the less than prosperous economic climate, concerns have been raised over whether the superfluous cost of a Royal wedding can be justified when spending cuts are being made across the board. Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding was estimated to have cost over £30 million, so it’s clear as to why the Taxpayers Alliance is lobbying against a ‘lavish’ wedding. The Windsors and the Middletons will cover the cost of the wedding, with the taxpayer covering the cost of additional security. St James’ Palace stated that they, in conjunction with the happy couple, would continue to be “mindful of the economic situation” as they plan the nuptials. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has even offered City Hall as a venue for the wedding reinforcing the need for the Royals to have a “cost-effective wedding in keeping with our cost-effective times” – unsurprisingly, they’ve opted for Westminster Abbey as their venue instead.
On the flip side ‘VisitBritain’ estimates that the Royal family as a national institution generates over £500 million in tourism and many argue that the impending wedding could provide a massive boost to the economy, providing a two-year surge in tourism what with the Olympic games taking place the year after their wedding. The wedding takes place on Friday 29th April 2011 and is estimated to bring in £120 million more that year in tourism.
Expensive and superfluous though the Royal family may seem, or rather specific high-maintenance members of the Royal family, they are something of a national treasure and generate more for the country than what they cost to keep up. The cost of the Royal family last year is said to have been £38.2 million or 62p per person excluding security costs. The reason that most tourists were said to have visited Britain in 1981 was because of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding, and many are predicting that in 2011 it will be no different. A fundamental facet of British identity, the Royal family will do much to boost Britain’s global profile. This, in conjunction with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, will mean only good things for Britain’s future. Emma Boon, campaign director of the Taxpayers Alliance urges moderation, summing up that “Of course it should be an event for the whole nation to celebrate, but ordinary taxpayers should not be left with a bill fit for a king.”