Many Britons feel increasingly poor. But their royal family is indeed very wealthy.
Now that the cinematic spectacle of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral is over, and the national grief spasms over a the death of the beloved monarch begins to fade, attention turns to the royal coffers – which are, for a certain slice of the British public, a perennial sore point.
As is the practice for state funerals, British taxpayers will foot the as-yet-undisclosed bill for 10 days of solemn, grandeur-filled pageantry that culminated in monday funerala trio of elaborate ceremonies that culminated in the Queen’s burial at Windsor Castle.
With hundreds of world leaders including President Biden present, and long queue of several kilometers Queen’s subjects patiently awaiting a chance to see her lying in state, police have covered London in what authorities say is the country’s biggest security operation.
As the British public and millions of spectators around the world learned the meaning of words like ‘catafalque’, ‘cortege’ and ‘cruciferous’, the government said the cost of funerals would be disclosed ‘in due course’.
It is clear that in the eyes of some, even reporting the check is heretical.
“Do we have the right to ask who pays for all this, or will we be arrested?” David Baddiel, a 58-year-old comedian, asked in a tweet that sparked anger online.
Obviously, all that pomp and splendor didn’t come cheap.
By some estimates, the total cost – the funeral, plus the forthcoming coronation of King Charles, a concurrent public holiday and the expense of replacing the coinage with the emblazoned image of a new ruler – amounts to more than $6 billion.
This level of spending creates a jarring juxtaposition, with a series of cost of living increases that will push more Britons into poverty than ever before.
The country is already facing an inflation rate of 8.6% in its consumer price index. In October, gas bills will rise by nearly a third, and that’s after a government mandated type on energy prices.
As many as 5.6 million people have been forced to forgo a meal in the past three months, and nearly 8 million have sold personal items to cover the cost of living, polls show. The Federation of Small Businesses, a business lobby organization, says more than half of small businesses expect to stagnate, downsize or simply close in the next year; even hospitals and schools will struggle to keep their doors open.
Beyond any funeral costs, the UK government funds a so-called Sovereign Grant, an annual payment made to the Royal Family for official travel, upkeep of property and running costs of the household. of the monarch.
For this year, it was nearly $100 million and included additional funds for the restoration of Buckingham Palace. Security costs are not included in this calculation, but are paid for by the government and are kept secret.
As in other parts of the Commonwealth and the UK itself, all of this has galvanized anti-monarchists and those calling for a re-examination of the price the British public should pay for their hereditary dynasty.
“We give the royal family a huge amount of money every year,” said Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, a group which, as its name suggests, campaigns for the UK to abolish its monarchy and a republic takes its place. with an elected head of state.
Smith noted that Charles, under an agreement reached with the government in 1993, will not have to pay inheritance tax, unlike fellow countrymen who are taxed at 40% on any part of an estate valued at more than 325,000 pounds, or nearly $370,000.
So while a state funeral is an accepted expense by taxpayers, “it would be a helpful gesture if [Charles] was prepared to offer compensation for this huge cost, given that we are struggling to pay hospitals, police and schools,” Smith said.
Another sore point for anti-royalists is the royal family’s sprawling estates. One of the biggest moneymakers is the late Queen’s Duchy of Lancaster, which according to recent financial statements is worth around $740 million and has made over $27 million in profits; it now passes to Charles tax-free, robbing the Treasury of billions in revenue.
Another even more lucrative property is the Duchy of Cornwall, valued at $1.3 billion and ownership of which automatically passed to Prince William once Charles ascended the throne, with no corporation tax. This is in addition to other properties the crown owns but cannot sell, including Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and two crown estates.
Other personal assets passed from the late Queen to Charles include her investments, art collection, jewelery and rare stamps, and Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The total fortune is estimated at around 28 billion dollars.
Monarchists, however, point out that the royal family is a major draw for tourism in the UK and that the Sovereign Wealth Fund costs just $1.50 per subject per year – a hardly problematic sum for such a legendary symbol of the soft power.
“I really don’t care how much it costs,” tweeted Isabel Oakeshott, journalist and editor-in-chief of British broadcaster Talk TV. “I can’t see a better use of our tax dollars right now. It’s just who we are.
The funeral and associated events, she wrote, “were a reminder of all that is great about Britain. Tomorrow normalcy will return, with all its crippling bills, NHS waiting lists and late trains, but we can stick with it.
The monarchy remains widely popular among Britons, with the latest poll suggesting around 68% have a positive view of the institution. Young people, however, are less enthusiastic than their elders, with less than half of 18-24 year olds saying Britain should continue to have a monarchy, compared to 86% of those over 65.
There’s no denying that royal departures are expensive. princess dianaThe 1997 funeral cost between £3 million and £5 million in 1997, or somewhere between $7 and $8 million after adjusting for inflation. In 2002, the Queen Mother’s cost about $10 million in today’s dollars, much of it for security.
But these are all dwarfed by the expense surrounding the funeral of Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Elizabeth, who reigned for 70 years and 214 days.
In addition to the tab for over 10,000 police, 1,500 military and thousands of field marshals and volunteers for the funeral alone, not to mention a contingent of Britain’s elite Special Air Service on standby in case of attacks terrorists, there was another associated cost: the public holiday on the day of the funeral.
Most businesses have been closed, along with the London Stock Exchange. By comparison, government data estimated that the June public holiday celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee led to a 0.6% drop in the country’s gross domestic product.
“It’s costing a lot of people a lot of money, especially small businesses,” Smith said. And while public holidays may be linked to increased spending in restaurants and hotels, that was not the case here, he added, because huge crowds made getting around so difficult.
Certainly, many vendors gladly accepted the idea of closing for the day, including Ryan Boyle, a clothing salesman in Brick Lane.
“Listen, I’m Irish, but I don’t blame him,” the 59-year-old said. “She is dead, and I am not. I’m grateful for that and don’t mind closing out of respect.
Others seemed less optimistic. Pio, a Soho tailor who did not want his full name used for privacy reasons and to avoid alienating staunchly royalist customers, complained about having to give his employees a day off for the funeral .
“I’m the one paying,” he said.
The new king has spoken of a lean royal family, and also of a less costly coronation for himself, when it takes place next spring or summer. But the overall costs of the royal transition – funeral, bank holiday weekend, coronation and new currency – “could net us 13 million nurses”, Smith said.
“It really is a one-way street,” he said of the Royal Family, “in terms of what we give and what they take.”