Norman Baker has written a very curious screed about King Charles and the cost of the monarchy. As we discussed, the cost of QEII’s funeral ended up paying British taxpayers £161.7 million, all for gothic pageantry and a sh-tload of dirges. King Charles’s coronation cost much more than that, and having watched it, I simply don’t know where that money went or why anyone thought it was a good idea. Baker also notes the costs of various royal weddings and last year’s Jubbly, which brings to mind that curious piece last week in the Telegraph, about how there will be no more “big events” for the Windsors for the next twenty years or so. Meaning, it’s a curious moment to talk about costs when Charles can easily say, “Look, we’re not going to spend that kind of money again during my reign.”
King Charles has been widely reported as saying he wants to see a slimmed-down monarchy. He is wise, for he will know that the sheer wealth of the Royal Family and, even more so the amount it takes from the taxpayer, is its point of maximum vulnerability. For all the talk of a smaller, more compact Coronation, however, I’m not so sure that Charles has made a good start. Despite the much-reduced guest list, the latest estimates suggest it cost an extraordinary £250 million, all at the public expense. Even if the cost of security is discounted, the remaining £100m is still more than twice the cost of his mother’s coronation in 1952, £47m in 2023 prices.
These are extraordinary sums of money. It is interesting to note that no other European monarchy bothers with a coronation. The last one in Spain, for example, was in 1555. Even the £250m figure may prove to be an underestimate. The cost of the Queen’s funeral last year was touted in advance at £8m. The final cost to the taxpayer was last week revealed to have been £161.7m.
Then there was the Queen’s jubilee celebrations last year. The bill for that came in at £28m. So that’s a charge on the taxpayer in just over a year of nearly £450m, just for those three events. And that’s on top of the £86.3m annual payment to the King (up from £7.9m in 2011). One of the strange – and discomforting – things, as our analysis shows here, is the steady rise in public expense on these events over time. Moreover, a YouGov poll released just before the coronation revealed that 51 per cent thought that the coronation should not be publicly funded at all.
Some argue that the cost to the public purse is more than outweighed by the boost to tourism and the selling of television rights. The latter of course benefits individual broadcasters, not the public purse. There is no doubt a reputational gain of some sort as, however briefly, Britain presents itself to the world in a positive light. As for tourism, there is undoubtedly a benefit though this can be overstated. A few days before the coronation, I was able to secure a room for the night in a decent West End hotel for just £43, and there was still a ‘vacancies’ sign hanging the next day when I left. This does not suggest a massive influx.
Moreover, official government estimates suggest each bank holiday – and special ones were introduced for the coronation and the jubilee celebrations – costs the country £1.36 billion in lost productivity, so the gain is certainly not one way, although you will find few arguing against extra days off.
Let us not forget the other uniquely beneficial tax arrangements the King enjoys, such as the exemption from death duties on the private inheritance from his mother – no tax paid on the string of racehorses, the valuable paintings, the Faberge eggs, and the £100m stamp collection. The truth is that no one knows exactly how much Charles is personally worth because royal finances remain disgracefully opaque. Calculations by the Guardian suggest his private wealth stands at £1.8 billion, although palace sources say that’s not a figure they recognise.
King Charles needs to be careful. While a clear majority of the British population still favours a monarchy those opting for a republic now constitute something like 28 per cent, the highest figure since the royal meltdown year of 1992, the Queen’s ‘annus horribilis’. Among young people, support for a monarchy and a republic is now evenly divided. Keeping Andrew, Harry and Meghan off the palace balcony does not constitute a slimmed-down monarchy.
I mean… he’s right? About all of it. There have been too many “big events” for the monarchy over the past year, and the coronation was the event which should have been cheaper, smaller and more efficient. I get that Charles wanted to make a BFD about his hat party, but it was in poor taste in like 250 million different ways. What’s even worse is that now the Windsors are addicted to those big events and the attention and melodrama they bring – I’ve suggested this before, but I’m really getting a sense that the keen brain trust over there is currently scheming about what kind of stunt they should arrange to somehow “force” Harry and Meghan to come back, however briefly. They’re already desperate for some big new event, some major funeral or drama. It’s grotesque. Anyway, the Windsors need to be defunded and abolished, pass it on.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.
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