We need to abolish the monarchy – because it’s not fair on anyone, including the royals

Those embroiled in it might enjoy the kind of life that the rest of us can only dream of, but it’s not really much of a life at all

Eve Livingston
Saturday 19 May 2018 15:12
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Royal Wedding: Meghan Markle walks down the aisle in Givenchy dress to marry Prince Harry

This week, Meghan Markle managed to achieve something I thought was impossible. As royal wedding hysteria reached fever pitch, bringing with it agonising scrutiny of everything from her hair to her race to her relationship with her father, I found myself feeling sorry for a (soon-to-be) member of the royal family.

If my sympathy has been somewhat limited up until now, it’s because my feelings about the Windsors largely fall into two overriding categories: firstly, that the archaic and garish concept of monarchy in general would seem completely absurd if you tried to explain it to an alien; and secondly, that the royal family exist as a glaring symbol of the unearned privilege and inequality that pervades the roots of British society.

Talk of Harry and Meghan’s upcoming nuptials, far from encouraging me to reach for the canapes, has instead shone a light on less savoury stories, such as social cleansing of homeless people from the royal borough and the astronomical costs to the taxpayer.

Hypocrisies such as these highlight how outdated and frankly vulgar the institution of monarchy is in a 2018 Britain that is racked with social injustice. Perhaps, for instance, there would be fewer homeless people to clear from the royal borough’s streets if public money went towards solving the housing crisis rather than embellishing carriages and gowns. And I’m not the first to note the great irony in the UK’s widespread “benefit scrounger” rhetoric while the country’s most high-profile family live in a sprawling estate of palaces, thanks to the pay packets of a population of loyal subjects. Coincidentally enough, these subjects have also seen their incomes steadily fall since the financial crisis, which was caused at least in part by greed and the wildly unequal distribution of wealth.

The combination of inordinate wealth and nepotism combined with the small democratic issue of an unelected head of state are the grounds on which progressives should, and do, oppose the institution of monarchy. But even those who express affection or pride towards the royal family must surely feel a pang of unease upon seeing pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge two hours post-partum, made up and blow-dried and looking glossier on those hospital steps than most of us on our best days.

And what about Meghan Markle? The outspoken feminist has been forced to give up her social media accounts, high-profile job and presumably plenty of her views in favour of a life spent in the public service of delivering watered-down messages about overcoming adversity which entirely fail to mention the royal family’s role in perpetuating it.

Royal wedding cake: Layered lemon and elderflower served up for Harry and Meghan

The relative “suffering” of royal women under the limelight is nothing, however, compared to that of their civilian counterparts who bear the brunt of the inequality they reap. Kate Middleton is, after all, the only woman in the country allowed to welcome a third child paid for by the taxpayer, and Markle is set to increase her personal wealth fivefold when she officially joins the family on Saturday. But as difficult as it may be to prioritise Princess Charlotte’s place in the line of succession as a worthwhile feminist issue, it’s also difficult to explain to little girls why some of the most fawned over women in the country are at best purely ornamental and at worst actively invested in the subjugation of others.

The uncomfortable truth, then, is that even for those not deterred from the monarch by arguments about privilege, class and status, the institution is increasingly hard to defend on any other terms too. Those embroiled in it might enjoy the kind of life that the rest of us can only dream of, but it’s not really much of a life at all.

The interests of the monarchy are at the bottom of my list of priorities when it comes to the inequalities blighting the country. But if it can be abolished quicker by making the case for the royals’ humanity, then so be it. Freed from the grip of a repressive institution, Kate and Meghan would enjoy some let-up from press scrutiny and arduous protocol – and millions more of us would benefit in ways far more profound.

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