Instead of celebrating the royal wedding, let's calculate how the monarchy can start paying for itself

The new, modernised and commercialised monarchy with salaried core members and others engaged on a freelance basis would mean clarity, transparency and legitimacy

Sean O'Grady
Friday 18 May 2018 16:39 BST
The Royal Wedding procession in detail

When you settle down for the royal wedding, out of devotion or because it’s raining outside, what will go through your mind? Reflections on two young people embarking on life’s adventures? How Prince Philip is getting along with the new hip? Curious as to just how hyperventilated Kay Burley will get at her first glimpse of an OAP in a Union Jack suit?

Yes, me too. But mostly I will be making a calculation about how much it is costing. I shall be doing this because: 1) I am obviously an extraordinarily mean-spirited old sod, and 2) because, as a taxpayer I will be personally, if indirectly, paying for it. So will you.

I mean I’ve never met any of them (except Nicholas Witchell, and that doesn’t count), and even if I had become best mates with Harry, enjoying nights at out at Boujis or sharing a spliff together in the good old days, I’d still resent paying for his booze up.

Like Brexit, but with less excuse, no one seems to know what the royal wedding will cost. The sum of £32m is being bandied around, curiously rather more than his brother William and Kate’s wedding at Westminster Abbey, which ran to £23.7m. The dress may have cost anywhere from £100,000 to £400,000; £50,000 for the lemon and elderflower cake; £100,000 on the flowers; the extra policing and other security ranging from £4m to £30m; and the sausage rolls for the plebs come to £26,000 (Greggs would have been even cheaper).

Tradition dictates that the bride’s father foots the bill for a wedding, but given everything, it’s as well that the Queen and Prince Charles are stumping up for the “core” costs of the shindig, while the long suffering taxpayer (me) will dish out for the rather larger “non-core” costs of security.

Sound fair?

Not really, and that’s because I don’t believe that there is any such thing as “private” royal money anyway. It is, in other words, public money, and needs be treated as such.

This is because everything the royals own either derives from some ancient feudal privilege, rendered archaic by modern democracy, or is the product of their role as the heads of state of the United Kingdom (and before that the unifying crown of a global British Empire). The rest is a result of a long history of officially sanctioned tax avoidance.

The solution, then, is not to degrade the monarchy, and rob it of its pageantry – well, not necessarily – but to nationalise the institution and bring all of its substantial assets unequivocally into the public domain, which they are not in 2018. These assets would be, in effect, vested in a new public enterprise which we may call The Crown plc. Or, adopting their own famous adopted nickname, “The Firm”. There would be a secretary of state and responsible parliament for the management of the institution. They would be in the anomalous position of being the Queen’s minsters as well as her employer, but the British constitution is home to many odd things.

The newly reformed state body would own all the castles, palaces, private parks and gardens, art collections, antique silver and furniture, classic cars, horses, the lands and other assets of the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, the royal stamp collection, the royal train and anything else that can be found down the back of the sofa.

Royal wedding: Homeless people in Windsor say they are being subject to increased police surveillance in an attempt to sanitise the area

In return, a shifting selection of the Windsor family would be employed as civil servants, like diplomats or mayors are, performing the roles we have become accustomed to. Those who fall outside the “core” would have to find employment or rely on universal credit under the usual roles. Gifted and unusually telegenic members of the extended family can apply for membership of the core team. Digs can be provided.

The new, modernised and commercialised monarchy with salaried core members and others engaged on a freelance, fee basis would mean clarity, transparency and legitimacy. No one would be able to call them parasites and spongers ever again, no more than they could whoever runs National Savings and Investments or the Prison Service. If princesses Beatrice and Eugenie can earn a suitable living out of fees for services such as, for example, turning up at a reception for Commonwealth leaders (I’d say £200 each for that), then good luck; otherwise it’s a trip down to Jobcentre Plus or trawling LinkedIn for suitable openings for uber sloanes. The Windsors could form their own trade union. It could be called the National Union of Royals (NUR) or, like Unison and Unite, they might opt for a more fashionable one-word branding – “Regal” or “Reign” or maybe “Wave”, alluding to their ethos, values and a core skill.

There’d be performance targets every year, and training. Extramarital affairs would be grounds for dismissal. Princess Anne would be rationed to a quota grump days per annum; the Duke of Edinburgh sent to a diversity workshop; and Camilla offered free help with her distressing phobia about long-distance travel. Meghan and the team from Suits could even write soap-style storylines, moving the monarchy closer to “structured reality”, like The Only Way is Essex, even more so than it is today.

Cheers, then, and God Save the Queen!

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