This post was originally published in the Huffington Post (UK).
I inadvertently started an international shitstorm on Facebook recently. The status update that sparked it all read, “When poor people who have never worked have a kid, they are called benefit cheats. When rich people who have never worked have a kid, they are called royalty.”
Justified, I thought. And topical. There has been a lot in the British press recently about benefits scroungers cheating the system. And, in case you missed it, Prince William and Kate Middleton have just had a baby. Like a lot of other people, I am tired of hearing about it. It’s on every TV channel, every news website, and when I get my morning newspaper, I have to flick past 18 pages of coverage and a 16-page ‘souvenir’ supplement just to get to the sports section.
Private Eye magazine got it right with their front-page headline, ‘WOMAN HAS BABY.’ Does anything more really need to be said? How much more can you say, really? Sure, tell us how big or heavy it was if you must. What time it arrived, maybe. Tell us what they are going to call it. But anything else is superfluous.
The status update got 29 ‘likes.’ But I managed to ruffle the feathers of a couple of people who were quick to jump to the Royal’s defence. They informed me that, apparently, most of the Royal family do have ‘real world jobs.’ These jobs include (or have included) admirals, helicopter pilots, and ‘working for Jaguar.’
Not ‘real world jobs,’ in my book. I don’t know any admirals or helicopter pilots. They are generally regarded as jobs for the privileged. Those from a certain stock. And if they do count as real jobs, which one would assume, come complete with a legitimate (as in, earned), and quite substantial salary, then why do the Royal family as a whole skim around £36 million in additional funds per year from the British taxpayer? And that’s not even including policing costs, which add another few million. I can’t imagine many of them ever putting their hands in their pocket to get the beers in, either.
So what’s my problem? I want to live in a fair society, that’s what. Is that so unreasonable? That is the crux of my argument. Why should a select group of people be entitled to the best quality of life our modern existence can offer, while the vast majority of others have to scrimp and save? These are times of austerity, as we are constantly being told; yet the Royal family and their legion of cohorts and hangers-on fly around in helicopters and dine at the most exclusive establishments at the nation’s expense. And now we have another mouth to feed.
It’s not accumulating wealth that I’m against, per se. If someone gets rich through hard work and endeavor, good for them. But the Royal family just sit back and live off the sweat, blood and tears of others. They have done for centuries. One reason the working classes in Britain struggle so much financially is because of the high taxes, which is where that £36 million-plus a year that keeps the Royals living in luxury comes from.
Many people claim that the Royals pay for themselves because they encourage tourism. Sorry, that argument doesn’t hold any water. Do you think people only come here specifically to see the Crown Jewels? At best, it would just be another thing to cross off a checklist. Britain is the 8th most popular tourist destination in the world, just ahead of Russia and far behind Turkey, China and the US. None of which have a Royal family. France is the number 1 tourist destination worldwide. They don’t have a Royal family, either.
I am from Wales, but I am lucky enough to have lived in several different countries and forged good relationships with people from all four corners of the globe (*I don’t know where that saying came from. Globes don’t even have corners). Interestingly, all the people who took issue with my comment shared the same demographic: white, middle class, university-educated English guys. In my experience, most middle class, V-neck wearing, Volvo-driving English people adore the Royal family. Other Europeans are indifferent, people from farther afield, like the US and China, are baffled by it all. One American friend recently summed up his impression of last year’s Royal wedding by saying, “All the hoo-hah is ridiculous, but fascinating!”
Welsh, Scots and Irish are usually hostile toward the Royal family. Or, more accurately, what it represents. Why? There are many reasons. A particularly pertinent one for us is that the current Prince of Wales is not Welsh. It’s a stolen title, used as a tool to force the will of the establishment upon the Welsh people. The last real Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr, went into hiding after leading a revolt against enforced English rule in the 15th century and was never seen again. Every ‘Prince of Wales’ since has been about as Welsh as Pol Pot. They visit Wales a couple of times a year, to open hospitals or ceramic factories, then swiftly leg it back across the border. And for that, we are supposed to be grateful.
Maybe this makes me anti-monarchist, I don’t know. Call me what you want, I don’t care. The irony of it all is that Britain is keen to market itself as a democracy, a jolly nice place where everyone is equal. But I sure as hell didn’t vote for the Royals. Did you? I say put them to work for a few weeks on minimum wage, let them get a taste of how the other half live.