As Queen Elizabeth II today celebrates 60 years on the throne, it leads to discussion of the ever-present issue of the future of the monarchy. There is always grumbling from some corners about the financial burden the monarchy places on tax payers, and its irrelevance in today’s society. However, this apparent dissatisfaction does not seem to be borne out by opinion polls: the percentage of people asked in Ipsos Mori polls who favoured retaining the British monarchy has risen from 71% in 2004 to 75% in 2011.
This rise, of course, must be partly attributed to the Royal Wedding in April last year. Some had no interest in the day’s events (including my father, who took advantage of the clear roads on his motorbike). But the wedding went some way to showing the power of the monarchy and British tradition in bringing people together in celebration, at least for the estimated 1 million people who lined the procession route and the 24.5 million who watched the ceremony on BBC and ITV. However, these viewing figures are nearly surpassed by the number who watched it from the USA (23 million), which illustrates another point – that the monarchy is a massive selling point for the UK.
Although it is difficult to say exactly how much of our income from tourism is attributable to the monarchy, estimates put it at around £500 million. This is considerably more than the alleged crippling cost of the monarchy, which is around £40 million. Although this seems a lot, it averages out at less than 70p per tax payer (including the Queen herself!). So rather than moan about the monarchy, let’s celebrate it – or at least the two extra bank holidays it gives us this year.