SHOULD we keep the royal family? The word ‘royal’ comes from the French word for ring (roi). Wittily, and completely accidentally ‘roi’ is also an acronym for ‘return on investment’. Which will allow me to ask at some point in the future ‘do we get enough ROI on our roi?’
Privilege based on birth alone (or marrying well) should surely have no place in a democratic society. I’m happy to bow and curtsey to people as a mark of respect – but doff my cap to a toff purely because of their parentage? I don’t think so!
If you were setting up a new country, would you hold a competition for who should be king, let all those interested slug it out in battle and then crown the person who slayed all the other competitors or cowed them into submission? Would you then decide that the winner’s first-born male child should inherit the throne and their descendants after them? Probably not. So why do we continue with our royal line?
The British royal family is built on a lineage of lying, fighting, imprisoning, beheading, stealing, plundering and war-making. Henry VIII for example may have been turned into a soft toy, chocolate and Christmas tree decoration, but the reality of his reign is blood and torture – should we celebrate that? No. Study it? Yes.
Some people think that today’s royals have value as helpful (and harmless) tourism generators. There may well be truth in that. It’s not as though our current royals have the power of life and death over their subjects (or each other) and they perform purely emblematic roles. The Duchess of Cambridge chose her identity as a clotheshorse and royal blood-line generator. Her husband William, our future king, has known no other future, so seems content to do good by raising awareness for various causes.
This past week Prince William was revealed selling copies of ‘The Big Issue’ magazine on the streets of Westminster. The Big Issue was founded in 1991 by John Bird with the aim ‘to provide society’s most vulnerable with the means to earn a legitimate income by selling a magazine. We exist to create opportunity for vulnerable people in the UK, helping them improve their lives and we need your support to achieve this goal.’
Prince William came in for a lot of criticism from commentators for being ‘tone deaf’ in taking part in a ‘publicity stunt’ but he gained a huge amount of national awareness for the charity and, presumably, also helped the person whose copies he was selling.
It’s been a devastating couple of years for the most vulnerable people in our society. Those who sell ‘The Big Issue’ on our streets faced even tougher lives thanks to lockdown and with food prices rising now and the country’s uncertain future threatening us all, it becomes even more critical to raise awareness in the way Prince William has done. He must have known his actions would attract criticism – so on a personal level I say good for him.
Those who govern us though, our politicians, should not be relying on celebrity stunts and charitable acts to be a social safety net. When the Conservative Prime Minister boasts that unemployment levels are low, he ‘forgets’ to mention that levels of working poverty are rising along with the cost of living.
If anybody reading this can help a local vendor – please visit https://www.bigissue.com. You can find details of people selling The Big Issue in Devon and you can take out a subscription.