The monarchy needs to change. That’s become incredibly clear in recent weeks, months and years. Whether the monarchy needs to be abolished, as some would advocate, or whether we need to keep it in its entirety, as many support, is a debate that’s been lurking in the background for many years. It makes sense, following recent revelations such as accusations of racism and a lack of mental health support within the ‘institution’, that discussions around this debate should be held now.
However, the debate should not be about the two extremes cited above. There is always a compromise that ensures we’re able to get the best of both worlds; the ‘centre-ground’. In the case of the monarchy, the centre-ground between full abolition and full acceptance is to modernise the monarchy. To make it into an accountable, self-sufficient 21st Century institution rather than one that is medieval or one that is simply non-existent.
In order to modernise the monarchy, we need to introduce some level of democratic accountability to ensure that those standards which the people and politicians of this country are held to, are the same that apply to the monarchy. To achieve this, we should have a new cross-party House of Commons select committee, dedicated to the monarchy. This could inquire into any allegations or reports that are made towards royal family members or staff and investigate as to whether the monarchy is upholding the same social expectations regarding race, gender and background that we, as citizens, hold ourselves to. It could also ensure that all royal business, finances and media relations are made public and accessible. We need this transparency because we cannot have a head of state with lower standards than that of the state itself. If the monarchy is to be retained, as two thirds of Brits currently believe, then it needs to be accountable to its subjects.
We also need to make the gap between being a royal and being a citizen smaller because the concept of having a ruling elite who are untouchable compared to ordinary people is outdated and, at its simplest, unfair. Yet recently we have seen the scale of this gap between the monarchy and the people far too frequently and in far too severe situations.
In 2017, the Paradise Papers scandal showed that the Queen’s estate had invested £10m offshore into two companies, one of which was behind another business that had been accused of irresponsible lending and the other which went bankrupt, owing £17.5m of tax in the UK. In addition, it was discovered through this scandal that Prince Charles had campaigned to alter climate change agreements which would result in him benefiting financially through the ownership of shares in an offshore company worth $113,500. Both these revelations have apparently gone without scrutiny or accountability, which they almost surely would’ve done had the same actions been done by any other British citizen. Both these revelations are also sourced from the BBC.
And then, above all of that, we have Prince Andrew. A man who was good friends with a paedophile. A man who has allegations of paedophilia made against him personally. And a man whom the FBI have requested to interview yet have received no response. This can’t be allowed. In order to modernise our monarchy, not only do we need political and public accountability, we need legal accountability. We need to close the gap between the monarchy and its subjects.
The final thing that should be considered to ensure monarchy modernization is to make it self-sufficient financially. In 2020 the cost of the royal family according to Statista was £69.4m, which rose to £82.4m if the cost of Buckingham Palace refurbishments was included. That’s over £80m of taxpayers’ money being spent on the royals when the country is so apparently financially restrained that nurses only get a 1% pay increase. Where would you rather that taxpayers’ money went? We shouldn’t be providing taxpayers’ money to an institution as privileged as the monarchy when we have so many others in this country in need. That is surely something upon which people can agree.
That, after all, is the point in finding a centre-ground in the debate surrounding the future of the monarchy. It’s about finding terms upon which people can agree. The divide between abolition and acceptance is too great to cross, especially now when division in this country is at such a high point. It would be wrong to have the debate on the future of the most prominent family in the world in such a brutal and simplistic fashion and we’ve seen the damage that can be caused by having a debate in this way with the division created by Brexit.
It is likely, however, that we can all agree that the royal family isn’t perfect and that changes need to be made. For those in favour of keeping the royal family, the process of modernisation would simply bring the institution up to date, whilst for those who wish for an elected head of state instead of a hereditary one, modernisation of the monarchy is a step towards achieving that.
That’s why we should modernise the monarchy. It is the centre-ground.