With the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland once again sees itself in a precarious hiccup.
While some across the globe and the UK are mourning, the rest are calling for the end of the constitutional monarchy in the UK. The Queen passed away comfortably surrounded by her family on September 8 at Balmoral Castle. A minute later, King Charles III was announced as her predecessor.
Following the death of the longest-serving monarch, one wonders what the future of this constitutional monarchy would be in Britain. Not only the voice calling for its end in the UK has once again been given volume, but commonwealth states such as Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica have also revived the debate on the King being their head of state.
Although such independent countries will domestically resolve this matter through referendums, the future of the constitutional monarchy does not seem to be any different than what it already is.
From an economical, traditional, and diplomatic standpoint, the Royal Family is more beneficial than people might think. The Royal Family, albeit set in their traditional or perhaps ‘archaic’ system, has evolved over the years, ranging from their presence on television and social media to cross-border marriages, progressing with society.
Economically, viewing the monarchy as a monopolist brand generates a mammoth sum for the UK. According to the data released and analyzed by Brand Finance in 2017, the monarchy generates revenue of £1.474 billion annually.
The Queen, despite not having a political role, had in her capacity as the head of state paved the way for real political and economic effects. Subsequently, opening doors to trade and public diplomacy.
The economy of the UK depends heavily on the royal family. According to the estimation of Brand Finance from 2017, the monarchy generates £150 million annually through trade and international relations. While the assets of the monarchy surpass £67.5 billion and have an upkeep of 292 million, it generated an annual gross uplift to the EU economy of £1.766 billion. The tax incurred on the populace of the UK is only £4.50 per person annually.
The royal family contributes billions to the UK economy through tourism, mainstream coverage of royal events, fashion trends, and involvement in the media and the arts industry.
Tourism, especially the season of royal events, attracts millions of tourists annually. Buckingham Palace, Holyrood Palace, Windsor Castle and London’s royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea alone draw millions of visitors, generating a ridiculous amount for the economy. According to Brand Finance, an estimated £550 million is just produced through tourism.
In 2011, approximately 600,000 people traveled to London to watch the grand wedding of Prince Willian, the second in line to the throne, and Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales. Of those 600,000 people, 240,000 were overseas sightseers. According to Brand Finance, the travelers spent over £107 million while staying in London.
Similarly, the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle produced a staggering £550 million. About £200 million was generated from tourism.
Not surprisingly, the stock sells within minutes when Princess of Wales and Meghan Markle wear Highstreet brands or any type of branded clothes. According to Retail Research, the birth of Prince George, Princess Louis and Princess Charlotte also generated approximately more than 300 million pounds in UK retail sales.
Princess Louis’ birth delivered £50 million to the UK economy through souvenirs, memorabilia, and baby clothes. Retail Research had estimated that the birth of a baby girl would give a brief boost of £80 million, giving a monetary benefit to fashion and retail sales.
Furthermore, mainstream televised and social media coverage as well as the mere reticent aura of the royal family simply generates millions of pounds for the media and art industry. The coverage of the wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate was viewed and live-streamed on YouTube 72 million times in 188 countries.
Over two billion watched the ceremony globally. According to Brand Finance, the global media coverage of the royal family produces an average of £1 billion. In addition, shows such as Victoria and The Crown also contribute millions of pounds in double digits.
The constitutional monarchy is far more important for the GDP of the UK, especially after the pandemic and the exit from European Union.
The late Queen Elizabeth II had traveled to 117 countries during her rule. By 2019, Her Majesty had hosted 112 state visits and several other diplomatic visits. The Queen had maintained international relations and the relevance of Britain throughout the globe.
The Queen’s state visits played a crucial role in international politics, which impacted bilateral trade, good relations with other countries, and many other aspects. Her visits to South Africa, Russia, Ireland, and several other places influenced international relations, reveals Brandy Jolliff Scott’s analysis in the Washington Post.
As the head of state, the Queen holds a lot of influence, which benefits the UK when politicians fail to create global relevance and diplomacy and pave the way for trade. In 1995, Her Majesty visit South Africa shortly after the new democratic government of South Africa.
While British foreign policy officials took the lead in planning state visits, Elizabeth also played a meaningful role in shaping these visits. According to Robert Hardman, biographer, the Queen overruled her foreign secretary in his reluctance to let the Queen visit South Africa. She said: “Mr Mandela is getting advice from lots of people, but no one’s giving him any help. He needs physical assistance, and he needs a show.”
In global politics, power matters. As political scientist Joseph S. Nye famously articulated, soft power, or the power of attraction, is an important foreign policy tool. “The Queen and the Royal Family have been pivotal in maintaining the nation’s relevance,” Brand Finance wrote in their 2020 Global Soft Power Index.
Furthermore, Queen’s 2011 state visit to Ireland, including former Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron, shook the entire. He later thanked the Queen for improving intense relations with the Republic of Ireland as his government’s efforts were “nothing compared to the brave gesture that was the Queen’s breakthrough visit”.
In addition, during their visit, Her Majesty’s relationship with Barack Obama and his wife further improved relations with the United States of America. In his memoirs, the former PM says: “two [Presidents of the USA] had the privilege of a full state visit to the U.K.: George W. Bush and Barack Obama.”
“When Barack and Michelle came in. May 2011, they loved it, and I knew how much this was due to their relationship with our head of state. The warmth of my visit to Washington in March 2012 was, I felt, largely due to the success of their London trip”, he adds in his memoirs.
The Queen’s role as the head of the state was more than just a symbol of tradition. Her role in the realm of international relations brought political, economic, and domestic benefits to the UK.
While the Royal Family plays a crucial part in the survival of Britain, their popularity in different age groups has fallen. According to the survey conducted by YouGov, the young-adult generation, aged between 18-24-year-olds, would rather have an elected head of state. Data from 2021 polls suggest that 31 percent of young adults would rather have the monarchy continue as the head of state.
However, the older generation still supports the monarchy. 61 percent still support the monarchy, while 24 percent would rather have an elected head of state. According to the pattern of graphs, the support for the continuation of monarchy has been sliding on a downward trajectory, simultaneously increasing the demand for an elected head of state.