While there may be excitement for many in the coming Platinum Jubilee weekend, for others the expensive affair—in a time of increasing poverty among UK households—leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth. With the Queen set to celebrate her 70th year as monarch, the issues of poverty, hunger and class should overshadow the song-and-dance affair.
Though the issues pertaining to the British Royals are never-ending, for the sake of this article, we’ll be focusing our attention on the prevailing financial hypocrisies of the Queen and her family uncovered largely from investigations carried out by The Guardian—and why the Jubilee should not be cause for celebration. For many, it’s been 70 years filled with discrimination, wealth inequality, struggle, colonialism and hardship. Not to mention the event itself is set to cost a pretty penny, with a £250 million national flagship made for the celebrations as well as a £28 million (of taxpayer money) set aside for the four-day holiday.
These moments in history are branded and packaged as moments when ‘the whole country comes together’—selling patriotism on a plate that most cannot eat from.
The actual purpose of the Royal Family—other than being glorified, boring celebrities that “bring us economy”—continues to evade those without the ‘Royalist’ gene. Their very existence is reliant and founded on the ideas of imperialism, colonialism and social class disparity, a suffocatingly detrimental act remnant of its Empire.
Imagine you being able to hide behind your doors and murky windows, living off the taxpayer—what would that make you? A lazy, good-for-nothing, low-class, milking-the-system fraudster, according to our classist country. And yet, aren’t the Royals just living on the biggest benefits pay cheque there is?
As Patrick Freyne so eloquently wrote in The Irish Times, “The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British non-constitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire.”
This cosplaying that they continue to dance makes for what is often a bumbling, clumsy ‘softer’ reinterpretation of their ancestors’ colonial transgressions—an embarrassing attempt to clutch onto the deceptive ‘unifying’ veil of the Commonwealth. Though such examples are endless, the latest humiliating hindrance was that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s PR nightmare Caribbean tour.
This reclamation and rightful reparation of stolen historical artefacts of which more and more around the world are demanding from European countries, cities and museums—seeing small results—seems to not apply to Queen Elizabeth II. Documents requested by The Guardian as part of a separate investigation (which was ongoing in 2021 at the time) into ‘Queen’s consent’—“an obscure parliamentary mechanism that gives the monarch advanced sight of proposed laws, including those affecting public functions, private property and personal interests”—uncovered that the tool was being used in inappropriate ways.
The publication found that the Queen was granted a private exemption by UK ministers from a law that pertains to the protection and preservation of global cultural assets, thus effectively barring judiciary forces like the police from searching the monarch’s private estates for stolen or looted artefacts. Another unrelenting and unabashed decision to remain the colonial Crown.
Other documents uncovered in The Guardian’s actual direct investigation into the inappropriate uses of the Queen’s consent mechanism further proved that the head of state had lobbied the UK government to adjust draft legislation that would aid in concealing her “embarrassing” private assets from the public. The agreement, which began in the 1970s, meant that a state-baked shell corporation was erected to secretly shield all of the monarch’s private assets, holdings and investments until at least 2011, the publication reported.
This ability to influence parliament so directly led to the creation of a petition that gathered over 60,000 signatures, calling for the immediate inquiry into the Queen’s “worrying and undemocratic ability to influence the government behind closed doors.” Essentially, she had a law changed secretly to her benefit—an act that should not be taken lightly.
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace rejected these claims by The Guardian to The Sun, calling them “simply incorrect.”
With personal assets of around £400 million—not to mention The Firm (Monarchy PLC) as a whole has a reported value of £23 billion—you would think they could afford to shell out, well I don’t know, a decent wage for its employees? Just earlier this week, Buckingham Palace got into hot water for its post advertising a job vacancy as “Housekeeping Assistant” for the estate.
“The role also offers the option to live-in with all meals provided (for which there is a salary adjustment),” the advert read, and this was where the issue arose for many. The salary adjustment, which was subsequently removed from the posting, upon entering a live-in option would have offered a wage of £7.97 an hour—“£1.53 less than the national minimum wage for people over 22,” The Big Issue reported.
Though such an adjustment is not illegal, with the compensation of room and board being an attractive quality for many, the fact that such a wealthy family is advertising for a job that pays so little leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. With the state of the economic climate worsening severely for households earning under £30,000 (which is half of the UK population, by the way), low-income earners are set to be hit the hardest. Faced with such a catastrophe, you would think one of the richest families in the world could give you a liveable wage. Leading union Unite Hospitality told The Big Issue the wage was “obscene.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson also told the publication: “The hourly rate in the advert was published in error. The full remuneration package for this role includes the offer of accommodation and meals, which makes the offer very competitive for similar roles in London.”
And this job posting is not in isolation, an Insider article disclosed that, according to palace wage data, people who work for the Queen are often poorly paid. As part of the report, the publication analysed 503 job position pay rates which are usually exempt from being published publicly—discovering that at least 274 of the roles had pay rates within pennies of a living wage. Norman Baker, former Liberal Democrat minister, told Insider, “Just about paying the living wage isn’t the standard we ought to expect from our head of state.” The length and detailed findings from the publication are certainly worth the read.
Her Majesty has once again found herself embroiled in yet another scandal where exemption from law, employment and discrimination are rolled into one. The Guardian, in another successful investigation, exposed the racial undercurrent that still floats the Royal Family beyond discussions of a certain great grandchild’s skin colour. Documents unearthed by the publication unveil that the Queen’s chief financial manager told servants in 1968 that “it was not, in fact, the practice to appoint coloured immigrants or foreigners” to office positions in the royal estate but could remain in roles as domestic servants. It is unclear when the practice ended.
On top of this, the Queen finds herself above the law yet again, remaining personally immune to equality laws set in place to protect ethnic minorities from workplace discrimination for more than four decades. This means that it would be likely very difficult for a marginalised group to bring complaints against the establishment to court if they believe they have been discriminated against. A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace did not deny the exemption made known by The Guardian, but told the publication that it had its own process for dealing with discrimination complaints—those details were not shared.
Though the Queen’s private assistance of the disgraced Prince’s legal fees and lawsuit costs of at least £10 million have not been confirmed by Her Majesty’s camp, the family have been urged by David McClure, a royal finances expert, to “come clean” if they are indeed aiding the Duke of York, The Independent reported. The knowledge that such vast amounts of money are being used to deal with the aftermath of an entirely ugly affair of sexual assault allegations has left many justifiably angry.
However, according to The Telegraph, the monarch would be assisting her son through private assets like the Duchy of Lancaster estate. This would mean that it is something that would not affect the taxpayer. Although McClure also added that information regarding the funding should be made public.
In 2010, the Queen was slammed by media outlets after a Freedom of Information request revealed the head of state had attempted an application for an anti-poverty grant to heat her palaces, Sky News reported at the time. It was discovered that a senior aide to the Queen wrote to the 2004 UK government inquiring into whether the monarch “would be eligible for a handout from a £60m energy-saving fund.” The reasoning behind such a request was that the cost of warming Her Majesty, the Palace and its staff had doubled in cost to £1 million a year and the already existing £15 million maintenance grant issued by the government was not adequate…
Graham Smith, a spokesman for Republic (an anti-royalist campaign group)—who got into hot water for its “abolish the monarchy” posters ahead of Jubilee week—told Sky News in 2010: “It’s appalling, it’s the most crass thing I have ever heard in my life. The anti-poverty grant is meant to go to needy people—and the idea that the Palace can take money from the poor to bankroll the rich is disgusting.”
And to perfectly encapsulate just how far removed they are from the reality of everyday people in this country—the Prince of Wales’ Queen’s speech on the rising cost of living while sat upon a golden throne and adorned in crown jewels is so blindly beyond parody, it’s laughable all on its own.