Platinum Jubilee: perpetuating the royal agenda

Increasingly Britain is a country sustained by bunting. As the ‘cost of living crisis’ reaches across society the UK government is offering more money for people to throw a party for the monarch than is available for crisis grants in Scotland. Anna Mackenzie explores how deep poverty sits alongside obscene wealth.

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the Accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. The longest-reigning female monarch in history, Her Majesty is now also the first British monarch in history to reach a platinum jubilee.

UK-wide funding of more than £22 million has been announced to promote local celebrations. Some councils are offering thousands of pounds in grant money to encourage the public to throw parties, picnics, and plant trees to mark the occasion.

But as the national welfare budget fails to provide adequate support to struggling households, could this money be better spent?

The platinum jubilee is a celebration of the continued reign of an undemocratically elected monarch. A divinely appointed head of state whose role is purely performative, whose God-given rights extend to serving as the ceremonial figurehead of imperial nostalgia. Yet the royals receive a multi-million pound paycheck to play the part – the Queen’s face emblazoned on taxpayer’s money willingly returned to the Crown.

In 2020/21, the sovereign grant – money from the HM Treasury to support the official duties of the royal family – totalled £85.9 million alone.

The annual grant equals a percentage of the income of The Crown Estate, which increased from 15% to 25% in 2017/18 in order to fund the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace.

Nearly £50 million went towards property maintenance, while net expenditure exceeded total allocation. Fortunately for the royal household, the surplus was covered by further reserve funds.

In the same year, local authorities in Scotland were given £57.5 million for Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) awards.

The SWF supports wider welfare spending to offer grants to people and families on lower incomes. These grants already come with their own list of conditions. For example, persons subject to immigration control cannot apply for a crisis grant, and emergency funding is usually not given more than three times in one year.

Last year, spending on community care grants reached almost £30 million, though this only equates to a 57% acceptance of the total applications. 

The expenditure on crisis grants totalled £20 million, with a 69% acceptance rate and an average award of £106 – less than the proposed minimum jubilee grant. 

Compounded by the impact of the pandemic, an unabating housing crisis and a decade of austerity, the number of applications for emergency grants increased by 22% on the previous year.

It is difficult to quantify £50 million in real terms, when by one hand it can be as a means to refurbish a few royal palaces, and by another to provide already limited help to the most vulnerable in society at times of increasing need. 

The soaring cost of fuel and food projected for this year will inevitably push more people below the poverty line and see more households needing emergency financial support.

Pomp and propaganda 

As upon any anniversary, we’re being asked to look back – to share fond memories of royal visits to humble towns and create a semblance of personal connection to those upon high.

The inherent power of this sense of shared history, a communal celebration of the ‘good old days’, is that it keeps the emphasis on the past.

But the past provides a thin veil to the reality of the present, lest we forget the scandals that have hounded the royals over the past two years alone – from the departure of Harry and Meghan following allegations of racism at the hands of the British press and the family itself, to the downfall of the Queen’s favourite son, Prince Andrew, who is set to go on trial in a civil sexual assault case brought against him by Virginia Giuffre. 

This is not about vilifying the monarchy. Nor is it about denying people the pleasure of getting a day off work to drink champagne and slur their way through the national anthem.

It’s about understanding the self-satisfying nature of ostensibly beneficiary handouts. There is an ulterior motive to the propaganda surrounding the Platinum Jubilee. It demands a continuation of public loyalty to the monarchy, and as such, to the Union itself.

To commemorate the milestone, children across the country are going to receive a book that celebrates the achievements of the United Kingdom in a project costing nearly £12 million.

Will this book delve into how Britain exploited commonwealth countries for their resources? Perhaps it will examine Britain’s violent suppression of anti-colonial resistance, or how it orchestrated a deadly famine that swept through India killing four million Bengalis, or how it left behind a legacy of racial injustice which mark the socio-economic landscapes of countless former colonies?

According to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, it will not. He said: “For 70 years Her Majesty The Queen has played an instrumental role in the events, people and places that have helped shape the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.

“From the hundreds of charities and organisations of which she is patron, to the 14 Prime Ministers who have served during her reign – thousands of children will be able to read about our great nation, its history and future.”

Illusions of grandeur

Another quirk of the jubilee is the latest bid for city status. 37 locations are in the running to be bequeathed an honour that offers no tangible benefits, another idolisation of the illusion of prestige. 

Speaking of, UK-wide polls suggest the majority of people are still in favour of keeping the monarchy. However, discrepancies appear when comparing the sentiment of votes according to voting preference, region and age.

A 2021 YouGov poll found 77% of pensioners said Britain should continue to have a monarchy, while only 37% of 18-24 year olds said the same, with a majority favouring the establishment of a republic.

While polling has found that a majority of Scots would like to retain the monarchy, support is markedly lower than in other parts of the UK.

With its marketing of the jubilee, the monarchy can enhance its image and forcibly secure its hold on the national consciousness.

Festooned streetlamps and garden parties may offer some distraction from the social hardships we’ve collectively experience during the pandemic, but they don’t create any real change.

At a time when more people need more social and financial support as the “cost of living crisis” becomes common speak, these facile ambitions are surely an unwarranted diversion of resources.

In the face of ever-increasing social injustice, a bank holiday seems like weak compensation.

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Comments (16)

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  1. Bill says:

    The older I get the more of a republican I become. Finding out that the Queen and Prince Charles can veto Acts of Parliament in advance, if they think that it will interfere with their obscene wealth was the final nail in the coffin of the monarchy for me. An elected President of an Independent Scotland would not cost any more that £500,000 and would be value for money. I cannot understand why old people, many of whom struggle financially, still persist in wanting to stick with the Union and the Monarchy. At 78, I am despairing of seeing the day when I become a citizen of a modern Scottish Republic.

    Your article is excellent and let us hope that more people on reading it will demand independence from both the Union and the Crown.


  2. 220211 says:

    The bottom line is, though, that 61% of the sample want us to retain an unelected head of state and only 24% want us to have an elected head of state instead. If the sample to which you appeal is representative, then the general will of the population is clearly in favour of our retaining an unelected head of state.

    Even if you only consider the subset that falls under the jurisdiction of the Scottish government, just less than half of the sample favours the retention of an unelected head of state while only less than a third favours our having an elected one instead. Again, this is a clear indication of the general will of that subset.

  3. Squigglypen says:

    Superb article but please….villify the monarchy all you like. Who says the majority of Scots want to retain yon parasitic mob who live a life of entitlement while the rest of us fight to survive. Ask me teacher..I’ll soon tell you.
    Why do people want to retain these greedy grasping creatures? Brainwashing that nice we book costing that could have gone straight into the NHS or children’s education…etc etc. Anyone wanting to retain this insane domination by creeps should be subject to a mental health check…or worse.
    Y’all know they are just like you and I except they have had more practice at pulling the wool over our eyes…hiding money offshore ..hiding paedophiles….sainting marriage wreckers…ad infinitum…
    I want shot of them…and to use Charlie’s’s non negotiable…

  4. Robbie says:

    2014 She said something like , be careful what you wish for, then the scare tactics started about being taken out of the EU, “that’s a laugh “then the Pound, then pensions ,and the LIES all worked and where are we now,they want the gravy train to continue for them and f**k the rest of us,I am a pensioner and have always voted for Indy and it’s up to the SNP to give the people Confidence in them as a government cause it won’t take much to better these clowns and fraudsters that’s in wastemonster just now.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    Instrumental indeed. The Queen was a co-conspirator in the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 that killed perhaps 10,000 Egyptians, for example. For a fuller critique of the British Royal (Organized Crime) Family, read Norman Baker’s And What Do You Do? What the Royal Family Don’t Want You to Know (2020). UK treason law still focuses on punishing disloyalty to the monarch, awkward when these monarchs have included arch-traitors like the Queen’s uncle Edward the Nazi.

    The Queen occupies an unaccountable and draconianly secretive role in the British imperial quasi-constitution, appointing her family to top military posts and exercising the royal prerogatives across a huge swathe of policy (including foreign, diplomatic and offensive warfare: essentially the imperial full house) in extreme anti-democratic fashion. Our allies tend to be her allies: other vile royal families and torture-loving dictators. And in the shadow of climate change, the Queen instructs her lawyers to exempt her estates from environmental obligations; and while other countries consider returning looted artefacts to previous colonies, the Queen exempts royal households from the loot-inspectors.

    Many British institutions are prevented by their royal charters from offering any criticism, while the BBC positively fawns in its role as royal propagandist.

    The most ridiculous justifications for a hereditary monarch include being some kind of safety-catch against a prime minister who wants to launch a nuclear attack (only the Queen can authorise military action, and she can instruct her war minister or replace the prime minister). Although what happens if the Queen wants to nuke Russia? What exactly are our nuclear weapons of mass destruction arrangements? We are not entitled to know. Nor are we allowed access to royal history, which is treated as personal family archives, even the instructions and interchanges between monarch and PM. Of course, thermonuclear monarchy is a fundamental keystone of British imperial anti-democracy, designed to keep the subjects blinded and terrorised and impotent.

    Since the royals are the pre-eminent beneficiaries of British imperial crime and centuries of racialised chattel slavery from Elizabeth I (and her successors who put the Royal in the Royal African Company), surely they are the first who should be paying for their crimes? #RoyalReparations

    Have we really moved on much from Jack London’s account of public genuflection amongst the poorest of the capital at Queen Victoria’s funeral in The People of the Abyss?

    1. 220212 says:

      Speaking of The People of the Abyss, have you read Jack London’s The Iron Heel?

      Erich Fromm, in his Afterword to the New American Library edition of Orwell’s 1984, hailed London’s book, which was first published in 1908, as ‘the earliest of the modern dystopian fiction’.

      It’s also, as far as I know, the only dystopian novel that’s premised on Marx’s view that capitalism is inherently unsustainable and that its collapse in a Great War would precipitate a brutal counter-reaction, in which the bourgeoisie would seek to preserve the matrix of social relations by which its economic power is exercised through the institution of brutal repressive regimes like those that arose in the European world during the interwar years.

  6. Fay Kennedy says:

    Thanks for that great article. I believe people who want these fraudsters to continue to bleed them dry are deranged. I am in the older age bracket and gave up on them at 9years old the year of her coronation. What a backward place. Shameful.

  7. angus macdonald says:

    anna Mackenzie speaks the truth but the truth plays but a very small role in the ones that control us,and if we in the UK proclaim to be Christian the love of money is cardinal sin and the true monarch for us is God not a collection of persons who have a questionable brithright to the squalour of a bottomless pit of public monies

  8. Joe Killman says:

    Real eye opener of an article. Many thanks.

  9. Ottomanboi says:

    It was the chief minister in HM’s government that popagated the egregious notion that the country of my parents had WMDs. Her majesty’s forces participated in the illegal, undeclared, war which reduced that country to its present state of communal instability.
    Saddam Hussain was convenient for the US proxy war against Iran but dangerous when he dared to get ideas above his hemispheric station.
    Elizabeth, as head of state, cannot be considered above and independent of the actions of her ministers even in constutional monarchy.
    I am not convinced countries need a ceremonial HOS, effectively a monarch substitute. A Scots republic might find an ad hoc representative from among those who have made a contribution to the country, a true hero/ine of the republic perhaps.

    1. 220212 says:

      Very true! Without the ‘dodgy dossier’ and the misinformation it contained, would the UK government have persuaded the UK parliament to approve the invasion of your parents’ country? Who knows?

      I suppose that the Queen could in principle have vetoed the action, but that would have precipitated a major constitutional crisis. In the customary practice that is the UK constitution, because of the way in which powers have been separated in the UK to reduce the risk of tyranny, our head of state (the Queen) is the public persona who officially embodies the state in its unity and legitimacy, but she is not the head of government, which power lies with her ministers. It is, as you say, a largely ceremonial and symbolic role.

      A couple of the issues that perennially come up in relation to this constitutional arrangement is a) whether or not we should have an elected head of state instead of an unelected one, and b) whether or not our supposedly ‘apolitical’ head of state exercises undue political influence over the government.

      It’s not clear what practical difference having an elected rather than an unelected one would make to our parliamentary democracy. However, greater transparency with regard to the communication that takes place between our head of state and the respective heads of our governments would help us monitor the other issue.

  10. Hamish100 says:

    Good article,

    Now the bbc and tory press push on promoting Prince Williams wife and also his step mother who was having an affair with his dad the night before he was to get married. Still Camilias hubby also had an affair with another royal I believe.

    Morals come loose and fancy free in the House of Windsor. We don’t need the pariahs.

    Head of state should be elected so we can get rid of them if we don’t like. Called democracy.

  11. James Mills says:

    I look forward to the street parties in celebration of Her Maj’s unending scrounging off the State .
    Will bunting be supplied to decorate the Food Banks across ”the nation ” ? Thinks : The Royals are world leaders in cutting ribbons to open hospitals , theatres , nuclear power stations … but never a Food Bank ! Wonder why ?

  12. Wul says:

    I’d keep the Royals on ( good for tourism and selling souvenir tat ) but I’d cut their pocket money right back to the bone.

    Give them, for example, the national average UK salary multiplied by a children’s wellbeing and lifespan index. Peg the indices so that “1” equals children’s wellbeing and average life expectancy in, say 1990.

    So, average UK wage in 2019 ( let’s exclude the pandemic for now) = £ 36,611
    Life expectancy in 1990 = 75.58yrs versus 81.65yrs in 2020. 81.65/75.58 = 1.08
    Children’s wellbeing indicators? More tricky. Let’s call it (generously) 0.8 since so many of them are hungry and in poverty and cold.

    This gives us: £36,611 x 1.08 x 0.8 = £ 31, 641 for each Royal. Which is not bad because they all share the same house and can live as cheaply as one.

    This measure would motivate and incentivize the Royals to improve the lot of their subjects. Win-win.

    1. Meg Macleod says:

      most folk survive on so much less..

  13. Meg Macleod says:

    any concerned leader of a country would no thankyou use the money where it is needed…….

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