Monday, July 6, 2009

Rule, Britannia!

A week ago today, on June 30, 2009, the facts in this post appeared on page 4A of the St. Petersburg Times; I waited until after our own celebration of the anniversary of America's independence to bring them to your attention. I thought that was quite magnanimous, splendid, and downright sporting of me. Here are the facts:

The office of Queen Elizabeth II has released a report on how much public money the royal family spends. Some highlights:

$68.6M -- total public funds spent in the 12 months ending March 31. Security is not included in this total.

$2.48M -- increase from previous year

$10.76M -- spent on travel

$661,302 -- spent to relaunch the royal Web site

$496,000 -- spent cleaning royal homes

$827,209 -- spent on food

661,302 -- spent on garden parties

$1.14 -- cost to the average British taxpayer, up 5 cents

[end of article]

I want to make a few comments.

First of all, the amounts were shown in U.S. dollars for the benefit of the U.S. reading public, which would be completely in the dark about crowns and pounds and guineas (thank you, A. E. Housman) and quid and shillings and sixpence and such.

Second, it is unclear exactly to whom the phrase “the royal family” refers. Liz and Phil only? All the next generation as well? And the next? Camilla Parker-Bowles? What about third cousins, twice removed, who even as we speak are probably affectionately known as the Duke and Duchess of Kent? I’m not sure.

Third, why all the fuss? The last number shown indicates that the total cost to the average British taxpayer to support the British royal family is the huge sum of one dollar and fourteen cents, up five cents from the previous year. It must have been a slow news day on the Thames.

Finally, if all the numbers are accurate and if I have understood the article correctly, I can divide the total public funds spent in the 12 months ending March 31 ($68.6M) by the cost to the average British taxpayer ($1.14) and determine that there are 60,175,438 British taxpayers. I can further learn, by reading the Wikipedia article on the United Kingdom, that the estimated population of the United Kingdom in 2007 (the year for which the most recent figures are available and also the year in which the photograph above of Her Majesty was made) was 60,975,000 persons.

So, dear reader, there are apparently only 800,000 Brits who do not pay taxes in the United Kingdom. In my opinion, this is the most shocking and outrageous statistic of all. One can only assume that these ne'er-do-wells are still in utero and that the British Parliament will correct this oversight posthaste.

No Britons were harmed in the making of this post.


  1. No wonder the queen is smiling. I apparently think about as much of the "Royal Family" as you do. Funny how we never hear anything from over that way about stopping their free lunch.

  2. Snow, if I have caught your tone correctly, perhaps you have not caught mine. I rather enjoy reading about the British royals, and I consider myself a bit of an Anglophile. I wouldn't want to live under a monarchy, though, constitutional or otherwise. With all its flaws, I prefer government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Maybe one day we'll actually achieve it.

  3. Interesting info! But, deep inside, isn't it ingrained in us to want our own royalty to gawk at and ooh and ahh over. In America, its our celebrity movie stars, sports stars, and the First Family, and they say, I guess, though I'm never much impressed by our celebs. A few, perhaps, but not many.

  4. I miss Diana. I really wanted to see if she would fulfill her potential and let the sweet, compassionate side win out over the unhappy, self-destructive side. Plus our boys are around the same age as hers, and I just identified with her.

  5. In your figures, you seem to forget that a lot of British people are small children who do not pay direct taxes. Our Queen is a marvellous lady - a constant figure in a changing world.

    To understand the finances better I would like to see a more thorough break down. It is also worth remembering that her face appears on all of our coins and banknotes and very graciously she allows us to use them from time to time even though they clearly belong to her. Perhaps America needs a queen... Queen Madonna or Queen Hillary... or maybe a king - King Dick Van Dyke or King Dubya. Which would you choose?

  6. But I think the Queen is really cool too.

  7. I'd pay double that to keep the historic pageantry of Queen and country going! Show me a greater spectacle than the Trooping of the Colour, for example? And as modern, world wide ambassadors, the Royals do a fantastic job. Long Live The Queen!

  8. Thanks, everyone for commenting. Last night on our public television station I watched a BBC production called "Monarchy: The Royal Family At Work" that was very interesting. At one point someone referred to "all twelve members of the royal family."
    But who did he mean? Elizabeth, Philip, Charles, Anne, Andrew, Edward. That's six. William? Harry? What about the other grandchildren? What about Sophie? Camilla? I come up with either fewer than twelve or more than twelve. Who can solve the dilemma?

  9. P.S. -- Their website lists 16 in addition to the queen....

  10. An afterthought: It is amazing to me that Beatrix and Eugenie (Prince Andrew's daughters) are not included in the royal family website's own list of who is a member of the royal family. And doubly so because they are in the exact position Elizabeth and Margaret were (daughters of the sovereign's second son) during the reign of Elizabeth's grandfather, George V.

    If there were a Queen Madonna or a Queen Hillary or a King Dick Van Dyke or a King Dubya, I would move to New Zealand.