The Sovereign Grant, “Megxit” and the British Monarchy

Ysabela Golden, Laker Life Editor

Watching the impeachment trials going on in our senate, it’s difficult for Americans of any political creed to feel proud of our government right now. This presidency has our democracy eating itself alive, which honestly is something that our democracy has decided to do every other presidential term since the founding of our country. In political landscapes like this, there’s only one thing I can say to make myself feel better: at least we don’t have a monarchy.

I was surprised, however, to find that two members of the British royal family seem to agree with me. On Jan. 8, Meghan and Harry dropped their royal titles and announced that they’re moving towards spending more time in North America, as well as achieving financial independence from the British crown. Though the two are no longer literally “noble,” they’ve certainly demonstrated nobility by passing on the parasitic wealth of their relatives. Meghan and Harry will no longer be paid for “royal duties” — an arrangement which mostly involves being passed along taxpayer money from the family’s Duchies and a significant chunk of England, Wales and Northern Ireland known as the “Crown Estate.”

The first and most egregious way the royal family makes money is The Sovereign Grant, a multi-million dollar sum of taxes from the Crown Estate that’s given to the Queen by the government every single year. Though in an average fiscal year that amount looks like $58 million (free of tax, of course), that amount can double if the Queen wants to renovate personal property like the Buckingham Palace. She also personally rules the Duchy of Lancaster, a region of England containing homes, farms and businesses that pays $26 million to the Queen every year.

This is despite the fact that her multiple castles, stock portfolio and multiple museums worth of art and novelties are more than enough to make her a millionaire independent of what she makes of the people of England. And this is just the Queen — there are sixteen total members of the royal family, two of whom have their own Duchy of Cornwall.

This is an absolutely ridiculous scenario. Unless we’re going back to the Divine Right of Kings, there’s no justification for royals making this much money off the backs of their people. They already have obscene amounts of wealth accumulated from sacrificing soldiers in exchange for colonizing the globe. Now that the age of imperialism is over, if the United Kingdom’s not giving their ill-earned money back to the countries they stole it from or bringing them up on charges of war crimes and genocide… you’d think the least they could do is not give them millions of tax dollars when they’re already loaded.

You don’t even have to take away their titles (though as a red-blooded American, I can’t really say that they deserve to keep them). Just abolish the The Sovereign Grant and take back the holdings that should already belong to the British people. The Duchies, obviously, but also important historical buildings like Buckingham Palace.

“But what about tourism?” asks the thousands of middle-aged women counting the days until the next Royal Wedding. What about tourism? Sure, according to the Lord Mayor of London, leader of the City of London Corporation (which is maybe the creepiest possible title for that position) Buckingham Palace is the city’s most popular tourist attraction, seeing fifteen million tourists every year.

But are people really paying for tours of the palace’s galleries and gardens just because there’s a 0.05% chance an old woman and her corgis are crashing at Buckingham instead of the royal family’s eighteen other castles and estates? No, they’re going because the architecture is cool. Going to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen is like going to the Washington Monument because you hope the president might be hanging around the National Mall.

So good for Meghan and Harry. With any luck, once the Queen and the rest of her ancient cohort of Princes and Dukes finally die of old age, the younger members of the monarchy will follow the Markle example and end this nonsense once and for all. Until then, I’ll take solace in the superiority of the United States and its founding principle of “no kings.”