Thursday, 25 November 2010

Will Kate & William pay for my wedding?

So then. Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry on April 29th 2011 at Westminster Abbey. We'll even get a Bank Holiday in to boot. This will mean 2 consecutive 4 day weekends encompassing Easter the weekend before - not that us political types will have any time off the week before the Welsh Assembly elections!

I am genuinely pleased for Kate and William. They looked happy, relaxed and in love with each other when they made the announcement of their engagement a week or so ago and after being with each other after 8 or so years, decided it was eventually time to tie the knot. I'm confident that they will prove to be a durable and happy couple - certainly more in the vein of his grandparents than his parents. The fact that they're marrying in the same place as the his grandparents as opposed to St Pauls Cathedral where his parents married can only be a good omen.

Yet, over the past week or so, there's been some real vitriol on-line regarding the marriage. Many of the comments come from Liberal Democrat friends of mine. It's not necessarily surprising. Whilst the Tories have always been avidly Monarchist and Labour have been generally more Republican in nature, the Lib Dems fall between both stools. A great proportion of my liberal friends are Republicans - they see no need for this archaic, unmeritocratic, institution. But having said that, I have many liberal friends who are proudly pro-Monarchy and are indeed, pleased with the news that has come from Buckingham Palace recently.

 A Reluctant Monarchist
Me? Well, I used to be a staunch Monarchist as a child but my passion for this very British of institutions has faded over the years as my ingrained liberalism has taken a greater hold.

I'd like to think that I have good reason of being a fan in the first instance. For it was the Royal Family and it's history that got me interested in history in the very first place. I can trace a love for history that saw me through to study it and undergraduate and postgraduate level in University down to one simple, but unintentional incident as a child.

My parents and I were on one of our many touring caravan holidays. I must have been 7 or 8 at the time and this was a particularly wet holiday. I decided to buy a pack of playing cards to help us through the wet times, having played a lot of cards with my family as a child. I purchased a pack in the innocence of thinking that they were playing cards but they turned out to me information cards about every King or Queen since 1066. Before I knew it, I was fascinated. The next Christmas, my auntie Elinor bought me a book about the Royal Family. I still have that book. I've since been to Windsor Castle as a child, I attended a Buckingham Palace Garden Party with my mother back in the summer and our family visited Windsor only a few weeks ago to see our family horse Dyfed Celt take his place in the Household Cavalry.

But as a liberal who belives in a meritocracy, there are questions that must be asked regarding a situation where the Head of State is decided not upon merit, but upon an accident of birth. But then, at this moment of financial difficulty, for me, the question of the future of the Royal Family shouldn't be a priority - there's much more important issues that need to be dealt with in the meantime.

The Firm
Personally, I have a lot of time for the Queen. To devote an entire life to public service in the way that she has, without complaining about it in public, is quite an incredible personal achievement. I'm also (controversially maybe) a fan of Prince Charles. I met him in Cardigan Castle a few years. We spoke briefly and he seemed to me to be an affable, pleasant enough chap. William seems like a nice guy too. Just like his great aunt, I'm pleased that Harry wasn't born the eldest - like Margaret, he's wild!

Who should pay for the Wedding?
But, stripping away the individuality of the situation and taking it in the whole, can we afford the Royal Family? Should the tax-payer have to pay for Royal Weddings when we're tightening our belts enough as it is?

It's a tough one. The British monarchy last year in total, cost the taxpayer £38.2m (not including security costs). This equates to 62p per person. A bargain you might say and many would argue. But Prince William himself has security that costs £1.4m for his cottage in north Wales where he is working with the RAF. There will also be a temporary grant of £1m to help pay for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

The issue is that we're all tightening our belts and it's difficult to imagine, even for a potential future King, that even more money will be given from us the tax-payer, to pay for this wedding. It is estimated that the Queen has a personal reserve of some £290m. She may well have to 'dip' into this wealth herself. All things considered, I think she should. She has already shown restraint in agreeing to cut the total spending of the Royal Household by 14% in 2012/13 which is in-line with the public sector cuts that her subjects are having to face. This to me seems fair and reasonable. If she were to pay for the costs of her grandson's wedding, it would be an even greater sign of her acknowledging that now is not the time to make more demands on the public purse.

Because at the end of the day, I wouldn't expect William and Kate to have to pay for my wedding so in these austere times, they shouldn't expect us to have to pay for theirs. If they want to marry in Westminster Abeey with all of the pomp and occasion that goes with it, that is their choice and I have no problem with that - but let the Royal Family pay for it.

If they were to do so, then on the big day itself, we could all enjoy the extra day off and celebrate the day with them, knowing that they've done their bit by not asking us to foot the bill. It'll also give us an additional reason to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

The Royal Family are popular in Britain. To remain so, their PR machine should be telling them the best thing to do - pay for the wedding themselves and don't burden an already thrifty and concerned society any further on this occasion. By doing so, it will only further bolster that popular support.

Good luck to William and Kate. I hope you'll be happy together. My gut instinct is that you will.

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