When I first came to the UK a couple of years back, I was taken aback to find a significant population among Londoners who are anti-monarchy. Coming from halfway round the world, I can hardly be blamed for not be attune to the local sentiments. However, many of them were surprised when I pointed out that the monarchy costs each UK taxpayer a whopping sum of 69 pennies yearly (figures in 2009 - source); the two new aircraft carriers that Ministry of Defence contracted (£7 billion) cost £112 per person in comparison.
While some may argue that at least the aircraft carriers will add to the defence of the realm. In fact, only HMS Queen Elizebeth will be operational only in 2019, HMS Prince of Wales will be kept as a 'reserve vessel' (source). In other words, expect more costs if the latter is to be operational.
Sometimes, I wonder how many postcards the roadside vendors sell because of the Royal Family. Of course, it's not just about selling postcards or even bringing free spending tourists into the country, is it? But one will have to admit that the Royal Family or the Queen in particular is the best ambassador for United Kingdom and there is still considerable respect if not interest in her among the Commonwealth countries. If you are talking about projection of soft power or influence, I will gladly pay my share of 69 pennies. You know what? I'd even pay a pound.
Anyway, despite earlier concerns about major disruption of the royal wedding procession by the unions (source) and Islamic extremists (source), the mood in central London remains relatively jubilant on the eve of the big day. Already, The Mall are lined with well wishers hoping to catch a glimpse of the Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Prince has also stepped out of his official residence, Clarence House, to greet some of them earlier.
I guess all of us need some cheering up every now and then. And what else can better do that than a big wedding bash? Perhaps even the Republicans would be grateful for the extra long weekend if they so wish to get out of the city for a break. But one thing's for sure, the retailers, big and small, are milking the event dry.
Liberty store front display (Regent Street)
The Breakfast Club in Angel Islington
Friday, April 29, 2011
The Royal Wedding - why we should cast our cynicism aside