Royal History: The Issue with the Royal Family

In 1992, the British Royal Family was stormed by one crisis after another, as such, Queen Elizabeth II aptly called that year “annus horribilis.” Suzanne Cassidy in The Arts, The Royalty Issue (1991) succinctly wrote about the issue of the Royal Family (adapted from The Americana Annual, Grolier Incorporated, c1992).

The British Royal Family. Image:

During her visit to the United States in May 1991, Queen Elizabeth II was received enthusiastically nearly everywhere she went. It must have been a relief, for trouble and dissent has been brewing at home. In Britain, loyalty to “queen and country” remained strong, but it was no longer an unquestioned loyalty and indeed it was a matter of some contention that it ever had been.

During the 1991 Gulf War, the right-of-center Sunday Times lambasted some members of the royal family for not doing enough for the war effort; this was so small slight, for the queen is officially head ot the armed services. Some of the family members, railed the newspaper, “paraded a mixture of upper-class decadence and insensitivity which disgusts the public and demeans the monarchy.”

The Tax Issue

In February a poll conducted by Numbers Market Research for the Independent found that 79 percent of those polled believed that the queen should pay tax. In June author Phillip Hall revealed that contents of his new book, which asserted that contrary to the widely held belief that the monarch never has paid taxed, both Queen Victoria and Edward VII paid income tax; total exception was not secured until the reign of King George VI, the current Queen’s father. Hall’s assertions fueld an already raging debate about the queen’s untaxed private income, which one modest estimate put at about L20 mn (about $34 mn) per year. (The total private wealth of the Windsors, on which no income tax is paid, had been estimated at $10.73 bn by Fortune magazine).
Noting that the Japanese emperor and the Swedish monarch paid tax, Liberal Democratic Parliamentarian Simon Hughes pressed for a bill that would abolish the queen’s tax free status. Speaking on television, Lord St. John of Fawsley, former Conservative leader of the House of Commons and a devoted royalist, admitted that the queen’s tax-exempt status was “not totally accepted in the modern world,” and “may be modified at some time in the future.”

The Overview

Just as troubling, perhaps, were the results of a Gallup pole for the Daily Telegraph newspaper in July that found that 22 pc of those questioned said that Britain did not need a royal family; of that percentage, 36 pc was under the age of 25. The same poll showed that 51 pc of those questioned believed that the royal family did not provide “a good example of family life”; in other words, the royals were failing in one of their prime duties. The poll reflected not just fears about the family relations among the many peripheral royals, but concerns about the relationship between the heir to the throne and his wide. The couple, the prince and princess of Wales, marked their tenth wedding anniversary on July 29, amid unconfirmed but persistent reports that their marriage was in trouble. Prince Charles could lose his claim to the throne if there were a divorce, a circumstance the crown might not withstand.

Some expressed their belief that the demise of the crown would be no bad thing, arguing that Prime Minister John Major’s professed aim of a “classless society” never would be achieved until the crown was retired to history. Republicans proposed that the monarch be divested of all constitutional powers; at present, the sovereign is head of the Church of England and head of state of 13 Commonwealth countries. These, however, remained minority views. Britons may want the queen to be taxed, but a relative few wish for the crown to lose its status altogether. (Video: Carvalho)


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