If the king wants to be a moderniser, he won’t let hard-pressed UK taxpayers pick up the bill for this self-serving tradition.
And so here we are: days away from the coronation of Charles III. Along with much of the population, I will not be celebrating. A YouGov poll this month revealed that 64% of us don’t care very much or care at all about the event, while only 9% care a great deal.
I do care, perhaps not for the same reasons as that small minority of Britons, but because it is estimated that the whole event will cost up to £100m and – in line with self-serving royal traditions in this country – the bill will be picked up by the taxpayer, not the super-rich royals.
Why are we having a coronation, anyway? No other European monarchy bothers. The last one in Spain was in 1555, and the Scandinavian monarchies in Denmark, Sweden and Norway had all deemed the archaic practice unnecessary by 1906.
There is no legal need for a coronation. Charles is king without it. That was sealed in the days after the Queen’s death at the accession council, which I attended as a privy counsellor (though naturally none of us got a vote).
No, the real purpose is to stage a huge candy-floss PR event for the royals. But it will bring in tourists, royal supporters argue. Personally, I don’t think it sensible to base our constitutional arrangements on what tourists want. We are not Disney World. Or perhaps we are, with golden coaches, fake princesses and castles galore.
In any case, the royal palace in Europe that pulls in most tourists is Versailles, and the French got rid of their monarchy in 1848. We could probably get more tourists into Buckingham Palace if the royals were no longer there.
Incidentally, did you know that while the taxpayer is coughing up for the coronation and an additional £369m for a gold-plated, bells and whistles refurbishment of the palace, both King Charles and William, the Prince of Wales, have private estates that have yielded more than £1bn in the past.
When I asserted on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the Duchy of Cornwall estate should be regarded as public, not private, within an hour there was an intervention from St James’s Palace to demand a correction, which was provided. If it is a “private” estate, how come it pays no corporation tax, as every private estate does?
But then the royals have form in lobbying to change the law in their favour, the only consistent thread being to take as much money as they can from the public and pay out as little of their own as possible. Truly, we have a royal mint and a national debt.
The recent Guardian revelation that Charles has a sprawling estate of properties at Sandringham worth £75m is depressingly unsurprising. The British royal family, unlike other European monarchies, has a huge property portfolio.