Last month Stephen Fry gave an interview with Australian state broadcaster ABC where he discussed everything from his cocaine addiction to how it felt to hand over the reins of his popular panel show QI.
Fry is among a handful of famous people I respect and empathise with. His work on mental health has been some of the most admirable and effective of any celebrity. Through QI I learned baffling facts, like only eating rabbit will kill you and that the Earth has several moons. I still haven’t accepted the latter. Ultimately, he comes across as a really intelligent, witty, and well-read individual.
But Fry also revealed something almost as baffling as our many moons – he is a staunch monarchist. He recalled an anecdote about the British Queen Elizabeth when she was giving her royal assent to gay marriage in England. According to Fry, the Queen was eager to sign the bill into law, and even added that it was “wonderful.”
Fry giggled while recalling the anecdote, seemingly excited that his monarch was not a total bigot. I found it remarkable – how can such an ardent supporter of rationality be so irrational about something as unjust, useless and archaic as the monarchy?
If an alien were to land on planet earth, knowing nothing about us humans, it might come to several conclusions about royal families.
Firstly, it would determine that despite their status, they are in fact humans who are born, eat, shit and die like the rest of us. Secondly, it would find it incomprehensible that people who do nothing from birth should be awarded with instant and unearned respect as well as financial rewards beyond measure. Lastly, it would find that all of their privileges are built on a history of wars, slavery, oppression and unfairly-achieved opulence.
In 2012, the Danish royal family spent 114,000 kroner a day. This does not include rent, as they live in the most luxurious, free social housing available. It also does not include any sort of ‘work’ related expenses, such as visits abroad, private security, extravagant dinners, and so on.
And then there’s the outdated displays of reverence demanded by protocol. Who doesn’t remember the young journalist who dared to address the queen informally, as though she were a mortal rather than a delicate relic of a bygone era? Then there were the left-wing politicians who didn’t stand to attention when a member of the royal family attended parliament.
No good reasons
Fry’s support of Royalty did not come as a total shock, as I have Danish friends on both sides of the political spectrum who share his opinion. When I raise my republican stance I’m usually met with the same arguments for maintaining the status quo.
The first is that the royal family is a tourist attraction. This implies that having a family of aristocratic welfare recipients is something that makes Chinese tourists giddy with excitement. The claim is doubtful at best. First of all, it’s the fancy buildings people come to see. It’s not like you actually get to hang outwith the Queen. If people do want to keep the royal family as a tourist attraction, I suggest we establish some sort of zoo where tourists can come and gawk at the royals going about their day-to-day business behind a glass wall – perhaps even feed them for an extra sum.
The second argument I often hear is that the royals have an incredible ability to bring the country together. For me, that conjures up the image of a loose fabric straining at the ends to hold together a crumbling society. Except that Denmark routinely ranks among the highest in the world in regards to social cohesion. Even if the royal family played a role, small, wealthy republics such as Finland, Iceland and Switzerland manage just fine without one. It would seem that any connection between the two is simply coincidental.
What’s most jarring is the fact that we’re subsidising an outdated, undemocratic institution while we slice into social support. The new government budget includes a 700,000 kroner raise for the royal family, which brings their annual taxpayer cost to 106.5 million. That same budget introduced cuts to unemployment benefits and housing allowance for the elderly.
We are beggaring our poor to give handouts to a family that have it all. God bless them. M