Why Britain has a royal family
For centuries, virtually every country in the western world had some sort of king and royal family.
Some people in republics like France or the United States will say that clever people grew out of them. Monarchy lovers will respond that really clever countries kept their monarchies. They argue that royal families embody their country's human roots and identity. Brave kings and queens often become symbols of their nation's unity in times of war or crises.
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The British royal family survived by being more open and flexible than many others.
The French monarchy was destroyed in a blood-bath in the 1790s because it aligned itself with an oppressive aristocratic upper class who exploited the people. In contrast, the British royal family kept company with merchants and entrepreneurs and was encouraging scientific research. Generally, the British kings accepted the will of the people as expressed through parliament.
In a representative people's monarchy, the people have the power while the monarch has none.
The British royal family are not supposed to express political opinions. When Elizabeth II reads out the policies of 'Her' government in the Queen's Speech at the Opening of Parliament, she represents the power of the people whose votes put the prime minister of the moment into office. She is a mouthpiece of that government but does not express her own opinions.
Succession runs through the male heirs, except when no male heirs are available. That law changed in 2015 for members of the royal family born after 28 October 2011.
People identify with people. While politicians come and go, the royal family creates a sense of human continuity at the centre of society.
History shows that rebels and non-conformists in the family can create more affection than good ones. Diana, the maverick Princess, topped many of the royal popularity polls all over the world.
The role of the royal family across the Commonwealth is that of morale boosters.
Younger family members are expected to join the armed forces or participate in some useful social service. Royal people present medals to brave soldiers and cups to sporting teams. They are expected to set a good example wherever they go.
Briitish taxpayers fund the royal family, which totalled £82.2m in 2018/19. This paid for their 3,200 royal engagements at home and abroad, with over 160,000 guests being welcomed at royal palaces for events. It also financed the reservicing of Buckingham Palace for £85m over the next five years.
While that is a lot of money, in 2016 alone, over 2.7 million tourists visited Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and other key royal attractions, boosting Britains tourist revenues by £550m.
The royal family take their titles from the English shires - York, Lancaster, Gloucester, Cornwall.
For the next generation of royals,
In term of precedence, the five male titles of the peerage are Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount and Baron. Duke is the highest and most exclusive.
"By the ’80s, he [Prince Philip] had written nine books. He was the first person in the royal family to use television. He did a television documentary. He persuaded the Queen in 1957 to televise her annual Christmas message. And he even taught her how to use a teleprompter. He was the first member of the royal family to use a computer … He picked up the phone, but also wrote all his own emails. He wrote his speeches. He was a man of searching intellect, great curiosity."
As of 2021, there are 16 Commonwealth realms: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom.
These are known as the 'Commonwealth Realms'.
Prince Philip was never in line for the throne (his eldest son stands to inherit it) and never held the title of king.
The reason for that: in the British monarchy, a woman who marries the monarch can use the ceremonial title of queen - but men who marry the monarch can't use the title king, which can only be used by male sovereigns.
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