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David Porter » Articles at Suite 101 » The Real Jobs of the British Royal Family

The Real Jobs of the British Royal Family

William & Kate: The Firm's Next Generation - Sara Star

In hard economic times, people may grumble or wonder about the cost to the taxpayer of the Royal Family: why don’t they get (proper) jobs? Well, they have.

Sometimes people argue that the Monarchy is a drain on public resources. In fact, demonstrated by events like Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s wedding in April 2011, the institution raises interest and tourism income into Britain, and if there wasn’t a Royal Family, there’d be an elected head of state that would cost money too.

A television series from US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Monarchy, the Royal Family at Work (2006), declared: ‘to handle 4,000 state visits, balls, school dedications, nursing home visits, and charity events, the Queen depends on her husband, her children, cousins, and now a new generation of grandchildren’.

She calls them collectively, ‘The Firm’, and their business, the state’s civic business, is their job. Charities, military units, organisations, the media and taxpayers benefit from Britain’s working Royal Family.

Head of The Firm

The Daily Mail reported in January 2011, that the Queen carried out 444 (including 57 abroad) separate engagements in 2010, 69 more than in 2009. Buckingham Palace officials pointed out that 2011 promised to be busier still, with two royal weddings (Prince William and Zara Phillips), two overseas state visits, Prince Philip’s 90th birthday celebrations and planning for her Diamond Jubilee festivities in 2012.

For anybody in the public eye, that’s formidable. For a woman in her 80s, it’s real achievement. It reveals her commitment to her lifetime role as Queen, which she didn’t ask for, but was born to do.

An avid and knowledgeable animal lover, patron of 600 charities, she has been served by twelve Prime Ministers, from Winston Churchill to David Cameron. She has weekly un-minuted meetings with the PM and regular discussions with other ministers. She reads tons of official papers and reports annually. Her advice is sought, her opinion counts, her experience of governing British life is unparalleled.

Prince Philip increased his workload to 356 engagements. He has his own charities and interests. The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme is the finest achievement. Piloted in the 1950s, it launched in 1969, for 14-21 year olds, increased to 25 in 1980. Young people skills, self-reliance and team building – the scheme has benefitted over 4 million people in 60 countries. He remains committed to it while being Patron or President to 800 organisations.

His special interests are scientific and technological research and development, sports, young people, conservation, wildlife and the environment. He visits research stations, laboratories, mines, factories, industrial plants as Patron of the Industrial Society.

The Firm’s Non-Executive Officers

Prince Charles (Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Wales) is usually the hardest-working royal (although Princess Anne is often acknowledged as such). He had 585 official engagements in 2010. He’s Patron of 400 organisations and oversees ‘The Prince’s Charities’ a group of 20 not-for-profit organisations, 18 of which he set up.

They raise more than £120 million a year for causes including opportunity and enterprise (The Prince’s Trust, Scottish Youth Business Trust, PRIME Cymru, British Asian Trust); education (Prince’s Drawing School, School of Traditional Arts, Teaching Institute, Foundation for Children & The Arts); the built environment (Foundation for Built Environment, Regeneration Trust); and responsible business and the natural environment (Business in the Community).

The Duchess of Cornwall notched up 243 engagements in 2010 (her highest to date). Prince William had 73 (up 27), and holds down a demanding job as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot. Prince Harry is in the Army while undertaking 53 official visits and supporting charities in Britain and beyond.

The Princess Royal, Princess Anne has become associated with 200 charities, including a global role for Save The Children Fund, support for carers, transport links in developing countries and Riders for Health. She’s also a British Representative on the International Olympic Committee and took part in the successful UK bid to host 2012’s Games.

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, is labelled ‘most travelled Royal’, clocking up miles as UK’s Special Representative for Trade and Investment. Nicholas Watt, Guardian’s Chief Political correspondent reported (6 March 2011): ‘Prince Andrew’s role as Britain’s special trade representative is to be downgraded as ministers seek to distance themselves from his controversial dealings with discredited business figures’.

His brother, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex patronises charities too and supports the Queen or stands in for her on visits while assisting the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. After university he joined the Royal Marines, but quit to work for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company before setting up his own Ardent Productions for a time.

He and his wife, Sophie, complete around 500 events a year. She it was who continued to work at her public relations job after marrying The Firm in 1999. However, being caught bragging to a reporter about her connections, led to her resignation in 2002. Since then, it seems to be thought that work outside The Firm is incompatible with work within it.

Conflicts of Interest

Many minor Royals, foot-soldiers of the Firm, work to earn, turning out to support on big occasions. The Duchess of Kent is a practising musician who has taught in primary schools. Prince Michael of Kent is not in line of succession to the throne, so receives no public money; he runs a consultancy. The Duke of Gloucester has produced three books of photographs. The Duke of Kent had a military career.

Public perception about what is suitable work for Royals is often confused. It’s easy to whip up media frenzy and public indignation about the cost of the Family to the taxpayer; but if they do commercial work, they are accused of cashing in on connections.

The bottom line is that the cost of supporting the British monarchy works out about 62p per person per year, including security travel and accommodation. The financial return on that in tourism, media jobs, charity works, economic ties overseas represents possibly the best in the world.

First published on Suite 101, 8 August 2011, well before the Jubilee celebrations of 2012.

Image: William & Kate: The Firm’s Next Generation – Sara Star


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