The Cost of the Coronation  

On Friday, as I was getting ready for a typical St Andrews night out (attending a ball and then trying to find a decent pub open after midnight), myself, along with all the other students at the university, received an email with updates about the upcoming May 6th Coronation of King Charles. I immediately brushed off a notification as I did not want to be reminded of my academic endeavours before the night ahead. However, as it was of little personal importance, I brushed it off nearly immediately. Such an anachronistic tradition easily escaped my notice, with all the other current events taking far greater precedence than an empty ceremony; a ceremony which will be comparatively empty in relation to previous years. While the royals have been far more prevalent in the recent St Andrews zeitgeist, it is a rare occurrence. Charles will likely have less than half of the number of attendants in Westminster Abbey than his mother did, primarily because of the ongoing economic hardship facing the United Kingdom.  

While St Andrews is a more concerned with the royals in recent weeks than previously, that has little to do with the coronation and far more to do with the filming of the upcoming season of The Crown. Anyone who has a large enough group chat or takes frequent walks along the three streets has likely seen some of the ongoing filming. Not including the disruption of the occasional trip to Tesco or walk to lectures, I have spent very little time thinking about the British royal family. While it is exciting to see television crews and actors roaming the streets, we must remember that those actors are portraying real people who cost the British taxpayer £86.3 million in 2020-2021. This is a hefty fee to pay, one that only grows when there are large scale events and public displays of grandeur.  

A coronation is traditionally an opportunity for the new monarch to display the longevity of their dynasty and establish legitimacy as a ruler. When there were multiple, competing pretenders it was essential to establish a rule through an intricate ceremony. As there is no question of Charles being the legitimate heir and he has already been acting in the role for months, it is slightly ridiculous to consider that such an event is still a necessity.  While many of the former colonies appear ready to remove the British monarch as the head of state, a large state event could rouse international support. Charles has far less popularity than his mother did. However, this transition away from the British monarchy has next to nothing to do with him personally. With this momentous occasion marking the end of one reign and the beginning of another, it is an immensely appropriate time to consider the future of the Commonwealth. This change in monarch appears as an ideal time to consider the extent to which states wish to maintain the presence of the British monarchy and the reminders of the British Empire. With the thoughts of Britain’s colonial legacy and the funds that go into the royal family themselves, we can look at the jewels that will be on display at the event. Many of these precious stones were stolen during colonisation, yet they are still in the hands of the monarchy. The famous Koh-I-Noor diamond reportedly will not be worn during the Coronation. Instead, it will be displayed at the Tower of London. However, it is still a possession of the British monarchy, despite attempts by multiple governments to repatriate it. The diamond has been on display at previous coronations and is likely only being excluded on this occasion because of the public uproar that would ensue and not because of any consideration for the jewel returning to its homeland. There will also be many other precious stones that were stolen by the British Empire that will be on prominent display during the Coronation. This will likely further encourage the governments of Commonwealth nations to separate themselves from an institution that holds such antiquated traditions and beliefs. 

There are serious plans to scale down the ceremony. According to reports there could be as few as a couple thousand guests inside of the ceremony itself. This is a small concession to modernization. However, there is still an immense amount of pomp and circumstance that goes into such occasions. For those that are still interested in viewing the Coronation, they may find that the entertainment is slightly lacking as many British performers have declined to perform at the concert following the event. With the lack of enthusiasm relative to previous coronations, it is a wonder that the event is not reduced to an even smaller scale affair than has already been proposed. The Coronation is an archaic formality and if Charles does have plans to modernise the monarchy, this could be the perfect place to take a stand, especially with the ongoing cost of living crisis. Even though the ceremony itself will cost relatively little compared to previous royal coronations or events, it is still an unnecessary cost for an immensely antiquated ceremony. While the price of food is experiencing its highest rise since the ‘70’s there are unnecessary funds being funnelled into a costly ceremony.  

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own, and may not reflect the opinions of The St Andrews Economist.

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