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Heavy is the head that wears the Crown: we need a larger royal family for a modern civic society.

Frank Young, 16 April 2023

Frank Young argues that the royal family is now too small to deliver its important civic function.

The modern royal family needs to be seen to be believed

The late Queen famously never gave an interview and rarely said anything of public note, preferring instead to simply be ‘seen to be believed’. It was an approach that served her well – she was always the most popular royal as well as being the most senior. The (self-proclaimed) socialist actor Sir Tony Robinson recently confessed to being turned away from republicanism largely because of this approach.[1] He is far from the only one.

Queen Elizabeth II didn’t simply come to the view that keeping her head down was a sensible approach to a lifelong role – this view was inherited every bit as much as the palaces she occupied as Queen. The template was set by her grandfather King George V and his wife, the historically underappreciated Queen Mary.[2] This royal couple were the most unlikely of modernisers, stuck in their ways and absurdly formal. They nevertheless recognised that to survive, the monarchy and the wider family needed to be rooted in public duty. In other words, getting out and about and meeting their subjects. It is a model that has survived for over a hundred years.

It is arguably harder for modern royals, where the automatic profile afforded to them can easily be mistaken for a platform to advance their personal opinions. The media is a relentless companion to royal life, something previous generations barely had to contend with. King George V was appalled by change, so much so that his eldest son (the future Edward VIII) described him as being in ‘a private war with the twentieth century’ – what he would have made of Tik-Tok is anyone’s guess.

Despite their inbuilt ultra conservatism and disdain for change, George V and Queen Mary had the foresight to see that change was indeed coming and the public could not be relied upon to simply accept a monarchy that was far removed from their own day to day lives. They set about doing something novel, getting out and about visiting coal mines and industrial centres – the sort of place previous royals might have driven past on their way to a country home. After taking advice from advisors, very much in the same way modern politicians conduct opinion polls, King George V embarked on a life of visits to run down parts of Britain, inspecting regiments and opening hospitals. The most successful royals spend time with the public – the real public – far away from trendy parts of London and a lot less time with celebrities. As we approach the reign of Charles III, the approach pioneered by George V and Queen Mary remains as important as ever.

It isn’t a government advertising campaign that puts the Great into Great Britain it is the men and women who give up their time to do something selfless for their local community or help out to support local people down on their luck. Academics call this ‘civil society’ – it is the glue that holds Britain together – often overlooked, until a royal comes to town.

The danger for modern royals, the King included, is we increasingly have too few royals to get about, and the number of royal engagements – as we shall see – has fallen by almost 40 per cent since the early nineties.

Royal engagements have fallen by a quarter compared to the year before the pandemic. In 2020 royal visits were confined to a computer screen as royals were locked down liked everyone else.[3]  

Why the royal family, and not just the monarchy, still matters

It would be easy to think that in a modern (or at least contemporary) democracy there would be no place for a hereditary monarchy.

The hereditary peers were long ago evicted from the House of Lords (without the House becoming noticeably better) yet the public are still largely in favour of sticking with our royal model.

Support for the principle of a monarch as head of state has barely moved in 30 years. In 1993, about seven out of 10 Brits wanted to stick with the monarchy, a figure that was almost exactly the same in 2022.[4] Republicanism is a minority pursuit in Britain.

Looking at what polling exists on monarchy and the British royal family shows almost no distinction between the idea of monarchy and the idea of a wider royal family. In the public mind they are largely the same.

Curiously the number of Brits who think the monarchy should be ‘modernised’ (a ghastly nonsense phrase the late Queen apparently loathed) has actually fallen by a third since 2000. More people want the monarchy to remain unchanged than want it changed ‘to reflect changes in British life’.[5]

Contrary royal polling doesn’t stop there. In 1992, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of the public agreed with the statement ‘The Royal family should not receive as much money as it does’. By 2012 this figure had fallen to barely half (52 per cent). More recently, polling from 2022 shows the British public are firmly split on whether the royal family, as opposed to simply the monarchy, is an ‘expensive luxury the country cannot afford’ – 38 per cent say it is not, 36 per cent say it is and 23 per cent just don’t know.[6] Listen to the popular commentariat and you’d think the public wanted to slash spending on royalty. The truth is anything but.

There is always a risk of over-interpreting public opinions, any politician will tell you that polls can quickly change and don’t always tell the full story. Public enthusiasm for the monarchy divides sharply by age, with only six per cent of over 65s telling pollsters that the monarchy is ‘bad for Britain’. Compare that to a fifth of 18–24-year-olds saying the same thing. Barely a third of younger Britons think the monarchy is a ‘good thing for Britain’, compared to over 70 per cent of over 65s.[7]

Whether young people will change their views as they get older is a moot point; feelings towards our historic royal family may have changed for good but, on the whole, public opinion is still with the House of Windsor.

It was Walter Bagehot in The English Constitution who identified the ‘dignified’ parts of our constitution, typified by the monarchy, and the ‘efficient’ parts,[8] largely government and administration. The dignified part of the constitution was intended to ‘excite and preserve the reverence of the population’.[9] There may be very little reverence left at any level of our modern society, but the monarchy still provides a function that is separate from simply being a head of state. Bagehot tapped into something deeply profound in our collective and emotional response to the way we organise our political affairs, that is still as relevant today as it ever has been.

The royal family performs a largely civic function, something the public easily understand but political activists still object to. This model is based on the finest British tradition of reflecting back a sense of civic pride. We mirror this in a much smaller way at a local level with civic mayors, selected from locally elected councillors. These mayors put on ceremonial robes and go about congratulating local people who do good works.

The same can be true of royalty who travel the country shaking hands and cutting ribbons. The more pomp and ceremony associated with the royal family, the more meaningful this celebration of good works becomes. No one would feel quite the same about getting a handshake and certificate from a council clerk, although it would be much cheaper.

Other countries who have rejected the role of a monarch still look to celebrate good works and success. The role of the vice president of the United States is often derided for being little more than congratulating successful American sports teams and handing out prizes to worthy individuals with all the pomp and ceremony of a visit to the White House.[10] There is something important to us that welcomes the chance to congratulate and recognise, quite different from the time Bagehot wrote The English Constitution but still very important to the people.

As we look ahead to a new King and his successors, the role of the royal family is to be found in the everyday life of British communities. To shake hands, to cut ribbons and to congratulate a worthwhile social endeavour across all parts of the United Kingdom. There is a clear correlation between the popularity of a modern member of the royal family and their position in the table of royal engagements. The Princess Royal consistently comes close to the top of the list of royal engagements and is consistently one of the most popular royals. This popularity is based on something other than a high media profile; it is based on a clear understanding of her role and what the British people value in their royals. In other words, it is about the people, not the royals themselves.

The modern (and future) role of the working royal is to be busy and visible, not in the national press or on social media, but in real life. There is a role for them all, dukes and duchesses and not just the higher profile ‘senior’ members. There is no shortage of invitations to members of the royal family and no obvious decline in people turning out to see them when they do visit. Their popularity is not political, it is in the work they do.

Like any institution or organisation, the royal family needs to be mindful of the court of public opinion, it is no longer ‘revered’ as it once might have been in the days of Bagehot. There is a warning contained in the polls. Five years ago, only about one in seven people thought it would be better for Britain if the monarchy was abolished, that figure has risen to one in four today.[11] The number who think abolishing the monarchy would be a bad thing for Britain is still significantly higher than those who don’t, but there is no certainty that public opinion will remain so benign.[12]

The popularity of individual members ebbs and flows over time, often in response to some event or mishap. The difference between a royal and a politician is the need for sustained popularity over a much longer period, often many decades. Politicians are famously ‘here today, gone tomorrow’, but a royal can expect to be at work for life. The sensible modern royal will put their head down and carry on. Less is more when it comes to exposure.

Figure 1:

Source: 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023:; 2018:; Duchess of Edinburgh, 2020: (p22); Duchess of Edinburgh, 2023: (p101).   

It is remarkable in this age of instant polling and information that there isn’t more extensive polling on the popularity of individual royals. Politicians track their favourability almost daily, but detailed data on royal favourability over a long period of time is hard to come by. What data does exist can be tracked from around 2017 to give an indication of popularity trends over a six-year period. It is important not to over interpret this data, which doesn’t include so called ‘minor royals’ despite their performing almost a fifth of all royal work in 2022.

What can be seen, in stark terms, is a trend towards public support favouring those who get their head down and get on with the work; the hardest working royals are most likely to be more popular than the average, those involved in scandal tend to be far below the line. There is a simple, if unremarkable message – just get on with low key visits, shaking hands and cutting ribbons and avoid the scandal and commentary of the public realm.

Royal advisors need to beware of the dangers ahead. Wise counsel would advise the new King and other members of the royal family that financial prudence, a strong work ethic and focusing on the people will be the basis a popular modern monarchy.

The monarchy is already slimmed down

Following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, the then Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge reportedly met for a major ‘summit’ to decide the future shape and size of the royal family when Charles ascended to the throne.[13] Reports from this meeting suggested the now King was keen to focus on a smaller number of working royals centred around the throne and directly in the line of succession.[14] This, at least, could be defended on the basis of preserving a constitutional monarchy rather than a wider royal family, with some members very far away from the throne.

This view was based on a hunch that the public had little appetite for additional princes and princesses zapping around the country opening new community centres and, even worse, prancing down red carpets at glitzy showbiz events.

A source close to the 2021 ‘summit’ was reported to have said:[15]

‘The question is whether you start off by deciding how many patronages and engagements there should be, and then work out how many people are needed to achieve them, or whether you decide how many people there should be, which will dictate how many engagements and patronages they can take on.’

This intensely conservative approach to royal engagements and working life places strict limits on the capacity of the family to ‘be seen to be believed’, artificially curtailing the role of royalty by design.

The King’s ambition for a slimmed down monarchy might be misplaced and potentially misjudges the true public mood. Despite the view of the now King, the public still turn out for the Kents and the Gloucesters. The invitations still arrive. There is seemingly little let up in the appetite for royal recognition of local good works. What polling of public opinion does exist suggests the public see their relevance, they just don’t think they are ‘important’ in a strictly political sense. It is impossible to gauge the number of invitations received by each member of the royal family, but there seems little let up and no fewer causes to support. A royal family that is closer to the people, shaking hands and rewarding ‘good eggs’,[16] will need to increase its capacity rather than limit it.

As the tables below show, the royal family has lost more than a quarter of its workforce (26.7 per cent) and is, on average, almost a decade older than it was 10 years ago. There are fewer royals and the ones doing the work are much older. In 2022, almost three quarters of royal engagements in the UK were undertaken by royals in their seventies, with a 1 in 8 royal engagements undertaken by royals over 85.

The royal family is now at its smallest for some time, and in the coming decades will get even smaller. The King’s ambitions for a ‘slimmed down’ monarchy have been achieved and the future prognosis is for an even ‘slimmer’ family, with only eight or nine working members in 10 years’ time.

Table 1: 2013

Table 2: 2023

The new King is right to be weary of the limits of public tolerance; there will be a natural breaking point if the definition of public service, often defined by Her Late Majesty, is warped to mean glitzy celebrity events far removed from the lives of ordinary people who never walk down a red carpet or never drink champagne with film stars.  

Within a decade there will only be the Prince and Princess of Wales left under normal retirement age. We can’t simply wait a quarter of a century for Prince George to get to an age where he will pick up the slack with his siblings.

The Cambridge model

While the King has taken steps to reduce the royal headcount, the new Prince of Wales has gone further still in defining his own approach to royal working life.

The Prince and Princess of Wales have outlined plans to change the nature of royal visits by cutting down their number of projects and visits in order to invest more time and finance for those they support. The couple are determined to effect notable change in the areas they visit, and intend to ‘create a new path’ for their roles as royals.

This new model, announced on what was called a Community Impact Day, focuses on visits that are ‘extremely significant’, qualified by large donations and long-term collaborations.

Their plans will focus on mental health, the environment, and children’s early years. In applying this focus, the Prince is expected to reduce his workforce from 140 to around 70.

This all comes from a desire to ‘break the mould’ of royal engagements to remain ‘relevant’ and to have a more substantial ‘impact on the ground’. While this all sounds very worthwhile, and for the charities involved it surely is, it potentially means a much more distant royal family in years to come.

Royal engagements 1992 – 2022

The remarkable amateur archivist, Tim O’Donovan, has kept a meticulous record of royal engagements recorded in the official Court Circular since the late 1970s. With his permission, Civitas has analysed this data over a 30-year period.

This dataset shows a worrying decline in domestic royal activity. The total number of royal engagements is well down, from 3,055 in 1992, 3,213 in 2002, 3,324 in 2012, 2,081 in 2022. There has been a fall 37 per cent between 2012 and 2022.

There were at least 15 working royals for the entire period 2013-2019 – there are now 11. This is not new, however – there were 11 from 2002-2004.

The average number of domestic engagements done by each royal has also fallen for some time, largely thanks to the Queen and Prince Philip reducing their number of duties throughout the latter half of the 2010s. The average is largely kept high by the extraordinary number of engagements performed by the now King Charles III and Princess Anne, the Princess Royal – who between them have generally done over 800 a year.

In 2022, almost 40 per cent (39 per cent) of royal engagements were attended by just King Charles III and Princess Anne. Almost half (47.5 per cent) were performed by the top three royals (adding Prince Edward’s 172 engagements).

Figure 2:

Source: Tim O’Donovan analysis.

Explaining the fall in royal engagements

Royal engagements have fallen dramatically in the last eight or nine years for three reasons: the fall in engagements fulfilled by the late Queen and her husband Prince Philip in the last decade, the resignation from royal duties of Prince Andrew and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2019/20, and the government response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The low result in 2022 can also be attributed to the death of the Queen in September.

The number of royal engagements was falling, although slowly, even before Covid.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh undertook 629 royal engagements in 2014, a number that gradually fell to 120 in 2022, following the prince’s retirement, and then each of their passings. This accounts for about a third of the realised fall.

There was a fall of 1,379 engagements from 2019 to 2020, largely – although not entirely – due to Covid regulations. This was back to 2,087 in 2021 and then back down to 2,081 in 2022. Covid regulations specifically account for a little under half of the realised fall.

Prince Andrew averaged around 250 engagements per year in the five years 2014-2018, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex performed 147 engagements in 2019 (still much less than the 276 attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge that year, suggesting that – had they not retired – they would have begun increasing their number of engagements). These retirements account for around a quarter of the realised fall.

Recent criticisms of The Court Circular

Most people flick through a newspaper, very few will make the effort to find The Court Circular hidden away in a select few broadsheet newspapers. It is a quaintly British tradition, recording engagements undertaken by royals for the previous day.

In his recent autobiography the Duke of Sussex called The Court Circular a ‘joke’,[17] claiming it caused conflict within the royal family as the total number of royal engagements were tallied each year.[18]

Some members – by which we are supposed to infer The Princess Royal – are apparently ‘obsessed’ with the Court Circular. It is unclear why the royal family should escape scrutiny, perhaps the Prince would prefer the government establish ‘OfRoyal’ to inspect the work of the family instead of this daily record?

The Duke of Sussex claimed that the record created a sense of competition among royals, to which many people would respond that this is a good thing. The Court Circular is the only record we have of what the royal family is up to on a daily basis. There is no doubt it is not a complete record, or even comes close to reflecting everything done by every royal, but it is the best we have.

Royal ‘Disneyland’ – paying for the royals

One of the most common criticisms of the royal family is the perception that it costs a princely sum to maintain. While any expenditure on royalty irritates political activists, the public understand that it needs to be paid for somehow. Take out the cost of refurbishing Buckingham Palace and the cost of royalty has fallen in real terms by 60 per cent since the early 1990s.[19]

In the last year alone their has been a real terms drop in royal income from the Sovereign Grant of almost a quarter (24 per cent), when additional payments for repairs to Buckingham Palace are excluded.

Figure 3: Crown Estate profits added to Sovereign Grant[20]

Source: (figures adjusted for 2023 prices).

Curmudgeonly appeals to turn the theatre of royalty into something more akin to a local authority are unlikely to receive much support, particularly if the role of monarchy is seen in terms of celebrating the best of British. It’s all about the people, not political activists who dwell in SW1 but the volunteers and community ‘good eggs’ far away from Westminster.

The Monarch and his heirs receive their income from three principal sources: a ‘Sovereign Grant’ from the government (paid from the profits of the Crown Estate), the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, and private income handed down through inheritance.[21]  

The price tag attached to our royal family is a vexed and much disputed issue. Critics claim that it costs as much as £350 million annually[22] to keep the show going, while the more prudent palace estimates suggest the King and his extended family incur a charge of around £51.8 million per year,[23] taken from the profits of the Crown Estate. The higher figure includes at least a hundred million pounds of protection costs.[24] 

George Osborne revolutionised the royal funding model in 2012 by replacing the old Civil List and grants from government with an agreement to hand over 15 per cent of the profits from the £15 billion Crown Estate property empire.[25] This has recently been increased to pay for the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace. In 2022 this meant £51.8 million was handed over to the (then) Queen to pay for her work and the upkeep of royal palaces, with an additional £34.5 million to refurbish Buckingham Palace.[26] Most of the money goes on property maintenance, preventing some of our most notable buildings from falling into disrepair. Remarkably the late Queen spent just over £1 million on entertaining – a figure many would expect to be much higher given her role in welcoming foreign dignitaries.[27]

The vast estates of the Duchy of Lancaster and Cornwall provide funds from their activities for the Monarch and Prince of Wales. These estates generate in excess of £20 million of profits a year for principal members of the royal family.[28] Some critics want to nationalise these estates, though it’s hard to see how this would help. Income should be taxed but the estates should remain charitable endeavours, separate from both the royal family and the state.

Any PR advisor will tell you it’s not the overall budget that will bring the institution into dispute but extravagance and living ‘high off the hog’ that will infuriate the public. 

There are two ways a modernised family could adjust their finances to steady public opinion over the long-term. The first is to continue to downsize on housing; super-sized palaces might have once been necessary to inspire ‘majesty’, they are more likely to infuriate now. Future royals will need to live in accommodation much smaller than their ancestors, but still generous by normal standards.

This downsizing has already begun. The new Prince and Princess of Wales recently chose to trade in their huge Kensington Palace apartment to move to a modest (by royal standards) four-bedroom family home on the Windsor estate. They could easily have chosen to live in Windsor Castle. The King has shown a similar reluctance for palace living, choosing instead to stick with Clarence House and his beloved Highgrove. The Queen still occupies the five-bedroom house she owned before marrying a Prince.

This creates an opportunity to raise some serious money through opening up the vacant palaces and castles left unoccupied. It is hard not to think that an enterprising business leader couldn’t turn all the royal palaces, including those in the private possession of the Monarch, into money spinners. This alone could in the end most likely pay for the work of the family. Historic Royal Palaces (a charity established by royal charter) opens up former royal palaces to the public, generating £54 million a year in income from almost 1.5 million visitors.[29]

Turning Buckingham Palace into a hotel could raise huge sums, and afternoon tea at Windsor Castle would attract visitors from across the world. In the end, this plan could replace the existing arrangement where the Monarch is giving 15 per cent of the profits from the Crown Estate. 

It is only relatively recently that the royal household has published a statement of accounts for the royal family. This innovation was designed to bring scrutiny and transparency to royal funding. These public accounts were published in an attempt to make the case that the royal family is good value for money. Royal spin doctors would routinely describe the monarchy as costing less per person than the price of a loaf of bread, to make the point.

Publishing the tax paid by the monarch and the royal family would take this a step further.  Even prime ministers now publish their tax affairs the pressure will soon grow for the Monarch and the Prince of Wales to do the same. Both the late Queen and the former Prince of Wales (now King) voluntarily chose to pay tax on their estates, but no public statement is made on how much tax is paid. There is no reason to believe that any special arrangements exist but a public statement would be a strong demonstration that we are all in this together.

It’s not the monarchy or the royal family that needs to be slimmed down but the number of flunkies and grandeur associated with living a regal life. The new King shows every sign of understanding this and taking steps to cut his (royal) cloth accordingly.

Gongs for dinner ladies – reforming the honours system

A reforming King would tackle the honours system too, it is woefully outdated and could easily be adapted to make the point that the monarchy exists to celebrate the best of British.

The use of the word ‘empire’ has caused many critics to refuse honours, and for some to call into question the very act of handing out gongs. Removing the word ‘empire’ and replacing it with ‘excellence’ would be simple enough, but the new King might go further still and simplify a confusing system, with ranks and differing levels of supposed seniority.

In simple terms, the MBE, OBE and CBE are intended to reflect an order of precedence – with the CBE trumping the OBE, who stands over the holder of an MBE. There is even a British Empire Medal for local people involved in charity work. Each award has its own basis for being awarded:[30]

  • The MBE is awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community which has had a long-term, significant impact.
  • The OBE is awarded to individuals who have made major contributions at a local level, or whose work has gained a national profile.
  • The CBE is awarded to individuals for having a prominent role at national level, or a leading role at regional level. CBEs are also awarded for a distinguished and innovative contribution to any area.

The Knighthood brings with it its own complications that few would understand. It is perhaps best illustrated in the famous ‘Yes, Minister’ sketch where Sir Humphrey tries to explain the different levels of the knighthood:[31]

‘Bernard Woolley: In the service, CMG stands for Call Me God. And KCMG for Kindly Call Me God.

Hacker: What does GCMG stand for?

Bernard: God Calls Me God.’

The late Queen was said to have resisted attempts to change the honours system, preferring instead to leave it to her son. This is one of the few areas where the King, as ‘fountain of honour’, has some control. He could simplify the system by introducing a new Order of British Excellence to recognise unsung heroes people doing extraordinary things for their local communities.

The Knighthood could remain for diplomats, civil servants and captains of industry, but a single Order of British Excellence could be established to recognise the people no one has ever heard of and likely never will. Sir Humphrey would loathe it, but maybe that is the point. It would certainly reflect the best of modern monarchy and its relationship with the people – the real people far away from showbiz events and red carpets.

The journalist and commentator Henry Hill has proposed revamping the ancient orders of merit to include a new Order of St David to recognise example Welsh achievement and reviving the Order of St Patrick to recognise Irish accomplishments. Both should be given serious consideration. The Order of the Thistle is well established in Scotland to recognise Scots but the Irish and Welsh are overlooked. There is no reason to stop there, there are commonwealth nations and regions where a new Order could help the royal family recognise local achievement. The English might also make a case for being recognised in the union of nations. Boris Johnson might well be asked to wave the flag for St George once again.

In 10 years time we need a larger royal family…

Like any institution, the monarchy changes to survive, adapting to a new world to ensure it is relevant. The change we need is more Princess Anne-ism, just get on with the work, say very little and shake an awful lot of hands. It’s a protestant work ethic, if such a think can be said without re-opening centuries old controversies.

There are early signs that the new King understands this, he has certainly had long enough to think about it. His is a monarchy built around a smaller group of working royals with less flummery and much less expense. Royals outside of those zipping across the country shaking hands and cutting ribbons will be expected to make their own way in life. There may yet be other reforms to the honours system or the palaces once occupied by the late Queen.

The King is more modern than many credit him for, he might well be conducting secret polling of public opinion to understand what the British people really think. If he is he will likely find a people quietly content with the status quo. The public want a royal family that is closer to them, not far removed. This should be taken literally. There is little need for emoting, there are plenty of celebrities and politicians who will do this. The public need to see ‘our’ royals or hear about their visits to places they recognise, nearby and close to home. In short, this will mean more royal engagements, not fewer based on notions of ‘impact’ and, in practice, more royals, at least for the time being.

Every ‘firm’ needs to keep an eye on the headcount, and royalty plc is no exception. When it comes to cutting ribbons and shaking hands, it’s a royal the people want, not a town mayor or local radio celeb. The King is down at least two princes and one duchess. The Great British Public love a royal turning up to town.

Earlier this year, Princess Beatrice was quietly installed as a Counsellor of State, a nod to the need for an extra pair of hands by a new Monarch. This role is coveted by royals, indicating, as it does, a level of seniority that no title can quite achieve. Beatrice already boasts the title of Princess and the HRH that goes with it, thanks to her father insisting that they take on all the trappings of royalty. Well into her thirties, married and without much of a business career to leave behind, she would make an ideal new member of the firm. As Prince of Wales, Charles rebuffed lobbying from the Duke of York to make Beatrice a full-time working royal, reminding his brother that she was a ‘blood princess’. This bizarre criterion shouldn’t stand in the way of giving the idea a re-think.

Zara Phillips should raise her profile too. Her eventing days now behind her, she would be a popular addition, steeped in the school of Princess Anne. Her ruddy, down to earth approach would be a welcome contrast to the puffed-up self-importance portrayed by recently retired royals.

The late Queen understood that for the monarchy to prosper she and her relatives had to be ‘seen to be believed’, but as of today there are too few royals. A few new members are needed to pick up where late Her Majesty left off. The British public demands it.

In less than a decade, the number of royal engagements could slow to little more than 1,000 a year. Your chances of seeing a royal near you will be virtually nil. This doesn’t bode well for the future of the family.

Frank Young is editorial director at the Civitas think tank

Acknowledgement: Civitas wishes to thank Tim O’Donovan, a remarkable chronicler of royal engagements for his support in providing data from his personal records for this article.



[3] In the year before the pandemic the royal family conducted 2,809 engagements. In 2022 they conducted 1,995 – a drop of almost 30 per cent.





[8] Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution, 1867

[9] Ibid.

[10] In popular culture the situation comedy ‘Veep’ portrays an American Vice President who spends a lot of time on providing tours of the White House for visiting groups and handing out prizes, in contrast to the figure of The President who is portrayed as a serious politician.

[11] IPSOS UK Attitudes towards the Royal family On balance, do you think it would be better or worse for Britain in the future if the Monarchy was abolished, or do you think it would make no difference? March 2018, 15% said it would be better for Britain if the Monarchy was abolished; January 2023, 25% said it would be better for Britain if the Monarchy was abolished.

[12]   IPSOS UK Attitudes towards the Royal family On balance, do you think it would be better or worse for Britain in the future if the Monarchy was abolished, or do you think it would make no difference? January 2023, 42% said it would be worse for Britain if the Monarchy was abolished.


[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.



[18] Ibid.

[19] IfG calculations:; c. £112 million in 1991/2 (2021 prices), approximate cost in 2020 is £48 million (2021 prices), fall of 57 per cent.

[20] 2013-14: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2014-15: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2015-16: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2016-17: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2017-18: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2018-19: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2019-20: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2020-21: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2021-22: – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.

2022-23:  – 15% Crown Estate profit for previous financial year adjusted for 2023 prices.







[27] Ibid.






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