Long live the monarchy? Twelve countries are sovereign monarchies in Europe today. These include seven EU members (Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), as well as Norway, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Vatican City.

Supporters argue that monarchs rise above party politics, bringing political stability, respect for tradition and a sense of national pride. Critics, meanwhile, argue that an unelected hereditary monarchy is an anachronism in a democratic society.

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Rueben arguing that the “price we pay” for hereditary, unelected monarchs is too high. He believes that monarchies are from a bygone era, and ends his comment with a stirring “Long live republics.” But is he right?

For European Monarchies

Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills, Founder and Director, British Monarchists Society

Against European Monarchies

Hans Maessen, Chair, Republican Society

Reueben has a very good point here, but we have to look at what the institution means to the nation. Case in point, in the Netherlands the tax payer does pay for the king. He makes about 800,000 euros a year to do his kinging. But there’s something to be said for what the tax payer pays in the Netherlands; we have unity, we have steward of custodianship of the past, we have a uniting factor for the present, but we also have a crown that shouldn’t be known for the power that it has, but the power it denies overzealous politicians of really usurping the role of the crown, in wanting to be partisan. That’s what it is here.

So, it is a safeguard in the day of overzealous politicians. It is a mechanism, such as the case in point, Belgium and Spain, when the political government shuts down the people don’t suffer, because the sovereign is there. The sovereign keeps the nation going with ministers. Day-to-day business doesn’t stop, as it does in a republics like America.

Here in the United Kingdom, the taxpayer doesn’t exactly pay for the crown. It is self-sufficient through the crown estate. So, there are a few differences there. But what crowns do is a lot more value than expense.

Monarchies are indeed very expensive. Research has shown that they are far more expensive than republics. It does depend, though, on the way the heads of state of the republic is elected. If it’s a ceremonial head of state, like in Ireland or Switzerland, this can be done, for example, by parliament or by a simple election. But if it’s an executive head of state like in France, the costs are different.

But monarchies are expensive because you have to pay not only the head of state but also the whole family, and you pay them all their lives. Many of the costs connected to the monarchy are hidden in call kinds of budgets which citizens don’t see. So, even if governments say monarchies are not that expensive, you should be very reluctant to believe that and look into the actual costs of the monarchy very carefully to find out how much it costs each citizen.

Do European monarchies still have a purpose? Or are they unelected and expensive institutions from a bygone era? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: (cc) WikiMedia – Carfax2; Portrait Credits: Mace-Archer-Mills (c) Fred Pearson Photography



60 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar
      Uli

      and which? tabloid employment?

  1. avatar
    Любомир

    Of course they have. Some of the European monarchies are among the most democratic and civilized countries in the world. Do democracy, prosperity and civilization still have a purpose? What do you think?

    • avatar
      Charlotta

      Of course democracy, prosperity and civilization still have a purpose. In my view, monarch does not. I would not say that these European monarchies are democratic because of them being monarchies, so your argument does not hold. Take for example Sweden, in what way would it impact democracy if there would be no royal family? I would say, if anything, positively.

  2. avatar
    John-romi

    Yes , the monarchies look more for the people and country , and the political parties care more the corporations and themself.

  3. avatar
    Павел

    Yes, to spend taxpayers money.

  4. avatar
    Marco

    I strongly disagree with monarchy and nobilty. the idea that a person has a specific role or dignity based on his/her ancestry is clearly contrary to the basic principle of equality among humans. Of course EU monarchies and nobilties respect the rules of democray, but it is a matter of principle. Noone should be considered more or less important because of his/her surname.

    • avatar
      Charlotta

      I fully agree with this, it preempts the comment I was planning to make. And it is indeed this principle of equality, much more than the costs, that bothers me.

    • avatar
      Florian

      Absolutely right. There is nothing to add or argue about. All other considerations are secondary and cannot outweigh such fundamental principle.

  5. avatar
    Civis

    In some countries – e.g. Belgium – the monarchy is one of the few building blocks that keep a divided country together, so yes they do.

    • avatar
      Anonymous

      It wouldn’t be a huge loss if the frail state of BE would collapse.

  6. avatar
    Sheila

    Yes absolutely . And proud . Better than any country with a dictator in charge.

    • avatar
      Filipe

      Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, and I believe you wouldn’t like to live there.

    • avatar
      Sheila

      no i wouldn’t . But that’s a dictatorship in disguise.

  7. avatar
    Nelson

    A King or Queen can be outside the political games, a President is still – in the first place – a politician… He will never quit his party and will never put the interest of the people in front of the interest of his party…

  8. avatar
    Vivian Wildeboer

    Well, I think the question of whether or not they serve a purpose seems to be under discussed in the two point above. Their purpose is named in a few throwaway lines, and most of the discussion is about what they cost.
    And yes, they cost a lot, but there are ways to mitigate that. But they bring something that is not easy to quantify, making it much harder to say weather or not they are ‘worth’ it.
    I think certain parts can be updated, but I also see a lot of royal families are indeed modernizing, especially in Europe. Monarchies in Asia and Arabia tend to be more ‘powerful’ and conservative.

  9. avatar
    Debating Europe

    A King or Queen can be outside the political games, a President is still – in the first place – a politician… He will never quit his party and will never put the interest of the people in front of the interest of his party…

  10. avatar
    Николай

    Yes to live on the back of the labor class

    • avatar
      Sheila

      And all the money they bring in from tourism. Get a life !

    • avatar
      Николай

      Rofl

    • avatar
      Любомир

      Because political parties and Presidents don’t live on the backs of taxpayers and the working class…

    • avatar
      Николай

      They are, but not for hundreds of years. Check the annual keep of any of the royals. God damn iliterarats

  11. avatar
    Paul

    Since when was it obligatory for everything to have a purpose ?

  12. avatar
    Ludwig

    The cost more than a football team.

  13. avatar
    Marco

    Yes! One of the cornerstones to a common history and identity. Plus the royal tourism-led dollars are surely a plus.

    • avatar
      Max

      Thought that Portugal was a republic.

    • avatar
      Marco

      You are correct Max 👍🏻

    • avatar
      Kat

      I’d like to propose that tourism-led income isn’t actually as sustainable argument as many monarchists like to believe. In fact, VisitBritain.org (the UK’s national tourist agency) fails to come up with any figures to support the claim that the British Monarchy brings in money from tourists. That is, of course, to the best of my research, which could very well be countered. Would love to hear what your thoughts are! Cheers

  14. avatar
    Dennis

    NO. Monarchs have no place in democracy.

  15. avatar
    Dan

    They have a purpose: leech off the population of the country in wich they claim God said they are royalty. It’s a horrible purpose, but a purpose nontheless.

  16. avatar
    Olivier

    Mind your business it s not a European issue…

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Thanks for your comment. We launch debates on a whole range of issues which are of interest to our audience. Monarchies being one of them. Keep debating!

    • avatar
      Irene

      How rude!

    • avatar
      Любомир

      It’s not rude. How the European nations govern their own countries isn’t and shouldn’t be EU’s business. It’s entirely the business of the citizens of each country and it should be up to them, no one else.

    • avatar
      Olivier

      Debating Europe I don t Thi k that Europe should interfere in every topic… EU is not able to rules major topics such as schengen social and tax policy Gafa taxation… Foreign policy why should it interfere in national subjects. Recent election showed that many Europeans are still attached to nation

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Olivier, you do know we’re not the EU, right?

    • avatar
      Olivier

      well I guess you are an EU agency

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Olivier, nope. Sorry to disappoint.

    • avatar
      Irene

      The members of the European parliament are elected by the citizens. The European council is constituted by the prime ministers of the member states which are elected by the citizens of the countries. The leaders of each organ are also chosen by the member states’ representatives and have to be approved by the members of the European parliament.
      I see elected members of parliament debating and deciding. I see elected ministers of the member states meeting and making decisions.

  17. avatar
    Olivier

    Monarchy is the best symbol of people unity.. And monarchs do care about the national interest… And they are not bound by short term interest….

  18. avatar
    Filipe

    The most important aspect of a political system is not whether it’s a monarchy or a republic. It’s whether it’s a democracy or a dictatorship. There are monarchies and republics of both kinds. I live in a republic and I prefer it, but I wouldn’t mind to live in a constitutional and democratic monarchy.

  19. avatar
    Max

    Dual citizen here. IDGAF. One of my passports is to a monarchy. The other is to a republic. That distinction makes almost zero impact on the quality of life or efficiency of government in either country or in the quality of life the everyday citizens experience.

  20. avatar
    Manuel

    Yes, to sell popular magazines !

  21. avatar
    Luigi

    Maybe not, but organized crime does, and it doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.

  22. avatar
    catherine benning

    Do European monarchies still have a purpose?

    It appears DE has a reluctance to discuss the full aspect of their question here regarding ‘purpose’ of such firms as monarchies.

    As we move into a modern age, in a society of scientific verification, I feel it is imperative those who claim ‘special and unequal rights of birth, such as Royalty, to claim rights to millions a year from tax payers to subsidise their phenomenal wealth. Surely, they must be willing and ready to have DNA tests in order to verify their claims. A lifelong stipend of millions of pounds, annually, should be, at very least, scrutinised by those paying the bill for pretenders.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=641Oyk3d5HM

  23. avatar
    Charlotta

    Definitely no. While I can, to some extent, sympathize with the idea of national unity in certain countries, there are also abundant examples of countries where this does not play a role. Expenses aside, this idea that someone is born into a certain role accompanied with lifelong privileges goes very much against the principle of equality. Some might argue that the role comes with duties too, but even if one would assume these duties make any sense, what makes these people best fitted for those duties? I find this idea that someone is born into something very strange in our current European context and it goes very much against the value of equal opportunities.

  24. avatar
    Rupert Strachwitz

    As a died-in-the-wool democrat, I would like to point out that democracy is not the only basic principle on which modern liberal societies are built. The rule of law, human and civil rights, and our cultural traditions are the others of equal rank – as laid down many times in formal world-wide and European declarations. Since democracy does not always do as well as one might hope they do, it is highly important to uphold the others. To this end, non-elected institutions with well-defined limited powers and an imbued sense of responsibility have an important role to play as guardians and watchdogs; by and large, modern monarchies have lived up to that expectation. Also, cultural traditions are important in keeping society together in the face of a whole range of modern trends, which, not to be misunderstood, I do not deplore and would not like to see reversed. In this respect, we might learn from African kings and chieftains, who no longer enjoy any constitutional position whatsoever and are yet highly relevant for the citizens by whom they are well respected. Or look at the Tenno in Japan, whose position as a ruling monarch is arguably the weakest of all, while being held in the highest possible esteem by the people of Japan.
    So, with Europe growing together, with or without the United Kingdom, the constitutional position of national heads of state, monarchs and others, may change quite fundamentally, but their role in society, and particularly that of non-political monarchs, may continue to be an important one.

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