It’s hard to place a value on something like a Royal Family. For every republican complaint about cost and inequality, there are royalist counter-arguments showing that the immense sums spent to maintain the monarchy is more than paid back in terms of national unity and publicity abroad.
But at a time when the kingdom is facing a 100 billion kroner deficit, it’s worth questioning whether the royals’ nearly 100 million kroner in direct support, and the approximately 250 million in related expenses, could be better spent.
The obvious logical answer is ‘yes’. Public institutions struggling for ways to make ends meet could certainly use an extra million here and there. And, as beloved as the queen is, it sends a particularly bad signal that while the economy is sputtering the Royal Family will accept an extra million kroner in state funding in 2012.
But when it comes to the Royal Family, we’re dealing with something that has less to do with logic than it does with sentimentality. And given that the queen right now is enjoying approval ratings normally only seen in dictatorships, ask commoners if she should cut back, and the answer is likely to be a firm ‘nej’.
It’s true that as a national symbol the monarchy does have an uplifting effect, especially in times of national calamity. Images of King Christian X’s daily horse ride through the streets of Copenhagen – unaccompanied by guards – during the Nazi occupation have become mythological symbols of Danish sovereignty. And in these depressed economic times, events like royal births and this weekend’s 40th jubilee serve to distract us, at least temporarily, from our worries.
Logic also says that the monarchy flies in the face of the modern tenet that all people are created equal. Still, it’s hard to imagine an elected or appointed figure, no matter how well loved, obtaining the mystique that appears to be the monarchy’s most valuable asset. If the royals were ordinary people, they’d just be another mixed-marriage family on welfare. And what business abroad would be impressed by a visit by an exalted politician?
The royals’ money – or at least some of it – could be better spent, now and in times of prosperity. But we do live in a democracy, and if the majority of the kingdom’s subjects are willing to foot the bill to keep the monarchy alive, then long live the queen, as they say.