It thrills but kills. They are people you love to hate but hate to leave. It is a fairy tale. It is a tragedy. It is news and breaking news. It is about fantastical weddings and heartbreaking breakups. No guesses about what we are talking about? Yes, the Royalty and in particular the British Royalty. In a world that has rejected and criticized the unfair system of ruling by accident of birth, it is strange that the public still follow the lives of the royals like obsessive stalkers.

The tragic news of the Princess of Wales Kate Middleton undergoing cancer treatment broke most media records. It is very sad and disturbing. And, has resulted in the outpouring of huge emotional and social support for her. This was of course big news, but even the most minor of things, like the royal kids first day at school, is considered a “must share” for public all over the world.

Such adulation has its critics and its supporters. There is a grand debate on the waste of taxpayer’s money on the royals. They cost a hefty sum. The British Royals are paid through a Sovereign Fund which funds the King and his household’s official expenses.

A report in the summer of 2022 showed that the monarchy cost the taxpayer £102.4m ($114.6m) during the 2021–22 financial year, an increase of 17% from the previous 12 months. The funeral of Queen Elizabeth cost a huge amount and there was consequential criticism on the fact that in one of the worst economic crunches in the UK, such extravagance made no sense. But the fascination continues. There are many factors that contribute to this public obsession with the palace and its characters:

1- History and the present merge— The British royalty have a fascinating history. England has been ruled under a monarch since it was initially conquered by Anglo-Saxons in 1033, up until the development of the Magna Carta in 1215. For almost 200 years, the powers of the British Monarchy were limitless.

The king had absolute rule over his kingdom; he conquered and ravaged anyone he wanted, and his word was the rule of law. The English have preserved the history through historical accounts of the bravery and cruelty of various monarchs.

They have chronicled the transition that royalty underwent after the establishment of the Magna Carta. The monarchy was later turned into a Constitutional Monarchy, meaning it has an elected body of individuals that run the countries affairs, and a Prime Minister who is their leader. The Prime Minister and the monarch must work together and support each other to continue a successful government.

The monarchy’s political power was reduced to providing ceremonial assents to the parliament. The monarchy was thus converted into a social power for the public to connect with. Not doing away with the monarchy was a wise decision. The palace sans its abusive powers and political interference is all about the glitz and glamour in the lives of kings and the heirs.

Imagine having a live and present story of “The Crown” being enacted out with a history of centuries to draw upon. This legacy is still being unfolded and everybody wants to be part of the legacy. The Queen’s funeral was a live telecast that showed thousands lining up on the whole route. The queues to reach her coffin to pay their homage were endless and included celebrities like David Beckham who stood for hours for this privilege.

2- Psychology of parasocial behaviour— This bad/good emotional seesaw is not unnatural. From childhood, the fascination with fairy tales based on kings and queens and the prince saving the princess is inherent within us. That Wonderland world where we all can fly, live and love in palaces is a fantasy that never leaves us. When this is translated into a live and ongoing tale, it connects to our innate desires.

It is like an endless lifestyle of the rich and famous up close and front. The obsessive attachment to Lady Diana even after a quarter of a century is called “parasocial behaviour.” A parasocial behaviour is exhibited through a one-sided relationship in which someone becomes attached to a person without actually interacting with them in any meaningful way.

Parasocial behaviour could include becoming emotionally invested in your favorite television show, sports team or celebrities like the royal family. They feel deeply for the person as he or she reflects the dreams of the person in terms of fame, money or heroism. That is why the teeming demand for finding out more and more about the lives of the royals is a favourite passtime for the “commoners.”

3- The rules and the rebels— Behind the glitter is the litter. Nothing attracts the public more than the story of fortune than misfortune. Living the life of a pauper is bad. But living the life of a royal is no bed of roses either. The rules of being a Royal are in these modern times suffocating. One of the most unusual is a hundred-year-old royal family tradition that requires members of the family to get weighed before and after Christmas dinner.

If they put on weight, it is an indication that they really enjoyed their meal. Two heirs cannot travel together, etc. This may seem small but can be very annoying.

The evidence of that comes in the turbulences that have taken place in Buckingham Palace twice. Firstly, in 1936, after ruling for less than one year Edward VIII became the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne.

He chose to abdicate after the British government, public, and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry the American divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson. It is like a fairy tale that was repeated in royal discourses for many decades. And, then came Lady Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles and the other woman story- a drama that continues to be retold in many books, movies and documentaries. Secondly, her son Harry has abdicated royal duties to be with his wife Meghan Markle who accused Buckingham Palace of racism. No blockbuster can seemingly match this riveting real life page turner.

4- It is a revenue spinner— The biggest criticism on the Royalty is that it is a huge burden on taxpayer money. That is one side of the story. The other side says it is a huge economic contributor that serves the public eventually. While the average annual cost for UK taxpayers in royal upkeep comes to around £500m a year, Brand Finance estimates the monarchy’s brand contributes £2.5bn to the British economy in the same timeframe.

Just take the visitors to one of the multiple royal sites, Windsor Castle and Frogmore House recorded roughly 426,000 paying visitors between April 2021 and March 2022. An adult ticket costs £26.50 from Sunday to Friday. Add to this the branded accessories sales, the books, the media rights payments, etc., and you understand why the British want to retain this instant bestseller.

The price of fame and glitter is high. Because royalty is such a hot seller the traders are ruthless. Kate Middleton’s picture release created such a controversy that she, in her most difficult and painful post-cancer discovery moments, had to sit through the agony of giving an explanation video. The very same media hounds that had caused her mother-in-law Diana’s death. Sometimes the price of a life of fame and glory is death.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Andleeb Abbas

The writer is a columnist, consultant, coach, and an analyst and can be reached at [email protected]

Comments

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Shakeel Mahota Apr 03, 2024 01:03pm
Let's leave to Brits the matter of financing the Royals, and focus on our own economic challenges including boosting of revenue to run the country...
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Shahab Apr 03, 2024 11:28pm
I agree that we should concentrate on our own issues and leave the Brits
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SAQIB HAROON Apr 04, 2024 01:03pm
Enjoyed, the way you covered the whole story. Good Luck for the future too.
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Ch. K A Nye Apr 07, 2024 01:29pm
We too have our self-styled royals with their Raiwind and Bilawal castles plus hereditary rule over the hapless nation.
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Ch. K A Nye Apr 07, 2024 01:31pm
@Shakeel Mahota,.. We also finance our homegrown self-styled royals and their lavish lifestyles.
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