"Come round to mine for drinks and we can celebrate the wedding?" I stare at this text from my friend for a moment while trying to think of a diplomatic reply. What I really want to say is "I'd rather dry-shave my grandparents than watch the royal wedding with you, or anyone for that matter" but instead I sheepishly text back saying it's not my bag, then try to think about what the hell I can do in London on 19th May 2018 that doesn't involve Harry and Meghan-themed Union Jack bunting and overpriced jugs of Pimm's. The options are limited, frankly; even if you aren't a year-round royalist, most people take the opportunity to get involved when one of the heirs to the throne gets hitched – throwing BBQs, street parties or joining the hordes gathered in one of London's parks.
If she turns up at Windsor Castle in a shell suit with a fag hanging out of her mouth and Harry eschews a suit in favour of one of his Vegas pool party ensembles, then I'll watch.
Don't get me wrong, I like parks and picnics, I just couldn't give a fig about Harry, Meghan or any of the royal hullabaloo they are creating. I don't care what she wears, who the bridesmaids are, who designs the dress, if Wills will get his own back on Harry with his best man speech, or what private island they are off to on honeymoon. Nor do I give a toss about her family or who walks her down the aisle. If she turns up at Windsor Castle in a shell suit with a fag hanging out of her mouth and Harry eschews a suit in favour of one of his Vegas pool party ensembles, then maybe I'll watch. Otherwise I'll be avoiding the whole thing like the plague.
The level of interest in this wedding, and in Kate and Wills' nuptials back in 2011, genuinely flabbergasts me. In the past two weeks alone I have received dozens of emails flogging everything from flip-flops to ice cream, all in honour of Meghan and Harry, but for me it's more than just an aversion to wedding hysteria and novelty tat.
I am sure some of the royal family are well-meaning and yes, it's very sad about his mum and yeah, I know, the queen is very old, but I truly don't believe there should be a royal family in the first place. That means a world without princes and princesses and tiaras and palaces, which upsets a lot of people who love the soap opera and tradition of nobility, but if we could all just shift our focus from Pippa's perfect bum and Kate's impossibly bouncy hair for a sec, we’d see the monarchy for what it really is: an elitist, classist, sexist system set up to keep money and power in the hands of the few. This is the bit not many people want to listen to so if you want to stick your fingers in your ears, close your eyes and sing "Rule Britannia" at the top of your lungs, now's the time.
The reason we have a monarchy is feudalism. Back in ye olden dayes, rich people collected masses of land (usually through force) and then forced vassals (that'd be us) to slog away for them and hand over money for the privilege. Nobles, aristocrats, princes, kings and queens believed they had the divine right to rule the poor and boy did they, taxing and exploiting them and ensuring things stayed the same for their spawn by passing their titles down to their (male) heirs via bloodlines. Not the greatest system to put our faith and admiration in, is it? Feudal times have passed but the monarchy still reaps the rewards of the deeply unjust and discriminatory system it was built on. Look, carry on icing your Meggles and Harry cupcakes; I understand it’s hard to be angry at an old lady shuffling around shaking hands while wearing a matching mint ensemble, but maybe we should stop focusing on the personalities and at least question the incredible privilege they enjoy and how long we want to go on propping it up.
Oh but they bring in such an enormous income! Actually there’s very little evidence to back that up. A Freedom of Information request by campaign group Republic asked for a copy of any VisitBritain records detailing the impact of the royal family, the monarchy or major royal events on British tourism. According to Republic, VisitBritain responded but were unable "to give any evidence to support the idea the royals boost Britain's tourism industry". Graham Smith of Republic said in response: "We're always being told the monarchy is great for tourism, so where's the evidence? If the monarchy is so important for the tourism industry you would think VisitBritain would have done extensive research, yet they've got nothing." In the absence of a tangible figure, I tend to agree with Smith, and do we really think no one would visit London or Buckingham Palace if there were no royal family? If that were the case, no one would be arsed going to Versailles without the prospect of seeing Louis XIII traipsing around the pavilion.
What we do know is that the royals know how to spend money. It's hard to equate the overall cost of the royal family as they have many expenditures and the Duke of Edinburgh ain't exactly waving his P45 around.
In October 2017, The Express ran an article detailing some of the particulars of the queen’s salary (increased by £6 million to £82.2m) and wrote that around £4.5m was spent on travel by the queen in 2016 alone.
Prince Philip once spent over £19,000 on a journey from London to Cumbria. Prince William and Kate's private plane to India in April 2016 cost £100,000. According to The Express, the most expensive jaunt came in at £154,000, for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall's nine-day tour of Romania, Italy and Austria. Lads, that's just a few of their hols…imagine what they spend on houses, clothes, staff and PR.
If the money thing doesn't bother you and you think the royals are harmless, again I'd argue otherwise. Any notion that the royals were an outdated but innocuous non-political entity came crashing down when, after a dogged 10-year battle, the Guardian published the 'black spider' letters which laid out in black and white just how much Charles was sticking his oar in where he shouldn't have been, putting pressure on politicians at the highest level to see that his interests were top of the agenda. Then there was all that sordid 'cash for access' business where Fergie was caught lining her own pockets by promising access to Prince Andrew. I don't need to go into every embarrassing toe-sucking incident here; the royals are as flawed as the rest of us, it's just that they have a team of skivvies to cover up and distract from their alcoholism, drug addictions, affairs, financial irregularities... And that's only the stuff we know about.
People will happily slam the Kardashians as a fame-thirsty family who would sell their own grandmother for a buck. "What is she famous for?" people always say of Kimmy, but few beat the royals with the same stick. We've bought the story – the greatest PR tale ever told – hook, line and sinker. I get it, there's tradition, people find it hard to imagine a world without a monarchy, but it's actually really easy – just look at Ireland or France or any of the other hundreds of countries with democratically elected governments; imperfect, yes, but chosen and kept in power by the public.
So here's a suggestion: Let the queen live out the rest of her days in the wealth and extravagance she has only ever known, and when she dies, let the monarchy die with her. I realise the chances of that happening are about the same as Meghan turning up on Saturday in that shell suit. But instead of streets lined with cheering onlookers this weekend, imagine what would happen if the curtain on this grand PR stunt came down and the whole of the country turned their backs and simply refused to watch? The funny thing about all of this is, the royals need us a lot more than we need them.