I can empathise with the grief-stricken family. I can recognise the historic significance of the passing of one of the world’s most powerful women. I can almost accept the pomp and ceremony of 10 days of mourning.
What I cannot abide, what I cannot forgive, is the thought of a newly-anointed King – with an estimated personal fortune of anywhere from £85 million to £320 million – avoiding a penny’s worth of tax on the £650 million estate he has just inherited from his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
As news of the Queen’s death broke on Thursday evening, I felt deep sadness for her loved ones who had suddenly lost a beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend. Having buried my own father two days before, the magnitude of their bereavement seemed all the greater. Perhaps for the first time in my life, the republican in me felt genuine solidarity with the British monarchy.
But as days went by and television screens hosted the Shakespearean sight of men bedecked in red velvet and gold marching solemnly down the same London streets where I have often witnessed starving people, begging for spare change, my condolences faded to a nauseated disgust. How many desperate families could be fed with the taxpayer money unflinchingly splashed on this grandiose display of grief, I wondered.
And so it was with some bitterness, actually, that I woke this morning to the reminder that King Charles III would be exempt from inheritance tax on the Duchy of Lancaster estate, thanks to a 1993 law allowing assets to be passed from one sovereign to another. Lucky for some.
Charles is not the first Windsor to benefit from royal taxation rules. The “loophole” was first used in 2002, when the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, bequeathed an estate worth roughly £68 million to her reigning daughter.
Britain’s newest monarch has done considerably better for himself this time round. Meanwhile, His Majesty’s citizens face a potentially ruinous 40 percent tax bill for any personal assets valued at more than £325,000.
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I have no quarrel with those who wish to celebrate the life of Elizabeth Regina, a queen who – in the eyes of many – did great things for her country. A beacon of stability, the Queen oversaw the transformation of the Commonwealth, brought billions in tourist revenue to the UK and softened British and Irish relations to an extent some believed impossible.
But the lavish processions, the gaudy trumpet calls, the cancellations of events that are the lifeblood of already struggling businesses, and the almost inconceivable wealth of one man, one family, while millions face a winter of unimaginable hardship… is something I cannot accept.
The monarchy cost the British people £102.4 million for the financial year 2021-2022, according to the Accounts of the Sovereign Grant which funds the sovereign and their household’s official expenses. If King Charles is to make good his promise to “slim down the monarchy“, he could start by standing by his subjects and coughing up the same 40 percent that they have no choice but to part with.
Do your bit to help those crippled by the cost of living crisis, Charles. Sit down with your people who go without to provide for their children, who work two jobs to keep the gas running, who must choose between eating and heating their homes. You never know, you might even make a monarchist out of me.