THE information that Britain's royal family costs every man, woman and child in the country 61p a year should silence most of the monarchy's critics. What else can you get for 61p these days? And since for that paltry sum you get a conscientious monarch who generally speaking puts the interests of her country and its people before her own, it seems extraordinarily good value. The argument that Britain would be better off as a republic with an elected president may have some support but for most people it fails when one considers the feeble field of potential presidents. There is, though, one weakness in the satisfaction that is widely felt about the monarchy. It depends, to an almost dangerous degree, on the person who occupies the Throne at the present time. Queen Elizabeth is respected, not only because of the length of time she has served but also because of her own admirable personal qualitities. There is no comparable feeling, however, about Prince Charles who has done almost nothing to suggest that he would be able to emulate his mother. Perhaps his marriage will, as they say, settle him down but he seems to lack the simple quality of common sense which Queen Elizabeth so evidently possesses. PP It was the publication of the Queen's Accounts for the year to march 31, 2005, which led to the calculation that at 61p Britain gets its monarchy on the cheap. True, these accounts show some unnecessaray extravagance by the younger royals, especially the Duke of York whose inclination to mix duty and pleasure leads him to use charter aircraft when commercial services would be just as convenient and much less expensive. The Keeper of the Privy Purse, who oversees the royal budget claims that we are not trying to achieve the cheapest possible monarchy; our aim is a value-for-money monarchy. That aim seems to have been achieved.
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