Why a slimmed down Monarchy isn’t right for right now

A tumultuous year for the Royals has shown a gap in their workforce

A recent garden party saw some minor Royals called on to lend a hand, and this year, it seems the Royal Family needs all the help that they can get.

2024 has already been quite a ride for the Royals so far, and not in a positive way. With both The King and The Princess of Wales stepping back from duties to focus on their cancer treatment, and The Queen and Prince of Wales slowing down in their duties so they can spend time with their partners in their time of need, there has been a decline in the number of public engagements being carried out by senior royals and therefore the visibility of the Monarchy.

There are not currently enough working Royals to undertake a full schedule of engagements

Slimming down an already slim Monarchy…?

There simply are not enough ‘working Royals’ to go around right now; that is, those who spend their days carrying out engagements on behalf of the King, or occasionally, to represent the government.

It’s no secret that Charles has always wanted a slimmed down monarchy, it’s a story that has circulated for years before he came to the throne. The main reason for this has been to portray the Royal Family as being less of a burden upon the public when it comes to their taxes.

But, as Princess Anne herself said in an interview in 2023: ‘Well, I think the ‘slimmed-down’ [comment] was said in a day when there were a few more people around’.

Back when Charles was first touting the idea, there were countless working Royals; he also had two sons who were slowly going to take on more and more work with their future partners. And even though that’s all changed, it seems he’s still going through with the idea.

Both King Charles and The Princess of Wales are undergoing cancer treatment

The current roster of Royals have a full diary and very little time to pick up engagements from anyone else – not to mention they are mostly all over the age of retirement! Both The Duchess of Edinburgh and Anne have stated they cannot take on anymore work; last year alone Anne carried out 410 engagements – which was second only to her brother The King.

Can minor Royals pick up some engagements?

Those who carry out the odd engagement outside of family events for charities and organisations they are affiliated with… should they be allowed to step up in times of need?

Royals have to be seen to be believed, and all arguments to do with the Royal Family and the costs surrounding them are usually answered with the fact that the Royals do a lot of work, highlighting many important causes and representing the UK on a global stage.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. (Royal Family).

Since Brexit, royal visits abroad have taken on a different colour, due to the government using the soft power of the Royal Family to build relationships with countries within Europe, hoping connections and deals can be made. As non-political figures, members of the Royal Family are the perfect representatives to send abroad.

Other visits to Commonwealth countries are used to cement the ties already there and make them stronger in a world where most countries want to cut ties. They are also of course a way to deploy this soft diplomacy for such nations.

As for royal patronages, the Royal Family’s website itself states: ‘Having a Royal Patron or President provides vital publicity for the work of these organisations, and allows their enormous achievements and contributions to society to be recognised and promoted.’

Princess Anne, at 72, is one of the busiest Royals

When it comes to their patronages, Royals don’t just turn up to events when asked. They are kept abreast of any news, and staying in contact behind-the-scenes, sometimes connecting people in their influential network with these organisations.

Lots of organisations prefer Royals over celebrities as patrons, not only for the attention Royals can bring to them, which can in turn generate funding – but celebrities can come and go, depending on the whims of the media and the public, alongside their ability to secure work and stay relevant. Royals? They’re here for the long-haul, thinking, instead, in generations.

The Royals have to be seen to be believed

Lately however, there has been a lack of seeing… so could there naturally follow a lack of believing?

We have seen this when it comes to William and Catherine. In recent years, both have been portrayed as ‘work shy’ for the number of engagements they carry out compared to others in the family. Much of this was down to the fact they wanted to spend more time with their children, to give them a quasi-normal upbringing, and Queen Elizabeth II approved, knowing William was not far off the throne.

The Prince and Princess of Wales have previously been accused of being workshy

The public and media, however did not seem to approve, with many comments being passed and articles being written about their lack of work and how they are seen to be enjoying all the perks of royalty without much of the commitment.

Now they are next in line, as Prince and Princess of Wales, we are slowly seeing them carve their own path. That carving of the path has has to be postponed for some time due to Kate’s health issues however, but William is starting to take on more and more work as the months progress. He is very obviously paving his way and becoming more statesman like in his work.

Just look at this latest tweet from Kensington Palace – it is almost like a politician’s post.

The public understands that health comes first, and that family members will want to be there for their own in times of need. But they also need to be shown that the Royal Family is a justifiable expense of their taxes, especially in a cost of living crisis.

So what is to be done? The answer to this lies with the minor Royals.

Can minor Royals like Beatrice and Eugenie become working Royals? 

A few weeks ago, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, Zara and Mike Tindall and Peter Phillips joined Prince William and The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester for a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

Embed from Getty Images

And as they spoke with members of the public in the rain, they were sending a message to the world – when needed, they will step up.

It later came out that William had invited them via WhatsApp to join him for the event…

‘Come rain or shine, I was delighted to support my family to meet some special individuals at the Buckingham Palace garden party who have gone above and beyond to support their local communities and the country’, Princess Eugenie posted on Instagram afterwards.

These Royals want to help, they want to take on their share of the load in a time of need, and The King needs to let them. Allowing them to do an engagement or two a week will take the pressure off the older members of the family, ensure that charities and organisations will still receive some sort of royal visit – even if it isn’t from the Royal they originally expected – and ensure that the family are still seen in public doing the important work they always do.

Could Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie support their uncle with some official engagements? (Tim Regan)

We could see them visit organisations that they have a tie to, giving them the chance to highlight their work and the organisation which may be overshadowed by more senior Royals at times. They can also host events on behalf of the more senior Royals at one of the royal residences, or step in as a replacement if needed, at short notice.

Tradition dictates that non-working Royals don’t do this however. But we know that the Monarchy can – and must – make small changes to stay relevant, and fulfil its role.

While funding is a slightly trickier topic (Beatrice and Eugenie have their own careers, although Zara’s equestrian efforts appear to be more flexible), the York Princesses in particular already carry out a handful of engagements per year around work.

The King may be able to support such work (i.e. the cost of travel) from his own private income, thus preventing the waters of public money from being muddied, although security – it is understood that the Princesses have had their own privately-funded security for at least a decade – might be trickier if they act in any official capacity.

There is also the added complication of Harry and Meghan being told they could not be both financially independent and represent the Monarchy when they left their roles – but the circumstances have since changed, and Beatrice and Eugenie have gone about their careers without fuss, and appearing to not traded in on their royal links.

The minor Royals could become, if not the face of the monarchy then at least strong supporting acts, by carrying out public facing duties. It would allow the family to be seen and the public to believe.

We are seeing this happening a little recently – Princess Beatrice gave an interview to This Morning last month. Is this a soft launch of her more prominent public-facing work? Is there more to come?

We have heard so much about the benefits of a ‘slimmed down Monarchy’ and Charles is very conscious of the view of the public. But The King needs to also think about the future of the Monarchy, and in doing so, he’ll realise that if they want to stay relevant then he needs to beef up the numbers of working Royals…

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