Royals don't work, or do they?

My grandmother, who died a few years ago at the age of 90, was NOT a fan of the British royal family. She did, however, enjoy talking about how much she despised them.

Below is a remark she made to me in email in 2009:

“The Queen’s biggest chore of the day, when not knighting people, is to dress up in very lavish outfits, burdened under with priceless jewelry, wearing a crown. Her husband just follows behind her with his hands behind his back when in public; otherwise he lays around like a dolt, except when playing polo. I don’t think he does very much of that these days. To me these so called royals are a bunch of pikers, living off the sweat of hard working people. I feel sad for them, when called upon to make an appearance occasionally.”

Hahahaha… Grandma should have been a writer.

Now, I think some anti-monarchists will admit that the British royal family members do have official duties beyond dressing up in jewels and laying around like dolts. It’s a job I personally would not relish — year after year of visiting factories, unveiling plaques, shaking hands with strangers, always smiling, always being polite and perfectly groomed, always watched (and spied upon), constantly criticized (or attacked) in the media.

But my grandmother didn’t want to hear that. As far as she was concerned, the royals spent their days eating bonbons and playing polo, and that was it. Many people share her point of view.

Popular figures like Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge sometimes seem exempt from such criticism. Certainly my grandmother never had a bad word to say about Diana no matter how many jewels she wore. Kate Middleton used to be derided in online gossip as “lazy,” but her marriage to Prince William seems to have muted that line of attack.

Until recently Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall was also called lazy. As her popularity has grown, her reputation for laziness seems to have faded. Now she is applauded for working hard at being glamorous. Diana and Kate have, of course, received the same kind of praise. But is looking good more difficult or more important — more of a “real job” — than mundane royal duties like making speeches, promoting charities and awarding medals?

People who say royals “don’t work” may not always mean that official royal duties have zero value. “They don’t work” may simply be shorthand for “I don’t think royalty should exist in the modern world” — although an exception may be made for glamorous princesses.

What do you think? Do royals work — and if so, does their work have value?

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