Social Justice

How much is King Charles's coronation costing in the cost of living crisis?

Pomp, revelry and a controversial quiche awaits the country this weekend. Is the coronation tone deaf or an opportunity for joy in the cost of living crisis?

A photo of King Charles sits in the middle of a red, white and gold porcelain plate on display for the King's coronation

King Charles III plates for sale ahead of his Coronation on April 9, 2023 in London, England. The Coronation of King Charles III and The Queen Consort will take place on May 6, part of a three-day celebration. Image: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

King Charles’ coronation will cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds at the very least. 

With the backdrop of a cost of living crisis, in which people are going hungry and sleeping on the streets, campaigners fear the pomp and revelry is off the mark. 

Downing Street and Buckingham Palace remain tight-lipped over the figures, but estimates put the cost of the coronation around £100million.

“The coronation will be very costly, perhaps costing as much as £100m although no estimates are currently available,” royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told the Big Issue. 

“There will be those who feel that such expenditure cannot be justified during a cost of living crisis, when many are suffering hardship.”

That is enough money to give all food banks in the UK a donation of more than £38,000 each. It is enough to cover the cost of 41 million free school meals. And it is enough to pay for 25 million copies of the Big Issue

“The coronation is a celebration of hereditary power and privilege,” Graham Smith, the chief executive of anti-monarchy campaign group Republic, said. “It has no place in a modern society. 

“At a cost of tens of millions of pounds this pointless piece of theatre is a slap in the face for millions of people struggling with the cost of living crisis.”

The Queen’s coronation seven decades ago cost £1.57m, which is roughly £50m today after inflation is taken into account. But her son’s coronation is expected to cost far more.

A source told The Sun: “In today’s money the 1953 coronation cost around £50million but estimates for King Charles’ are twice that because of things like security, which weren’t such a big issue back then.” 

This ballpark figure of £100m is the one most publications have cited, although The Mirror goes further at £250m, with around £150m of that spent on security. 

“The government contributes funding to national state occasions,” a spokesperson for the government told the Big Issue. “As with all events of this kind, we are unable to give costs, or a breakdown of funding, until after the event has concluded.”

Fitzwilliams explained the Queen’s coronation was held in a time of rationing, only eight years after the war.

“Despite the dreadful weather, it lifted the nation’s spirits and launched television,” he said. “It was one of the most spectacular royal events in history, costing an estimated £50 million in today’s money.”

But the public has a very different attitude towards the monarchy now. A recent YouGov poll found that 64 per cent of Brits don’t care about the coronation, with only 9 per cent saying they cared a great deal.

Still, King Charles has promised a more stripped-back coronation than his mother’s.

The Queen had over 8,000 guests but her son will have just 2,000, according to Fitzwilliams. And the military contingent of 6,000 for this coronation is a fraction of the 35,000 the Queen had.

“The route the Gold Coach takes after the ceremony is a quarter as long as the Queen took, though security is obviously involved in this,” Fitzwilliams added. “The three hour ceremony is down to two, and it has numerous aspects that reflect contemporary Britain, diversity and sustainability are at its heart.”

The King has also been lauded for The Big Help Out, which is billed as a volunteering extravaganza, giving people the opportunity to give back to their communities. 

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But other aspects of the coronation have been criticised as “out of touch” and even “scandalous”. 

Around £8m has reportedly been set aside for every public body to get a free portrait of the new King. As teachers strike for better pay in the cost of living crisis, at least a picture of a 74-year-old millionaire smiling on the schools’ walls will fill them with patriotic pride. 

“The government has lost the plot if they think that people want their money spent on pictures of Charles,” Smith, the chief executive of Republic, said. “They need to scrap this scheme and direct the money where it’s really needed. This waste is absolutely scandalous.”

There is the added symbolism of the event too. King Charles will arrive in a golden carriage before he has a bejewelled crown (itself worth millions) perched on his head. Meanwhile, thousands of people are being pushed into poverty, starving and sleeping on the streets. 

“Any institution should be able to justify its cost to the taxpayer,” Fitzwilliams said. “Around the world, billions will see all or part of it. It will have a huge benefit on hospitality and tourism and also lift our morale.”

Pubs are expecting to pour more pints in celebration of the coronation (or at least an extra bank holiday) and restaurants may well see more people booking tables. 

The Centre for Economics and Business Research has found an extra bank holiday adds £500m to the British economy. 

But the Monday off or many could actually be a blow to the economy overall. As companies shut their offices for a day, government modelling puts the cost of extra bank holidays at £1.36bn. Other estimates go higher.

In 2011, a national holiday was declared for William and Kate’s wedding. At the time, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills predicted the extra bank holiday would cost the UK around £2.9bn.

Fitzwilliams admits the monarchy itself is costly too, with every person in the UK spending around £1.29 on them each year. And that figure excludes the cost of security. 

But he adds: “There are other benefits. The headship of the Commonwealth, which the Queen nurtured so well, our best use of soft power in royal visits abroad and state visits to Britain, a good deal of charitable work including the Prince’s Trust and the continuity and stability which the monarchy embodies makes the institution, which is above party politics, worth every penny.”

Whether the coronation, or even the monarchy itself, is really worth every single penny is a long debate which probably won’t come to a conclusion any time soon. In the meantime, at least we’ve got the coronation quiche to keep us happy.

Do you think King Charles’s coronation is worth every penny? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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