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Is the Royal Family important?

I was having a discussion with my eldest son over dinner this evening about royalty and one query that arose was whether the British Royal Family are the focus of many tourist's visit to the UK or is it more about the legacy? Are people interested in seeing Buckingham Palace for example because it's a royal palace or do they want to visit because they're hoping to see the King? Clearly people don't visit the Tower of London hoping to see members of the Royal Family and it would appear that people aren't clamouring to visit Frogmore House or Clarence House for example.

If the UK became a republic would it still hold the same attraction for visitors? I gave the example of the Palace of Versailles as somewhere that is still incredibly popular with tourists despite France no longer having a monarchy.

Posted by
3342 posts

If the UK became a republic would it still hold the same attraction for visitors?

It would to me - the history is intriguing enough with no reason to elevate the descendants just for being descendants.

By the way, we really enjoyed our brief visit in Portsmouth last September.

Posted by
8656 posts

I wanted to reply. I tried three times. Each time the answer became political. I will just summarize simply. The appeal of the UK goes far beyond the Royal Family.

Posted by
6685 posts

For me, it would make zero difference if UK became a republic. I've been to the UK many times and the monarchy has had no impact on those trips. The only vaguely royal-related tourist thing I've done is to take a photo of the café where prince William and Kate Middleton apparently met. And only because they had a large sign about it, which I thought was an odd thing to advertise.

I've never been to Buckingham Palace, there are other things I've considered more important when I've been in London. I might visit sometime, but because it's a beautiful building, not because it's a royal palace. As you mentioned, Versailles is still a very impressive palace. Just like Sanssouci in Potsdam. And Neuschwanstein still gets a lot of visitors.

Although I live i a monarchy myself, and that might influence my opinion? I've seen the Swedish royals several times and I would never plan a trip around it.

Posted by
714 posts

I like the UK because of the landscapes, the history, the people. I also have English ancestry and still have cousins who reside there. Yet, people being individuals, there must be those who go just in case they might spot a royal. Highly unlikely they will and if they do, then what? It’s akin to going to Los Angeles in hopes you’ll spot a film star.
I think there would still be a huge draw for visitors, royalty or not. There is so much more to the UK than the royal family.

Posted by
465 posts

I look at the trappings of the Royal Family as part of what makes a UK trip interesting, but certainly not the main reason for going. I like to see the royal buildings as symbols of the country and its history, but I would never expect to actually see the members of the family. Of course the royal story is just part of the UK's existence--and there are so many more stories to be told by those who are not in "The Firm", and so many places to see (particularly for me, in the outdoors) that are beyond the scope of what happens in the palaces.

Posted by
7078 posts

It would make no difference to me as a tourist if the monarchy was no longer there. The history will always be there and that's what I think most tourists go there for- that and the current 'regular' people. As you mentioned, the palaces in other countries are still tourist magnets even though there may no longer be a monarchy. The natural attractions and historical places are the main reason I go anywhere as a tourist.

Posted by
14288 posts

It would make zero difference to me either. I go to UK for the history and sights.

I DID do a London Walks special coronation walk last May the week before the big event. It was fun to see all the bunting and flags going up and nice to get explanations from the guide on what was to happen plus the discussion of historic sights along the way. I've been to Buckingham Palace but mostly just to see the inside. I've been to Windsor Castle and never expected to see the Queen when she was alive nor have I been looking for them as I go thru the city.

When I was in Shetland this summer we were told the Queen of Norway made a low key/non state trip there a few weeks earlier to see the sites pertinent to the Shetland Bus and it would have been a kick to see a Queen strolling the streets there.

Posted by
7468 posts

Some of the royalty would be fun to see and others I wouldn’t bother going to see if I knew they were nearby. Same with souvenir memorabilia.

We did see the new sculpture memorial of Queen Elizabeth when we were outside York Minster last June, and that was special.

There’s so much to enjoy about the UK! The royalty or absence of a royalty wouldn’t affect our desire to travel there.

Posted by
2633 posts

My love of the Royal family has always been very much focused on Queen Elizabeth II, but my deep and abiding love of the UK goes way back to my childhood when the only books I deemed worth reading were set there and thus began my life-long fascination.

While I would be delighted to glimpse any of the present Royal family, that's not why I have visited Windsor Castle (oh, that doll's house), Buckingham Palace (my only chance to have lunch at the Queen's house, as I thought of it), Kensington Palace (the room where Queen Victoria was born!), the Tower 6 times (incredibly unique, and of course--ravens!!), Holyrood Palace (Mary, Queen of Scots' chambers) and the Royal Yacht Britannia--each had the draw of being historic and filled with interesting things.

If the UK became a republic I don't think that would dim its glory one bit.

Posted by
2127 posts

I think if the Royal family all "pulled a Harry" and decided they were done with it all, I think the interest (or call it appeal) of the palace, the history, and still even those who were royalty would still intrigue many visitors. The mere fact that the royal structure has survived so long is interesting in and of itself.

When most of us visit ANY country, the historical places, traditions, the beauty of the place itself...and the history of it all (and how it has morphed or not morphed) are part of the appeal. Many travelers like to step outside their normal boxes geographically and philosophically (as they see/watch/absorb a bit of the countries they visit......call it "on the ground learning."). And many of you, like us, likely pay a bit more attention to international news when somewhere you have visited (or plan to visit) is referenced.

If I saw a royal, oh yes it would be fun, as it was when I was about 15 feet away from a US president many decades ago (when he visited Nashville). Being in the same room with Margaret Thatcher (though not a royal) was exciting when she visited Nashville decades ago, and I got to hear her speak. It's just fun to see/be around those we normally only see on the news.

Posted by
15723 posts

I don't believe the number of visitors to the UK has dropped since the passing of the Queen.

I'm sure some go to the UK because of the "royalty" but I'd bet most go for other reasons.

I visited Buck House when it first opened to the public after the Windsor Fire. I was interested to see what it looked like inside. It was opulent. I knew the Queen wasn't in residence.

I don't go to the UK because of the Royal Family.

Posted by
4308 posts

I visit the UK for the incredible history and that includes royalty. I think it would be very cool if I saw the King but I don't make a pilgrimage to try and spot Royals.

Posted by
11534 posts

People flock to the Colosseum despite the fact there are no gladiatorial games.

I suspect the British tourist sights would enjoy the same popularity in the absence of Royalty

Posted by
3823 posts

I can't speak for other tourists, but I don't go to the UK because of the Royal Family. I don't have any wish to see any of them. I did see the late Queen Elizabeth II in a gold carriage on her way to the opening of Parliament in 2016. Our taxi was stopped at an intersection and she passed right in front of our vehicle, with the accompanying horse guards in front and back of her. That was amazing, as I was a huge fan of hers But I didn't plan that; it was purely by accident.

We go to England because we are interested in its history and seeing the oldest remnants of that history. Many of the royals that we are interested in have been dead for several hundred years. Many are buried in Westminster Abbey. One is buried in Leicester Cathedral. Several are buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

If the UK became a republic would it still hold the same attraction for visitors?

Yes, because of the natural beauty of the landscape, hiking trails, lovely villages, medieval town centers such as in York, cathedrals, Roman baths and ruins, beaches, castles, museums, great train transportation. None of this has anything to do with the present-day royals.

Posted by
442 posts

Sorry, I'm sure I've told this story before...one of my fondest memories as a little Canadian girl was having QE II's face less than an arm's length from mine. She was leaning over speaking to the little girl guide ('scout') in front of me in Vancouver. While I'd find it fun to see a current royal, but not because I hold respect for them the way I did for QE. It certainly would not change the pull of the UK if they all "pulled a Harry" LOL. For all the reasons stated by others, because it reminds me of my youth (year of college there), and because it's my blood, I hope to spend many more days, weeks, and hopefully some months, in the Isles before I turn to ashes. I rather regret not taking the opportunity of residency in my youth so I could've claimed UK citizenship through my grandmother.

Posted by
7030 posts

For me it's the history and the fact that so much of our culture and laws come from England. I like the Royals and as others have said, it would be interesting to see one (although that makes them sound like prize pandas on display), but the main appeal of England is the country and its people. I think Bill Bryson said it best in his wonderful book, Notes from a Small Island.

Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain - which is to say, all of it. Every last bit of it, good and bad - Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying 'mustn't grumble' and 'I'm terribly sorry but', people apologizing to me when I conk them with a nameless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays - every bit of it.

What a wondrous place this was - crazy as f*ck, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec and Farleigh Wallop, or a game like cricket that goes on for three days and never seems to start? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? ... What other nation in the world could possibly have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardners' Question Time and the chocolate digestive biscuit? None, of course.

How easily we lose sight of all this. What an enigma Britain will seem to historians when they look back on the second half of the twentieth century. Here is a country that fought and won a noble war, dismantled a mighty empire in a generally benign and enlightened way, created a far-seeing welfare state - in short, did nearly everything right - and then spent the rest of the century looking on itself as a chronic failure. The fact is that this is still the best place in the world for most things - to post a letter, go for a walk, watch television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, go to a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek help, or stand on a hillside and take in a view.

All of this came to me in the space of a lingering moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like it here. I like it more than I can tell you.. - Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island

Posted by
442 posts

Yes! I agree with Bill! Now, I'll open my next box of chocolate digestives!

Posted by
14288 posts

"I did see the late Queen Elizabeth II in a gold carriage on her way to the opening of Parliament in 2016."

Oh Rebecca! You made me remember! I saw the procession as it went toward Westminster Abbey for the wedding of Andy and Fergie in 1986. It was entirely accidental as my ex-husb and I were making our way from somewhere to the Tate as it was called then. The coolest thing was all the horses and carriages parked up on the surrounding streets. NO security or at least none that I remembered and you could just walk along and look. Did see the Queen, Diana, Queen Mother, and Sarah Ferguson. Very cool, unplanned and a mob scene from which we gladly escaped.

Posted by
3823 posts

Mardee, well said! I totally agree with you and Bill Bryson!
Great little book, Notes From A Small Island.

Pam, very cool! You just happened to be in the right place at the right time!

Posted by
8661 posts

As long as the Republic doesn't engage in public beheadings, the interest will remain, just be different. Americans are drawn to ceremony, titles, glamour, and above all, public displays of wealth. We've absorbed too much British culture, language, and customs to let that go. I doubt if the average American could name one other country with a monarch, or understand the role of the current British monarchy in the government. of the UK.

Posted by
604 posts

Living in a country where I have been singing God Save The Queen (haven’t sung it since Charles became King) for 60 years at school assemblies etc. I go to the UK not as a Commonwealth member citizen but out of a love of English literature, history and its geography. On all my trips I have not been to any sight that is currently directly related to the Royal Family and don’t see that changing in future visits. Of course English royalty has touched many of its institutions for centuries so it’s impossible to be arms length with all activities. It does boggle the mind however, all the money that supports them and we Commonwealth countries get to foot the bill with each visit… now I know I’m being political….but that is part of the reason I don’t choose to visit their palaces etc.

Posted by
351 posts

^ What mardee said 😊

I did adore the Queen- but it was for what she stood for as a strong woman and her dedication to her countrymen and women, way more so than because she was royalty. If it was decided today the Royal Family was to just be a “family”and the UK became a republic, my quest to visit and revisit the UK would not change one bit. My crew just loves it there!

Posted by
1882 posts

I think Mardee and mustlove dogs said it so well and I love that book by Bill Bryson. I have been fascinated by England since I was a little girl. My Mum was a great Anglophile and pretty much thought if it was British it must be better. I follow the Royals, but sometimes for the same reason folks follow the Kardashians......you can't believe they just said or did that. I am an amateur historian with English history being my special interest. The Royals are a big part of that history, but I would definitely come to the Republic of England as it would still seem like 'home' to me.

Posted by
7576 posts

If I'm not mistaken, Buckingham Palace, is only open to public when the sovereign is not in residence. Of course that statement does not apply to the annual garden party for the "public" or other state events to which someone might have an invitation. Attending the changing of the guard is not likely to produce a view of a Royal.

Posted by
5428 posts

Thank you for all your replies and despite it being only a small representative sample the response has confirmed my thoughts on the subject.

Personally I find the idea of a monarchy in this day and age to be an anachronism but I'm far from being a staunch republican however it's interesting to see how tourists visiting the UK view the Royal Family and how much or little bearing it has on their decision to visit.

Posted by
265 posts

Shakespeare, The Beatles, Harry Potter, the UK is so much more than the royal family. (That being said, I love the pomp and circumstance associated with them and would happily line up on The Mall if I was there at the right time.)

Posted by
938 posts

If I'm not mistaken, Buckingham Palace, is only open to public when the sovereign is not in residence.

I think it's quite rare that a monarch actually stays there at all. They have their pick of a handful of other palaces where they don't have to look out the window at commoners all day.

Personally, I'd rather see the headline palaces like Buckingham Palace, Windsor, The Tower of London, Balmoral etc. come into public hands, where people that actually represent us decide when we, and visitors to this country, can see them. The opening of Buckingham Palace to the public was a token gesture by the monarchy at the time of the Windsor fire because there was such outrage at how much repairs (to Windsor Castle) would cost the public purse.

Much as I love Lucy Worsley, I don't want to the only glimpse of the renaissance masterpieces and works by the Dutch masters in the "private" collections of the Royal Family to be just that; a fleeting glimpse on her TV show. I think we can do better in improving accessibility to things that people visiting the UK might want to see.

Posted by
2017 posts

While there are foreign royal fans, I think it's more about seeing the castles, buildings and architects. I went to Windsor Castle and I can't recall if the Queen was even there. What did intrigue was the building itself, the magnificent ceilings and furniture and the city.

I think for most people the UK would still be a favorite even without the Royals/or it may make it better:) I went to Samsucci and the Residence in both Munich and Salzburg and loved learning about the history even though the royalty is no more.

Posted by
33339 posts

the focus has been on the British Royal family. No discussions about the other royal families and royalty, such as Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Monaco, etc.?

Posted by
938 posts

I made reference to them in an earlier post that was moderated Nigel. The post maybe contained some less reasoned and more flippant arguments, [edit: and wasn't particularly travel related overall] so fair play to the mods.

Posted by
2113 posts

I’ve been to the British Isles six times for the history and countryside beauty. My grandfather was born in Wales. I’m also a decedent of King Ethelred the Unready which I did not know until after my 6th visit. My visits were not royal related, nor did I even think about seeing a royal.
My interest in a return visit is to meet up with a distant cousin who lives in Wales. She found me on Ancestry.

Posted by
14580 posts

My first place outside of CA, the first place away from home as a Calif boy literally, was England the summer of 1971. I've been back to London and England numerous times. Its belief in the institution of constitutional monarchy is absolutely an additional incentive for me to continue with the repeated visits there, eg, the next one set for this Sept.

If the monarchy were abolished , that would be unthinkable and most regrettable , still , I would go back to England and London as a republic. I do likewise with France, even more so, a republic, the 5th since 1958 thanks to De Gaulle.

Keep in mind too that the monarchy as an institution is in and of itself a magnet for international tourists. That means money. See numerous different nationalities and hear the various foreign languages at The Changing of the Guard.

Posted by
6685 posts

Personally I find the idea of a monarchy in this day and age to be an
anachronism but I'm far from being a staunch republican however it's
interesting to see how tourists visiting the UK view the Royal Family
and how much or little bearing it has on their decision to visit.

I'm not taking part in that debate, but a small comment from another monarchy: You'll need a better argument than "it attracts tourists" if you're going to keep the monarchy.

Posted by
111 posts

My interest in the UK started as a setting for the books I read as a child. I plan my trips to UK based on authors - so an Austen trip, or Agatha Christie, etc.

Posted by
4019 posts

the focus has been on the British Royal family. No discussions about the other royal families and royalty, such as Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Monaco, etc.?

I find that Americans are only really interested in the English monarchy, sometimes to the point that I think they feel regret for having split from the empire.

I think Americans traveling to Europe are often surprised that there are also other Monarchies in supposedly progressive Europe like Sweden, the Low Countries, or Spain.

Posted by
938 posts

King Juan Carlos cut a bit of a dash back in the day, but I couldn't tell you anything about the current Spanish monarchy.

Posted by
4019 posts

King Juan Carlos cut a bit of a dash back in the day,

Yes (I think that's a complement lol), at least in Spain our King had a very important role in bringing democracy to my country after the Franco dictatorship in the late 70s and into the 80s. Juan Carlos also was able to stop a fascist coup of Spain's young parliament in the 80s.

Perhaps in other European countries, thier Monarchies have become an expensive superficiality of a bygone age. In Spain at least our Monarchy still has a real impact, it's been the glue that holds the country together for many centuries. Many in Spain, with good reason, believe that the country will fall apart if the monarchy is abolished. It already happened once before back in the '30s when Alfonso XIII was deposed and the Spanish Republic was established, Spain collapsed into civil war only a few short years later.

Posted by
938 posts

our King had a very important role in bringing democracy to my country after the Franco dictatorship

Yes, that's great. I had a vague awareness that he played a role post-Franco.

When I say he cut a dash, I mean I remember him as a very suave and debonair Spanish man from TV in my childhood.

Posted by
7030 posts

My interest in the UK started as a setting for the books I read as a child. I plan my trips to UK based on authors - so an Austen trip, or Agatha Christie, etc.

And Noel Streatfeild! I read all of her books when I was a kid and had this amazing picture of England in my head. I also loved Little Lord Fauntleroy and all the Frances Hodgson Burnett books.

Posted by
315 posts

Another Noel Streatfeild fan!! I also read all her books as a child, and recently gave "Skating Shoes" and a few others to my niece. I've met a relative of hers who lives in the States – quite a thrill :-)

About the royal family – my college roommate had lunch with Queen Elizabeth when she visited our campus (various students were chosen). I had zero interest in applying to be at the lunch – what would we talk about? lol – but I do think the royal family adds a certain anachronistic interest to the country. And all that pomp and circumstance, such as at the recent funeral – amazing and beautiful and so moving.

Edit: Reading my reply again, I see that I was much more excited about meeting "Mr Streatfeild" than I would be about meeting a member of the royal family. Perhaps I'll run into Harry or Meghan here in California, though ;-)
And YES, I have read and re-read "A Little Princess" and "The Secret Garden" many, many times. Imagine my disappointment when I found out that Ms Burnett moved to the States when she was a teenager (!).

Posted by
6671 posts

If the UK became a republic would it still hold the same attraction for visitors?

Maybe not for some, if they're focused only on pageantry and celebrity. But for most, the history, art, architecture, scenery, and all the rest would still be there. The palaces might be repurposed, though some might be more accessible because used only for tourism (like Versailles). The legacy surely outdraws the celebrity, for grown-ups anyway.

I studied European history and lived in England for a year, so I was glued to the TV for the Queen's funeral and the King's coronation (enduring ridicule from my wife). I think the monarch (of any country) provides a symbol of national unity that America lacks now. That kind of symbolic leadership has value, and is also found in ceremonial presidencies like Germany, Italy, and others. But it doesn't make much difference as far as tourism goes. German and Italian presidents live in very nice houses (I think Rome's is the Quirinal Palace), but does anyone those countries to see where the president lives?

Interesting topic, JC and other posters. And best wishes and thoughts for the king's health.