The royal family is masterful when it comes to publicity, from managing images of Kate Middleton’s enviable style to news of her third pregnancy and of Prince Harry’s Hollywood romance with Meghan Markle.
But their roles as diplomats are being questioned by a member of Parliament, who calls family members “ridiculous” and once compared the Middletons to the Kardashians.
During Monday’s labor conference, according to Sky News, Emma Dent Coad, a member of Parliament for Kensington, said of Middleton and Prince William, “Their MP thinks the system is ridiculous. We should not be funding them.”
She added that Middleton’s reported purchase of $200 dresses was “disgusting,” noting, “That’s a food bill for a family of four,” and “That’s absolutely outrageous.”
Sky News also reported that Dent Coad slammed the BBC’s coverage of the family, calling out what she said was “sickeningly gratuitous coverage of anything royal” and noting that the station was “very heavily directed by right-wing politics and the monarchy.”
“It is a piece of the whole propaganda machine,” she said.
It’s not the first time Dent Coad has railed against the royals. In July, she compared Kate’s family — siblings Pippa and James Middleton and parents Carole and Michael — to the Kardashian family for their combined 17 appearances at Wimbleton, the style details of which were breathlessly reported.
“I say the Middletons are like the Kardashians now, because they are such film stars,” Dent Coad remarked to an anti-monarch campaign group, according to the Daily Mail. “It just shows how much it has all changed.”
And after Queen Elizabeth and Prince William visited survivors of Grenfell Tower, a building in West London that caught fire and killed 30 people in June, Dent Coad said it would not be a privilege to meet the queen and that she had once turned down the opportunity.
So how did the royal family evolve from an actual governing power to bona fide celebrities who sell stuffed corgis in the royal gift shop? Blame three significant 17th-century events, according to a detailed account published in the Atlantic: British Parliament began rising to power, kings transitioned from warriors to diplomats, and a class system was established, along with the practice of wealthy families — including the monarchy — hosting social events.
Fast-forward to the 1980's, when Diana, Princess of Wales, fondly known as the “People’s Princess,” revamped the role by focusing her charity work on unique issues such as HIV/AIDS and homelessness. And Middleton, a commoner before marrying Prince William in 2011, is carrying the torch with her down-to-earth charm (she poses for selfies with fans), affinity for budget brands Gap and Zara, and photogenic hair.
But the popularity of the royals tends to fluctuate. In May 2016, according to global marketing firm Ipsos Mori, public approval for Prince William declined by 11 percent from 2012, possibly due to Will’s so-called lax work ethic (he then worked 20 hours a week as an air ambulance pilot).
However, one year later, a survey conducted by the Sun U.K. found that more than half of British citizens wanted William to take the throne above his father Prince Charles.
Middleton’s likableness has also been debated. In 2011, one percent of people said they would trade places with her and less than one-third said they would want to be her friend, per a Newsweek/YouGov poll. However, the public remains obsessed, dubbing her “best celebrity body” and “most influential style icon.”
The royal family generates its income — $386 million per year, according to the Telegraph — with private and public funding, such as the Sovereign Grant (paid for by the government), which covers travel and palace bills, and the Privy Purse, money from royal properties, such as Balmoral and Sandringham Estates, where Will and Kate spend much of their time.
Per the royal family’s official website, the role of the monarchy is to carry out more than 2,000 official engagements, including attending state banquets and garden parties, strengthen economic and diplomatic relations with other countries, and serve as patrons at various charities.
So who, if not the royal family, is best to fulfill these obligations? “I would say if we are going to have princes and princesses then I would rather it was the Beckhams,” Dent Coad said in July, “because they have earned their own money.”