Queen Elizabeth II is catching flak on Twitter and in the press for being "out of touch" after delivering her annual Christmas address at Buckingham Palace with a lavish gold piano behind her.
"Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding," the Queen said during the speech.
"Even the power of faith, which frequently inspires great generosity and self-sacrifice, can fall victim to tribalism. But through the many changes I have seen over the years: faith, family and friendship have been not only a constant for me, but a source of personal comfort and reassurance."
The 91-year-old monarch's words seem pretty benign: She doesn't actually scold viewers or tell anyone to, say, put on a sweater, as President Jimmy Carter once did with disastrous results. But the juxtaposition of her speech and the piano, a symbol of her substantial wealth, seems to have been enough to unsettle citizens who are already on edge about Brexit.
"Privileged wealthy hereditary monarch bunged £76m a year, sitting in front of a golden piano in the palace she's billing taxpayers £369m to tart up, kills satire by lecturing the nation to pull together," wrote Kevin Maguire, associate editor at the Daily Mirror, in a tweet that has since been liked 12,000 times.
"Ah the Queen's message. I love getting yelled at by an old publicly-funded billionaire with a gold piano that we should all be happier and less angry," wrote a resident of New Zealand.
Others poked fun at the outrage. "Oh no, they're going to find out the Queen is a wealthy hereditary monarch," wrote Josh Barro, a columnist for New York Magazine.
The Queen's personal wealth totals at least $520 million, which is the most of anyone in the family, Wealth-X estimates. The private wealth of all of the family members together would top $1 billion.
The royal family cost Britain roughly $96 million in 2018 through the Sovereign Grant. That's not a hefty individual burden — it comes out to less than a pound per taxpayer per year — but it can still rile people up. The Grant currently includes $38 million for the renovation of Buckingham Palace, which has 775 rooms.
The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May was estimated to cost a whopping $40 million, including security. The campaign group Republic, which calls for abolishing the monarchy, circulated a petition calling on the government to disclose how much taxpayer money would be spent on the wedding.
"Taxpayers should not be funding a private wedding, no matter who is getting married," the petition stated. It garnered over 35,000 signatures.
Supporters of the royal family argued that, considering the attention and tourism that the wedding attracted, the event would pay for itself. Indeed, the consultancy firm Brand Finance estimated in 2017 that the family brings in $2.27 billion to the U.K. economy each year.
Regardless of the overall effect the monarchy has on the country, it's clear that not everyone appreciates its existence, and the royal family may have less leeway to make mistakes or come off as tone deaf. As the feminist website The Mary Sue puts it, "The Queen and the monarchy are filthy rich, and many, many people are struggling. Once we might have gazed on the piano with admiration as a symbol of power and riches, but in our current environment it feels obscene."
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