It was easy days since the midterm elections and the country doesn’t even know yet which party will control the House of Representatives, so it’s understandable that John Oliver and his team at Last Week Tonight haven’t touched on the election in their main story – but Oliver started the show off by acknowledging the Democrats’ surprisingly poor performance. It also managed viewer expectations.
“The prospect of a DeSantis president is just one of the worrisome things that popped up under all the good news on Tuesday,” Oliver said. “There was a chance the Republicans would take over the House, and if they do, they can lock Biden up for the next two years with stunts like holding the whole country hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, and , I don’t know, launch an investigation into Biden’s Peleton race story.
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The main story of the evening was about the British Monarchy, or as Oliver described it, “the best thing that’s happened to white actors since literally everything else”. The queen has been dead for a few months; Charles, who turns 75 on Monday, is now king; and the UK faces an even worse cost of living crisis than America. So Oliver thought it was a good time to ask a pretty simple question: what is the (expensive) monarchy for?
In literal terms, the British monarch is the symbolic head of state; they receive visiting dignitaries and heads of state from other countries, they themselves make official visits abroad – perhaps most particularly to present and former countries and protectorates of the British Commonwealth – and they make more mundane things like visiting British factories and sending British citizens birthday cards on their 100th birthday.
“Think of the royal family like Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland,” Oliver said. “They don’t run the rides, but they are a mascot for the whole operation and people like to have their picture taken with them.”
The UK Government gives the Royal Family around £100million a year – equivalent to just over £1 per Briton – as part of the annual Sovereign Grant to help the family meet their functions and buying fancy ties and hats or whatever. . Supporters of the family claim they generate around £500million a year in tourism, which is a very good return on investment, but Oliver pointed out that the £500million figure is hotly contested. after all, tourists still flock to the Palace of Versailles even though the lazy descendants of Louis XIV don’t live there.
The family also earns money in other ways. The Duchy of Lancaster, a portfolio of land seized by the royal family in the 13th century, is worth over £1 billion. Much like the Duchy of Cornwall, land held by the Prince of Wales, a title King Charles long held until it passed to his son, Prince William. Together, the duchies earn the family tens of millions of dollars a year.
The duchies are exempt from corporation tax and Charles did not have to pay inheritance tax on anything he inherited from his mother. In a nutshell, the family is burdened and the people of Britain give them an extra £100 million every year to do what they do.
“The wealth of the royal family, unlike their genetic heritage, is enormous,” Oliver said.
The existence of the royal family is far more problematic outside of Britain in the many places once occupied by British colonizers. Not only were the native peoples of these places brutalized and ostracized in the name of the crown, but the royal family grew rich by founding and running a company that was the largest supplier of slaves in America. And Britain’s depraved mistreatment of colonized indigenous peoples is not just a relic of the distant past. From snatching indigenous children from their families and forcing them to attend horrific schools of assimilation, to torturing and murdering Kenyans during the Mau Mau Rebellion, the reign of Queen Elizabeth is tainted with racist savagery, for which the royal family has never truly apologized.
“Tome, [the royal family] is like a human appendage,” Oliver said. “We have long since moved beyond their need and there is a compelling case for their surgical removal.”
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