Royal wedding's expense questioned by British taxpayers

A lady holds Prince William and Kate Middleton Union Jacks outside Darwen Community Academy in advance of the visit of the royal couple on April 11, 2011 in Darwen, England.

Steve Chiotakis: There's a big royal wedding a week from today. One that's garnered a lot of attention from around the world. And an event that, for some protesters of the British monarchy, underscores the need to get rid of the throne. And replace it with a more modern style of rule. One that doesn't cost as much money.

Reporter Christopher Werth explains.


Protesters: No more royal secrets, what have they got to hide?

Christopher Werth: On a cold afternoon in London, about 40 protesters stand outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, calling for the Queen of England to pack up her bags and go.

Protester: I'm very proud to see a good turnout. And we're going to keep on protesting until we get rid of the monarchy and we can one day elect our head of state!

These are republicans -- a term with a very different meaning in the U.K. -- who want to see Britain's centuries-old system of hereditary kings and queens replaced with a democratically elected president.

Tony Mitchell: I want to live in a democracy as you do in the United States.

Tony Mitchell is a retired schoolteacher who came out for the protest organized by a group called Republic. It says since the royal wedding was announced nearly five months ago, the organization has seen a 50 percent jump in its number of supporters. Many, like Mitchell, don't want the taxpayer to pay for it.

Mitchell: The queen is one of the richest women in the world. She should foot the bill for the wedding.

To be fair, the royal family say it is paying for the wedding itself. But Graham Smith, Republic's spokesman, says the British taxpayer is still on the hook for anywhere from $13 to $30 million in security and other related costs.

Graham Smith: It's costing the country an enormous amount of money to have this wedding.

Not so, says Barry Tweeg of the Constitutional Monarchy Association. It's a group that supports the royal family. He says overall, the total cost of having the monarchy is actually quite affordable.

Barry Tweeg: When you work it out, it costs no more than two pints of milk per person per year.

In other words: about $60 million annually. But Graham Smith says when you add in other costs like private helicopters and the revenue the royal family earns -- and keeps -- from its landholdings, that figure is more like $300 million. And that expense will be even more scrutinized during this time of deep public spending cuts in Britain.

From London, I'm Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

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