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Don’t tell a soul, but I love your monarchy

The King and Queen: a “unifying force”? Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty

Hanging around Buckingham Palace, says Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, “it’s tempting for a Yankee to mock the British” for the shop windows full of “coronation plates and King Charles III coffee mugs”. But I won’t, for two reasons. First, I couldn’t help noticing on a visit this week how many of the tourists buying these souvenirs had American accents. And second, though “I would never admit this in public”, I’ve come to think there are serious advantages to having a royal family.

Like America, Britain is so polarised that all political leaders will be “loathed by a sizeable chunk of the population”. In comparison, the King enjoys strong bipartisan support: some 62% of Brits want their country to remain a monarchy, with only 28% preferring the idea of a republic. And it’s not hard to see why. A study of 137 countries over more than a century found that “monarchies perform better economically than republics” in the long run, partly because the unifying force of monarchs means less internal conflict gumming things up. Kings can be expensive, of course, but Britain’s royal family appears to pay for itself with tourist revenue alone. Plus they’re a vital tool of foreign policy: “every foreign leader wants tea with the sovereign”, so when prime ministers ruffle feathers, “the royals can smooth them”. So don’t tell a soul, but as I stood outside Buckingham Palace, I thought: “God save the King!”