THE WINDSORS run quite a racket. In exchange for cultivating an extravagant life of piffle, they manage to grab a king’s ransom of $300 million a year (£180 million) out of Britain’s public coffers–enough to make even Tony Soprano blush.
We in the U.S., descendants of rebels who declared a revolution against the British crown, are taught to believe that Britain’s monarchy today is about honoring tradition. The royals are supposedly powerless celebrities, sort of like the Kardashians or Paris Hilton with better manners.
But the royal family, known as the House of Windsor since 1917 when they de-Germanized their name, may no longer possess any seats in the House of Lords (since 1999), but they do retain certain powers. They can still legally choose the prime minister, dismiss ministers and governments, dissolve Parliament, refuse to agree to legislation passed by Parliament, dismiss the governments of the Commonwealth (more on this below), pardon convicted criminals, declare a state of emergency, issue proclamations, command the army and raise a personal militia.