Piccadilly is one of my favorite places on earth. It is full of organizations with 'royal' in their name. All of these organizations are committed to making the world better and most of them are open to anyone who decides to become involved.
In fact all this 'royal' business makes for some very good value government. Most of these outfits are self funding and do good work that would otherwise be done at public expense. In return for selfless labour the member gets to meet other socially concerned individuals, access to a luxurious clubhouse and some obscure rights such as the right to dress in a weird tricorn hat, blow trumpets on the Thames, drink Madeira wine and count swans for the Queen. (The Queen buys the drinks.)
It would be interesting to calculate the economic value of many thousand organisations that members of the royal family are patron of. My own guess is that it exceeds the cost of maintaining them many fold.
The Royal Institution is the oldest scientific research institution in the world. They sometimes (slightly bombastically) claim to have 'invented' science. There is some truth in this claim because the institution was the first to carry out research in the modern manner with peer review and an emphasis on systematic experimentation.
The heyday of the Royal Institution was the time of Michal Faraday, the great rock star scientist of the British Empire. This man could not leave the house without being mobbed by women who would sometimes faint with excitement at seeing him. He instituted the Christmas Lectures to encourage an interest in science among the Victorian public.
Since these heady days the status of science has declined along with the fortunes of the British Empire. Maybe the two are linked?
I believe in science but do not follow it as my mind is forced to think of more practical matters these days. My real reason for joining (apart from loving its public work) is that it allows the use of letters after ones name.
Part of me feels this is slightly fraudulent. I am associating myself with some of the greatest minds in history without ever having done anything to deserve it apart from pay a membership fee of �28 a year.
I do this because employers expect far more from their employees than they ever did in the past. It is now quite common for employers to prefer security guards with degrees and I do not have one. Letters after my name evens up the score a great deal. If someone ask me what they mean I will be truthful- but the Queen says I can use them and who am I to argue?