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CNN reporter unpacks 3 main sources of the royal family's money
03:50 - Source: CNN
Doncaster, England CNN  — 

The first time Angela Davis went to a food bank was mortifying. The single mother of five – with three kids still living at home – had realized that after paying her bills, she simply had no money left to buy food.

“It felt degrading. I was a bit down about it,” she told CNN over a cup of tea and biscuit served at the community cafe at St. John the Evangelist Church in Doncaster. The church operates the cafe alongside a food bank which offers free food, clothes, household items and other necessities to locals who are struggling.

Davis lined up early, arriving two hours before the church doors opened. The wait paid off. Apart from essentials like bread and vegetables, she got a bouquet of flowers donated by a supermarket. “I’ll put the lilies in my vase and the rest on my mother’s grave,” she said.

When it first opened before the pandemic, the food bank was serving mostly homeless people. These days, many of those coming through the door are people working full time.

“They are using all of their wages to pay the bills and they’ve got no money left for food. It’s really sad that it’s got to the point where someone is working full time and not making enough money to cover basic human necessities,” Andy Unsworth, a minister at the church who manages the Given Freely Freely Given food bank, told CNN.

Doncaster is among the United Kingdom’s more economically deprived areas, but it’s not unique. Like many parts of northern England, the South Yorkshire city of just over 300,000 people has never quite recovered from the industrial decline and mine closures of the 1980s and 90s. Already struggling, the region has been hit hard by the severe cost of living crisis that is now impacting the whole of the UK.

Stubbornly high inflation, years of wage stagnation and the sudden and steep rise in energy prices have left millions of Brits on the brink of poverty.

Yet at the same time, the UK government is getting ready to spend tens of millions of taxpayers’ money on a glitzy event celebrating one very, very rich man: King Charles III.

Liz Coopey, left, a volunteer at the Given Freely Freely Given food bank in Doncaster, helps local resident Angela Davis with her shopping bags.

The King’s coronation this Saturday will showcase some of the enormous wealth accumulated by the British monarchy over the centuries. There will be golden carriages and priceless jewels and custom-made designer outfits that cost more than most people make in months.

The government has refused to put a figure on the cost of the coronation, with estimates by British media ranging from £50 million to more than £100 million ($63 million to $125 million).

It’s a figure many are finding hard to swallow in Doncaster.

“I am a bit of a royalist and I do like the royal family. But I think they haven’t really read the room, as it were. A lot of it should have come from their own pocket rather than the taxpayer. And I think it should have been toned down a little bit,” said Laura Billington, a teacher at a school in the city.

She has seen the impact the cost of living crisis has had on her students. Many are turning up to school without the most basic equipment, such as pens and pencils. She’s also noticed more problems with behavior and concentration.

“I’ve never known students being this apathetic towards learning – whether that is due to them being tired or being hungry because they’re only getting a meal at school and that is literally all they will eat today,” she said.

Billington is also feeling the pinch. Her bills have gone up and her salary has not risen in line with inflation, making her significantly worse off in real terms. She’s not alone. Across Great Britain, real wages including bonuses fell 3% in the three months to February, according to the Office for National Statistics. That’s one of the largest falls since records began in 2001.

Billington is a labor union representative at her school and, like hundreds of thousands of her colleagues, she has gone on strike over pay in recent months. She said that stretched school budgets mean teachers are facing increasingly unmanageable workloads.

She is working full time, spending 22 hours a week in the classroom. She is given just under three hours a week for preparation, planning and assessment, which she said isn’t enough. Because of the rest of her workload – meetings, tutor time, after-school duties and so on – she ends up bringing the bulk of her preparation work home. She estimates this extra – unpaid – work adds up to roughly 15 hours a week. This past Sunday, she was going to spend most of the day marking history assessments. Billington is a French teacher. She only teaches history because there’s a staff shortage.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is be a teacher. But it wasn’t for my students, I think I would have probably jacked in teaching quite a while ago,” she said.

The UK has been hit by a large wave of strikes in recent months, with nurses, junior doctors, midwifes, healthcare workers, university staff, train drivers and civil servants – including staff checking passports at airports – all walking out over pay disputes.

Most public sector workers have been offered raises