Anyone who is claiming that the Royal family isn't a draw for tourists has clearly not spent enough time out of the UK nor actually spoken to many tourists. Perhaps the 2.9 million people who, in 2008, visited the sites managed by HRP were just there for the architecture alone? I spend more time with international people than with British because of my work (unrelated to tourism or royalty) and I can testify that the royals are significant figures internationally.
Saying that the Crown Estate does not belong to the Queen is just choosing to define something as such because it suits your case. It is called the "Crown" Estate for a reason. Yes, it belongs to the nation because the Monarch IS the HEAD OF STATE, thus the Monarch IS the country! She represents the country, note: despite your self-interest she does not represent you, she represents the country. Who decided she should represent you? Hundreds of millions of people over the past several hundred years endorsed their presence and now you choose to say their wisdom was flawed. Oh dear. If the the Crown Estate was detached from the Royal Prerogative would in many ways be diminished in its public image and just become a tool of politics. Much of it's property would be sold off to satisfy the short-term needs of the present political administration in order to be "more cost effective" instead of remaining to provide a constant steady income. Short view political administrations cannot be trusted with legacies because they are narrow minded and reactionary.
This brings me to my primary point: how would an elected head of state be better? Do we not already have enough bureaucracy? Do we not already have enough self interested egomaniacs attempting to run the country? We get proof time and again that politicians cannot be trusted and yet you seem to put your faith in a purely 'democratic' process. I might be convinced if there was direct real-time input into the political process by citizens but unfortunately the way it works is that a non-majority proportion of citizens elect a representative who then uses their own agenda to direct their actions. The representatives only truly represent people when public opinion reaches a tide and even then a tide does not represent an ocean: politicians are reactionary cowards who are scared of loosing their supporters.
Even an elected second house isn't the answer, because the second house is there to provide 'checks and balance', thus they should be independent of politics and should just debate the merits of legislation for the good of the nation. The fact that the House of Lords cannot create any legislation but can only question it provides an independent watchdog for the House of Commons and prevents them being too reactionary. If the politicians truly wanted to push through some piece of legislation then it would happen because neither the House of Lords, nor the Head of State have absolute control. The Monarch has not been over-ruled in recent history because there is not the political will to do this, if that will existed and if the legislation was so necessary then it would be done. We need an independent mechanism which is un-swayed by tides of public opinion to stop our political system running away. Spend some time looking at the politics of the USA and tell me they have a better system!
Often comparison is made to the state of other European countries who no longer have a monarch, so let us take a look at my favourite example of the day: Greece. Said country is the country with the longest history of direct representation of the citizenship in the world has had a Monarch, been a Military Dictatorship and is currently a Republic. And as far as I can see it has never been in a more sorry political situation (outside of invasion, occupation and general war). The people decided they didn't need a monarch so they exiled King Constatine and his family. Currently he resides mostly in London, but his country Palace remains closed and decaying near Athens. In order to prevent royalists being nostalgic they had to ban the former-King from public life in Greece, could the UK separate the Monarch from UK life? Next we can look at the politics of Greece which is quite frankly a mess. Recently the Greek Parliament was closed for one month, the reason they claimed was to allow the European Parliament Elections to get the most focus. However everyone I know in Greece was telling me it was because a senior figure in Siemens had been found-out in a massive corruption scandal. Because this corruption was political and across both leading parties the government could easily have been dangerously implicated. However, Greece has a great system of immunity in public spaces (for example if you commit a crime and hide in a University or Church the police are not allowed to come and get you). By closing the Parliament for one month the national prosecutor was prevented from investigating the scandal and that is even if the prosecutor had the will power to do so. But because the prosecutor is appointed by the politicians they are too scared to investigate because they know they won't be in the job long enough to complete the task. The idea of the UK Crown Prosecution Service being responsible to the Head of State and not the politicians is much safer because: if the Head of State has limited power to affect change then their position is secure, a political figure who's position is secure and has limited powers cannot be so easily corrupted. (At this point I must apologise to the one Politician I know in Greece as he seems to be the exception not the rule) The national politicians in Greece are in a difficult position, if they aren't incompetent then they are assumed to be corrupt (irrespective of if they are or not), apathy is the most common attribute of Greek politician, they won't change the status quo because otherwise they might be displaced. The Greek people are a significant factor in this as they refuse to be told what to do by politicians, even if it results in a positive outcome for the majority. But I strongly feel that had the Greek people leadership and representation in the form of an incorruptible Head of State then the politicians would be obliged to act in a moral way for the 'Greater Good' and with an agenda understood between the Head of State and the Prime Minister the people can be fully in control.
In summary, I am a Monarchist, but I don't think they are important for the nostalgic reasons some might imagine, yes I like the Royal Family in an historical sense but I see the truth of politics and appreciate the truth of what Plato said in his works. If you read 'Republic' and thought that it was saying Democracy works then you were reading the wrong book. That book is a composite work of many of his other books and they elaborate more extensively on the subject of political leadership. Overall the theme that power corrupts remains, and this it is my belief that an Absolute Monarch in a democracy who has defined and limited powers is far more effective because their interest is purely for the country. Any politician who says they are doing what they do for the country is either an idealistic idiot or lying; they are their because they want the power. To paraphrase Plato: those who crave political power are those least suitable to rule. The UK would NOT be better off as a republic and to suggest so is optimism on a grand scale. Being a Republic is no better than the situation we currently have in the UK and if anything over time it just degrades the political process instead of aiming to optimise it. Let us have a written constitution, let us have some reform, but let us not take away the in-line independent review from the political process. As a nation any people have shown time and again they cannot be trusted to be either honest or not reactionary, so we as a nation need to understand our limits and ensure independent checks. We don't allow companies to go unmonitored, so why not see the Monarch as the watchdog of the nation?