Why the public will never know the true extent of Queen Elizabeth II’s fortune
by Anne Hyland / September 10, 2022

“An iron cage in a building off the Strand in central London is said to hold the wills of Britain’s royal family, according to former British MP Norman Baker. It’s where Queen Elizabeth II’s will was until recently. In Britain, the details of all wills are publicly available unless the executors of the estates seek to have them sealed.

This has been the case for members of the royal family, including Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died last year. After a reign lasting 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II has passed away at age 96. The royal family’s wills have been sealed since 1911. Back then it’s alleged that Prince Francis, the brother of Queen Mary, left jewellery to his mistress the Countess of Kilmorey. Queen Mary is said to have intervened after his death to keep the scandalous bequest quiet, by getting a judge to seal the will.

This act means that the public will never fully know the extent of Queen Elizabeth II’s wealth, nor her final wishes and the details of her bequests in her will. However, The Sunday Times Rich List this year put the Queen’s personal fortune at £370 million ($628 million), which included her private residences Sandringham in eastern England, worth around £50 million, and Balmoral Castle in Scotland, worth an estimated £100 million.

The Queen died at the latter on Thursday. While the Queen and her family derived an income from some assets in her personal fortune, the bulk of the royal family’s wealth is tied up in the Crown Estate, Buckingham Palace, The Duchy of Cornwall, the Duchy of Lancaster, Kensington Palace, and the Crown Estate of Scotland, according to Forbes magazine.

The total value of that portfolio of assets was estimated to be worth $US28 billion last year. The Crown Estate, which is managed independently, owns most of the British monarchy’s lands and buildings, businesses such as wind farms, artworks and sharemarket investments, and was worth $US19.5 billion.

Property makes up more than half of the Crown Estate and includes investments from inner London, in the West End, Regent Street and St James’s, Ascot Racecourse to coastal and agricultural lands and forests. Buckingham Palace is worth an estimated $US4.9 billion, and has been undergoing a 10-year renovation that is costing £369 million.

The Duchy of Cornwall is worth an estimated $US1.3 billion and the Duchy of Lancaster $US748 million. The royal family receives an annual government grant, known as the Sovereign Grant, from the Crown Estate, which is 15 per cent of its profits. This was increased to 25 per cent from 2017-2018 to cover the cost of renovating Buckingham Palace. It is supposed to return to 15 per cent in 2028. The grant pays for the expenses of the royal family, including staff, security and housekeeping.

The private expenses of the Queen and her family, known as the Privy Purse, is a separate allowance and the income from that is derived mainly from the Duchy of Lancaster. King Charles III, who has been estimated to be worth as much as £100 million, is expected to inherit the bulk of his mother’s private fortune. None of the Queen’s children will pay inheritance tax.

A law passed by British Parliament in 1993 exempts the royal family from the 40 per cent inheritance tax, and it was done to avoid erosion of their wealth. Also considered part of the Queen’s fortune are the Crown Jewels, which belonged symbolically to the monarch, and include the 2.2 kg pure gold St Edward’s Crown. These jewels, worth £3 billion, will transfer to King Charles.

Earlier this year, British newspapers reported that the royal family cost British taxpayers £102.4 million, up 17 per cent on the previous year and topping £100 million for the first time. The renovation at Buckingham Palace drove up the cost, but nonetheless it triggered outrage at a time when many Britons are struggling with a cost of living crisis. While King Charles will inherit responsibility for the royal family’s finances, it comes at a time when there has been a controversy involving his charities.

Earlier this year, The Sunday Times reported that in 2013 the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund was given £1 million by Bakr bin Laden, patriarch of the large and wealthy Saudi family, and his brother Shafiq. Both are half-brothers of Osama bin Laden, the former al-Qaida leader and mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States, who was killed by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011. The Sunday Times also reported that his charity had accepted bags of cash containing £3 million from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar. The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund was founded in 1979 to “transform lives and build sustainable communities,” and gives grants to a wide variety of projects in Britain and around the world.”

by Deniz Çam  /  May 10, 2019

“…The Queen’s nine-figure net worth—estimated at $500 million—lands her way below the 2,153 billionaires on Forbes list this year. And yet she enjoys a lifestyle any of them would surely envy. The 93-year-old directly owns some assets like Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, but many of her most valuable assets like Buckingham Palace are owned by a body called the Crown Estate.

If she were to possess the Crown Estate—which includes a myriad of properties in the U.K. and is owned by neither the government nor the royal family—as well as the Duchy of Lancaster (a private trust governed by the same ownership rules), Forbes estimates that the Queen would be the richest person in the U.K. (and the third-wealthiest woman in the world) with a net worth of more than $25 billion. And even that number doesn’t take into account the value of the Royal Collection Trust, which, with its Fabergé eggs and Rembrandt paintings, could be worth in excess of a billion dollars.

And she does earn a living. The Queen derives an annual income from the properties held by the $18 billion Crown Estate and the Duchy of Lancaster, a real estate trust dating back to 1265, that paid her $27 million (pretax) in fiscal year 2018 for personal expenses. The Sovereign Grant, which equals 25% of the income from the Crown Estate, goes toward the Queen’s official expenses, which include payroll, travel, housekeeping, maintenance costs and even IT expenses. And none of that includes any winnings she earns betting on her beloved racehorses.

Naturally, Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son, Prince Charles, is not as wealthy as his mother—yet. The 70-year-old Prince of Wales derives his annual income from the Duchy of Cornwall, which manages a real estate trust that largely consists of 131,000 acres and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the U.K. The proceeds from Cornwall cover not only the annual expenses of Prince Charles but also of his two sons and their families: Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and their three children; and Prince Harry, his wife, Meghan Markle, and baby Archie. Though considerably more modern and down-to-earth than their grandmother, the young Windsors live like, well, royalty. In 2018, the families of William and Harry had $6.1 million in personal expenses, although the royals’ official financial statements do not detail what those expenses were.”


“…The organizational chart of The Firm is a testament to the 1,000-year-old family business, and the public perception that sustains it is vital to its success. “It is a very formalized influencer business,” explains David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance.

Unlike a celebrity family such as the Kardashians, however, the Windsors don’t personally profit from the business itself—although they contributed an estimated $2.7 billion annually to the U.K. economy pre-pandemic. The impact the royal family has on the U.K. economy is mostly through tourism, but Haigh notes there are other financial benefits, such as free media coverage of Britain (which was an estimated $400 million in 2017).

There are also many valuable royal warrants granted by the monarch—essentially a stamp of approval on high-end consumer products like Barbour jackets and Johnnie Walker whisky. Haigh estimates that a royal warrant can boost the holder’s revenue by as much as 10%. The economic advantages for companies and institutions in the royal family’s orbit far exceed the $550 million cost associated with the family’s massive operating expenses, according to Haigh…

…Beyond the extended family, the House of Windsor has thousands of employees around the world. Buckingham Palace alone employs some 1,200 people—even if they aren’t always paid a Queen’s ransom to work there. An entry-level IT specialist can make upwards of $40,000 a year, as well as benefits, at Buckingham Palace, according to a recent job listing on an official palace portal.

The Crown Estate, the institution that oversees the assets of the monarchy, also employs an additional 450 people, including a board of directors that make the financial decisions for the monarchy. Being a member of The Firm also comes with high expectations for keeping the moneymaking machine running for generations to come.

The crown holds, but cannot sell, nearly $28 billion in assets through the Crown Estate ($19.5 billion), Buckingham Palace (est. $4.9 billion), the Duchy of Cornwall ($1.3 billion), the Duchy of Lancaster ($748 million), Kensington Palace (est. $630 million) and the Crown Estate Scotland ($592 million). Forbes also estimates that Queen Elizabeth has another $500 million in personal assets…”

King Charles Inherits Untold Riches
by Euan Ward  /  Sept. 13, 2022

“King Charles III built his own empire long before he inherited his mother’s. Charles, who formally acceded to the British throne on Saturday, spent half a century turning his royal estate into a billion-dollar portfolio and one of the most lucrative moneymakers in the royal family business. While his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, largely delegated responsibility for her portfolio, Charles was far more deeply involved in developing the private estate known as the Duchy of Cornwall. Over the past decade, he has assembled a large team of professional managers who increased his portfolio’s value and profits by about 50 percent.

Today, the Duchy of Cornwall owns the landmark cricket ground known as The Oval, lush farmland in the south of England, seaside vacation rentals, office space in London and a suburban supermarket depot. (A duchy is a territory traditionally governed by a duke or duchess.) The 130,000-acre real estate portfolio is nearly the size of Chicago and generates millions of dollars a year in rental income. The conglomerate’s holdings are valued at roughly $1.4 billion, compared with around $949 million in the late queen’s private portfolio.

These two estates represent a small fraction of the royal family’s estimated $28 billion fortune. On top of that, the family has personal wealth that remains a closely guarded secret. As king, Charles will take over his mother’s portfolio and inherit a share of this untold personal fortune. While British citizens normally pay around 40 percent inheritance tax, King Charles gets this tax free.

And he will pass control of his duchy to his elder son, William, to develop further without having to pay corporate taxes. The growth in the royal family’s coffers and King Charles’s personal wealth over the past decade came at a time when Britain faced deep austerity budget cuts. Poverty levels soared, and the use of food banks almost doubled. His lifestyle of palaces and polo has long fueled accusations that he is out of touch with ordinary people.

And he has at time been the unwitting symbol of that disconnect — such as when his limo was mobbed by students protesting rising tuition in 2010 or when he perched atop a golden throne in his royal finery this year to pledge help for struggling families. Today, he ascends to the throne as the country buckles under a cost-of-living crisis that is expected to see poverty get even worse.

A more divisive figure than his mother, King Charles is likely to give fresh energy to those questioning the relevance of a royal family at a time of public hardship. Laura Clancy, the author of “Running the Family Firm: How the Monarchy Manages Its Image and Our Money,” said King Charles transformed the once-sleepy royal accounts.

“The duchy has been steadily commercializing over the past few decades,” Ms. Clancy said. “It is run like a commercial business with a CEO and over 150 staff.” What used to be thought of as simply a “landed gentry pile of land” now operates like a corporation, she said. The Duchy of Cornwall was established in the 14th century as a way to generate income for the heir to the throne and has essentially funded Charles’s private and official expenses.

One example of its financial might: The $28 million profit he made from it last year dwarfed his official salary as prince, just over $1.1 million. Piecing together the royal family’s assets is complicated, but the fortune falls generally into four groups. First, and most prominent, is the Crown Estate, which oversees the assets of the monarchy through a board of directors. Charles, as king, will serve as its chairman, but he does not have final say over how the business is managed.

The estate, which official accounts value at more than $19 billion, includes shopping malls, busy streets in London’s West End and a growing number of wind farms. The royals are entitled to take only rental income from their official estates and may not profit from any sales, as they do not personally own the assets. The estate’s profits, valued about $363 million this year, are turned over to the Treasury, which in return gives the royal household a payment called a sovereign grant based on those profits — which must be topped up by the government if it is lower than the previous year.

In 2017, the government increased the family’s payment to 25 percent of the profits to cover the costs of renovating Buckingham Palace. The latest sovereign grant received by the royals was around $100 million, which the family, including Charles, has used for official royal duties, like visits, payroll and housekeeping. It does not cover the royals’ security costs, which is also paid by the government, but the cost is kept secret.

The next major pot of money is the Duchy of Lancaster. This $949 million portfolio is owned by whomever sits on the throne. But the value of that trust is dwarfed by the Duchy of Cornwall, the third significant home of royal money, which Charles has long presided over as prince. Generating tens of millions of dollars a year, the duchy has funded his private and official spending, and has bankrolled William, the heir to the throne, and Kate, William’s wife.

It has done so without paying corporation taxes like most businesses in Britain are obliged to, and without publishing details about where the estate invests its money.  “When Charles took over at age 21, the duchy was not in a good financial state,” Marlene Koenig, a royal expert and writer, said, citing poor management and a lack of diversification.

Charles took a more active role in the portfolio in the 1980s and began hiring experienced managers. “It was at this time that the duchy became financially aggressive,” she said. In 2017, leaked financial documents known as the Paradise Papers revealed that Charles’s duchy estate had invested millions in offshore companies, including a Bermuda-registered business run by one of his best friends.

The final pool of money, and the most secretive, is the family’s private fortune. According to the Rich List, the annual catalog of British wealth published in The Sunday Times, the queen had a net worth of about $430 million. That includes her personal assets, such as Balmoral Castle and Sandringham Estate, which she inherited from her father. Much of her personal wealth has been kept private. King Charles has also made financial headlines unrelated to his wealth but tied to the charitable foundation that he chairs and operates in his name.

His stewardship of the foundation has been marred by controversy, most recently this spring, when The Sunday Times reported that Charles had accepted 3 million euros in cash — including money stuffed in shopping bags and a suitcase — from a former Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani. The money was for his foundation, which finances philanthropic causes around the world.

Charles does not benefit financially from such contributions. “He’s willing to take money from anybody, really, without questioning whether it’s the wise thing to do,” said Norman Baker, a former government minister and author of the book “ … And What Do You Do? What the Royal Family Don’t Want You to Know.” Mr. Baker described Charles as the most progressive, caring member of the royal family. But he said he had also filed a police complaint accusing him of improperly selling honorary titles.

“That’s no way to behave for a royal,” he said, referring to an ongoing scandal over whether Charles had granted knighthood and citizenship to a Saudi businessman in exchange for donations to one of Charles’s charitable ventures. Charles denied knowing about this, one of his top aides who was implicated stepped down, and the authorities began investigating. The king’s representatives did not respond to a message seeking comment. Charles has also courted controversy with his outspoken views and campaigning.

He has lobbied senior government ministers, including Tony Blair, through dozens of letters on issues from the Iraq war to alternative therapies. Though English law does not require it, royal protocol calls for political neutrality. In his inaugural address on Saturday, the king indicated that he planned to step back from his outside endeavors. “It will no longer be possible for me to give so much of my time and energies to the charities and issues for which I care so deeply,” he said. Ms. Clancy, the author, said the new king, in theory, would be expected to drop his lobbying and business ventures entirely. “Whether that will pan out is a different question,” she said.”