Royal Family Wealth: Who's the Richest?
Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding is about to showcase a Royal Britain to billions of TV viewers around the world. But the real truth behind Windsor Money is as surprising as any fairytale.
Most of the assets on display during the Royal Wedding do not belong to the Queen.
250 years ago, the Queen’s third great grandfather, George III, gave virtually all royal property to the government, in order to get taxpayers to forever pay to maintain them.
This is a list of royal assets operated by the UK government and which it loans to the current royal family. The Queen neither owns them—nor could she ever sell them.
Buckingham Palace: The Queen’s primary residence in London where she will host an evening party for 300 family and friends the night of the wedding.
Windsor Castle: The retreat 20 miles west of Buckingham Palace, near Heathrow Airport, where the Queen prefers to stay because she says it’s more comfortable.
Crown Jewels: A collection of scepters, swords, rings and crowns normally secured at the Tower of London. During the Royal Wedding members of the Windsor family will wear them as symbols of their right to rule.
The Royal Collection: 200,000 drawings, prints and paintings—including works by Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Caravaggio—collected over 500 years. It also includes furniture, textiles, armor and one of the finest Faberge collections in the world. Valued at $16 billion.
The Duchy of Lancaster: A portfolio of property assembled 600 years ago. 72 square miles of farm and city land (an area about three times the size of Manhattan). Valued at $570 million.
The Crown Estate: An even more impressive portfolio of land, eight times larger, that includes iconic properties in London like Regent Street, Piccadilly and the Park Lane sites of The Four Seasons and Intercontinental hotels. 12,000 tenants are paying rent on 560 square miles of land across England and Wales. The estate even includes all UK coastal waters within 12 miles of land, where energy companies are increasingly paying to construct wind farms. Valued at $12 billion.
Last year the Crown Estate alone generated $342 million. But, as with virtually all these royal assets, that cash went straight to the UK government. In return, the taxpayer pays the Queen a fixed, annual allowance.
There’s one exception. The UK government still hands the Queen income from the smaller of the two property portfolios. Last year she received $21.8 million from the Duchy Lancaster.
Taxpayers also give Elizabeth an annual allowance of $23.3 million for performing 360 engagements a year as Head of State. The Palace says she spends 70 percent of that on servants and entertaining 50,000 guests, mostly feeding them afternoon tea in the garden of Buckingham Palace.
Taxpayers also pay the Queen $25.9 million in expenses to maintain her palaces. $6.4 million towards the Royal Train, helicopters and jets. And an additional $6.4m towards other costs, like State Visits.
In total, each year the Queen gets $83.8 million from government.
It’s widely assumed Elizabeth also receives a multi-million dollar income stream from her private portfolio of stocks and bonds.
Even so, is the Queen’s own son richer that she is? Has Charles inherited property of greater value and does he have a bigger disposable income? Is Prince Charles richer?
Windsor Money follows first-born males. It mirrors succession to the throne. It’s all or nothing.
Other royal families in Europe have given their daughters the same inheritance rights as their sons. But the Windsor family remains exempt from equality legislation because parliaments would have to vote through new laws everywhere the Queen rules, from Canada and Australia to Saint Lucia and Belize.
As Elizabeth’s first male son, Charles instantly became heir to the throne at birth and instantly inherited a property portfolio currently worth over one billion dollars: 200 square miles of land known as the Duchy of Cornwall.
Last year, that estate generated $28 million in cash for Charles. His siblings get nothing.