The Complex Finances Of The Royal Family.

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The royal finances are complex issue and many people have no idea if the monarchy supports itself or is a burden on the UK taxpayers.

I regularly see tweets and Facebook posts commenting “the royals are a tax burden”, “they’re the biggest scroungers in the county” etc.

The Leicester Chronicle looks further into these questions.

Currently The Queen’s income comes from three sources:

  • The Sovereign Grant from the government1
  • The Duchy of Lancaster2
  • The Queen’s own private investments3

The Crown Estate & Sovereign Grant.

In 1760, King George III agreed to give the income from some Crown holdings to the Treasury in exchange for an annual payment4. Over time more and more income from the Crown lands were given to the government.

These holdings are collectively known as the Crown Estate. The estate includes lots of properties which generate income from things like rent. Alot of the ownership of these holdings can be traced back to 1066.

King George III

Since 1760, the net income of The Crown Estate has been surrendered to the Exchequer by the Monarch under successive Civil List Acts, passed at the beginning of each reign. This became law in 20115.

The Crown Estate is though owned by the Monarch in right of the Crown. This means that the Queen owns it by virtue of holding the position of reigning Monarch, for as long as she is on the throne, as will her successor. Responsibility for managing The Crown Estate is trusted to a board, under the Crown Estate Act, and the Queen is not involved in management decisions.

The properties that are owned by The Crown Estate are as follows: 6

  • 263,00 acres of agriculture land.
  • 24,700 acres of forests.
  • 34 mines and quarries.
  • The Windsor Estate that contains over 15,500 acres of land.
  • 55% of the UK Foreshores. Foreshores are belts of land between low and high tides, ie. beaches.
  • All the seabeds 12 nautical miles out from any UK mainland. This includes land used for offshore wind farms.
  • All UK continental shelves.
  • Various Shopping centres and retail parks.
  • 66.7% of Princess Street in London.
  • 23% of the Savoy Estate also in London.
  • All natural Scottish Oysters and Mussels.
  • Various rent-free educational and religious buildings that return to the crown if their use changes.
  • Non rent properties such as water mains, cables and War Memorials.

The Sovereign currently receives 25% of the income of the Crown Estate for official expenditure, with unspent money going into the Sovereign Grant Reserve. It used to be 15% but was increased this year (2018) to pay for refurbishments to Buckingham Palace and will stay at 25% for 10 years.

The total worth of the Crown estate is £14.1 billion and the annual income is currently £329.4 million.7 (2017/2018)

At 25% the Sovereign receives £82.35 million. Meaning the rest of the grant goes to the treasury (£247.05 million)

Duchy Of Lancaster & The Privy Purse.

The Queen and her estate

The Duchy of Lancaster is the private estate of the British sovereign, since 1399.8

The principal purpose of the estate is to provide a source of independent income to the Sovereign.9 The estate consists of a portfolio of lands, properties and assets held in trust for the Sovereign.

The Duchy consists of:10

  • 45,550 acres of land holdings (including rural estates and farmland).
  • Urban developments.
  • Historic buildings.
  • Various commercial properties across England and Wales.

The Duchy of Lancaster is one of two royal duchies: the other is the Duchy of Cornwall, which provides income to the Prince of Wales.

The total worth of the Duchy is £534 million and the annual surplus is currently £20.2 million.11(2018)

This yearly surplus goes into the Privy purse. It is used for both official and personal expenditure. Personal expenditure pays the expenses of other royals, the upkeep of Sandringham and Balmoral etc.

The Queen pays Tax on the Privy Purse.12

Private Income & Investments

On top of the above two public, and therefore transparent fundings, the Queen has her own private investments.

These personal investments are not known to the public as they are private but are rumoured to be worth around £370 million and that’s not including the Royal Collection.13

The Queen also owns the world famous Royal collection. It includes art, cars stamps etc. This collection is currently valued at £11 billion.14

The Royal Collection

Tax is also paid on the Queen’s personal income.

Indirect Government Income

On top of the tax and the Sovereign Grant that is paid to the government, it is said the Royal Family indirectly contributes £1.8 billion a year annually.

It’s impossible to know the wider economic benefit of the monarchy exactly.
Some of the claims following the Royal Wedding argue that we shouldn’t begrudge the monarchy the public costs from the Royal Wedding (e.g. security), because they create so much economic benefit.

One estimate came from consultancy Brand Finance15 who said that in 2017 the monarchy contributed £1.8 billion to the UK economy, of which around £550 million came from tourism.

This estimate is largely subjective depending on what factors you think should or shouldn’t be included.

For example, the report estimates the monarchy contribute £50 million towards the media industry by providing the inspiration and “mystique” for TV shows like The Crown and plays like King Charles III. It’s up to you to decide whether you think those should or shouldn’t be included.

Poster for the TV show “The Crown”

And even once you decide what influences to include, then trying to put a number on the exact contribution the Royal Family make to those areas is harder still. Any estimate is going to be extremely uncertain.16

Summary

In short the royal family has three income funds. Tax is paid on two of them and 75% of income is given to the treasury on the other.

The income to the treasury is a lot more than any outgoings to the Crown. The UK Monarchy has done well evolving with the times unlike many other european monarchs who have failed.

The flow chart diagram below simplifies the royal families incomings and outgoings to the government treasury.

Flow diagram of the Royal family’s Income.

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Book Recommendations.

If you are interested in the history of the Monarchy then we recommend the following book (Click on the images or links below)

Crown and Country: The Kings and Queens of England

“From one of our finest historians comes an outstanding exploration of the British monarchy from the retreat of the Romans up until the modern day. This compendium volume of two earlier books is fully revised and updated. The monarchy is one of Britain’s most revered institutions – but also one of its most tumultuous. In Crown and Country, David Starkey charts its rollercoaster history from earliest times to the present; from the courtly love of the Middle Ages, through the turbulent reign of the Tudors, to the chaos of the Civil War. Starkey brings this tempestuous story up to date in this complete history, guiding us through the Abdication Crisis to the dissolution of the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. He draws upon rank and romance in light of the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William and brings to life a cast of colourful characters and some riveting stories. Crown and Country is both a brilliant overview of the monarchy and a vividly iconoclastic portrait of British culture, politics and nationhood.”.


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  1. The Crown Estate
  2. The Duchy of Lancaster
  3. BBC
  4. The Royal Family
  5. Sovereign Grant Act 2011
  6. The Crown Estate Property List
  7. The Crown Estate 2017/18 Finance Report
  8. About The Duchy
  9. The Duchy FAQ
  10. Duchy Land
  11. Duchy Finance
  12. Dutchy Report 2017
  13. Sunday Times Rich List
  14. Brand Full Monarchy Report
  15. Brand Full Monarchy Report 2017
  16. fullfact.org
Thomas Kirkup is an engineer in the Royal Navy. Born and raised in Leicester he is fascinated by the city's long and varied history. He also hates to discus himself in the third person, but can be persuaded to do so from time to time.
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