Yes, the Royal Family uses a lot of money, but the royal assets, which George III turned over to the government, earn a lot of money too. One of the primary money makers is called “The Crown Estate” (see more below), which, last year, generated $342 million in income.
The Queen receives private money and state money--and she also has use of various royal assets, though, as I stated, the government actually owns them. Here are the Royal Assets:
- Buckingham Palace – The Queen’s primary residence, located in Central London. Its interior space totals about 830,000 square feet!
- Windsor Castle – This castle is 20 miles west of Buckingham Palace and is the Queen’s preferred residence. She says it’s more comfortable—and undoubtedly life would be more comfortable there, considering the hoards of daily visitors at Buckingham Palace.
- The Crown Estate – A portfolio of land totaling 560-square miles across England and Wales—and including all U.K. coastal waters within 12 miles of land. This portfolio includes some of London’s most iconic spots, such as Regent Street, Piccadilly, and various Park Lane sites, such as the locations of the Intercontinental hotels and The Four Seasons. Over 12,000 tenants pay rent to live on these lands, so the Crown Estate is a nice cash cow. Last year it generated $342 million, and it is valued at $12 billion. Buckingham Place and Windsor Castle are located on Crown Estate land.
- Crown Jewels – This jewel collection includes centuries-old scepters, swords, rings, and crowns, all of which are housed in the Tower of London. Periodically, the Queen or her family use various pieces for ceremonial occasions--such as weddings or coronation ceremonies.
In addition to the use of the royal assets, the Queen receives personal money and state money, and owns personal assets. Here's the breakdown:
PERSONAL MONEY, STATE MONEY, & PERSONAL ASSETS
- Personal Money - The personal money the Queen receives is called her "privy purse," and the money comes from the Duchy of Lancaster, a portfolio of property that is 72-square miles of farm and city lands, valued at $570 million. The Monarch owns the Duchy, but it is held in trust, so she is not privy to the portfolio's capital--only to its revenue. Nowadays, the Queen uses most of the privy purse to help pay for official expenses incurred by other members of the Royal Family. Last year, the privy purse totaled nearly $22 million.
- State Money - The money the Queen receives from the state is called "Sovereign Grant" money. (This block of money used to be divvied up and presented as "Civil List" money and "Grants in Aid" money, but as of April 2012, that changed.) Sovereign Grant money covers the allowance the Queen receives for performing Head of State functions. She spends seventy percent of this money on entertaining and feeding of 50,000 annual guests, mostly at Buckingham Palace. Last year, the Queen received around $23 million for these functions, which, according to some sources, failed to meet expenses due to inflation. Sovereign Grant money also covers particular expenses, such as upkeep of the royal palaces (Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, St. James Palace, and several other smaller residences), and transportation costs, such as the Royal train, helicopter, and jet, and other travel expenses. Last year, the amount given for these various travel expenses totaled about $32 million.
- Personal Assets: The Royal (art) Collection – The 200,000-plus art collection includes paintings, drawings, and prints by many masters, including Rembrandt and Michelangelo. Also in the collection: furniture, textiles, armor, and the world's largest Faberge egg collection. The Royal Collection is valued at 16 billion. Although the Queen owns the Royal Collection, she cannot sell any pieces in the collection, and the collection must pass to her successor.
- Personal Assets: Property - The Queen personally owns two large, country estates--Sandringham House, near Norfolk, England, and Balmoral Castle, near Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Both estates provide sections open to the public. The Queen's favorite, is Balmoral, which she has referred to as "my dear paradise in the Highlands." The Queen and her family often vacation at Balmoral and spend Christmas at Sandringham House.
DOES THE QUEEN PAY TAXES?
Yes, she does. In 1992, the Queen, for the first time, paid income tax and capital gains tax--entirely on a voluntary basis. Then, in 1993, an arrangement was made between the Queen and UK government in which the Queen would pay personal income tax as any other taxpayer. (She has always voluntarily paid VAT taxes.)
To say the least, the Queen’s finances are complex and not as straightforward as I fear I have made them sound. For instance, the government pays for the Queen's security, she doesn't. Charles has various funds and properties of his own and pays for various expenses for his children. Etc, etc, etc. To itemize such things would surely bore all except readers who are CPAs--and maybe them, too. But as Anglophiles, we should grasp a basic understanding of the financial arrangements between the Monarch and UK government for one important reason: Money forms the core of the British debate about remaining a monarchy or doing away with the monarch and becoming a republic. The majority of British citizens are content with having and paying for a monarch; they are called Monarchists. A sizable faction of Brits, however, are Republicans, who would love to say adieu to the Royals, and stop footing their bills. As Anglophiles, we should understand this debate!
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