King Charles will receive a massive inheritance after his mother’s death – but it may not be as large as many people think.
The British monarchy has assets estimated at roughly US$27-billion, largely in real estate, including a number of castles and palaces. The King, like his mother Queen Elizabeth before him, and his successors after, receive income from many of the assets. They do not, however, have personal, legal ownership of those assets, so they are unable to sell them.
Instead, the assets are held by a variety of quasi-public duchies and estates, each with their own executives and boards, with financial reports published annually. The duchies and estates throw off income, much of which goes to the government, with a not inconsiderable sum given to Royal Family members.
Queen Elizabeth’s personal net worth – the bulk of which should go to King Charles, inheritance-tax free – is less known. But two U.S. news organizations, that measure the wealth of the world’s richest people, have taken a stab at estimating it.
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Forbes, which has published a list of the world’s wealthiest for years, estimated her net worth at US$500-million last year. The figure includes cash and investments, other assets like art and jewellery, and two properties that she owned personally: Sandringham House, which King Edward VII purchased in the 1860s, and Balmoral Castle, acquired by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, in the 1850s. It was at Balmoral Castle that the Queen died on Thursday.
In 2016, Forbes quoted a Czech luxury real-estate agent with a specialty in historic buildings, as estimating Sandringham House to be worth US$65-million and Balmoral Castle at least US$140-million.
How much is the monarchy worth?
Value of holdings of the Crown. In billions of U.S. dollars
of Cornwall: $1.2
of Lancaster $.757
The Crown Estate
of Scotland: $.573
Buckingham and Kensington palace values are Forbes estimates from March, 2021. All other holdings are net asset-values taken
from most recent annual reports and converted into USD at 1.16 per pound.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: FORBES; ANNUAL REPORTS
Bloomberg, which has also developed a ranking of the world’s wealthy, estimated the Queen’s fortune at US$400-million. As part of the calculations, Bloomberg used a 1971 statement from her former private secretary, John Colville, that estimated her fortune at £2-million, and a BBC report of her £70-million inheritance from the Queen mother in 2002, and adjusted the two numbers for inflation. Bloomberg also estimated the value of her horses and her stamp collection, believed to be the world’s largest.
Unlike Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle, Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace are not owned personally by the Royal Family.
In March, 2021, Forbes estimated the value of Buckingham Palace at US$4.9-billion. In 2016, however, it acknowledged the property “is a residence that most experts describe as almost impossible to value,” saying that the palace had been “widely valued within the 1-billion-pound range.” (One British pound closed Friday at about US$1.16.)
Forbes estimated Kensington Palace at US$630-million in March, 2021.
With £16.46-billion in net assets at March 31, the Crown Estate is the largest of four entities that hold royal property that is not personally owned by the family. It’s an independent commercial business, set up by an act of Parliament in 1961, to manage its land holdings and the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It posted a profit of £313-million in the 12 months ended March 31, and says it has contributed £3-billion to the public purse over the past decade.
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The Crown Estate puts 15 per cent of its profits toward what’s called the Sovereign Grant, money that goes to the Royal Family. The money – £86.3-million in the past two years, according to the BBC – is used to pay for royal duties, events and travel. Last year, the BBC said, almost 2,300 official engagements were carried out.
Other, smaller entities separate from the Crown Estate include:
- The Duchy of Cornwall, created in 1337 by Edward III to provide an income for his son, Prince Edward. It had £1.05-billion in net assets at March 31, including farmland, commercial and residential properties, and some smaller Royal Family residences. It generated £23-million in distributable profits for Charles in the 12 months ended March 31. (The Duke of Cornwall is a title traditionally held by the eldest son of the reigning British monarch, which will now be passed to Prince William.)
- The Duchy of Lancaster, a collection of commercial and residential properties that have been considered the personal estate of the reigning monarch since 1399, although the assets are held in trust for future monarchs, so the reigning king or queen cannot access its capital. Its income – £24-million in the 12 months ended March 31 – pays the private expenses of the Royal Family through an allowance called the Privy Purse. The Royal Family pays income taxes on the distribution. The duchy had £652.8-million of net assets at March 31.
- Crown Estate Scotland, established legally as a separate entity in 2019, is mix of land, property and things such as wild-salmon fishing rights. It had £494.3-million in assets at March 31, 2021. (It has not yet reported its most recent fiscal-year results.) It generated £11.5-million in the year ended March, 2021 for the public purse.