THE British royal family, the Windsors, refuse to disclose their personal wealth. They also protest that property Elizabeth Windsor holds as the “sovereign” should not be included, although she has the exclusive use of it and will be able to pass on that use to her children.
In 2008 the Times newspaper Rich List placed Ms Windsor at number 264 in its report of the UK’s wealthiest individuals. Her personal wealth was put at £320 million. (Note: £1 = $1.6)
The Forbes magazine Rich List published in 2010 estimated the Windsors’ net worth at £349m.
Estimates of wealth vary according to what assets are included. According to a survey by EuroBusiness published in 1999, the Windsor family had personal wealth of £2.7 billion. This was said to include £20m in cash and investments, £1bn in works of art, jewellery worth £130m, land valued at £895m and other assets of £160m. Much of the real estate is state land held through hereditary right. Elizabeth receives the income from the Duchy of Lancaster and her son Charles the income from the Duchy of Cornwall – £11.9m and £16m respectively in 2007.
The Windsors are exempt from the death duties paid by other Britons. In 2002, this allowed Elizabeth to avoid paying tax on as much as £50M left to her by her mother.
The Property Portfolio
In addition to the income from the 33,000 acre Duchy of Lancaster, £11.9m in 2007, Ms Windsor also has free run of three palaces, a castle and two racehorse studs.
As stated, her son Charles is allowed to take the income from the Duchy of Cornwall, £16m in 2007. Some of this was considered as “official duties” while the rest was his to spend as he pleased. The Duchy’s land holdings include the 70,000 acres of Dartmoor. The Duchy of Cornwall, from which Charles draws most of his income, and the Duchy of Lancaster that funds his mother, are both exempt from corporation and capital gains tax. This has been questioned by the British House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which has been particularly concerned that this gives the Duchies an unfair advantage in the property market that provides much of their profits.
The Accounts Committee inspects the accounts of the Duchies but the Auditor-General is not allowed to examine their financial records.
Charles is taxed on only 30 per cent of his income.
The residential palaces occupied by the Windsor family consist of 285 apartments and 6,000 rooms.
The Windsors receive their huge income from a number of other sources beside the two Duchies. Some of it comes directly from the taxpayers. And some is income from financial and property investments. In all, the annual income amounts to more than £110m a year.
In 2007, Charles spent £1.16m on travel by plane and train.
Whoever becomes Britain’s hereditary head of state also becomes the “Duke/Duchess of Lancaster.” The eldest son of the head of state is automatically the “Duke of Cornwall.”
The Windsors even boost their incomes by taking from the dead. When someone dies in Cornwall without leaving a will, their estate is taken by the Duchy of Cornwall if they have no surviving relatives entitled to inherit from them. Similarly, when a person dies in parts of Lancashire and in other parts of England and Wales that belong to the Duchy of Cornwall, their estate is added to the wealth of that Duchy.
What is officially termed “Head of State Expenditure” amounted to £40m in the 2007-2008 financial year. However, this excludes the cost of security for the numerous family members and residences. The cost is kept quiet but has been estimated to exceed £50m. The coming wedding of Charles’ son will be protected by 5,000 police and some 1,000 members of the armed forces lining the route to Westminster Abbey. The security costs are estimated to be on the order of £20m.
The “Head of State Expenditure” is divided among “The Civil List,” “Parliamentary,” grants in aid, and spending on the Windsors by various government departments.
The spending is not restricted to the hereditary head of state Ms Windsor. Other members of her family also receive funding. For example, the government gave her son Charles an additional £3m in 2008, a 23.5 per cent increase on the previous year. Most of the extra money was accounted for by £550,000 spent on travel, including two overseas tours. The government gave Ms Windsor’s husband Philip £0.4m of extra money in 2007-2008.
According to press reports Ms Windsor’s mother, now dead, also lived the high life using pay-the-rich schemes of the state. Fifty personal staff, four lavishly furnished homes and a taste for the fanciest of dining out, was paid in part from an annual stipend of £643,000 from the British government but she also had vast personal wealth.
The Civil List
Each year Ms Windsor receives £14.2m for the running expenses of her household. Charles also receives an amount from the civil list.
Royal Transport Costs
This is an undisclosed amount but it is known that the royal train alone has an annual maintenance cost of £1m.
Now that Ms Windsor’s mother is dead, a remaining annuity is a £400,000 annual handout to Elizabeth’s husband Philip.
Grants in Aid
These amount annually to around £22m, broken down into £15.3m for the upkeep of the numerous family residences, £6.2m for travel and £500,000 for public relations work.
Spending for the Family by Government Departments
Various government departments contribute £4.9m for the administration of the honours or class system, servants, palace maintenance, ceremonies and overseas visits.
Most Expensive Monarchy
The Windsors are the most expensive monarchy in Europe. Only in 1998 were the accounts for the massive expenditure on transport and accommodation opened for parliamentary inspection. But the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons and the National Audit Office are still forbidden from looking at how the family spend the money provided from the Civil List. Instead, in June of 2002, the Windsor family published their own annual civil list accounts for the first time, for information only. The family is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, as they are not considered to be a “public authority.”
Security costs are estimated to exceed £50m annually.
Travelling in Style
Transport for the family cost £6.2m in 2007-2008.
Charles Windsor billed the government for £970,000 for one year’s travel expenses. A single trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji cost £292,229.
Andrew Windsor has spent more than £560,000 of government money on travel in a single year.
To enable the Windsors to get around in style the government funds a 9-car train costing around £1m a year, and pay £4.8m for helicopters and Air Force and private planes. Thirteen staff are employed to organize their travels and the administrative bill is £300,000. The bills presented to the government for payment in recent years have included:
£275,000 – Caribbean cruise on a chartered yacht
£18,916 – Charles Windsor to visit a pub in Cumbria
£381,813 – Trip by Ms Windsor to the USA to celebrate 400th anniversary of Jamestown settlement
£123,731 – Andrew Windsor 11 day visit to East Asia
£700,000 – garden parties
£40,513 – 3-day tour by train for Charles Windsor
£24,870 – two-day visit to Spain by Charles Windsor
£25,829 – train for Charles Windsor to visit the Eden botanical project in Cornwall
£2,565 – family member flying to a golf tournament
£2,938 – flight by Charles Windsor to London for a movie
£1,200 – Philip Windsor to attend a cricket game
£1,500 – a visit by Charles Windsor to Wembley Stadium
£33,000 – for an unnamed “prince” to travel the 110 miles from Salisbury to Birmingham
Accommodation for this large family, at almost £15m, is a highly expensive part of the bill. The Windsors are provided with seven residences, 160,000 square metres of land and 1,000 staff to look after the properties. Fifteen craftspeople are employed just to care for the furniture.
In June 2000, a report by the National Audit Office revealed the following costs:
£19,000 – new wardrobes
£650,000 – repairs to a palace exterior
£218,000 – redecoration of a castle living room
£135,000 – replacement of a palace elevator
£500,000 – palace furniture and equipment
Other items charged to the government have included £150,000 for new silk walls and gold gilding in one of the palaces and £300,000 for double glazing and sash windows at the Windsors’ castle in the borough of Windsor.
The family has increased its spending of government money on public relations to £0.5m a year.