The Monarchy In Britain
A brief guide
What Are They Worth?
The family refuse to disclose their personal wealth, though they claim that estimates by outsiders have been inaccurate. They also protest that property the queen 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 Liz Windsor at number 264 in its report of the UK's wealthiest individuals. Her personal wealth was put at £320m.
The Forbes magazine Rich List published in 2010 estimated the Windsors' net worth at £349m and placed Windsor at number 12 in its list of wealthy monarchs.
Estimates of wealth vary according to what assets are included. The often confusing overlap between the Windsors as individuals and as hereditary rulers can also affect the result. According to a survey by EuroBusiness published in 1999 the Windsor family had personal wealth of £2.7bn. This was said to include £20m in cash and investments, £1bn in art works, jewelry worth £130m, land valued at £895m and other assets of £160m. Much of the real estate, however, is not the personal property of the family (although Liz receives the income from the Duchy of Lancaster and Charles the income from the Duchy of Cornwall - £11.9m and £16m respectively in 2007).
The Windsors are not the wealthiest royals however. Forbes magazine reported that their comrade in Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej has accumulated £18.79bn. Other European monarchs are much less wealthy than Windsor.
Only in 1993 did Ms. Windsor agree to pay income tax on her personal income. Son Charlie started to pay up a year later. Still they are exempt from the death duties paid by other Britons. In 2002 this allowed Liz to avoid paying tax on as much as £50M left to her by her mother.
The Property Portfolio.
Ms. Windsor is given the income from the 33,000 acre Duchy of Lancaster, £11.9m in 2007. She also has free run of three palaces, a castle and two racehorse studs.
Her son Charles is allowed to take the income from the Duchy of Cornwall. In the 2007 - 2008 year that gave him £16m before tax, of which some went on "official duties" and the rest of which was his to spend as he pleased. According to figures published by the Financial Times in 2008 a "head of a clan" in the Italian Mafia can expect to make only £408,000 a year.
The Duchy's land holdings include the 70,000 acres of Dartmoor. Charlie does not own the Duchy's property and cannot take any of its capital.
The Duchy of Cornwall, from which Mr. Windsor 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 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.
Mr. Windsor is taxed on only 30 per cent of his income.
The royal palaces are owned by the state not by the family. Some, such as the Tower of London, are run as museums or tourist attractions. The residential palaces, which are occupied by the family, consist of 285 apartments and 6,000 rooms.
The Crown Estate.
The Crown Estate, valued at £7.3bn in 2010-11 and with an annual operating surplus of £230.9m, is often a source of confusion.
Its property holdings are concentrated in London, where more than £2.626m of property is owned. Here there are over 600 properties, including embassies and West End stores. The urban estate was valued at £4.6bn in 2009-10. Outside the capital the Ascot horse race course, a castle and more humdrum commercial properties are owned. The Estate includes 274,000 acres of farm land and forest. Over half of the coastline and the sea bed out to 12 miles is also a part of the Estate. Revenue from the marine estate was £46.6m in 2009-10.
The profits from the Crown Estate were "surrendered" by the monarch in 1760 in exchange for government funding. But the Windsors seem to have held on to the belief that the Estate belongs to them still. In 2011 the government went some way towards conceding this by agreeing that the clan should keep 15 per cent of the Estate's profits in place of grants paid from taxes. In fact the queen has no more of a claim on this money than she has on customs and excise income. In the eighteenth century the monarchy had not lost its central role in the government of Britain. The rents from the estates, like customs revenue, was used for the administration of the country, not for personal use. The Crown Estate is now public property and the family have no right to the income.
The Chief Executive of the Crown Estate receives a salary and benefits package worth more than £300,000.
For more on the Duchy of Cornwall visit the Duchy of Cornwall Human Rights Association and and the feudal entity's own site
The Crown Estate Belongs to the People
Back to the Constitution Centre