A Brief Guide: How Much Do They Take From Our Pockets?
Most Expensive Monarchy
The Windsors are the most expensive monarchy in Europe. Republic, in its Royal Expenses report, has estimated the total taken from the people each year to fund the monarchy to be £334m. That is eight times the amount admitted in official statements.
A family affair
One reason for this is that in the kingdom, unlike republics, the people have to support a family, not just the head of state.
Charles Windsor is paid more than £20m a year just for being the son of the hereditary head of state. That money comes from the Duchy of Cornwall. His dad, Philip, has no duchy. His consolation prize is an annual grant of about £400,000.
And there are also 15 relatives of queen Windsor, sometimes known as "minor royals", who also live on lavish state benefits paid from the pockets of the British people. The justification given for these payments is that these relatives carry out public engagements that take very little of their time.
From Our Public Resources
The clan gets its huge income from a number of sources. A large part is taken from the income generated by public property holdings. Some of it comes directly from the taxpayers. The total cost to the people has been estimated by the monarchist Telegraph newspaper at £300m a year.
The best known income is the "sovereign grant". This has been paid since 2012 and is taken from the income of the public property portfolio known as the "Crown Estate", which includes the seabed around Britain and Northern Ireland. Until 2016 15 per cent of Estate income was transferred to the Windsor family each year, giving them £42.8m in that year.
In 2016 the prime minister, the chancellor of the exchequer and Windsor's chief financial officer decided amongst themselves to increase the percentage to 25 per cent for 10 years to pay for improvements to the family's main London home, Buckingham Palace. That will give the Windsors an extra £369m.
This grant replaced "civil list" grants that were paid directly from taxes. Its introduction was one of the most shameful concessions to hereditary privileges that Britain's parliament has ever made. The change was intended by supporters of the fuedal institution to strenthen the privileges of the Windsor family. It reduces public and parliamentary scrutiny of spending on the clan. And it provides a high chance of an automatic annual increase in income as the profits of the Estate rise. It was also a concession to the Windsor belief that the Crown Estate belongs to them.
The feudal family say that they give back more than they take by "surrendering" to the state the income from the Crown Estate, which they claim to be their private property. The Crown Estate is, in fact, the property of the people of Britain. The Windsors have no more right to it than the Prime Minister has to 10 Downing Street.
Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, supporting giving the Windsors 15% of so-called Crown Estate income.
Queen Windsor and her son Charles also take the income from two "duchies". These are property holdings and investments that members of the Windsor family are allowed to benefit from. Whoever becomes Britain's hereditary head of state also becomes the "Duke of Lancaster". The eldest son of the head of state is automatically the "Duke of Cornwall".
Ms. Windsor is given the revenue profits from the 33,000 acre Duchy of Lancaster, which were £16.6m in 2015. Son Charles is allowed to take the income from the Duchy of Cornwall. This Duchy's land holdings include the 70,000 acres of Dartmoor. In the 2015-16 year the Duchy generated £20.5m in spending money for Windsor, of which some was spent on official duties.
Charlie was not the only family member to benefit from this feudal arrangement. It was revealed in that year that the Duchy had paid a sister of Charlie's wife £1.5m since 2005 for styling holiday lets and providing furniture, furnishings and "retail stock".
The Windsors claim that the Duchies are their private properties, except when it comes paying taxes.
In 2011 the Cornwall duchy claimed to an information rights tribunal that it was a "private operation". The tribunal ruled that in fact it was a "public authority".
And in a "memorandum of understanding" on taxation published by the government in 2013 the Duchies were described as "crown bodies". Unlike private organisations such bodies are exempt from tax. The memorandum was signed by representatives of queen Windsor and her son, happy to escape the taxes paid by citizens.
Now that Ms. Windsor's mother is dead the only "annuity" is a £395,000 annual handout to her husband, getting on for three times the salary of the prime minister.
According to press reports Ms Windsor's mother, now dead, also lived the high life at the expense of the people on such an income. Fifty personal staff, four lavishly furnished homes and a taste for the fanciest of dining out, soon exhausted the £643,000 welfare payment that she received annually from British taxpayers.
From the Dead
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 Lancaster, their estate is added to the wealth of that Duchy.
Spending for the family by government departments and local authorities
Various government departments contribute around £5m for the administration of the honours or class system, servants, palace maintenance, ceremonies and overseas visits. Local councils pick up the bills when a Windsor visits. Republic has etimated the annual cost to taxpayers of these visits at £21.5m.
Security costs for numerous family members are kept quiet but have been estimated by the Republic group at about £102m. The large number of homes and many family members make the cost of police protection much higher than it would be for a democratic president.
Mark Bolland, former Windsor press officer.
Other costs to the people include (2013 figures)
- Buildings used by Windsors - £30m
- “Royal Collection” works of art - £9.8
- Pensions - £2.3m
- Lord Lieutenants (the family's local reps) - £2.1
In recent years the annual costs to the people for the considerable running expenses of Ms Windsor's household have included:
- Staff - £10.2m
- Dining and entertainment - £1.2m
- Administration - £1.2m
- Housekeeping and furnishings - £0.5m
- Ceremonies - £0.4m
- Other - £0.2m
Other spending has included:
- £500,000 for public relations work.
- £700,000 for garden parties
Traveling In Style
Transport for the family cost the British people £4m in 2015 - 2016.
The head of state's son, Charles Windsor, spent £658,000 of the people's money on travel in a 2015 - 16. This cost to the British people was held down by requiring the people of Australia and New Zealand to pay for his visits to those countries.
To enable the Windsors to get around in style taxpayers fund a 9-car train costing as much as £900,000 a year, and pay as much as £4.8m for helicopters and Air Force and private planes.
Thirteen staff are employed to organize their travels and the administrative bill has been as much as £300,000. The bills presented to the taxpayers for payment in a recent years have included
- £446,000 - an eight-day visit to South America for Charlie.
- £292,229 - a single trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji cost
- £434,000 - a trip to India
- £33,249 - a two-day train trip
- £19,587 - a train trip from Windsor to Worcester
- £255,000 - to fly to South Africa
- £275,000 - Caribbean cruise on a chartered yacht
- £18,916 - Charles Windsor to visit a pub Cumbria
- £381,813 - Trip by Ms. Windsor to the USA to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the republic's Jamestown settlement
- £123,731 - Andrew Windsor 11-day visit to the far east
- £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 relax at a cricket game.
- £1,500 - a visit by Charles Windsor to Wembley Stadium and
- £33,000 - for a "prince" to travel the 110 miles from Salisbury to Birmingham.
Accommodation for this large family is a highly expensive part of the bill. The Windsors are provided with seven homes, 160,000 square meters of land and 1000 staff to look after the properties. Fifteen craftspeople are employed just to care for the furniture.
In 2015-16 the Windsors billed the people £16m for the upkeep of their homes. But this may not seem so bad if you remember that in 2013-14 they sent us the bill for a £3.4m refurbishment of an apartment for just two family members.
In June 2000 a report by the National Audit Office revealed the following costs:
- £19,000 for new wardrobes
- £650,000 for repairs to a palace exterior
- £218,000 for redecoration of castle living accomodation
- £135,000 to replace a palace lift.
- £500,000 for palace furniture and equipment.
Other items charged to the taxpayers 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 Windsor's castle in the borough of Windsor
The costs to tax payers were even higher than they needed to be because major maintenance work must be scheduled so that it does not disturb queen Windsor.
The cost of justifying these feudal privileges is also carried by the taxpayers. The family have increased their spending of the people's money on public relations to £0.5m a year, as they recognise the need to work harder to keep their confidence trick going. They have developed their Web site at the people's expense in a partisan effort to persuade children that the feudal institution is defencible.
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 (PAC) and the National Audit Office (NAO) were still forbidden from looking at how the family spent the money the taxpayers provided for 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.
Since 2011, when the Windsors started to take 15% of the profits of the Crown Estate, the NAO and PAC have had the responsibility of ensuring that the money is well spent. But the government has ignored their criticisms of Windsor spending.
Every ten years there has been a review of the Civil List payments by the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Windsor's head of finance. Such infrequency was said to be necessary for the "honour and dignity of the Crown" to be upheld.
The family is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act as, despite the tax funding they receive and the privileged part they have in the government of the nation, they are not considered to be a "public authority".
The hereditary head of state's annual accounts tell us that "the Royal Household is committed to Equal Opportunities and all appointments and promotions are on merit."