There’s no question that the British royal
family is wealthy. Look at their homes,
their transportation Their weddings. Their jet-setting — They live the lifestyles of the richest people
on earth. So, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced
they wanted a new financial relationship with the monarchy…
…it opened up questions about how the British family really makes their money, and what
exactly are Harry and Meghan leaving behind? It turns out, the search for those answers
starts with some of the most iconic royal real estate. This map shows some of the real estate in
the UK that is associated with the royal family. This is Balmoral castle in Scotland—where
the Queen spends her summers. This is the Savoy chapel, nestled between
buildings in central London. And this is Windsor castle, just outside of
London, where the Queen often hosts foreign leaders.
Each one of these three properties represents a different way the royal family makes their
fortune. The first is one of two that falls in the
Queen’s private wealth – which means if she were to leave the throne, it would still
be hers. These can be traced back to the 1800s when
Queen Victoria bought them and they’ve been passed down through generations.
The other set of properties that contribute to their private wealth are the Duchies…
Am I saying that right? Duchies? Duchies that’s right.
There is something called the Duchy of Lancaster. This is an old estate, ancestral estate dating
back to the 14th century. It’s now a portfolio of property and it provides a private income
for the queen. That portfolio includes historic sites and
land throughout the UK – which is a lot. But the most profitable property are these
blocks of commercial real estate in central London, which includes Savoy Chapel.
There’s also the Duchy of Cornwall, 130,000 acres of property that includes castles, holiday
cottages and a cricket stadium in London. Over the past 60 years, the Duchies have become
increasingly profitable. In 2019 they each made just over 20 million pounds for the royal
family. The income from the Duchy of Cornwall goes
to the heir to the throne, Prince Charles. — About 5 million pounds of that went to his
sons, William and Harry, in 2019. And the income from the Duchy of Lancaster
goes to the Queen. But there’s a catch.
“She only gets that because… she’s queen. It goes with the job. If she abdicated tomorrow,
she wouldn’t get 30 million dollars a year. It goes with the Crown, as it were. And because it goes with the crown, it’s not
really, totally a private estate The best guess of the net worth of the Queen,
the richest royal family member, is about $370 million pounds.
That’s obviously rich, but it puts her nowhere near the richest people in the world. The illusion of the royal family’s wealth
is greater than their actual wealth because of the third way they make money:
These properties are part of what’s called the “Crown Estate.”
The Crown Estate includes iconic landmarks, like Windsor Castle, Buckingham palace and
the Tower of London. It also includes commercial real estate in London. And lots of land, including
the seabed around the UK. This group is worth billions of pounds – but
– it doesn’t actually figure into the Queen’s wealth. And the reason behind that can be traced back
to a time the royals really needed money. “In the 18th century, you had a long list of
German kings, the Georges. Georges I, II to IV. And they wasted a lot of money, and they were terrible with money. And they got into lots of trouble with the government,
and in the end, one of the Georges, George III said, ‘I’m broke. I’ll give you all
my crown lands.’ These were the personal lands owned by the King. ‘And in return you give me a set amount of money.'”
So they gave up ownership of all these lands in exchange for taxpayer money that would
pay for the royal family’s lifestyle. This part of their income today is called the sovereign
grant. Between 2018 and 2019, that amounted to about
80 million pounds. We don’t know exactly how much of the sovereign
grant went to Harry and Meghan, but it accounts for 5% of the couple’s income as part of
their royal titles, the other 95% comes from the Duchy of Cornwall.
The sovereign grant funding doesn’t go into the royal family’s pockets, it’s supposed
to “enable Her Majesty to carry out her official duties,” like to travel, to pay
her staff and to “maintain the royal residencies.” Even so, taxpayer support for the monarchy
has long been controversial. And that became evident when Windsor Castle caught fire in
1992. “Smoke continued to roll from gaping holes
in the roof” “15 hours and 1.5 million gallons of water later, as the royal treasures
littered the lawn like an upmarket garage sale, it was learned there was no fire insurance.” Radio host: “Should you, will you, pay for the repair of Windsor Castle. Patricia in Notting Hill, Hello.” “Hello.” “Hello, what do you think?” “No, absolutely not.” “I don’t see why, us as the taxpayers, should pay for the Windsor Castle fire, when it’s actually her house.” That debate continues today—every time the
sovereign grant report comes out. “The report shows just how much money is
used to support the Queen…” “The new home of Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of
Sussex, cost the public nearly $2.5 million pounds to refurbish, that’s more than $3 million.” But the argument in favor of public funding usually centers on how much people have always
loved the royal family–and are willing to pay for it.
The monarchy attracts millions of tourists every year. Their baby announcements and their
weddings and even their scandals are broadcast around the world.
Now, the royal family is all about image. They don’t actually have that much formal
power. What they do have is a brand… they’ve been
called one of the most valuable brands in Britain.
But a big part of maintaining that brand is to not exploit it.
… if are a working royal, you’re not really allowed to have a private source of income.
You’re not allowed to cash in. That means not working outside of their official
royal duties, like diplomacy and charity work. And that these real estate portfolios are
the primary way they make money. This is the financial model that Prince Harry
and Meghan Markle are leaving behind. In their announcement in early 2020, they
said they’d give all this up in favor of being “financially independent.”
What they’d be taking with them is their private wealth, which is a lot. Meghan was a successful actress
on the TV series Suits, and Harry inherited millions from his mother, Princess Diana.
They could also keep earning income from the Duchy of Cornwall.
What they would be giving up is this part of their income.
And also breaking free from the limitations of taxpayer funding. But with that independence comes the fear
that they’ll be committing the ultimate royal taboo: capitalizing off the monarchy.
“They could be viewed as using the monarchy to boost their brand.”
“They’re already in talks with Disney, they are talking to Oprah. “The very future of the monarchy could be
at stake here. Especially if the brand that Meghan and Harry have created
@SussexRoyal eventually eclipses the brand of the British royals.
But in one important respect, it’s rather healthy because what it has done, it has raised to the surface
a number of issues, not just to do with Harry, but to do with the whole royal family that
haven’t been properly addressed. For instance… How does a royal make a living?
And maybe it needs to loosen up a bit to be a bit more flexible