King Charles III ascended the throne on September 8, 2022, the very day his beloved mother, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away. And he will be officially crowned on May 6. But along with the most coveted title in the land, does the King also inherit wealth beyond our wildest dreams? The short answer is, of course, yes. But the correct answer is much more complicated than that. The late Queen's net worth was extraordinary — and the money behind the Crown is even more mind-boggling than we can possibly imagine — but not everything goes directly go to the new King now that he wears the crown.
It can sometimes be a fairly straightforward game to estimate somebody's net worth. Want to know how much Patrick Mahomes is worth?
Well, it was all over the news that he signed a $450 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020, so that's a good place to start. But Elizabeth didn't make announcements about her investment deals, talk about her financial situation in public, or even have her own bank account.So in valuing her net worth, you need to parse the details with a fine tooth comb. Yet there is at least an obvious starting point: the Crown Estate.
This is the most valuable part of the royal family's finances. It is a property portfolio, but one with so many assets that it would be impossible — and frankly, boring — to list them all here.
But you'll no doubt recognize some of the high-profile properties that are technically under the management of the Crown. For example, you've probably heard of Regent Steet in London.It's one of the most famous shopping districts in the world, home to brands such as Armani and Kate Spade. And that is just one tiny part of the Crown Estate.
Another big one in the Crown Estate is Ascot Racecourse. The horse racing at Ascot showcases some of the biggest meets in the U.K., with the prize money available in 2023 totaling over $20 million.
And the Royal Ascot event in June is a key calendar date for celebrities and fashionistas around the world. But it's not just land that is part of the Crown Estate. In fact, it owns much of the seabed of the U.K. as well as half of the foreshore.So all in all, the value of the properties in the portfolio is estimated to be worth almost $19 billion. Yet they don't actually belong to the British monarchy.
As the official website states, "The Crown Estate is not the personal property of the monarch. It cannot be sold by the monarch, nor do any profits from it go to the sovereign."
So while the Crown Estate is in charge of Regent Street and Ascot, the Queen didn't see any of that money nor did she even have a say in its operation. The Crown Estate is actually controlled by an independent institution with a board. a chief executive, and all the things you'd expect from a public company.That's a shame for the monarch's net worth — because the figures involved are eye-opening. The latest annual report from the Crown Estate covers the financial period from April 2021 to the end of March 2022.
In its report, the organization revealed that it made a staggering £312.7 million in net profits. That comes in at a little under $380 million.
Its net assets, meanwhile, were said to be £16.5 billion — or a little over $20 billion. The annual report also released information such as how the Crown Estate reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent year on year. But we're only interested in the financials here. Yet it would be a mistake to get carried away with these figures.Remember, the Queen does not own these properties and does not get that $380 million in profit. So where does it go?
All that money is actually paid to the HM Treasury. Not to get too into the weeds with this, but the Treasury is a department of the British government that looks after public spending.
As the official royal family website puts it, "The Treasury is effectively the principal government stakeholder and is kept informed of the [Crown Estate]’s overall business plans and strategies." The Crown Estate profits, then, are "for the benefit of all U.K. taxpayers." But, wouldn't you know it, there is another twist.The Treasury does not keep 100 percent of the net profits from the Crown Estate. On the contrary, it actually gives a portion of those profits back to the monarchy!
This is known as the Sovereign Grant: it's probably a bit more convoluted than is strictly necessary. But basically, the Treasury gives the ruling monarch a chunk of money that is equivalent to about a quarter of what the net profits from the Crown Estate were two years ago.
So Forbes magazine worked out that the 2022 Sovereign Grant totaled $99.6 million — or about 25 percent of the Crown Estate's net profit in 2019-2020. Got it? Good.It's possible this all sounds so complicated because the history of the Sovereign Grant dates back to 1760 and the time of King George III.
It was George who entered into a deal with the government about the management of the Crown Lands, as they were known in 1760. The King agreed to give the government the profits in return for a lump payment that was called the Civil List.
This deal was reworked in 2012 into what we now call the Sovereign Grant. As you may have guessed by now, though, Elizabeth didn't simply pocket a $100 million payday in 2022.The catch is that the monarchy uses this money not for pleasure, but for business expenses. And that doesn't leave a whole lot over for fancy dinner parties.
For example, in 2016 the royal family announced plans to renovate Buckingham Palace. This ambitious plan was set to take place over ten years at the cost of — wait for it — £369 million,or almost $450 million.
It was said that the building was on the verge of "catastrophic" failure should the works not occur. It was to be the largest renovation of the place since World War II and would cover everything from replacing decades-old boilers and electrical cables to renewing out-of-date pipework.That amount raised a few eyebrows, of course. Yet the cost of these repairs would be covered by the royal family, not by the government or the taxpayers.
It was agreed that the Crown would receive a more significant cut of the Crown Estate profits, via an increase in the Sovereign Grant. But instead of this extra cash going straight into the Queen's bank account, it was instead plowed into Buckingham Palace.
According to the royal household's financial report for 2021-22, the Sovereign Grant included "an additional dedicated amount for reservicing of £34.5 million" — or $42 million — that was used for the exclusive purpose of refurbishing Buckingham Palace.The financial report also revealed that the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace is going full steam ahead. Although, of course, there is still plenty of work left to do.
"Significant work has been completed in the West Wing, including the Grand Entrance, Grand Staircase, Minister’s Stairs, Marble Hall, and the Picture Gallery," the report noted. "Property maintenance works in these spaces have also been completed. The completion of the Picture Gallery roof has meant that the scaffolding obscuring the Grand Entrance has been removed.
The Palace Wide Infrastructure program has begun concurrently within each wing of the basement."But all of this work has meant that the royal household has actually spent too much on the reservicing scheme. The details of all of this were contained in the financial report for 2021-22.
In total, the royal household spent £54.6 million — or about $66 million — on the reservicing plan in 2021-22. That was a massive $24 million over budget and actually amounted to a 41 percent increase on what was spent the year before.
And even more remarkable, that $66 million accounted for more than 50 percent of the total royal expenditure for the entire year. The reason behind this overspending, though, was that a very important event happened early in 2022.Sir Michael Stevens has the rather fabulous title of the "Keeper of the Privy Purse," and he explained the expenditure for the royals' official website.
"While the reservicing programme continued to be carefully managed to match projected funding, there was a significant increase in work against a hard deadline to enable Buckingham Palace to be at the center of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations," he said. "On all fronts, we were pleased to deliver against our plans." The Platinum Jubilee arrived in on February 6, 2022, and marked the moment Elizabeth became the first British monarch to reign for 70 years.The occasion saw televised events such as Trooping the Color and Platinum Party at the venue.
Both of these put Buckingham Palace in a very bright spotlight.
When all was said and done, then, the royal household had £102.4 million — or almost $125 million — in costs for the year 2021-22. And while property maintenance certainly accounted for the bulk of that amount, the Crown's financial report breaks down the rest.
The next significant contributors to that total were payroll and staff costs, which came in at £27.5 million — $33.5 million — and travel costs, which were £4.5 million,or about $5.5 million.Other costs included utilities, housekeeping, and digital services. And even an additional source of income couldn't cover the final bill.
The financial report reveals that the Crown was able to raise £9.9 million, or $12 million, to "supplement the Sovereign Grant." This additional revenue stream comes from the "Royal Collection Trust’s ability to welcome visitors to the Occupied Royal Palaces."
In other words, when people pay to have a look around, say, Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, the profit generated from that went back to the royals.The Crown noted that this figure is less than half of what it would have been before the COVID-19 pandemic. So we'd guess that this number will skyrocket in the next few years as things return to normal.
So the Sovereign Grant was $99.6 million and the palace's additional income was $12 million — but its total expenditure was $125 million. This means that the extra $13.4 million had to be met by taking some money from the Sovereign Grant Reserve.
We won't go into all the ins and outs of this fund, either but essentially, if the royal household doesn't spend all of the Sovereign Grant in one year, the leftover money goes into the reserve account.The royal can't go on storing money in this reserve forever, of course. Its main purpose seems to be covering additional expenditures: particularly Buckingham Palace's renovations.
But the Queen didn't just make money through the Sovereign Grant, of course. One of her sources of private income came from the Duchy of Lancaster.
This won't be the last time we use that word, so just to clarify, the Cambridge Dictionary definition of a duchy is "the area of land owned or ruled by a duke or duchess." As the British monarch is also known as the Duke of Lancaster, the Duchy of Lancaster is the property portfolio held in trust for the monarch.And just like the Crown Estate, the Duchy of Lancaster is a multi-million-dollar portfolio. Forbes estimated that the assets controlled by the Duchy of Lancaster were worth around $753 million at the end of the 2022 financial year.
The property portfolio has been looked after by a British monarch ever since 1399; it is an extraordinary amount of land. According to British newspaper The Guardian, the land covered by the Duchy of Lancaster is roughly 44,479 acres in size.
It includes farmland and commercial buildings in the north of England, in the counties of Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and Lincolnshire. It also includes shops and offices in the upmarket Savoy area of London and much more besides.It is more valuable to the monarch than the Sovereign Grant. Again, though, that value does not directly translate to income.
How it works is that the net revenues from the Duchy of Lancaster are given to the monarch. This is called the Privy Purse.
In the year 2021-22 this amounted to £24 million or about $29 million. But that is before the government takes away any income tax or capital gains tax. It's worth noting that the royal family is technically allowed to get away without paying any tax at all — unless members of the family volunteer to pay it.And since 1993 Elizabeth and Charles have voluntarily paid their dues. There is a wrinkle even here, though.
The money from the Duchy of Lancaster is only subject to income tax or capital gains tax when the money isn't used for official purposes. And the official royal website states that the Privy Purse is "used mainly to pay for official expenditure not met by the Sovereign Grant."
So in reality, it's hard to say just how much tax the royals will pay after this has been taken into account.As the fund is there to cover the cost of expenses from all members of the royal family, it seems unlikely that the monarch can use it to live too large. There are other sources of wealth for the reigning Queen or King, though.
Part of that value comes from the Crown Estate Scotland. Similar to the Crown Estate previously discussed, Crown Estate Scotland is a property portfolio, held in trust of the monarch, that is incredible to behold.
It includes 91,000 acres of land, 12 nautical miles of seabed, the rights to wild salmon fishing, and the rights to naturally occurring gold and silver in Scotland. Forbes estimated the value of these net assets to be roughly $570 million.But unlike what happens with the Crown Estate, the royal family does not get any cut of the profits from Crown Estate Scotland. That all goes to the Scottish government instead.
Part of a person's wealth, of course, is based on the assets they privately own. But when it comes to the royal family, it is incredibly difficult to be exact when it comes to valuing their assets.
After all, many of their belongings would be priceless — if they were ever allowed to be sold at auction, that is. For example, the Crown Jewels are part of the Royal Collection held in trust of the monarch.The closest anybody can get to estimating their value is by comparing them to the price the French Crown Jewels fetched... in 1887.
The other point of comparison came from the sale of Princess Margaret's jewelry in 2006. That's when David Linley — Princess Margaret's son — put his late mother's family heirlooms up for auction in the hope of paying a multi-million-dollar inheritance tax bill.
The auction was pretty controversial at the time — as you can imagine — but that didn't stop it from going ahead.It ended up with Linley making about £14 million in sales, or about $20 million in today's terms. Using these data points, in 2019 the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors put the price of the Crown Jewels at about $4 billion.
The Crown Jewels are only one part of the Royal Collection, too. According to the official website, "The Royal Collection is one of the largest and most important art collections in the world."
It is comprised of over 1 million different objects from the world of fine and decorative arts. That includes artwork by the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and probably just about any renowned artist you can bring to mind.You'll find the collection split between the various royal residences in the U.K. It's been estimated to be worth at least $12.7 billion.
We also know that the royal family owns and lives in Buckingham Palace. But there are a bunch of other properties owned in trust of the King that are incredibly valuable, too.
These include, but are not limited to, Clarence House, Windsor Castle, Frogmore House, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Forbes believed Buckingham Palace to be worth about $4.9 billion and Clarence House to be worth about $72 million.And while the properties are obviously never going to be sold, Forbes estimated the total value of all of them put together at roughly $9.5 billion.
The problem is that these properties are only owned by the monarch in trust. That means that they were not the private property of Elizabeth to do with as she wished.
It was part of the deal that she had to pass them on to the next in line to the throne, Charles. And the same deal applies to him: he can't wake up one morning and decide to sell the Crown Jewels.So we can't put these properties as down as being part of the monarch's net worth. But there are a couple of residences that the monarch owns outright.
You've probably heard of them, too: Balmoral and Sandringham. Balmoral has been the Scottish retreat for the royal family ever since Prince Albert bought the castle for Queen Victoria in 1852.
Today, it's said to be worth $118 million. And in 1862 Victoria bought Sandringham for her son, Prince Albert Edward. This is worth $73 million today.Elizabeth inherited both of these from her father, George VI; they were passed down to Charles after she passed away. And there are plenty of other valuable assets that the King has inherited from his mother.
You might not necessarily think of stamps as being the most valuable things in the world, but then you probably haven't got a stamp collection like the King's. It's called the Royal Philatelic Collection, and it has been valued at a staggering $122 million.
The collection includes ten Penny Black stamps that were bought at auction for over $300,000. But the most valuable stamp presumed to be in the collection is the 2d Post Office Mauritius stamp that dates back to 1847.This little slip of a thing is valued at over $2,400,000. The Royal Philatelic Collection has been in the royal family since 1864; now it is in the care of Charles.
Another valuable asset Charles inherited from his late mother is her private art collection. This includes the artwork that was passed down from the Queen Mother to Elizabeth after the former's death in 2002.
Some of the most prominent works of art from it were given to the Royal Collection — which, remember, is only owned in trust — but the privately owned art is still incredibly valuable.Forbes revealed that the jewel in this particular crown is believed to be Study of Rocks; Creuse, by Claude Monet. This single piece is apparently valued at $17.3 million.
It wasn't just Elizabeth who liked to collect art, either. Prince Philip was also known as an avid fan of art and spent much of his life buying paintings for his homes.
His private collection couldn't touch the value of his wife's or his mother-in-law's, of course, but it was nothing to be sniffed at. One journalist pegged its value at about $2.3 million.It's likely that the collection would have passed to Elizabeth after Philip's death in 2021 and that now it belongs to Charles, tax-free.
But the royals don't just own works of art. Elizabeth's love of animals is well known, and it's also common knowledge that she owned a stable of racehorses.
But what might come as a surprise to learn is that she actually owned over 100 racehorses at the time of her passing in 2022. She'd earned a fair amount in prize money over the years, too.In 2021, for example, the Queen's horses earned $715,000 in prize money; throughout her life, she's said to have taken home as much as $10 million. These horses now belong to Charles and his wife.
Charles would have also benefited from Elizabeth's personal investments as well as the value of her jewelry. Those in the know valued just one of the watches owned by Charles at roughly $8,000.
And another, very visible sign of his wealth is the astonishing collection of cars owned by the royal family. In 2017 website Car Keys estimated these vehicles to be worth about $12 million.Highlights of the collection include a Rolls Royce Phantom VI — easily worth $225,000 — and a one-of-a-kind Bentley State Limousine of untold value.
One thing we can't take into consideration when figuring out the net worth of Elizabeth or Charles is the Duchy of Cornwall. Charles had control of this during his decades-long tenure as the Prince of Wales.
The net assets covered by this duchy are valued at $1.2 billion and provided the Prince of Wales a sizeable income separate from the Sovereign Grant.Now that Charles is King, though, the Duchy of Cornwall is in the hands of the new Prince of Wales: his son William. And there is one other unknown factor.
In 2022 The Guardian reported that the Windsor family had not been entirely open with the public about their financial assets. The paper said, "Generations of the royal family have concealed details of assets worth more than £180m [$220m] through a series of legal applications that have been granted in total secrecy."
It said this unusual arrangement — wills in Britain are usually publicly available — "enabled the Windsors to avoid the public seeing what kinds of assets — such as property, jewels, and cash — have been accumulated by members of the royal family."But that hasn't stopped people from trying to estimate the monarch's net worth. The figures have varied wildly over the years, too.
In 2020 journalist David McClure published an entire book on the subject called The Queen’s True Worth: Unravelling the Public & Private Finances of Queen Elizabeth II. McClure called previous attempts to include properties and assets held in trust by the sovereign as part of the Queen's personal net worth led to "crude valuations."
He highlighted Fortune's 1989 assessment of the Queen's wealth being $8.5 billion as "astronomical" because it included the value of the Crown Jewels.Similarly, McClure said, the 2001 The Sunday Times Royal Rich List Report estimate of $1.4 billion was inaccurate because it incorporated "all the capital from the Duchy of Lancaster."
On the other hand, McClure said, even when people exclude assets held in trust, they tended to lowball the Queen's net worth because they forgot to consider a couple of hard-to-estimate factors. "The Queen has helped turn [Sandringham Estate] around financially by taking advantage of EU subsidies on the land she farms and by improving her income from tenant farmers," McClure wrote.He revealed, for example, that Sandringham secured over $1 million in subsidies in 2019 alone.
And then there was the matter of the amount of value that you can place on the royal name.
"Previous estimates have put the value of Sandringham at between £30 million [$36 million] and £45 million [$55 million] but, significantly, do not take into full account the extra value attached to the royal name," McClure wrote. He said that by factoring in the brand name of the royals, "Sandringham might easily be worth £60 million [$73 million] to £80 million [$98 million] on the open market."And that's why he placed Elizabeth's net worth at around £400 million, or $490 million.
He said this was over $60 million more than other estimates at that time.
This figure is in the same ballpark as the ones put out by other estimates, though. Forbes said, "Charles now holds $500 million in personal assets with another $42 billion held in trust as the sovereign."
Yet the 2022 edition of the Sunday Times Rich List estimated Elizabeth's net worth slightly lower, at $453 million. All agree that Charles has now inherited this personal fortune, but there is another reason why nobody can come up with an exact and definite number.This has little to do with the vagaries of guessing an item's value, and more to do with a century-old royal tradition.
The last will and testament of Elizabeth is sealed and locked away where nobody can find it for 90 years. Seriously.
It's a royal tradition that goes back to 1910 when the will of Prince Francis of Teck was sealed under the care of a judge. The Queen's final document will be placed alongside the wills of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret in an undisclosed spot in London.This is the document that will one day shed light on exactly who inherited what from whom. Until then, all we can do is guess.