The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
The royals are the public faces of an empire worth £23bn, so why is money at the root of their fallouts?
With the King reputedly cutting costs, members of the monarchy may have to rely on their own millions, says
Google “How rich are the Royal family?” and it’s difficult to get a clear idea of what the House of Windsor is actually worth.
According to Forbes, which has chronicled the wealth of the world’s richest for more than a century, the royals “are the public faces of a £23billion empire that pumps hundreds of millions of pounds into the United Kingdom’s economy every year”.
Describing “Monarchy Plc” as “a global business enterprise that spans prime real estate in central London to remote farmlands in Scotland” the American magazine reaches that figure by roughly adding together the assets of the Crown Estate (£16billion), Buckingham Palace (£4billion), the Duchy of Cornwall (£1billion), the Duchy of Lancaster (£620million), Kensington Palace (£520million) and the Crown Estate Scotland (£400million).
Forbes also estimated that Elizabeth II had about £415million in personal assets “thanks to her investments, art, jewels and real estate, including two castles: Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle”, which have now been passed down to Charles III.
So while the royals may not directly own that £23billion, it is fair to say that thanks to inheritance, they are all multimillionaires in their own right. Which makes it all the more curious why money appears to have been at the root of so many of their recent ills.
If it wasn’t bad enough to have Prince Harry complain to Oprah Winfrey in 2021 that “my family literally cut me off financially” and saying of Megxit, “I’ve got what my mum left me and without that we would not have been able to do this”, the US-based Sussexes are now being evicted from Frogmore Cottage, their British home, in a move friends have dubbed “cruel”.
It is understood that the Duke of York has been offered the keys to the five-bedroom house, a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle.
It follows reports that the King is planning to slash his brother’s annual £249,000 grant, which would leave the Duke unable to afford the running costs of his own, larger, Windsor home, Royal Lodge.
Responding to claims “his brother wants to evict him”, a royal source said the reports seemed to be based on “fears, not full facts”, stressing that King Charles will not leave the Duke homeless or penniless, but just wants Andrew to use his own money to pay for things. He is believed to have guaranteed the Duke a reduced income and a home, and is understood to have agreed to pay privately for the Duke’s security, estimated at £3million a year, after the Home Office axed his Scotland Yard bodyguards. “It’s about money, not malice,” said one insider. Yet sources close to Prince Andrew say he is reluctant to leave his family home of 20
years despite his acceptance that it “all seems to boil down to budgets and running costs”.
Like his siblings, Princess Anne, 72, and the Earl of Wessex, 58, Prince Andrew, 63, is believed to have received a substantial inheritance from the late Queen and Prince Philip. Her Majesty was happy to indulge her four children – not to mention the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, whose penchant for lavish entertaining was legendary.
But with the King, 74, wanting to reign over a value-for-money, “slimmed down” monarchy, are the royals about to have their purse strings cut? And what effect might that have on a monarchy that can never be seen to be “cashing in”?
Accommodation is certainly an area of concern. The Crown owns 14 royal residences including Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle, but currently only Buckingham Palace is occupied. The Prince and Princess of Wales recently moved from Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace to Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor Great Park estate – and although they take their children, Prince George, nine, Princess Charlotte, seven, and four-year-old Prince Louis to use the pool at Windsor Castle, they have no immediate plans to move there. (The couple privately own
Anmer Hall, their bolthole on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.)
Add to the official properties the homes privately owned by the King, including Sandringham House, Balmoral Castle, Birkhall and Highgrove House and Charles’s property empire looks far from cost-efficient. While there is no suggestion that the Wessexes are going to be moved from Bagshot House, which like Royal Lodge is leased by the Crown Estate (Anne owns Gatcombe Park privately), the decision to evict the Sussexes shows the King is actively reassessing the portfolio.
Royal aides have suggested that he plans to “repurpose” some of the properties into visitor attractions – and is even exploring the option of opening Buckingham Palace all year round. But it will not strike many as “slimmed down” for the King to have use of no fewer than five properties in Scotland alone. (Control of Duchy of Cornwall properties in Wales and the Isles of Scilly, along with Highgrove House, was passed on to the Prince of Wales, as the new Duke of Cornwall, when his father acceded the throne.)
Minor royals, including Prince Andrew’s daughter Princess Beatrice, have use of apartments in St James’s Palace, while his other daughter Princess Eugenie lives in Ivy Cottage at Kensington Palace. But with their mother the Duchess of York having recently purchased a £4.25million mews house in Belgravia, Uncle Charles would be justified in suggesting they move there – not least as it is in one of London’s most distinguished postcodes. As non-working royals, Beatrice and Eugenie have their own careers and earn their own keep – but if rents suddenly become more expensive than peppercorns, might those further down the pecking order be forced into looking for other moneyspinning schemes?
The path to “financial independence” taken by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex is a prime example of how enforced economic autonomy sometimes comes at a greater cost. After signing multi-million pound deals with the likes of Netflix, Spotify and Penguin Random House, who published Harry’s autobiography Spare in January, the Sussexes got their pound of flesh by unleashing on their nearest and dearest. Yet the couple might arguably have gone a little easier on their loved ones if “darling Papa” hadn’t pulled the plug and was still subsidising their security bill.
The consensus is that Harry would never have published Spare if the late Queen was still alive, having reportedly asked for his autobiography to be pulled after visiting his grandmother during her Platinum Jubilee weekend last June – one of the reasons why its publication was delayed until after her death last September. The sensational memoir, which contains intimate details of Prince Harry’s conversations with the royals, has driven a coach and horses through the late monarch’s “never explain, never complain” mantra, creating a sort of royal Glasnost that could now be taken as a precedent for others to monetise their links to the Royal family.
Mike Tindall, the former rugby player who is married to Princess Anne’s daughter Zara – the late Queen’s granddaughter – made a rumoured £150,000 from starring in the reality show I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! last autumn, despite concerns that his taking part in kangaroo testicle-eating bushtucker trials might “demean” the monarchy. Eyebrows were similarly raised when Zara’s brother Peter Phillips popped up in an advert for Jersey milk in communist China in 2020 billed as a “British Royal family member”. This week, Mike and Zara – a renowned equestrian – gave a joint interview to the bookmaker William Hill in what is thought to be a paid partnership ahead of next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Yet after the Sussexes’ revelations, is anyone likely to bat an eyelid if any of the royals now choose to bring out their own autobiographies? Compared with the couple’s televised interview with Oprah, the likes of Beatrice and Eugenie being paid to appear in a reality show or pursue some other commercial endeavour seems unlikely to rock the boat as much as it might have five years ago. As veteran royal reporter Phil Dampier puts it: “Although Mike Tindall reportedly informed Prince William he was going into the jungle and William apparently said, ‘Go for it’, I don’t think he would have done it if the Queen were still alive. But the fact the Prince of Wales approved it shows how far the dial has moved.
“The King will be doing things differently to his late mother. The Queen was the glue holding it all together and things were done in a certain way because that was how she had been doing it for 70 years. But now she’s gone, for different reasons, minor royals and nonworking royals are going to have to be more self-sufficient.”
‘The King’s doing things differently. Minor royals are going to have to be more self-sufficient’