Royal portfolio: where did the queen’s fortune come from?

By Véronique DUPONT

Her collection of jewels and vast estates may have been impressive, but Queen Elizabeth II’s wealth paled in comparison with other royals.

She was estimated to be worth £370 million (more than $420 million) — not quite enough to earn her a spot on The Sunday Times 2022 “Rich List” of the UK’s 250 wealthiest.

And her fortune was dwarfed by that of other monarchs: the Thai royal family’s wealth is estimated at between $50 and $70 billion, while Saudi King Salman has reported net worth of $18 billion.

So how did she make her money and how did she spend it?

– Official expenses –

The taxpayer funds the British monarch’s lifestyle, while they and the royal family also receive income from gigantic private holdings, the details of which are not fully known.

An annual allowance from the government called the Sovereign Grant covered the queen’s official expenses and those of other royals representing her.

In the financial year 2020-2021, this amounted to almost £86 million, including £34.4 million towards ongoing renovations at Buckingham Palace in London.

The Sovereign Grant is set as equivalent to 15 percent of the profits of the Crown Estate — a huge portfolio of land, property and other assets such as wind farms that belongs to the ruling monarch but is independently managed.

The Crown Estate’s net income is handed to the Treasury under an agreement sealed in 1760.

The Sovereign Grant was temporarily increased to cover the extensive updating work on Buckingham Palace.

It is also used to pay hundreds of staff working for the royal household.

– Private income –

The Privy Purse is the name for the monarch’s private income, which mainly comes from the Duchy of Lancaster estate, owned by the monarchy since the Middle Ages.

Its assets include land, financial investments and property that are worth more than £500 million.

The estate is made up of 315 residential properties, as well as commercial properties in central London and thousands of acres (hectares) of agricultural land.

Its 2020-2021 net operating income was more than £20 million. The queen gave part of this to her relatives and paid tax on the amount that was not spent on official duties.

“The queen uses that money to pay for her own overheads to run Balmoral and Sandringham, which are very expensive,” said David McClure, author of a book on the monarch’s finances, “The Queen’s True Worth”.

Both properties were owned by the queen herself.

“She also uses some of the money to cross-subsidise other members of the royal family who don’t get money from the public grant, or sovereign grant”, McClure told AFP.

These recipients include her daughter Princess Anne, her youngest son Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as well as her second son, Prince Andrew.

Andrew is no longer carrying out royal duties and therefore is not expected to be receiving an allowance as generous as in the past.

He is in disgrace over his relationship with the late US financier Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted paedophile who killed himself in jail in 2019.

– Private property –

While most of the royal palaces are owned by The Crown Estate, the queen owned two privately: Balmoral Castle in Scotland, with an estimated value of £100 million, and Sandringham country estate, worth some £50 million.

These are not publicly funded.

The queen also privately owned some items in the Royal Collection, including a stamp collection that belonged to her grandfather, king George V, valued at £100 million.

The queen’s passion for racing horses also earned her more than £7 million in prize money, according to estimates by, although this excluded their costly upkeep.

The Crown Jewels, which have been valued at some £3 billion, symbolically belonged to the queen but are automatically transferred to her successor.

– Tax havens –

The queen was implicated in the Paradise Papers, formerly secret documents leaked in 2017 exposing interests held offshore by the rich and powerful as a means of tax avoidance.

The documents were released by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

They said the queen had through the Duchy of Lancaster placed around £10 million in funds held in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda — British overseas territories that are considered to be tax havens.

– Not that rich? –

With a fortune of £370 million, the queen did not make The Sunday Times 2022 “Rich List” of the 250 wealthiest, topped by moguls Sri and Gopi Hinduja, who oversee a vast business empire and are estimated to be worth more than £28 billion.

Entrepreneur James Dyson and his family climbed to second with a wealth estimate of £23 billion.

Former finance minister Rishi Sunak and his Indian wife Akshata Murty, however, did make the list for the first time with their joint £730-million fortune. — Agence France-Presse