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From the file

Money & monarchy |

Treasure charts

Friday 3 July 2020

Everything you need to know about the royal finances – in six graphics


How much is the Queen paid? The short answer is over £100 million a year. The more interesting answer is a lot more than she used to be. While the rest of Britain has endured a decade of austerity, royal earnings have more than doubled.

The result is that the government is currently paying the royal family more than double what it was in 2012. Have the royals earned it? Assessing the benefits they bring to Britain overall is difficult, but in terms of official engagements at least, the most senior royals seem to be doing less.

While this decline is in part due to Philip’s retirement from public duties in the latter half of 2017, the overall pattern is clear. Even if you count all the ‘working royals’, total engagements have slipped by 10% from 3,963 in 2010 to 3,567 in 2019.

If not engagements, then what is the Queen spending that extra money on? Preserving the property portfolio, it seems. In recent years, that’s included £1 million to resurface Kensington Palace’s driveway and £700,000 to install a “small boiler room” at Windsor Castle.

Meanwhile, a growing pile of money is being stored in the Sovereign Grant Reserve – effectively the royals’ rainy-day savings, made up of the excess funds from the Sovereign Grant. 80% of the current pot is due to be spent on repairs for Buckingham Palace.

Royal Rovers

A quick glance at social media shows that almost every royal family member has driven a Land Rover or its posher cousin, the Range Rover.

Prince Philip drove the Queen and Michelle Obama in his Range Rover to lunch at Windsor Castle in 2016…

…Prince William picked up a newborn Prince George from hospital in a black one…

…and a blue Range Rover for Louis in 2018…

…Harry started behind the wheel of a Land Rover in 1991 – he was only six…

…and he jumped in a child-sized one at the Invictus Games in Toronto…

…they were getting even smaller in Sydney…

…in 2012, Beatrice and Eugenie, the daughters of Prince Andrew, each took delivery of a £40,000 Range Rover Evoque, one black and one white, in time to arrive for Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace…

…this generational love affair goes back to the war – here, Princess Elizabeth trains as an Auxiliary Territorial Service mechanic in 1945…

…on the first Commonwealth tour of her reign, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh stood up for a driving tour of Sabina Park during their visit to Jamaica…

…Anne, Andrew and Philip preferred the roof at the Badminton horse trials in 1969…

…the Queen often likes to drive herself, here she is in a Land Rover Defender 110, heading for the stables on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk…

…but as Colonel-in-Chief of the Corps of Royal Engineers, she needs a driver in the State Review Range Rover…

…this one from 2019 at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, reveals she has not lost the knack…

…Philip, on the other hand, famously crashed one in January 2019 (and had a new one delivered the next day)…

…Zara Tindall, an ambassador for the brand since 2006, jumped over a couple of models of the new Land Rover Discovery (and got a driving ban this year for doing 91mph in her Land Rover)…

…As royal warrant holders, Jaguar Land Rover are supposed to provide goods only on a commercial basis. “Warrant-holding firms do not provide their goods or services for free to the Royal Households,” the holders’ association states. The rule is in place to avoid any suggestion that royal warrants can be bought.

Yet the royals are understood to receive discounted cars, either “on loan” or leased through VIP car schemes set up by the makers.

Such discounts might technically not be freebies – and so may not breach the rules on royal warrants – but it is hard to assess because the royals keep the arrangements secret and Jaguar Land Rover declined to comment.

An insider at one royal-connected car company confirmed that discounts were given; something the royals have never admitted.

“They pay a confidential rate,” the source said. “It’s less than a normal customer would pay. It’s a VIP discount but not a freebie…”

…recipients of the Royal Victorian Order are not nominated by the Prime Minister, but chosen by the Queen without ministerial advice, based on their personal service to the sovereign. The RVO’s Maltese cross has been awarded to George Hassall, formerly director of royal and diplomatic affairs at JLR.

Hassall – once described as “remarkable” by Prince Charles – has received an RVO no fewer than three times, each one more senior than the last. He only has to ascend one more level and he’ll become Sir George.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the car company or any of their employees. But some royal aides are worried that the relationships being established are shrouded in secrecy. Those aides say that while some staff discounts might be appropriate – the process of who gets what needs to be accountable and transparent, either to an independent body or to the public at large.

“The system needs a wholesale shakeup,” one senior aide told us. “There are certain staff discounts that some of the royal warrant holders give to the employees and members of the households. There do not seem to be any rules. It feels to me a touch out of date.”

Alexi Mostrous

Prince Charles, who receives money from the Duchy of Cornwall and the Sovereign Grant via the Queen, has also been getting personally richer. Even after voluntarily paying nearly £5 million in tax last year, Charles’s ‘take-home pay’ is still £4 million more now than it was 10 years ago. The increase has mostly been spent funding William, Harry and their young families.

Financially, the future looks even brighter for Charles and that is again thanks to Osborne’s reforms. Despite not having invested any money or risk in developing the UK’s offshore wind farms, the royal family are set to make vast sums from them as landowners of the UK’s seabeds. With help from Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, we have estimated that the total windfall from the first set of 15-year wind farm contracts will generate an additional £495 million for the royals, equivalent to a further £33 million a year.

It may not have been George Osborne’s intention back in 2012, but thanks to the Sovereign Grant, the royals are like real estate emperors and getting richer as a result.

Illustrations by Seamus Jennings. Photographs Getty Images, PA

Next in this file

‘Hoodwinked’ over Royal finances

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The royal family's income from the taxpayer has soared since the financial crisis, a Tortoise Investigation found last year. Now the UK's former top civil servant says there's been a deliberate attempt to keep the public in the dark

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