“The Firm. How and how much the British royal family earns
The queen is dead – long live the king. King Charles III will inherit not only the throne of Great Britain from his mother, but also the assets attached to it. He will now head “The Firm,” which maintains the members of the royal family and also contributes to the country’s economy.
“The Firm” is the name given to the royal family more than 80 years ago, when then-King Edward VIII abdicated the throne. Today, the public faces of “The Firm,” whose fortune is estimated at $28 billion, attract hundreds of millions of pounds annually to the British economy.
Luxury weddings broadcast around the world (Harry and Meghan’s wedding brought about $1.5 billion to the kingdom’s economy), flashy Commonwealth tours and public displays of pomp generate interest – and revenue – for the international enterprise.
In her Opry interview, Meghan Markle spoke of the royal family’s “invisible contract” with the tabloids, which she called symbiotic, sycophantic and sinister. Yet such an unspoken agreement contributes to newspaper sales and TV ratings: Brand Finance estimates that “The Firm” brings in nearly $70 million to the media industry.
After Harry and Meghan’s refusal to perform royal duties and Philip’s death, eight senior members of the royal family remain: the Queen, Prince Charles (Charles) and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge; Princess Anne, daughter of the Queen; Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest son, and his wife Sophia, Countess of Wessex. Without Elizabeth, there are now seven of them.
Through investments, jewels and two castles, the Queen’s personal assets were valued at $500 million.
David Guy, CEO of the British firm Brand Finance, says that for the Firm, public image is inseparable from success, so they are very much like today’s Influencers. But unlike the Kardashians, the Windsors don’t personally earn from business.
In the pandemic, they brought in $2.7 billion annually to the UK economy through mostly tourism, but Guy talks about other financial perks, such as free media coverage of Britain (in 2017, it was valued at $400 million).
And then there are the royal warrants, signs of approval for luxury consumer products such as Barbour jackets and Johnnie Walker whiskey, which could bring a 10 percent increase in revenue. According to Guy, the economic benefits to companies and institutions in the royal family’s orbit far exceed the $550 million cost of maintaining the royal family.
The Windsor family employs thousands of people around the world. Buckingham Palace alone employs some 1,200 people, although they are not paid as much as one might think. An entry-level IT person, according to an ad on the palace’s official website, can earn less than $50,000 a year plus bonuses.
The Crown Estate is an organization that manages the monarchs’ assets and employs 450 people, including a board of directors who make the final decision for the monarchy.
If you’re part of The Firm, you’re charged with the responsibility of making sure the whole thing runs smoothly. The Crown owns nearly $28 billion in assets it can’t sell: the Crown Estate, $19.5 billion; Buckingham Palace, about $4.9 billion; the Duchy of Cornwall, $1.3 billion; the Duchy of Lancaster, $748 million; Kensington Palace, $630 million; Crown Estate Scotland, $592 million.
The Crown Estate earned more than $700 million in 2019, and $475 million of that is revenue. The Royal Family receives 25% of the Crown Estate’s income, this is called the Sovereign Grant, and the remaining 75% goes to the British treasury. The Sovereign Grant 2021-2022 was £86.3 million.
Money from the Sovereign Grant goes solely for official expenses such as salaries, security, travel, property care, repairs, and I.T. expenses. Personal expenses for the late queen and her family covered and are covered by income from the Duchy of Lancaster, which reported a net income of $24 million from 2021-2022.
Through investments, jewels and two castles – Sandringham Gause and Belmoral Castle – the queen’s personal assets were valued at $500 million, much of which would go to the future King Charles III. Like his mother, he would not directly own these assets.
Charles has the second-largest operations in the royal family. As Duke of Cornwall, he receives income from the Duchy of Cornwall on top of what comes to him from the Sovereign Grant. Today, the Duchy’s 150 employees deal with more than 130,000 acres of land in southwest England, which is valued at $1.3 billion.
None of the duchy’s assets can be sold, but the late queen’s eldest son was able to make money from them during his lifetime. In 2020, the Duchy earned more than $50 million through land leases for stores, farms and housing, $30 million of which went to Prince Welski and his descendants to support their employees and operations.
Of that, $7.3 million went to salaries for Charles’ 132 employees, $6.75 million went to taxes, and $4.4 million was given by the future king to charity, which includes the Princeʼs Trust, an organization that helps unemployed youth.
Much of the future king’s income went to his sons: before Meghan and Harry left The Firm, Princes William and Harry received $7.8 million to support their operations in 2020.
Prince William and Harry
Prince William has no direct income from his father’s duchy, but he and his wife Kate certainly have their influence. According to Brand Finance, the royal couple added more than $165 million to the British economy in 2017. Kate is also boosting sales of the brands she wears, or even those that try to copy her style. In 2015, a record 100,000 people visited the website of GH Hurt & Sons, maker of the quilt in which newborn Princess Charlotte was wrapped.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, however, do not personally make money from their influence. William receives money from the Duchy of Cornwall every year to support his family.
However, he is not entirely dependent on the Duchy: according to the will of Diana, the mother of Harry and William, the princes received part of her estate on their 25th birthday and the rest on their 30th. Diana left her sons £6.5 million each (as of 1997), but thanks to years of investment by the princes’ financial advisers, these amounts have grown. According to Forbes, Harry finally received $10 million.It’s unlikely that anyone in the family now wants to launch a digital business or put together a SaaS marketing plan. At least now Meghan is going to release a movie and possibly make money from family stories.
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