After the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles inherited the throne but also her private fortune, a colossal estate that he would receive without having to pay inheritance tax, a privilege reserved for royal estates.
What did the queen have? Although British monarchs are not obliged to reveal their private finances, she had a personal fortune of £370 million in 2022 ($560 million Canadian) according to the Sunday Times5 million more than the previous year.
Buckingham Palace, the royal residence in London, and Windsor Castle, about thirty kilometers west of the capital, were owned by the state, but Balmoral Castle, the royal family’s summer residence, and Sandringham, where the royal family traditionally celebrated the end-of-year holidays, were owned by the monarch and will be passed on to Charles.
The queen also owned a large portfolio of stocks and a royal stamp collection estimated to be worth 100 million pounds ($151 million), according to the authors of the 2021 Rich List of Times.
The Queen’s fortune is in addition to Charles’ personal fortune, estimated at 87 million pounds ($130 million) by the website celebritynetworth.com.
The famous Crown Jewels, valued at some 3 billion pounds ($4.5 billion) belonged symbolically to the Queen and are automatically passed on to her successor.
Prince Philip, Elizabeth’s husband, left a more modest estate of 30 million pounds ($45 million Canadian) when he died in April 2021, according to celebritynetworth. He possessed in particular a collection of paintings and 3000 books, of which the main part would have been bequeathed to friends and family.
Duchy of Lancaster
On becoming king, Charles inherited the Duchy of Lancaster, a royal property since the Middle Ages, which in the fiscal year ending in March had generated 24 million pounds ($36 million) in private income for the British monarch.
“Lancaster money goes to the sovereign, the king or queen, by virtue of his or her office,” says David McClure, author of a book on royal finances.
Charles, on the other hand, loses the Duchy of Cornwall, which reverts to the monarch’s eldest son and generates about 21 million pounds ($31 million) a year. “It will go directly to (Prince) William,” McClure said.
Charles also receives an annual allowance (sovereign grant) from the Treasury, set at 15 per cent of the income from the Crown Estate, which includes land and a colossal wind farm, among other things, and whose proceeds have been returned to the Treasury since an act of 1760.
This allocation had reached £86.3 million ($130 million) for 2021-2022, including a substantial ten-year extension for the renovation of Buckingham Palace (£34.5 million or $52 million for 2021-2022).
The “sovereign grant” is used to fund expenses related to official activities of the sovereign or members of his family, including staff salaries, maintenance and cleaning of the palaces, official travel and receptions.
If the bulk of the Queen’s wealth is passed on to Charles without inheritance tax, it is thanks to an exemption dating back to 1993 that was supposed to prevent that if several monarchs died within a few years of each other, the wealth of the king or queen would vanish, being reduced by 40% with each inheritance.
“Private assets such as Sandringham and Balmoral have both official and private uses,” the Treasury further explained, adding that the monarchy must also “have a degree of financial independence from the government of the day.”
But this advantage is limited to transmissions between a sovereign and his successor. “The Queen is likely to leave a will and small sums” will go to close family members, “but not the bulk of the wealth,” which will go to Charles, says David McClure.