May 11

Our self-funded monarchy short-changed – again


  This is the latest report in our section, Royal Finances.  To access this, go down the left hand column on the front page on the site and click on  the icon " Self Funded Monarchy " or the icon "Royal Finances".



In the light of the decision taken last year that the financial arrangements for the Sovereign be reformed, it is timely to recall some facts.

And there is a better way to reform royal finances than the one proposed which, in principle, is an improvement.

…our self–funded monarchy…

The Queen does not receive a personal salary or a pension as, say, presidents do.Extraordinary as it may seem, the monarchy is self funding.  As regards the United Kingdom, the source of this is the income of from the Queen's property, the Crown Estate. 

Since 1760, successive monarchs have agreed at the beginning of their reigns to hand over the revenues from their Crown Estate to Parliament in return for a Civil List.

…Crown relentlessly exploited by the politicians..

The Civil List, frozen for a decade,  is now supplemented by grants-in-aid which provide specific funding for royal palaces, communications and transport for official business.

In 2009/10 all payments to the Crown came to about  £30 million. But the British government received £211 million from the Crown Estate. So the government made a very substantial profit from The Queen – about  £181.

 The other point is that successive British governments have failed to pay sufficient funds to the Sovereign to perform her role and function and to maintain the fabric of those buildings which form part of the national heritage.


…a better and fairer way…

Moving to a new system where the Crown receives a percentage of the income of the Crown Estate is more sensible.  Under this the current Civil List and grants-in-aid, , are to be replaced from 2013 by a single “sovereign support grant”.

The question is, what percentage. 

A far better system would be for the Crown to receive all the income of the Crown Estate and to transfer the surplus to Parliament.  With published accounts, we can be sure that this would be spent sensibly. 

In recent media reports it has been pointed out that the Crown Estate is not the Queen's private property. 

What is very clear is that the Crown estate is The Queen's property.  So it should be for The Queen to determine how much is needed.We can rely on the integrity of her decision.



As for this year, it is completely unreasonable to reduce the Civil List and grants-in-aid because of the  profligacy of the previous government and the scandals which we have seen at Westminster.

 After all, the Civil List has been frozen for 10 years –  see the report by Patrick Hennessy in the  London Daily Telegraph, “Royal family braced for cut in funding,” 7 May 2011.

For years now the Palace has mounted a persuasive argument for increased allocations to maintain buildings in a serious state of disrepair. Governments have taken little notice.
To impose an across-the-board reduction this year merely for the sake of demonstrating that the government is making no exceptions may serve the politicians well and could perhaps be tolerated.

…crucial decision…


But it would be wrong in principle to use this reduced allocation as the  percentage of Crown Estate income on which to base all future annual Sovereign Support Grants.

(Continued below)

It is crucial that this percentage properly reflect the need to maintain the office of head of state and the fabric of the national heritage.

The total cost of the British monarchy pales in comparison to that of many presidencies and is a significant tourist attraction, not only in the United Kingdom, but whenever a representative is present in a role.

In the meantime the 15 overseas Realms should rejoice in the bargain that the Royal family is for them.  They pay them no salary or pension. For all the Royal Family is a bargain.

Add to that the impeccable service that they give.

How fortunate we are.  


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