Socialist Worker

How much does the super rich royal family own?

The queen may be the world’s richest person, but the establishment makes it nearly impossible to find out how much the royals have, writes Adam Cochrane

Issue No. 2407

The opens parliament in opulent carriage

The queen opens parliament in opulent carriage (Pic: Robert Sharp on Flickr)


 Her Majesty’s new carriage was unveiled on Wednesday of last week just in time for the opening of parliament. 

Apparently new wheels are vital to make the 0.4 mile journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster bearable. The carriage took 50 people ten years to make and they spared no expense. Each of the gold-plated door handles contain 130 Australian sapphires and 24 diamonds.

The door panels contain fragments from Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree and the wheels are cast in aircraft strength aluminium. 

Even the bolts on parts of the carriage use the same enamel as a Faberge egg. As is often the case, the queen didn’t pay for it herself, but she does have deep pockets. 

In the past year she has added £10 million to her personal fortune, which is now £300 million. This includes property and palaces, such as Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. The rich list ranks her as the 285th wealthiest person in Britain.

But this doesn’t take into account Crown Estate property. The Crown Estate’s website helpfully explains that this “belongs to the reigning monarch in right of The Crown”. But, as it is “not the private property of the monarch” it is not officially counted as part of their wealth.

Profit

It made a profit of £252.6 million in 2013. At a time when many workers have their wages frozen, this was up 5.2 percent on the year before.

This additional property is worth £8.1 billion. It includes Buckingham Palace and the Royal Art collection. The Crown Estate also owns assorted property including Regent Street in London, Romney Marsh in Kent and Ascot racecourse. 

But it does not include properties that belong to other royals. Prince Charles gets an income of £19 million a year from the Duchy of Cornwall alone.

On top of all this the government pays the queen an annual grant currently totalling £37.9 million. The actual cost to the public purse is far higher when you include costs such as security and royal visits. 

Since 1993, the queen has been kind enough to start paying income tax on the money we pay her. Unfortunately, she hasn’t yet been persuaded to pay council tax. 

The figures above also don’t include the cost of special events such as the diamond jubilee festival or the £20 million royal wedding. We know that our monarchy is the most expensive in Europe but it is hard to find exact figures for how much they cost.

A freedom of information request would be useful—but royal finances have been made exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. What could they be trying to hide?


How the royals get away with sticking their noses in

The royals are unelected and even their supporters agree they should have no role in actually running the country. So why does the queen give a speech at the opening of parliament which politicians then debate? And why is there a royal veto on certain issues? 

Officially these are just constitutional formalities and the good old royals wouldn’t dream of interfering in politics. But we know that is not the case. The royals constantly meddle in politics. The real question is why our politicians let these ignorant parasites have any influence.

We know that the government published guidance to its staff to seek the approval of Prince Charles and the queen over certain laws. The queen is also alleged to have pressured the home secretary to arrest Abu Hamza. 

Charles has written letters to government ministers in an attempt to affect policy. Some 27 of these were leaked to the Guardian which has been fighting to make them public. 

The Attorney General used his veto to overrule a tribunal which had allowed their disclosure. Some of Charles’ lobbying is less secretive—such as his complaints about the ban on fox hunting. 

Such interference is completely undemocratic but it should not surprise us. Many capitalist governments get by perfectly well without a monarchy. But the British establishment finds it useful. 

The idea that the royal family is above politics can be used to unify people, whatever their class, around the interests of our rulers. The more people revere their supposed betters the less likely they are to take action against the unfair and unequal society they live in. 

The royals act as a conservative layer, defending the rule of big business and the banks. Whatever their origins, Britain’s royal family are very much part of the capitalist system.


Freeloading in Las Vegas 

When Prince Harry went partying in Las Vegas in 2012 his £30,000 hotel bill was waived by the hotel’s billionaire owner.

Another advantage of being super rich is that you are less likely to be asked to pay.


Royals handle stolen jewels 

The crown jewels are an impressive collection—if you like stolen goods. One of the shining lights is the Koh-i-Noor Diamond, one of the largest diamonds in the world. This was stolen from India during the British Empire. 

When David Cameron travelled to India he responded to calls for the diamond to be given back by saying that he was not in favour of “returnism”. 


She even owns the coastline 

The Crown Estate owns much of Britain’s coastline, along with the waters and sea beds around the coast. So the queen can claim any whales or dolphins that are caught along the coast. 

It also allows her to make a tidy profit of £38 million a year on offshore wind farms. 


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Tue 10 Jun 2014, 20:37 BST
Issue No. 2407
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