When she passed away on September 8, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II had a sizable net worth. Questions about how the royal family makes their money have circled for years. They’re often spurred on by moments like when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their official exit as senior members of “The Firm.”

There’s also season 3, episode 4 of The Crown, where Tobias Menzies’s Prince Philip gives an interview to NBC’s Meet the Press. In it, he addresses the royals’ rumored money problems and the fact that the queen hadn’t had a “pay raise” in almost 18 years (this interview actually took place in November 1969, two years after his mother, Princess Alice, moved into Buckingham Palace).

In the real-life program, host Lawrence Spivak cited a London news report and said to Philip, “It goes on to detail the very high cost that the royal family must sustain on an allowance of $1,100,000 a year. Is that creating an awkward situation?”

“Very,” Prince Philip, who died on April 9, 2021, replied. “We go into the red next year.” As to whether they’d had to shutter any of their estates, Philip said, “No, not altogether. We’ve closed down…. Well, for instance, the queen had a small yacht that she had to sell. And I should probably have to give up polo fairly soon.” At the time, Philip’s remarks provoked ill will from the British public, who failed to share his view that selling a yacht counts as a financial hardship.

The royal family’s “salaries” had last made headlines in November 2019, following unconfirmed reports that Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second-youngest son, would forgo his annual payment of roughly $300,000 after stepping back from public duties for the foreseeable future amid a cloud of scandal.

So what are the royal family’s salaries, how do they earn them, and where does the money come from? What was the queen’s net worth before her death, and how are Meghan and Harry making money now? Here’s what we know, including how these funds costs the average taxpayer in England.

How much does Britain pay the royal family?

As with most things royals-related, the answer is complicated. The royal family is paid through a mix of public and private money—that’s on top of net worths that include inherited wealth, a significant real estate portfolio, and other assets. Before her death, most of Queen Elizabeth II’s family’s annual income and expenses were paid through three sources: the public Sovereign Grant, and the private Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster.

The Sovereign Grant

Since 2012, the monarch’s official duties, and the costs involved in maintaining the occupied palaces, have been paid for by a government-administered annual lump sum called the Sovereign Grant. According to the British monarchy’s official site, “funding for the Sovereign Grant comes from a percentage of the profits of the Crown Estate revenue.” The Crown Estate, as CNN Money explains, can be roughly defined as “a collection of U.K. properties and farms that generate hundreds of millions of pounds each year.”

These lands were first surrendered by George III back in 1760, to be managed by the Treasury going forward. The Crown Estate technically belongs to the reigning monarch, but as their site clarifies, “it is not the private property of the monarch—it cannot be sold by the monarch, nor do revenues from it belong to the monarch.” It’s presently overseen by an independent organization’s board.

In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the total Sovereign Grant amount was 82.2 million pounds (that’s nearly $106 million in American dollars). Neither the queen nor her family were raking that total in, though: 32.9 million pounds of that were allotted for “Reservicing of Buckingham Palace,” and it also covered the royal family’s duty-related travel expenses, payroll, other staff costs, and literally keeping the lights on.

The Sovereign Grant replaced the Civil List and three Grants-in-Aid for travel, communications, and palace maintenance. Until it was abolished in 2012, the Civil List was an annual amount the government used to give the queen to cover her duties as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth, and Grants-in-Aid from government departments that previously paid for royal duty-related travel and upkeep of royal residencies.

The Privy Purse and the Duchy of Lancaster

If the Sovereign Grant is an expense account of sorts, the Privy Purse includes the monarch’s actual income (their estates are also considered included in the Privy Purse). The monarch’s income is drawn from the Duchy of Lancaster, which is a portfolio of land, property, and assets held in trust for the reigning sovereign. In 2018, the Privy Purse received nearly 20 million pounds (about 26 million U.S. dollars) in income from the Duchy of Lancaster.

While the monarch uses part of this money to cover additional expenses, Elizabeth also drew from it to pay her children Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Princess Anne a salary for their schedule of royal engagements around the world. When Prince Andrew stepped away from his public duties in 2019, it wasn’t immediately clear whether he was still receiving any funds from his mother the queen (British tabloid the Daily Express claimed that he is, per an unnamed source—but Buckingham Palace did not confirm).

The Duchy of Cornwall

Established in 1137, the private estate “funds the public, charitable, and private activities of the Prince of Wales and his family,” its site says. It consists of land and properties in 23 English counties and a portfolio of investments. When he was Prince of Wales, Charles and his wife, Camilla Parker Bowels, received their income from the Duchy of Cornwall—90 percent, according to CNN Money. He paid Prince William and Kate Middleton, and formerly Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, through revenue surplus from the Duchy of Cornwall. His siblings, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward, are paid through the Duchy of Lancaster.

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Charles and Camilla received nearly 22.2 million pounds (about 30 million American dollars) in income from the Duchy of Cornwall, and almost 2 million pounds of funding from the Sovereign Grant allotted to subsidize their official royal activities. “The majority of staff and official and charitable work, including the official offices of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex activity, are paid for from His Royal Highness’s private income from the Duchy of Cornwall,” their annual review states. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, Charles and Camila undertook 638 social engagements in 14 countries. From 2019-2020, they “undertook 580 engagements” in the U.K. and abroad.

The queen’s net worth fell in 2020.

It may surprise you to know that while the queen was the richest member of the royal family, she wasn’t a billionaire. In 2020, the queen’s net worth reportedly dipped by 20 million pounds from the previous year, according to the annual Sunday Times Rich List. The paper valued her net worth as 350 million pounds, or roughly $486 million USD.

In 2019, Forbes had assessed the queen’s net worth as equal to least $500 million USD. Per the Crown Estate’s annual report for 2019/20, the value of the British royal land portfolio fell by 1.2 percent to £13.4 billion in 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdown impacting tourism and retail in particular.

By reports, Her Majesty was notoriously frugal. “Newspapers are shredded for horse bedding, parcel string is reused, frayed sheets and dusters are darned,” the Sunday Times writes in regard to Buckingham Palace housekeeping.

Harry and Meghan were “cut off” and live off his inheritance from Princess Diana.

In the January 2020 announcement of their intention to step back from royal duties, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stated a desire to “work to become financially independent.” In September 2020, Newsweek confirmed that Prince Harry was no longer receiving funds via the Duchy of Cornwall. That same month, the couple also announced that they’d paid back the £2.4 million in public money taken from the Sovereign Grant that was used to renovate their Windsor Home, Frogmore Cottage.

But in their sit-down interview with Oprah, Harry and Meghan revealed they’d actually stopped being paid in the first quarter of 2020—much earlier than discussions about their departure had led them to believe. “My family literally cut me off financially, and I had to afford security for us,” Harry said, voicing concerns for their son Archie’s safety without the security detail the royal family had revoked.

Harry said they’d been living off of his share of the inheritance his mother, Princess Diana, left to him and his brother William after her death in 1997. According to The Independent, after taxes, the half that Harry received upon turning 25 amounts to around $13 million USD. “Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” Harry said, suggesting their move to a new home in California was made possible thanks to those funds.

Harry and Meghan inked what’s believed to be a very lucrative Netflix deal, estimated to be worth between 100 and 240 million in U.S. dollars (the streaming platform hasn’t confirmed a sum). They also produce a podcast in a deal with Spotify, and Oprah and Harry produced a docuseries on mental health for Apple TV+. In August 2022, Markle launched her own podcast, Archetypes. Initially, “the Netflix and the Spotify of it all weren’t part of the plan,” Harry told Oprah in the interview.

These revenue streams are in addition to Markle’s own money from her previous career as an actress—in her days on the USA drama Suits, she earned a reported salary of about $450,000 in addition to endorsements and related income. While it’s an unconfirmed number, a February 2020 Forbes report estimated Harry and Meghan’s net worth at about $10 million.

Castles, stocks, and stamps.

The monarch has assets. Before her death, Elizabeth had a personal portfolio of investments and a sweet stamp collection, and also inherited Balmoral and Sandringham Estates from her father. The queen couldn’t hock a tiara or two if times got tough, however—she didn’t technically own the crown jewels, the royal residences, or most of the Royal Art Collections. In the event of her death, those were passed on to the next sovereign, King Charles.

And again, any income that trickles down to Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren from the Duchies is on top of their own inherited wealth.

Does the monarch pay taxes?

Before her death, the queen voluntarily paid income tax and capital gains tax since 1992; any income received from the Duchy of Lancaster that doesn’t go to official expenses was taxed as well. She was subject to Value Added Tax also voluntarily paid local taxes.

What does paying the royals cost British taxpayers?

Out of pocket? Honestly, not much—collectively, that is. In 2018, it cost each average British taxpayer about 65 pence a year, according to Fast Company. So less than a dollar. Even with the cost spiking by 41 percent in 2019, per Business Insider, the individual taxpayer still pays cup-of-coffee money. An artisanal, organic cup of coffee.

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