Taxpayers Pay Millions to the Royal Family. Here’s How They Spend It
British taxpayers pay millions of dollars for the royal family to carry out official business. Separate from personal fortunes and private incomes, the queen is awarded a yearly sovereign grant, so she and her family can continue to be, well, royal. The government provides this grant to the royal household to fund official duties. We combed through the Sovereign Grant Annual Report to uncover exactly how the royal family spends its taxpayer-funded dollars each year.
Exactly where do these millions come from?
The queen got a 78% raise on her income from 2016, going from 42.8 million pounds to 76.1 million pounds. (1 pound is about $1.34 as of December 2017.) Because the grant covers official expenditures, the queen is not legally required to pay income tax, capital gains tax, or inheritance tax. But the queen has paid tax voluntarily since 1992.
Regardless, the sovereign grant payouts are expected to remain higher than usual to fund a serious Buckingham Palace facelift. The aging electrical wiring, internal piping system, and heating units are in dire need of repair, CNN reports.
Read on for an in-depth look at how the royal family spends that sovereign grant, according to the 2016-17 report.
- Cost: 19.7 million pounds
Raising the grant was mostly to fund the overhaul of Buckingham Palace. And royal renovations are no small feat. It takes more than a weekend of repairs to protect and preserve the monarchy’s historic art collection and other priceless features in the 775-room property. 1.3 million pounds were spent to repair structural damage on the state dining room ceiling. And an additional 1.2 million pounds were spent to replace the rotted Orangery Doors at Windsor Castle. But that’s all chump change in comparison to the real work. It’s expected that the total palace remodel taking place over the next 10 years will cost 369 million pounds.
Next: Maintaining the property
2. Property maintenance
- Cost: 4.6 million pounds
A large part of the royal family’s expenditures includes the general upkeep and property maintenance that comes with such a large estate. This includes both proactive and preventative maintenance, such as clearing blocked drains, repairing leaking roofs, changing lightbulbs, and “clearing rubbish.” Other projects were resurfacing the roadway at Kensington Palace and refurbishing the metal gates at Windsor.
Next: The queen goes green
3. Energy efficiency
- Cost: Savings of 1.1 million pounds
Various green initiatives across the estate accompany the hydroelectric turbines that were installed at Windsor Castle in 2011. Some energy-efficient moves included installing LED lighting, using a fixed-price gas contract, and monitoring the environmental impact of travel. Some of these moves mounted to over 1 million pounds in reported savings.
Next: How much taxpayers pay for the royal family to travel
- Cost: 4.5 million pounds
Taxpayers also foot the travel bill for official journeys, as well as those taken by other members of the royal family. The preferred method of travel for younger members of the monarchy is helicopters and private planes. In 2014, the royal family purchased a luxury 8 million pound helicopter that can carry up to nine people to use on official engagements.
Next: How older members of the royal family prefer to travel
5. Special travel accommodations for the queen and duke
- Cost: 900,000 pounds
While Prince Charles, Prince Harry, and other royal family members prefer to travel via helicopter or airplane, the queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Charles prefer simpler travel via rail. Rail travel cost them about 800,000 pounds in 2016, and that number is set to hit 900,000 pounds in 2017.
Next: Household chores not fit for a queen
6. Cleaning and laundry
- Cost: 700,000 pounds
Would you believe it if we told you that 700,000 pounds of the sovereign grant is allocated toward housekeeping services and laundry? But that seems appropriate, considering what the royal family spends in clothing. Of course, the queen does not handle these chores herself. She hires out for that — quite reasonably, we might add.
Next: Protecting the royal family
- Cost: Exact amount protected
Although the taxpayers meet the cost of royal security, no specific breakdown of these costs are reported as “disclosure of such information could compromise the integrity of these arrangements and affect the security of the individuals protected.” However, the annual report did highlight “Information Assurance awareness training” and “cyber security training” for staff in 2016. This appears to have been money well spent, as officials reported no loss of protected personal data during 2016-17.
Next: The monarchy’s payroll
8. Staff salaries
- Cost: 20.3 million pounds
As you can imagine, it takes a village to keep the monarchy running smoothly. There are 188 staff bedrooms in Buckingham palace alone, and 436 people are on the queen’s payroll. The total cost of royal household employees paid from the sovereign grant was 20.3 million pounds. The median salary of all employees was 25,000 pounds.
Next: The cost of being in the public eye
9. Public appearances to top destinations
- Cost: A hefty portion of the 4.5 million pound travel expense
When you’re a royal, pretty much everything can be as a “business expense,” including public appearances to places many commoners will never have the luxury of visiting. As of March 2017, the queen booked 162 official public engagements in the United Kingdom while the Duke of Edinburgh attended 196. Other members of the royal family undertook 65 overseas visits.
Media outlets have questioned why Prince Andrew squandered 14,692 pounds on a round trip to watch golf at Muirfield and whether it was absolutely necessary for Prince Edward to charter a 46,198 pounds flight to Sofia, Bucharest, and Ljubljana.
Next: Who says handwritten letters are dead?
- Cost: 1 million pounds
Taxpayers also fund the queen’s official symbols of national identity in the form of stationery and postage. The queen pens congratulatory messages on national achievements and condolences in times of tragedy. For example, she sent 240,000 congratulatory telegrams to centenarians on their 100th birthdays and 740,000 messages to couples marking their diamond wedding anniversaries.
Next: That electricity bill, though
11. Utilities on a large estate
- Cost: 3.1 million pounds
Britain’s taxpayer dollars help keep the lights on and allow the royal family to conduct official business year-round. The royal efforts to become more energy efficient must be working, as most utility bills decreased in cost from the year prior. How much does it take to keep the royal estate afloat? 3.1 million pounds to be exact. Using 2014 reports from The Guardian, that’s about equivalent to the utility bills of 2,288 British households.
Next: Expensive tastes
12. Food and drink
- Cost: 1.5 million pounds
All those hosted events require food and spirits worthy of a queen. The royal wine and spirits spending alone amounted to 400,000 pounds in 2014. Add in food costs, and it’s easy to see how they depleted 1.5 million pounds. The queen reportedly loves Earl Grey tea and chocolate. She’s also been known to enjoy a glass of Champagne in the evening — including Bollinger, Lanson, and Krug — which The Independent reports have been given royal warrants.
Next: It’s expensive to be the life of the party.
13. Entertaining guests at hosted events
- Cost: Unknown
The queen entertains 120,000 people a year at garden parties, receptions, dinners, and lunches, according to the annual expenditure report. These events serve to celebrate important achievements and promote the British culture. The monarchy relies on hundreds of staff members to coordinate all official entertaining. In 2016, the Master’s Department held 97 receptions, 43 lunches, seven garden parties, and 56 dinners at Buckingham Palace.
And patriotic Brits can rest assured the queen cares about her athletes. Taxpayers’ yearly contributions helped her celebrate Team Great Britain and Paralympics Great Britain medalists from the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Next: How the royal family saves money
14. Sovereign reserve
- Cost: 4.8 million pounds
Even the queen knows the importance of an emergency fund — except hers is probably much bigger than most Americans’ savings. With almost 5 million pounds stashed in the sovereign reserve, it should be more than enough to fund the major endeavor to renew the Windsor Castle water mains. Officials added 900,000 pounds to the reserve in 2016-17 to support that and other projects.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.