The Real Cost of the UK’s Monarchy

ORIGINALLY I WAS GOING TO FOCUS on the actual topic of a BBC online article which exposed to further view the tangled web the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have woven for themselves, in this case with regard to the alleged cutting off of Harry from his father’s funding. It looks like it might be a question of dating, but that rather proves the point: how tangled their web of claims and assertions.

However, being part of the modern world, I found myself triggered by one little paragraph in the article:

Accounts for the Sovereign Grant show the monarchy cost the taxpayer £87.5m during 2020-21, an increase of £18.1m on the previous financial year.

How long must we endure this misrepresentation , from the BBC no less (though, of course, the BBC has no longer any claim to objectivity in its reporting).

The monarchy costs the taxpayer nothing at all. Zilch. Nada. Nihil. The Sovereign Grant is paid out of the income of the Crown Estate, which remains the personal property of the sovereign but, since 1760, the revenues from the Estate go to the Treasury and put at the disposal of Parliament. In return for these perpetual revenues, a portion of them is granted to the Royal Family for its maintenance in light of the official duties of the Royal Family and the monarch’s constitutional role.

Last year the net revenues of the Queen’s Crown Estate were £269.3 million. Out of these revenues, earned on the Queen’s personal estate, the Treasury paid out £86.3 million as the Sovereign Grant. So, after having alloted the Royal Family share of it for their maintenance, the Treasury—or the taxpayer as the media like to say—made a net profit from the Queen’s personal estate of £183 million.

Click to enlarge

So, far from the monarchy costing the taxpayer anything, another—and accurate—way of putting it is that the the taxpayer cost the monarchy £183 million. Quite a different picture is painted, is it not?

This is before taking into account the less-easily quantified revenue from tourists who pay money to see and experience the Royal Family and its activities. Nor the money the royals raise as patrons of charities. One estimate is that in the year before Covid, the Royal Family, “contributed an estimated £1.9 billion ($2.7 billion) annually to Britain’s economy pre-pandemic.”

Let us please be clear on this: the Royal Family costs the nation nothing and in fact the monarchy returns the taxpayer a healthy profit of over £2 billion. Whatever arguments one might have against the monarchy and the Royal Family, the financial one is absolutely fallacious. If anything, the Royal Family pays itself for the duties it performs for the nation (ie, not just “the taxpayer”).

Republicans note a further fact: if the monarchy were to be abolished tomorrow, the Queen would retain personal ownership of Crown Estate and its £15 billion in assets, and reclaim the revenues of these. How many tourists might no longer come with their precious foreign currency injection into the national economy? It is abolishing the monarchy that would cost “the taxpayer” money.

So while Harry (age, 36!) might claim that Daddy stopped paying him an allowance earlier than he probably did, this should not be allowed to be distorted into any claim that the taxpayer had been footing the bill for Harry; it is not true.

On duty

That said, now that Harry has decided he does not want to perform the duties of the Royal Family, why should it continue to give him ‘company’ accommodation, titles, allowances and perks? Is it him asserting that his mere membership by birth of the Family entitles him to its privileges, whether he earns them or not?

Ah, the age of entitlement. Yet no one is entitled to say that the monarchy is a financial burden to the nation. It is demonstrably false. Moreover, let’s face it, without the Royals the media would have to dredge even deeper into the gutters of modern culture than they already do to find things to fill their pages; Big Brother, Love Island and paparazzi snaps only go so far.

So there…🧐

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  1. The same applies, by the way, to the usual cliches about the supposedly fabulous wealth of the Vatican. In truth, it is dwarfed by the endowments E Harvard or Yale. And if the Holy See ever buckled to the idiotic suggestions (including from a certain type of ageing hippie ‘progressive’ Catholic) that it sell off the treasures of the Vatican Museums, they would cease to own the common heritage of mankind and disappear into the private collections of hedge fund managers, arms traders and pornographers.

    1. Oh yes, the Jack Chicks of this world manage to con normal people into thinking there are pots of gold in every corner of the papal palace! Of course, the real situation is more complex and nuanced. The Vatican City State does have some money, not much by world standards, a pittance by global national standards, but it does have money. It is a sovereign nation after all, that has a civil service, police and security, etc to pay for as well as, as you state, an abundance of treasures to preserve and protect, along with the museums that display them safely for maximal public access. The Vatican’s art treasures are able to be seen and enjoyed by anyone. If the Vatican was to sell them, where would they go? That is exactly the right question, as you recognise. So many of these works are literally priceless, and any new owners who could afford them most likely would store them in private and inaccessible collections, for the enjoyment of their small circle of elite friends,making them totems of extreme wealth.

      Of course those who argue for the Vatican to liquidate its “extreme” wealth for the benefit of “humanity” betray their own impoverished conception of human existence, reducing not even to bread and circuses, just bread. They allow themselves circuses of course, but the “poor” must make do with bread alone. Middle class elitism if ever there was!


  2. Thank you, Father. I’ve been beating this horse for years. It’s the automatic go-to of every republican and needs to be exposed for the lie it is. As you say, ‘The monarchy costs the taxpayer nothing at all. Zilch. Nada. Nihil. ‘, but those who attack the monarchy using the ‘cost’ argument don’t care and those reading them usually have no idea of the truth.

    1. Your last point is spot on. People have been spoon fed the argument that we pay the monarchy that it is now accepted truth, along with the idea that scientists always know better. The article to which I am reacting is a classic piece of journalistic artifice: begin with asserting at length your own interpretation, then at the end quietly give enough factual information to be able to say you mentioned the facts, but without drawing the obvious and accurate conclusions from them. Most readers won’t either, since the previous paragraphs have set them up not to. I guess this journalistic artifice has a shorter name: propaganda.


  3. Spot on, Dom Hugh!

    You may well like my essay on the Monarchy in the forthcoming book celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Ordinariate in Australia. I shall contrive to get you a review copy, if I can.

    Great to meet you at Ramsgate last weekend. We shall again be at your home HQ, Douai, this weekend but sadly without you as I suspect you will be attending to parish duties in Lancashire.

    All blessings,

    James Bogle

    1. Salve James! It was a great pleasure and much fun to meet you in Ramsgate. Indeed I would be fascinated to read your article and would naturally be more than happy to review and publicise it. You will be Hughless at Douai this weekend; I’m a northern boy now.


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