Whose money is it anyway? The debate over the Crown Estate income

With all the controversy surrounding who should pay for the renovations at Buckingham Palace, an opinion piece published by Royal Central blogger, Benjamin Knights, certainly caused some discussion after he argued that The Queen was, in fact, the one who was going to be paying for the renovations due to her surrendering the profits from the Crown Estate.

Is this really the case? Back in 1760, an agreement between the monarchy and Government was made that the money earned from the Crown Estate would be given to the Government and the Government would then take over all responsibilities for the cost of the state known as the Civil List. Richard Palmer of The Daily Express summed it up in one simple example, saying “to argue that the Crown Estate revenues are hers is like saying the Navy’s ships are hers and so she should pay for the cost of them.”

In 2011, the Civil List was reformed creating the Sovereign Grant. The Sovereign Grant is paid once a year based on 15 percent of Government’s revenues from The Crown Estate two years before. The Crown Estate includes a large collection of properties such as Regent Street and Ascot racecourse. The Crown Estate is a corporation sole, which is neither government or monarchy owned. As it lays in this limbo, the sovereign has agreed not to deal with the management or administration, leaving The Queen with limited powers over what happens with the estate. The estate’s portfolio is run by a semi-independent, incorporated public body who exercise “the powers of ownership” even though they are also not the technical owners. The profits from the estate have been given to the Government on behalf of The Queen and Her Majesty’s Treasury divides that profit to the British nation.

As any occupied royal palaces, such as Buckingham Palace, are not owned by Her Majesty but held in trust for the nation, the cost of maintenance falls on the State.

The Duchy of Lancaster which supports the Monarch and the Duchy of Cornwall which supports the first-in-line to the throne are however tax exempt. It is with that money that Her Majesty supports her family as well as the upkeep of her private residences. Yet even though they are tax-exempt, The Queen and the Prince of Wales make voluntary payments that would equal that of an income tax.