As you probably know, Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton just announced the birth of their baby boy. This much is certain: the offspring of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will enter the world a lot better off than most of us are ever likely to become.
According to Carolyn Harris, a lecturer on history at the University of Toronto who blogs about royal topics at royalhistorian.com, the biggest source of potential royal wealth is the Duchy of Lancaster in northwestern England. This is a collection of properties that was assembled in the 1300s by King Edward III, who wanted future rulers to be able to pass property directly from one royal generation to the next. Currently the Duchy of Lancaster is the largest source of wealth for William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. There are a couple of generations in between, of course, but there’s an excellent likelihood that William and Kate’s offspring will share in the title eventually—and it’s all tax free.
Elizabeth II also owns two royal estates that she inherited directly from her father, King George VI: Balmoral in Scotland, where the queen spends part of the summer, and Sandringham in Norfolk. She can do with these as she pleases; one king in recently times simply gave his palace back to the people.
And along with other members of the royal family, the new Cambridge family member will have use of familiar royal properties Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, Clarence House, Marlborough House Mews, the residential and office areas of Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle and the buildings in the home and Great Park at Windsor, and Hampton Court Mews and Paddocks.
With royal wealth comes royal responsibility, Professor Harris points out; royals are required to oversee a collection of state properties originally known as the crown estate or crown lands. The most important part of this duty is the cost of entertaining more than 50,000 people per year at garden parties, receptions and official state visits. An annual grant of 31 million pounds has been set aside for this purpose which would seem to be sufficient since that works out to about $2,000 US for each royal subject who attends one of these events.
Now that we think about it, maybe we’ll stay with trading and investing. There’s less power to be amassed, but far fewer subjects to keep track of. And we don’t have to wait for the previous generation to move on.