The Queen’s True Worth, Part Three: Article Series by David McClure

  April 7, 2015 at 6:00 am by

Today we bring you the final part of our article series on Queen Elizabeth’s finances written by author and former Reuters journalist David McClure. This three-part series has been written as a summary of Mr McClure’s book, Royal LegacyHow the Royal Family have made, spent and passed on their Wealth from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II. Part one can be found here and part two here.

If you have any questions relating to the Queen’s finances, please leave a comment below or post them in the discussion thread for the book here and we will endeavour to get the author’s response.

The Queen’s True Worth, Part Three

For all her renowned thriftiness, the Queen harbours one indulgence – horses. Early in her reign she became one the largest owners in the country. In 2001, her 30 racehorses and 26 broodmares were valued at £3.6m with an annual maintenance outlay of around £500,000, although by 2011 she had reduced her stable to about 25 horses in training. With overheads as high as Becher’s Brook, it is a moot point whether her equine venture ever made a profit.

But her private residences have even greater running costs. Balmoral requires over £3m a year to run, although she can claw back some revenue by renting out cottages on the estate at £690 a week or selling tea towels for £4.99 a pair. The Sandringham estate with its more arable soil is better placed to offset its high running costs from the rental of farmlands as well as the leasing of game shooting rights, but it remains as ever a drain on resources. It is often forgotten that Edward VIII was so worried about it haemorrhaging money that he began the process of selling it off.

In 2013 the Queen gave Prince William Anmer Hall on her Sandringham estate as a thirtieth birthday present and after a £1.5m refurbishment it will become the country home of the Cambridges. Indeed, a large chunk of the Queen’s private income will have gone to paying for the residences of her children. When Princess Anne married Mark Philips in 1976, she bought the couple Gatcombe Park – the 730-acre Gloucestershire estate of the former cabinet minister R.A. Butler – for £500,000. Similarly in 1986 when Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson, the Queen bought them their first home, Sunninghill Park (or as it was soon dubbed “South York”) in Berkshire, for £3m. Prince Edward’s wedding present from his mother in 1998 was the 50-year lease on the 88-acre Bagshot Park near Windsor with its 57-room house that is today worth over £30m. At the time, the purchase prompted raised eyebrows at the palace, with one courtier wondering why they wanted to live in such a costly Victorian pile. She now gives the Wessexes and her other close relatives (including Prince Andrew) a generous allowance.

So, if like Deep Throat you follow the money, you find somewhat ironically that the property rental income from the Duchy of Lancaster is largely being used to pay for the landed property of her large family. Only the very rich can now afford the luxury of a country pile.

As the Queen prepares to pass Victoria in September 2015 as the longest reigning monarch, she might doff her crown in thanks to her great-great-grandmother for preventing the Duchy from being seized by the state and then turning it into such a high-yielding cash cow.

This article is based on David McClure’s Royal LegacyHow the Royal Family have made, spent and passed on their Wealth from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II (Thistle Publications 2015, available from or as e-book or paperback).

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