What is the Crown Estate and how does it work?

By Sarah Schneider

A lot has been said whether Prince Harry and Princess Meghan used “taxpayer’s money” to remodel their new family residence, Frogmore Cottage. The UK media argues the royal couple spent “taxpayer’s money” on their new home which we refute with this article.

Frogmore Cottage was renovated with money from the Sovereign Grant, an annual grant that supports the reigning monarch and comes “from a percentage of the profits of the Crown Estate revenue (initially set at 15%, currently at 25%)” according to Royal UK. The Sovereign Grant is a funding to support official duties of The Queen, as well as maintenance of the Occupied Royal Palaces, staff salaries, etc.

What is The Sovereign Grant?

The Sovereign Grant enables The Queen as Head of State to carry out her official duties, which per Royal UK, includes:

  • Royal travel for official engagements in the UK and overseas;
  • the maintenance of Royal residencies which are used for formal entertaining and ceremonial events;
  • funding for the work of The Duke of Edinburgh which supports and complements that of The Queen
  • and salaries for employees of the Royal Household who support and administer the work of Her Majesty as Head of State.

What is the Crown Estate?

The Queen owns properties throughout the United Kingdom, managed through the independent organisation Crown Estate. The Crown Estate does not belong to the Queen or parliament, and cannot be sold by either of the named parties. Per the Sovereign Grant, 15% of the profits made by the Crown Estate goes to the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth.

“The Crown Estate as a whole dates back from the time of the Norman Conquest”, according to Royal UK.

In 1760, George III reached an agreement with the Government over the Estate. The Crown Lands* would be managed on behalf of the Government and the surplus revenue would go to the Treasury. In return, the King would receive a fixed annual payment, which was called the Civil List. With effect from 1 April 2012, the Civil List was incorporated into a new system of funding referred to as the Sovereign Grant.

The Crown Estate is not the personal property of the Monarch. It cannot be sold by the Monarch, nor do any profits from it go to the Sovereign.

The Crown Estate is managed by an independent organisation, headed by a Board, and any profit from the Estate is paid every year to the Treasury for the benefit of all UK taxpayers. The Treasury is effectively the principle Government stakeholder and is kept informed of the estate’s overall business plans and strategies.

The Estates portfolio has a value of over £7.3 billion, from beef farms in the north of Scotland to Portland stone mining in Dorset. Windsor Great Park is the only Royal Park managed by the Crown Estate. All other parks are administered by the Royal Parks Agency. Royal UK

As per the Crown Estate’s website, the group manages a variety of different properties also known as “The Crown Lands” but referred to as Crown Estate to avoid confusion:

  • Land belonging to The Queen as monarch
  • The Queen’s private property
  • Properties of the Duchies
  • Government land

The following excerpts are taken from the Crown Estate’s website:

Under the Act of 1961, the estate is managed by a Board who have a duty to maintain and enhance the value of the estate and the return obtained from it, but with due regard to the requirements of good management. The Crown Estate website

“The Crown Estate is run by a Board (The Crown Estate Commissioners) and their staff.”

The Crown Estate belongs to the reigning monarch ‘in right of The Crown’, that is, it is owned by the monarch for the duration of their reign, by virtue of their accession to the throne. But it is not the private property of the monarch – it cannot be sold by the monarch, nor do revenues from it belong to the monarch.

The Government also does not own The Crown Estate. It is managed by an independent organisation – established by statute – headed by a Board (also known as The Crown Estate Commissioners), and the surplus revenue from the estate is paid each year to the Treasury for the benefit of the nation’s finances.

    Conclusion:

    The Queen owns a bulk of property that is managed by the Crown Estate. The Crown Estate is an independent real estate business that returns all of its profits to the Treasury. Per the Sovereign Grant, the Crown Estate grants the Queen 15% of the profits made from lands which the royal family has owned for centuries. Does that sound like “taxpayer’s money”?

    The subject is complex and confusing but it sounds like the public money the Queen receives is her own money. How can that money, that helped renovate Frogmore Cottage, be referred to as taxpayer money when technically it’s not?

    Spread some Duchess of Sussex facts

    Last updated on August 21st, 2019

    References

    The Crown Estate Link
    The Crown Estate History Link