April 21 is the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth — the actual birthday, although she gets an official birthday in June because, as a quirk of British history, monarchs since George II have chosen a second date in summer to publicly celebrate when the weather it nice.
That is just one of the many perks of being Queen. There will be happy birthday wishes at a function at the Royal Mail postal system, and a 90-minute program of music, dance, and equestrian displays that run nightly from May 12 through 15.
Ah, it’s good to be the queen. For Queen Elizabeth, the longest-ruling monarch of the U.K. — technically she’s the ruling monarch of 16 individual sovereign states in the Commonwealth of Nations, but who’s counting? — it has meant a life of pomp, circumstance, achievement, disappointment, and a good deal of financial comfort and security.
But that’s what she inherited. As monarch, the true windfall for her and her family comes in vast amounts of property kept in trust for her which generate significant income. Last year her 15% share of the income was valued at approximately $54.5 million.
The trust is called the Crown Estate and includes the Crown Jewels and Buckingham Palace. But also in the trust are major sections of central London, including nearly all of Regent Street and half the buildings in St. James. The Crown Estate has 263,000 farmed acres; billions of dollars in industrial, office, and retail properties; about half of the U.K.’s shoreline, and almost all the seabed to the 12-mile territorial limit. The total value is about $16.5 billion. Queen Elizabeth and family receive 15% of all the money — $363 million annually — made from the rents, lumber, agricultural products, minerals, renewable energy production, licensing of rights to run undersea cables, and more.
The structure of the Crown Estate goes back to King George III, who was deeply in debt and traded the management of his properties, and the revenues from them, for an annual income.
But that isn’t the only source of income. The Queen also receives money — $19 million last year — on the income from a parcel of properties totaling 45,549 acres called the Duchy of Lancaster. (Prince Charles takes his pay, more than $27 million, from the income on the Duchy of Cornwall, a separate 53,400 acres.)
Granted, Queen Elizabeth can’t do anything directly with the properties in the Crown Estate or Duchy of Lancaster. But the trust, and its income, pass on to the next monarch, who would be either her son or grandson.
Although many in the U.K., and other parts of the world, are mad about the royals, some critics are just angry, period, and they say that the money spent on keeping royalty in the style to which the members have become accustomed is too much.
You can bet that such people won’t be invited to the picnic lunch for 10,000 that helps close out the celebrations on the official June 11 celebration. Most of the guests will be from organizations of which the Queen is a patron. Private companies are underwriting the event’s expense.