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What to Know About King Charles III’s Billions, and Why His Net Worth Is So Opaque

5 minute read

Going into Coronation Day on May 6, King Charles III will be publicly crowned Britain’s next King. What’s clear is that he came to the throne a wealthy man and the death of Queen Elizabeth II made him even wealthier.

But exactly how rich is King Charles III now?

“No one really knows,” says Laura Clancy, author of Running the Family Firm: How the Monarchy Manages Its Image and Our Money.

There have been numerous efforts to calculate this number. While much of his late mother’s personal wealth is kept private, Forbes estimates that he inherited $500 million, upon her death on Sep. 8, 2022. That inheritance includes the Queen’s private estates—like Balmoral Castle in the Scottish highlands, where she passed—as well as her jewelry, art, and her personal investments—”like any wealthy mom who might pass on stuff on to a son, things that she personally owns,” as Clancy puts it.

Charles also inherited a much larger portfolio of castles, hundreds of thousands of acres in land, prime London real estate and other assets that are under his control—though some are technically owned by the U.K. government. As the reigning monarch, Charles gets sites like Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Tower of London. Clancy explains that “as a sovereign, he inherits things that belong to the crown, as an institution, so that’s things like the Crown Estate, which is like a portfolio of land [and] the crown jewels.” Forbes estimates these properties are worth about $42 billion.

Read more: These Photos Show How London Is Being Transformed for King Charles III’s Coronation

A recent investigation by The Guardian titled “Cost of the crown” aimed to shed light on just how wealthy the King Charles and the Royal Family are, and how they have generated this income. The bulk of the wealth comes from three sources: one public fund (from the British government) and two private streams (through family inheritance.)

The royal family’s private assets

The private income streams include the Duchy of Lancester and the Duchy of Cornwall—both portfolios of land, property, and assets.

Known under the umbrella term Privy Purse, the Duchy of Lancaster is a stream of income that privately belongs to the British sovereign. It consists of more than 45,668 acres held in trust. The estate, mostly situated in the north of England and the Midlands, has a value of £652 million ($805 million), The Guardian reported.

Meanwhile, the Duchy of Cornwall is a business portfolio belonging to the Prince of Wales—the title of the heir to the throne. It includes 130,000 acres of land predominantly in south-west England, and worth over £1 billion ($1.25 billion). The holdings range from The Oval cricket ground in South London to office space in the British capital, to seaside vacation rentals, and a suburban commercial development with a supermarket. During Charles’ 73 years as Prince of Wales, he worked to grow the holdings to its current size. In 2017, a leak of the so-called Paradise Papers revealed that the estate invested millions in off-shore companies, including one in Bermuda run by one of his best friends.,

However, Charles had to give up ownership of the Duchy of Cornwall when he ascended to the throne. This means that William became a billionaire (at least on paper) when his grandmother died and he became Prince of Wales. He can expect an annual payment of at least $25 million, according to the Guardian’s findings.

Read more on King Charles III’s coronation

  • Your Questions About Coronation Day, Answered
  • How London Is Being Transformed for King Charles III’s Coronation
  • Here’s Everyone Who Will—and Won’t—Go to King Charles II’s Coronation
  • Why a Major British Broadcaster Will Air ‘Alternative’ Coronation Coverage
  • Charles is prevented by law from selling assets from either duchy for personal gain, as were previous monarchs. This is to ensure that the wealth remains in the royal family for future inheritance. But the trade-off is that the royal family is also exempt from paying corporation tax and capital gains tax—though they must still submit private annual accounts to Parliament. These are not made public.

    Read more: Breaking Down the New Royal Family Line of Succession

    Payments from the public

    The Sovereign Grant is the only publicly funded portion of the royal family’s wealth. It is calculated as 15% of the revenue generated by The Crown Estate, a £14.3 billion ($18.3 billion) real estate business in the U.K. whose profits benefit the U.K.’s finance ministry, and therefore the public.

    Last year, the Sovereign Grant to the Royal Family was about $107 million.

    The royal family’s opaque finances

    When addressing the institution’s finances, the royal family’s website states, “The monarchy has sometimes been described as an expensive institution, with royal finances shrouded in confusion and secrecy. In reality, the royal household is committed to ensuring that public money is spent as wisely and efficiently as possible, and to making royal finances as transparent and comprehensible as possible.”

    But exactly how much Charles inherited from the Queen’s personal investments is not clear because her will is not publicly available. And Clancy believes the public has a right to know this information.

    “It’s a problem that we don’t know,” says Clancy. “If you want to boast about being transparent, then actually be transparent.”

    Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com and Olivia B. Waxman at olivia.waxman@time.com