4 Feb 2020

Born into riches - the staggering extent of the Royal purse

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 4 February 2020
Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will give up their titles and stop receiving public funds following their decision to give up front-line royal duties, Buckingham Palace said on January 18, 2020.

Photo: AFP

Harry and Meghan are off to scrape up a living on their own, downsizing the mansion and letting go the butler.

Nah not really – while the sixth in line to the throne is leaving behind a gold mine, Archie’s dad is certainly not going to be a pauper.

He’s estimated to be worth $NZ60 million – thanks to money he gets from his rich relatives.

In a new book called ‘And What do YOU do? What the Royal Family Don’t Want You to Know’, former Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has looked at just how rich the Queen et al are.

On The Detail today Baker talks to Sharon Brettkelly about the royal riches – where they’ve traditionally got their money from, how much the British taxpayer subsidies them, and why the man formerly known as Prince Harry will continue to be a public burden.

Baker says “The Firm” as the royal family is known, is highly secretive, uber-rich, tax-avoiding and business-savvy.

“We’re going to end up paying more for Harry now, than we did before,” he says.

“He’s not really leaving the royals. He’s keeping his HRH title – he’s not going to be using it officially - but he’s keeping it, and that’s significant because it means he’ll have access to the security guards which comes with the royals; to free travel; to support from Buckingham Palace and the like. So all of those elements will still remain in place.

“Furthermore in terms of the income he receives – 95 percent of it has come from Prince Charles.

“He will be really, in practical terms, no worse off, and indeed the taxpayer will be worse off because the cost of security will go through the roof.”

Baker is scathing about historic arrangements which have led to what he says should be public riches falling into royal hands. That includes giving profits from property to the Queen under the Sovereign Grant; years of her being exempt from paying tax (until 1993); and handing over to her the admission fees for public tours of Buckingham Palace to fund repairs to Windsor Castle - that were completed in 1999.

Baker says very little light has been shone on the royal finances over the years thanks to what he says is the media not doing their job properly.

“The media are obsessed by trivia, as to whether Prince George likes camels or horses or something …. or they’re obsessed by 1950s values as to whether Kate’s dress looks right or whether she was touching her bump when she was pregnant and all those sorts of things …. which are both highly intrusive and completely irrelevant, and doesn’t ever focus on the real matters.”

Baker says there should be a vast slimming down of the Royal Family (“44 of them on that balcony … what are they all doing?”) and their financial arrangements should be subject to the Official Information Act.

But there could be a change in the air, especially after Prince Andrew’s friendship with convicted US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

“People don’t want to be unpleasant to the Queen,” he says. “People think the Queen’s done a good job, that she’s a good person, people don’t want to upset her when she’s 93. So I think when the Queen dies that will be the crucial point … whether people think ‘hang on, we’ve had enough of this ….we don’t really want Charles’.”

And he’s not convinced by the tourism argument, that the royals are good for the economy.

“I don’t think we should base our constitutional arrangements on what’s good for visitors.”