One of the most beloved and longest-reigning monarchs in the world, Queen Elizabeth II, monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and Queen of the realm and other territories. Despite her lengthy title, she’s probably more frugal than your average white-collar worker, managing her personal finances better than most commoners.
Just like her mother, who is aptly named Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (the British Monarchy didn’t spend a lot of time thinking of names), Queen Elizabeth II was practical, no-nonsense, and eschewed unnecessary purchases, making her one of the wealthiest monarchs in Europe.
Why is Queen Elizabeth II so Frugal? Thank Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
The Queen’s frugality is the stuff of British Royal Family legend, with stories of her insisting on using a $40 space heater in Windsor Castle and her using the same brand of nail polish for over 30 years simply because they’ve yet to up their prices.
And it makes sense: Queen Elizabeth II grew up in Interwar Britain, a period of English history that was marked by a careful sense of frugality and a minimization of opulence, thanks in no small part to the Great Depression. The Great Depression hit America hard, but our neighbors across the pond were a little luckier. Seeing their American cousins struggle gave the British, even their Monarchs, the mindset of keeping their purse strings taut and thinking of ways to keep themselves recession-proof.
It also helps that the Queen Mother brought up the young Elizabeth without any royal aspirations: remember that Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t actually supposed to be queen. Her father, King George VI, suddenly assumed the throne when his brother, King Edward VII, abdicated. Up until that point, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and her children were content with simple living. Well, as simple as royals can be.
When the Second World War rolled around, then-Princess Elizabeth practiced frugality as a way for the Royal Family to do their part in aiding the war effort. The heir apparent eventually joined the Armed Forces and trained as an ambulance driver. Through these experiences, Queen Elizabeth II grew up very financially disciplined, eschewing opulent and elegant expenses in favor of more practical ones, and managing her personal finances in such a way that it has kept her wealthy throughout the decades.
Of course, the Queen isn’t without her extravagance: probably her only expensive purchases are related to the care of her thoroughbred horses, which includes caretakers, vets, pastures, and other stable needs, costing the monarch around $785,000 a year. However, in my opinion, that’s pretty frugal, compared to some American billionaires with their yachts and supercars and private jets.
She also has an extensive collection of handbags, around 200 from Launer, and an undisclosed more from other brands. Why does Queen Elizabeth carry handbags all the time? Well, other than for fashion, she uses the handbags as a subtle way to tell her staff about her mood: if she puts her handbag on the table, she wants the event to end within 5 minutes. If she puts it on the floor, it means she wants to leave ASAP and expects her ladies-in-waiting to come fetch her.
Her handbags are all bespoke, so we’re not sure how much they’re actually worth, but you can get one that looks eerily similar to Her Majesty’s handbag for a cool $987, not bad for imitating royalty.
So, How Much is Queen Elizabeth II Worth?
Here’s the thing: when we talk about the British monarchy (or, indeed, most monarchies), we need to see their personal wealth as separate from the wealth of the Crown.
As an individual, Queen Elizabeth II is worth around $458 million, according to an annual analysis by The Sunday Times, making her one of the richest people in the United Kingdom. Note, however, that she isn’t the richest person in the United Kingdom; in fact, in a recently published ranking of the richest people in the world, the Queen ranks at a far 372nd.
As an institution, however, the British Monarchy is worth around $88 billion, according to a recent Forbes analysis. But compared to private institutions, the British Monarchy (and, by extension, Queen Elizabeth II herself) isn’t all that rich. Jeff Bezos’ net worth is close to $200 billion, while Amazon itself has a market value of over $1 trillion.
To put it into perspective, the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (named after Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) was built at a cost of $465 million, making it more expensive than Queen Elizabeth II’s net worth. In fact, you would have to take Queen Elizabeth’s current net worth and multiply it by 440 to match Bezos’ bank account. Whether this is because the Queen is frugal or it’s because Bezos has some kind of Philosopher’s Stone that just churns out money, we’ve yet to figure out.
But Where Does the Queen’s Money Come From?
Just like any rich folk out there, the Queen is Old Money, which means that her cash comes from various investments and real estate. In fact, she’s got a pretty impressive portfolio of stocks and land. Of course, that portfolio is also a couple of hundred years old so it’s wealth that’s been accumulated for literally centuries.
One of these is the Duchy of Lancaster, a private residential, commercial, and agricultural estate that generates around $30 million a year.
The Queen is also a beneficiary of the Crown Estate, a collection of real estate across Great Britain, including high-end buildings in Central London and around 263,000 acres of arable land across England. The Crown Estate makes up most of her income, accounting for around $400 million a year. However, she doesn’t own all the properties of the Crown Estate; the Queen can only spend around 15% of the total revenue generated by the Crown Estate, with the rest going to paying for her other Royal Duties.
Of course, the Queen and her family do own some real estate personally, including the royal family’s summer home called Balmoral Castle (worth around $140 million). And their ancestral home Sandringham House, a 20,000-acre manor dubbed as “The Most Comfortable House in England”, which has been in Queen Elizabeth II’s family since 1862.
The British Monarchy, on the other hand, gathers its come from Trusts, usually associated with the Royal Collection. These trusts govern the maintenance, upkeep, and income of various national treasures. Including, but not limited to, the Crown Jewels, the Imperial State Crown, as well as real estates, such as Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London.
As a trustee, the Monarch holds these items for the public in trust. The Crown Jewels alone are worth around $4 billion, although these are owned by the Queen “in the right of the Crown”, which means that she doesn’t own It personally, but is just holding it for the British Monarchy.
There are, however, some items in the Royal Collection that personally belong to Queen Elizabeth II herself and not the British Monarchy, including personal real estate holdings and a multi-million-dollar royal stamp collection that her grandfather, King George V, started.
But here’s one of the Queen’s revenue streams you might not have known about: horse racing. That’s right, Queen Elizabeth II loves the tracks, and has won over $9 million in prize money over the decades, with a record 451 wins under her belt. She even attended the Kentucky Derby back in 2007, although she didn’t have a horse in that race (literally).
She also receives a salary from Parliament (derived from the people’s taxes, might I add) called the Sovereign’s Grant which helps the entire Royal Family in the execution of its royal duties. The money varies per year, but 2020 saw her and her kin receiving a check for a cool $97 million.
Of course, there’s also the matter of her offshore investments in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, as leaked in the Paradise Papers. Buckingham, however, maintains that the $12 million of the Queen’s personal income in those offshore havens are properly audited, taxed, and legitimate.
How much is Prince Philip worth?
Unlike the Queen, Prince Philip is not as frugal: in fact, he has a reputation for being the exact opposite of his wife in terms of spending. The Duke of Edinburgh’s net worth is reported to be around $30 million, mostly because of his expensive lifestyle. He does receive a salary from Parliament as well, thanks to the Sovereign Grant Act of 2011.
It’s a smaller payday than the Queen, however, with Prince Philip only receiving around $500,000 a year. Most of which goes to paying for his royal duties.
A Final Note: Queen Elizabeth II is NOT The Queen of England
Before we’re accused of being ignorant Americans, let me clarify: Queen Elizabeth II is NOT the Queen of England. In fact, there is no such thing as “Queen of England” because the correct title would be “Queen of Great Britain”. England is a part of Great Britain, an island comprising the nations of England, Wales, and Scotland. Sure, she is technically Queen of England, but she’s also Queen of Wales, Scotland, the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, the Isle of Man, various overseas territories and dominions. Or, to make it easier for you, just call her Queen of the United Kingdom.
But if you had these notions that Queen Elizabeth II is swimming in lakes filled with gold coins à la Scrooge McDuck, sorry. Because the truth is, she’s not actually that rich.