Claims about King Charles III’s inheritance have been shared multiple times on both Facebook and Twitter, but they require context.
The posts say: “Just a quick reminder King Charles inherited £650m tax free, gets £350 million a year tax free from the tax payer and has an estate worth £22 billion that's never taxed. But he still can't pay for his own coronation [sic].”
Some of the posts go on to say that “250 million of our money” was spent on the King’s coronation, which took place on 6 May.
Full Fact has written before about other claims relating to the Royal Family’s finances and the coronation, including that sand was used to fill potholes on the ceremonial route. These types of claims can spread quickly and cause people to have beliefs based on a false understanding and inaccurate information.
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Duchy of Lancaster
The posts claim that King Charles inherited “£650m tax free”. This is most likely referring to the Duchy of Lancaster, which includes rural areas in Lancashire and Yorkshire as well as properties in central London and financial assets. In the year ending March 2022, its net assets were worth £653 million. The Duchy of Lancaster is the property of the crown and is not subject to inheritance tax.
While King Charles oversees the Duchy of Lancaster as sovereign, he is not entitled to sell any of the assets for personal gain. But he does receive a private annual income from the assets, which is known as the Privy Purse and was worth £24 million in 2022.
The purpose of the Duchy is to provide an independent source of income, and is mainly used for official expenditure not covered by the Sovereign Grant (which we’ll cover shortly). Both King Charles and Queen Elizabeth II agreed to pay voluntary income tax on the income from the Privy Purse that is not used for official purposes.
According to the latest Sunday Times Rich List, King Charles has a personal wealth of £600 million, which is largely owing to income from the Duchy of Cornwall. This is another portfolio of land and assets that is overseen by the heir to the throne in right of the crown. Similarly to the Duchy of Lancaster, it does not belong to the heir personally but they do receive an annual income from it.
As Prince of Wales (and Duke of Cornwall), King Charles reportedly received £212.7 million from the Duchy between 2012 and 2022. He again paid voluntary income tax on the profits that were not used for official expenditure. Between 2011 and 2022 the overall value of the Duchy is reported to have increased by almost 50% to £1.04 billion.
The posts don’t appear to have included the Queen’s private assets that King Charles will have inherited in the £650 million figure. He will own these assets personally, rather than technically in right of the Crown. As they are private, it is difficult to find information published about their value. The assets included Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, Balmoral Castle in Scotland—which the Guardian valued together at £330 million—and the Royal Stud, which breeds horses, estimated at £27 million. It has been reported that the King has since sold some of these horses.
The Guardian has estimated that the King’s private fortune is close to £1.8 billion, although this was disputed by his spokesperson.
The Crown Estate
The “£350 million a year” figure in the text seems to refer to the annual revenue of the Crown Estate, which is a portfolio of property and other holdings. In 2021/22, this had a net revenue of £312.7 million but in previous years it has been closer to the figure quoted in the Facebook posts at £343.5 million in 2018/19 and £345 million in 2019/20.
However, it is not correct that all of this money goes to King Charles. The Crown Estate is not the personal property of the monarch. Similar to the Duchy of Lancaster, the Crown Estate is not owned by the Sovereign personally and cannot be sold for personal gain.
The profits of the Crown Estate are public money and all go to the Treasury. The Treasury then uses this amount to calculate how much should be paid to the King via the Sovereign Grant. The money for this grant comes from public funds most of which comes from general taxation, but some of it is from non-tax sources (such as the Crown Estate profits)
According to the government website, this money “meets the central staff costs and running expenses of His Majesty’s official household – including official receptions, investitures and garden parties. It also covers maintenance of the Royal Palaces in England and the cost of travel to carry out royal engagements such as opening buildings and other royal visits.”
The size of the Sovereign Grant is currently calculated as 25% of the Crown Estate’s annual profit from two years previously. In 2022/23, this was £86.3 million, which is considerably less than the £350 million claimed in the Facebook posts.
The terms of the Sovereign Grant state that 15% of the Crown Estate’s profits should be used to calculate how much the Treasury pays to the sovereign while an extra 10% has been included since 2017/18 to support the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace. No income tax is paid on the Sovereign Grant.
Size of the estate
It is unclear exactly where the £22 billion figure in the posts comes from but it could refer to a Forbes article about the King’s “$25 billion real estate empire”, which converts to just over £20 billion.
Again, the majority of this figure comes from the Crown Estate, which had net assets worth £16.5 billion in 2021/22 with £15.6 billion coming from property.
The Treasury says that it is a “mistake” to treat the Crown Estate as a “sovereign wealth fund”. It says: “while it [the Crown Estate] is part of the public sector, it is not government property. Nor is it part of the monarch’s private estate.”
The other properties included in Forbes’ $25 billion figure are similarly not owned by King Charles personally. As well as the Crown Estate and the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, the article says some holdings are held in trust “for successors and the nation” and by two foundations that the King established as Prince of Wales.
The coronation costs
Multiple posts say that the coronation cost £250 million. There has been no official figure given for the price of the event but it has been reported that estimates are between £50-100 million.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport told Full Fact that it was unable to confirm the cost at this stage, but it would be made public in due course.
Image courtesy of Dan Marsh