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How the $28 Billion British Royal Business Really Works

The $28 billion empire that generates masses of cash while maintaining tradition isn’t a small business, but it’s run like one. This is a family that added $1.5 billion to the UK economy when Harry and Meghan married. In 2018, Brand Finance, a U.K.-based brand valuation firm, estimated the British Royal family generate $70 million a year for the media industry alone. This year that number will be smashed thanks to Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, which was broadcast in 60 countries.

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The Firm

When Meghan talked about the “active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” during the famous interview, she wasn’t the first person to call the Royal Family by that name. No one can agree on who said it first, but it was either the Queen’s father, King George VI or her husband, Prince Philip. The Firm is the name giving to the inner circle. The elite royals that Harry decided he and his wife could no longer be part of. Members of The Firm are paid by the Sovereign Grant, which means public money pours into their pockets. This inner circle control the $28 billion empire.

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Members of The Firm

The Queen is the top of the tree, of course. Under her, you’ll find six other members of the royal family along with their dependents. The heir to the throne, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla are the first two. Then his son, Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, are the second pair. The others are Princess Anne, the Queen’s daughter, and her majesty’s youngest son, Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex. Former members who recently left include Harry and Meghan, of course, along with Prince Andrew, who was retired by the Queen following his disastrously arrogant interview with the BBC about his relationship with convicted paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

Keeping up with the Windsors

You can only compare this family with other “influencer families”. Their value comes entirely from public perception, but unlike the Kardashians, the Windsors don’t profit from the media interest they generate. Before the pandemic, they generated $2.7 billion annually for the UK economy. The most significant impact they have is on the tourism industry. The media coverage they generate for the UK is worth around $400 million each year.

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Royal Warrants

When you find out about royal warrants, they sound like a licence to print money. They’re not quite, but a royal warrant, which is a stamp of approval from The Firm, is like a celebrity endorsement for your product. Everything from Barbour jackets to Johnnie Walker whisky has the royal warrant. David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, believes companies can make as much as 10 per cent more revenue with a royal warrant. The economic benefit for these companies gulfs the $550 million operating costs associated with running the royal family.

Expensive Operation

Thousands of employees are needed to keep this family afloat. Buckingham Palace alone employs some 1,200 staff. They earn the same sort of wage they would in other companies. For example, an entry-level IT specialist role listed on the official palace website offered $40,000 per year. There are another 450 people working for The Crown Estate, a state-run company that looks after certain assets for the Crown, including land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Assets

The Crown Estate contains assets worth $19.5 billion, so it makes up the bulk of the $28 billion fortune. Buckingham Palace is worth an estimated $4.9 billion, then the Duchy of Cornwall is worth $1.3 billion, and let’s not forget Kensington Palace at $630 million. The Crown Estate Scotland is worth $532 million, and the Duchy of Lancaster is currently valued at $748 million. None of those assets can be sold, but they don’t need to be sold when you can live off the profit they generate.

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