How Much Does The Royal Family Actually Cost The UK?

As Mel Brooks fans can attest, it's good to be the king. But in the United Kingdom, being a royal ain't what it used to be. King James I, for instance, crowned himself a deity. In a 1609 speech to Parliament he argued, "The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself are called gods."

Today's British royals wouldn't dare call dibs on God's throne. On the contrary, in January 2020, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and wife Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, announced that they were distancing themselves from thrones in general. As the couple put it, "We intend to step back as roles as 'senior' members of the Royal Family, and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen."

While that declaration of financial independence probably gave the UK flashbacks about the American Revolution, it also alluded to one of the biggest perks of belonging to the Royal Family. Harry and Meghan don't have to support the Queen or themselves because Elizabeth II and the rest of her silken ilk receive more than enough support from UK taxpayers.

God save the quid

According to Fortune the Royal Family receives a so-called "Sovereign Grant" from the UK government every year. Though the terms have evolved over time, the basic idea is that the family gives up the profits from its immensely expensive properties in exchange for a fixed, taxpayer-funded income amounting to about 15 percent of the income generated by these holdings. The overall arrangement dates back to the reign of King George III.

Contradicting Mel Brooks' maxim, George generally showed how it can be bad to be the king. He lost the Revolutionary War and later lost his mind. And before both of those things occurred, he lost his net income in a 1760 agreement with the government. Though the UK obviously rakes in loads of dough, the public pays a pretty penny for the royals, and that penny gets more beautiful by the year. Forbes reports that in 2012, the monarchy cost taxpayers a little over $41 million. In 2019 that number soared to over $85 million, a more than 40 percent increase from 2018 figures. Where is all that money going? Pricy palace renovations.