Queen Elizabeth II's will and enormous wealth to remain a secret for long. Here’s why

Published on Sep 12, 2022 07:27 PM IST

In 2017, the monarchy's brand itself was valued at around USD 88 billion by valuation consultancy firm Brand Finance, while Queen Elizabeth II’s personal wealth estimated by Forbes was said to be around $500 million.

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in British history (Photo by AFP)
Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in British history (Photo by AFP)
By | Edited by Sohini Goswami

Often referred to as the wealthiest woman in the whole world, Queen Elizabeth II, had an enormous array of personal wealth – in investments, art, jewels and real estate – from decades of colonial rule. However, the value of this wealth is a secret even to this date. The only question that remains is what will happen to all her treasury and who will get it.

In 2017, the monarchy's brand itself was valued at around $88 billion by valuation consultancy firm Brand Finance, while Queen Elizabeth II’s personal wealth estimated by Forbes was said to be around $500 million.

According to a PTI report, however, the components of her last will and testament specifying how her wealth will be distributed after her death in Scotland are also expected to remain a secret for a long time.

Read more: 'Heavy lies the head': Who will inherit Queen Elizabeth II's crowns and tiaras

Historically, the wills of the sovereign have remained private along with other members of the royal family. However, a report in the British daily Express stated that the will of the Queen Mother – Queen Elizabeth, the first – was published on Royal.uk in May 2002.

During a legal battle over the will of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s younger sister, a court was told that the “primary reason and purpose of sealing royal wills is to protect the privacy of the sovereign”. Also, for technical legal reasons – because the late monarch was the source of legal authority – her will does not have to be published like others.

Read more: Queen Elizabeth II wrote a letter before she died. But we can't open till 2085

However, many of the sources of her wealth – the palaces, the Crown Jewels and the works of art – do not fall in the category of her private property but are held in trust for future generations and are simply being passed over to the new monarch – King Charles III.

In 2015, 'The Sunday Times Rich List' estimated the late British monarch's net wealth to be about £340 million (nearly $400 million), with the major source of a British sovereign’s personal money being the Duchy of Lancaster – the sovereign’s private estate, existing purely to give the reigning monarch an income.

In the financial year ending March 31, the estate was valued at about £652 million and generated a net surplus of 24 million pounds.

Read more: Queen's funeral set to knock UK economy after rebound

According to The Times, as is an inalienable asset of the Crown, it would not even appear in the Queen’s will and simply passed from sovereign to sovereign, without any tax being paid.

The newspaper notes that no inheritance tax was liable on the Queen’s personal wealth due to a deal struck in 1993 with the then John Major-led government, in which the Queen agreed for the first time to pay income tax. As part of that agreement, it was stipulated that sovereign-to-sovereign bequests would be exempt from inheritance tax.

The Treasury Memorandum of Understanding on Royal Taxation, written in 2013, says, “The reasons for not taxing assets passing to the next sovereign are that private assets such as Sandringham and Balmoral have official as well as private use and that the monarchy as an institution needs sufficient private resources to enable it to continue to perform its traditional role in national life, and to have a degree of financial independence from the government of the day.”

Britain's longest-serving monarch died on Thursday. She was surrounded by her near and dear ones in her final moments. On Saturday, Queen Elizabeth II's son and heir Charles III was proclaimed as the King. He reaffirmed the tradition of surrendering all royal revenues from the Crown Estate to the nation, in return for the Sovereign Grant that covers the costs for the UK’s royal family.

(With agency inputs)

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