UK royal family face £35m dent in finances

Keeper of the royal purse reveals bleak funding forecast

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday March 9, 2020, members of Britain's royal family, with Prince Charles in foreground, followed by Prince William with Kate Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry with Meghan Duchess of Sussex, as they leave the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family along with various government leaders and guests attended the annual Commonwealth Day service, the largest annual inter-faith gathering in the United Kingdom.  The prince’s Clarence House office reported on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 that the 71-year-old Prince Charles is showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 and is self-isolating at a royal estate in Scotland, also saying his wife Camilla has tested negative. (Phil Harris / FILE via AP)
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The British royal household could take a £35 million hit to their finances due to the impact of covid, official accounts have revealed.

Making up nearly half of the shortfall, the lack of visitors to venues such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor alone is predicted to deprive the royal accounts of £15m over the next three years.

At an annual briefing on royal finances it was heard that a separate budget for long-term repairs designed to avert a "catastrophic failure" to the fabric of Buckingham Palace, the queen's main residence, will suffer a shortfall of £20m.

Annual travel costs for the family were also revealed.

The most costly overseas trip was Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's high-profile tour of southern Africa, which came in at £246,000, while expenses for a two-day visit by Prince Charles to Oman after the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said cost the family £210,345.

The annual report showed the activities of the Cambridges and the Sussexes contributed to a £5.6m bill for Prince Charles.

It also revealed Prince Andrew charged £15,848 for a charter flight to attend a golf championship in Northern Ireland.

Another charter flight was deemed necessary for Princess Anne to attend a rugby match between Italy and Scotland in Rome, at a cost of £16,440.

Both royals were serving in an official capacity as patrons of relevant organisations, and there were no commercial flights available to accommodate their schedules.

The Sovereign Grant, which pays for the monarch's official duties and upkeep of royal palaces, came to £82.4m in the financial year ending in March 2020, a slight rise from the year before.

FILE - In this July 17, 2020 file photo, Britain's Queen Elizabeth smiles after awarding Captain Sir Thomas Moore his knighthood during a ceremony at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England. The former British colony of Barbador, once known as “Little England,” announced Tuesday, Sept. 15, that it plans to replace the monarch with its own head of state in time for next year’s 55th independence anniversary. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, File)

By law, the Sovereign Grant cannot go down year-on-year, and the monarchy has become increasingly cost-conscious given wider public scrutiny of its affairs.

But Keeper of the Privy Purse Sir Michael Stevens, who is the Queen’s treasurer, said British taxpayers would not be asked to cough up for the additional shortfalls.

It comes at a time when millions are suffering a drop in income or outright loss of their jobs due to the pandemic.

"In responding to both these financial challenges we have no intention of asking for extra funding and will look to manage the impact through our own efforts and efficiencies," he said.

The royal household has already instituted a freeze on pay and new hiring, and is "actively looking at cutting non-essential expenditure", a senior royal source added.

Officials were also grilled about a claim by Prince Harry's spokesman this month that the queen's grandson has paid back £2.4m of taxpayers' money used to renovate Frogmore Cottage, his home in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The Duke of Sussex and his former actress wife retired from royal duties earlier this year in a quest for "financial independence", and reportedly paid back the refurbishment costs out of a multi-million-dollar deal with streaming giant Netflix.

Key figures

  • Harry and Meghan's high-profile tour of southern Africa cost £246,000
  • Prince Charles' two-day visit to Oman after the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said cost £210,000
  • William and Kate's official tour of Pakistan cost £117,116
  • Prince Andrew took a charter flight to Northern Ireland to attend a golf championship, costing £15,848

  • Princess Anne used a charter flight costing £16,440 so she could fly to Rome to watch Scotland play rugby as their patron 

  • Funding for the Cambridges and Sussexes contributed to a £5.6m bill for Prince Charles in 2019-2020, up 11 per cent on the previous year 

  • Prince Charles earned £22.2m in private income from the Duchy of Cornwall estate

  • Cost per person in the UK of funding the total Sovereign Grant is £1.23

  • Cost of housekeeping and hospitality, listed in the Buckingham Palace accounts, is £2.6m