When considering the economic impact of the British royals on the economy/budget, a first thought might be that they cost the state money since they don't do any "real" work and yet live quite luxurious lives.

On the other hand, it is argued that they bring in quite a lot of money as a tourist magnet: People (apparently especially US americans) visit the UK, and one of the main reasons for that is, allegedly, to see the palace, and castles that are not uninhabited ruins.


Has there ever been a thorough investigation on whether the costs outweigh the benefits or vice versa?

  • Is there any research on how much it would cost the economy to remove the royals? We would need to reprint all of our money, all our official documents, restructure our military command structure and possibly lots of other things.
    – Ardesco
    Aug 4, 2011 at 9:38
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    your suggesting that for example Louvre is "uninhabited ruin"?
    – vartec
    Aug 4, 2011 at 10:55
  • @vartec No, but it is know for being a museum and not mainly for being a palace.
    – Lagerbaer
    Aug 5, 2011 at 4:17
  • @Lager: and what makes you think fate of Windsor or Buckingham would be different?
    – vartec
    Aug 5, 2011 at 7:15
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    Should we compare these costs to those of the French presidents? E.g. Chirac, who spent €99m on Quaero (a European google competitor, back in 2006). Similar arguments can be made for security. Heads of state act as lightning rods, and we should not blame lightning on lightning rods.
    – MSalters
    Aug 8, 2011 at 13:32

3 Answers 3


The Crown Estate

For the past 250 years, Britain's method of funding the monarchy has been based on a delicate 18th-century trade-off in which King George III agreed to hand over the income from the Crown Estate – property and land acquired by the crown since William the Conqueror's day – in exchange for a fixed annual payment from the Treasury.

At the time, it was a good deal for George: he had no money and the estate brought in very little. But these days it brings in far more than the state pays out on the royals: last year its £7.3bn portfolio – from beef farms in the north of Scotland to swathes of Regent Street in London's West End – provided about £230m of income to the Treasury.


Royal funding changes:

The Sovereign Grant Bill introduces a single payment given to the monarch based on 15% of the Crown Estate's revenue from two years previously.

Starting from 2013-14, this funding arrangement will last seven years before it is reviewed.

The grant is expected to be £34m in the first year

Tourism Revenue

The BBC reported in 2010 that:

Overseas tourists spent more than £500 million visiting attractions associated with the history of the Royal family last year.

That figure comes from a report by VisitBritain.

Cost of the Royal Family

From the BBC (2009):

The total cost to the public of keeping the monarchy increased by £1.5m to £41.5 million in the 2008/9 financial year.

But according to Republic:

The official figure excludes a number of costs, including round-the-clock security, lavish royal visits and lost revenue from the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall.

The estimated total annual cost of the monarchy to taxpayers is £202.4 million, around five times the official figure published by the royal household.

The Tax Payer Treasure Hunt agrees that the official "£40 million" figure does not include all costs:

With the added cost of royal security estimated at £50 million, the total cost of the British monarchy is about £90 million.

  • 6
    "VisitBritain's '£500 million' is correct, it's a plus for the Queen." Not necessarily: you have to look at the counter-factual. If, rather than being supported by the state, the monarchs would find a way to sustain themselves, would there be a decrease in tourism enough for a net loss?
    – Borror0
    Aug 3, 2011 at 22:26
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    Yeah, and in addition to that, do you think people would be less interested in items "associated with the history of the Royal family" if there wasn't a current royal family? You could argue that people would still be interested in the history.....
    – NotJarvis
    Aug 4, 2011 at 7:42
  • 5
    There are lot of republics where tourist visit sites related to monarchies now long gone. Take Louvre and Versailles for example. Or Forbidden City.
    – vartec
    Aug 4, 2011 at 10:42
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    I claim that the income from tourists would be virtually identical without the pampering of the royal family. Nothing in your information contradicts that. I don’t see how you can possibly conclude that “it’s a plus for the Queen”. Aug 4, 2011 at 11:44
  • 3
    You also have to factor in the costs of whatever you choose to replace the Royal Family. A President is likely to be cheaper in some ways, but security will still be necessary and so will residences, including at least somewhere to host state dinners and but up visiting heads of state. Aug 8, 2011 at 17:11

it is argued that they bring in quite a lot of money as a tourist magnet: People (apparently especially US americans) visit the UK, and one of the main reasons for that is, allegedly, to see the palace, and castles that are not uninhabited ruins.

BBC reported in 2010 that in 2009:

  • 987,000 people visited Windsor Castle
  • 402,000 tourists saw Buckingham Palace

By comparison in the same report:

About 2.37 million tourists visited the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich - part of which is housed in the Queen's House, a former royal residence.

The most visited museum in UK is the British Museum in London, with 5.93 million visits in 2009. Which is far more popular than any royal heritage related site.

Thus it's clear that being current royal residence isn't that much of tourist magnet.

Now, if you would go international and compare it with the other side of the English Channel:

France is republic since 1789. Yet Louvre, former royal palace, is the most visited museum in the world with 8.5 million visits in 2009, which is 20 times more than Buckingham Palace.

  • 5
    pointing out the Louvre was a palace is irrelevant. Also why the fascination with museums, their primary focus is to have visitors. A more fair comparison would be the White House or Parliament buildings or Big Ben as they are all places with a primary purpose other than attracting visitors
    – Ryathal
    May 30, 2012 at 13:10
  • @Ryathal: Louvre is example of former royal residence, converted to museum. Same could be done let's say with Buckingham Palace if UK were to become a republic. So it is not irrelevant.
    – vartec
    May 30, 2012 at 13:16
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    @Ryathal: why museums? because that's what former palaces are usually used for. And because we're talking about tourists. I don't really see how comparison with White House would make sense, it's much, much smaller and access is way more restricted. It is where US president actually resides, while in case of the Queen, Buckingham Palace is only formal residence, not de facto one.
    – vartec
    May 30, 2012 at 13:22
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    @MichaelGreinecker: that's easy: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Collection_Department
    – vartec
    May 30, 2012 at 14:54
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    @Benjol: from simple fact that she lives in Windsor Castle, and as far a I know, she doesn't posses ability of bi-location :-P
    – vartec
    May 31, 2012 at 8:53

Apart from the to and fro of costs and tourism, consider that The Queen doesn't just sit on her throne 24/7, Her Majesty and many others of the Royal family do perform community and charity work. Many of the Royal Family also have regular jobs (and therefore do not cost) and have served in the Army / Navy / Airforce.

Back to tourism though, if Britain did not have a Monarchy, all of the historical assets would continue to require maintenance. The £50 million pound for security is almost purely the main attraction at the Palace.

Given the £230m income to treasury, I think it is certainly beneficial. The entire argument about the cost of the Monarchy is a malevolent one with little to no substance.

  • 3
    Please add references to your answer: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1023/… Jun 4, 2012 at 0:20
  • 2
    "The entire argument about the cost of the Monarchy is a malevolent one with little to no substance." Says the person who hasn't included a single citation in his answer.
    – user34550
    Jun 21, 2017 at 10:08

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