How much does the monarchy cost Britain?

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Marking another royal milestone across the pond as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II turns 90, many British thoughts will turn to whether or not her record-breaking reign should be the last.

Aside from all those moral questions surrounding whether one family should be put on a opulent pedestal because of their heredity, when you see all those jewels, gowns and exotic trips, there's also the question of the cost.

But wait!

"The Queen, The Royal Family and the Household continue to provide excellent value for money: at 56p per person annually".

That's according to Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, as he introduced the United Kingdom's Sovereign Grant Annual Report 2014-2015.

If you think it sounds like he's protesting too much in the face of increasing criticism, you'll notice a trend in the introductions to these reports.

So it will be pointed out quite early that the cost is "less than it was five years ago" or, perhaps most brilliantly, "less than the price of two pints of milk or a download to an ipod".

All those pints add up, of course - the net expense in the most recent report was £35.7 million. That includes housekeeping, staff expenses, property maintenance and travel.

Elizabeth II has her own private income, tied up in an investment portfolio and the inherited likes of Balmoral Castle and Sandringham. Privy Purse income from the Duchy of Lancaster, which is a portfolio including 18,000 hectares of property and land, funds her private expenditure.

That private expenditure doesn't include the £400,000 spent on wine and spirits. But that's likely because she wasn't drinking it all herself.

Picture by: Fiona Hanson / PA Archive/Press Association Images

The UK has the biggest annual budget in Europe for its monarchy, ahead of the likes of Holland and Norway.

France, surprisingly, still spends the most on its head of state - the Élysée presidential palace sets the French back £103.5m annually.

Returning to that official "56p per person", it's worth noting that it is based on total population, rather than those paying tax. Using that figure of 29.7 million, it actually works out at £1.26 per taxpayer.
Anti-monarchy group Republic have also raised the issue of costs that are unaccounted for in the official figure. Royal security, for example, costs £100m.

The Independent has worked out that the total bill is eight times the official number, amounting to a real fee of £11.24 per taxpayer.

This purpose of this annual topping up can, of course, be called into question when you consider the royal family's personal wealth already.

That figure does comes in at a surprisingly low £340 million, meaning Britain's queen is no millionaire. Indeed, the British royal family is not even the wealthiest in Europe.

Monaco's royals have a fortune of £650m, while Lichtenstein top the table with a whopping £4.9bn fortune, according to Forbes and the Sunday Times Rich List.

Which seems like rather a lot until you realise that the King of Thailand is worth a cool £20.8bn.

Is Elizabeth II earning her keep then?

Royalists make that case, citing the massive tourism boost the likes of the Diamond Jubilee and the most recent royal wedding bring to English shores.

In 2015, Brand Value put the net value of the monarchy at £1.155 billion for the year.

The methodology was all a little vague, however, with the "Kate Effect" ("an uplift to fashion and other brands worn, used or otherwise endorsed") put at £152 million, the "Charlotte Effect" accounting for £101 million and the "George Effect" apparently earning £76 million.

Oh, and £114 million was the "estimated value of PR".

Patricia Yates, VisitBritain's director of strategy and communications, told the Independent:

"While having a royal family gets us an enormous amount of global coverage and free advertising for Britain across the world - which is invaluable - it’s not something we can give give an exact economic figure for".

Republic has put forward research showing the monarchy costs Britain £334 million a year.

Fittingly for the British royals, there's a lot of smoke and mirrors around these claims.

What we do know is that it's an issue that stretches right across the Atlantic.

According to this study, every Canadian shelled out $1.63 in the year from 2011 to 2012 for the privilege of keeping QEII on their money.

And they don't even get the beautiful, historic palaces and castles to wander past.

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