Travel and tourism have been among the industries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. The interruption in tourism is also behind the British royal family’s expected £35 million ($45 million) general funding shortfall over the next three years, Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said in a recent statement. This blow to the British royal family’s net worth could cause lasting repercussions, according to officials.
The monarchy typically receives a set taxpayer-funded “sovereign grant” from the government to maintain its 19 properties in and around the city of London. This is in exchange for the revenue brought in by tourists. That budget is now being slashed as a result of the pandemic.
Buckingham Palace, the over 300-year-old home of Queen Elizabeth II, will be among the properties most impacted. A 10-year project to restore the palace and replace antiquated heating, plumbing, and wiring was estimated to cost £369 million. The project will now receive only £349 million from the sovereign grant—£20 million less than anticipated.
The last time Buckingham Palace had major infrastructure work done was just after World War II, and officials warn of “catastrophic failure” if upgrades are not made.
In lieu of asking the government for more money, Stevens said the royal family would instead “look to manage the impact through our own efforts and efficiencies.” In response, Buckingham Palace has already implemented a freeze on staff pay and hiring.
Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II emerged from her quarantine in mid-October to visit a government science facility.
The Royal Collection Trust (RCT), a charity that maintains the monarchy’s art collection, has likewise been affected by the coronavirus. The RCT, which supplements the sovereign grant, is funded by visitor admissions to occupied royal palaces.
“This forms the bulk of a projected shortfall in income which we estimate will be around £5 million per year for the next three years,” said Stevens. This adds a £15 million RCT loss to the £20 million sovereign grant deficit, a damaging hit to the British royal family’s net worth.
In the year leading up to March 2020, British taxpayers paid more than £69 million to fund the royal family— £2.4 million more than the previous financial year.
“The monarchy is an invaluable symbol of national unity,” royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told USA Today. “The benefit to Britain through using it to further soft power in trips abroad, work for charity, having the headship of the Commonwealth, and tourism is enormous. It is worth bearing this in mind when considering the cost of [the] monarchy.”