The Crown vs The Siblings, a Royal Inheritance

May 4, 2023

It’s Coronation month! And Royalist or not, its a good old excuse for a bit of a party and a few days off, right? To mark the occasion and in true IDR style we have decided to host a bit of a mock trial on this month’s royal inheritance podcast.

Our debate focuses on whether the Royal inheritance should pass automatically to the Sovereign, or whether now is the time for that inheritance to pass in accordance with the terms of a Will or the Intestacy Rules – as is the case with the rest of us – or indeed whether those assets should now belong to “the People”.

Hosting our podcast for this momentous occasion is Cara Hough, Partner at IDR and she’ll be acting as our judge. Joined by Paris Payne, Trainee Legal Executive and Rebecca Everitt, Paralegal. Whilst Rebecca is honouring the monarchy, and fighting for no changes, Paris is on the side of abolishing the automatic right for the sovereign to inherit.

Cara provides her verdict on the pod, but we’ve also added a LinkedIn poll to get a bit of public opinion on the matter. Does the law of the sovereign inheritance fairly reflect the situation as it should be today? We’ll let you be our jury.



Setting the scene


Let’s get a bit of background on the royal inheritance and what we are actually debating here. The sovereign and the wider royal family receive income from three main sources – The Crown Estate, The Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, amounting to approximately £17billion.


According to the Guardian, it is estimated that the total value of properties owned by the Crown Estate to be £15.6billion, its biggest holding!


The Crown Estate is said to be charged with generating profit for the Treasury for the benefit of the nation’s finances. Again, according to the Guardian, the Crown Estate made a profit of almost £318million in 2021.


In true Wills and probate style, the monarch’s ownership of the land and property within the Crown Estate is said to date back to the Norman Conquest of Britain in 1066, not a recent development.


However, since 1760 (also not a recent development!) the Monarch has surrendered the net income received to the government. In return the Monarch receives the Sovereign Grant – which is used to cover travel, household and other expenses. In the financial year 2021 – 2022 the Royal Household’s annual financial statement confirmed the Grant amounted to £86.3 million. In return it appears the Crown Estate provided £231.7million for the Treasury.


The Duchy of Lancaster

As to the duchy of Lancaster, this also passes with the Crown. The Duchy is reported to hold around £653million worth of net assets as of March 2022. This provides an additional income stream to the Monarch.


While the title passes to the reigning Monarch, neither the Crown Estate or the land and property within the Duchy of Lancaster are available for sale by the Monarch. The Crown Estate is managed by an independent organisation, and so the Monarch has no involvement in management decisions.


The Duchy of Cornwall

As to the Duchy of Cornwall, this is held by the heir to the throne, and so this is now held by Prince William.  According to the Guardian, the Duchy of Cornwall is said to hold assets worth more than £1billion, generating an income for the holder of approximately £21million (according to the Duchy’s official accounts for the year ending March 2022).


It is worth noting at this point that separate to the Crown Estate and the two Duchy holdings, the Royal Family is believed to have substantial personal wealth. Prior to her death, the Queen was estimated to be worth £370million (according to the 2022 Sunday Times Rich List). The Queen was able to pass this as she wished in accordance with the terms of her Will.


However, we will never know who those intended beneficiaries were as there is no requirement for the Sovereign’s Estate to obtain a Grant of Probate on her Will. It is also unlikely that we will know the testamentary intentions of a number of senior Royals (or at least not for a further 90 years – as in the case of Prince Philip’s Will).


A lot to digest!!! Now the scene has been set and we understand a bit more about why we have chosen to debate this, let’s enter the podcast.