When we think of the British monarch, it’s unlikely that we envisage someone scraping the pennies together. We’re much more likely to have someone in mind who stands in the foreground of an enormous palace, next to a golden carriage pulled by six horses, surrounded by liveried footmen, and wearing one of the biggest diamonds in the world; which is to say, someone very rich.
Whilst it is undoubtedly true that the British monarch is rich and surrounded by opulence, it’s surprising how much of this finery is nowadays technically owned by the state, rather than the King or Queen as a private individual. Over time, as the actual power of the monarch eroded, so did their right to claim palaces and crowns and armies as their ‘own’. This means that the present Queen’s private wealth is in fact a lot smaller than some people might initially believe. Estimated to be somewhere in the region of £400 million, it’s smaller even than some of the British aristocrats who are officially her ‘inferiors’. So which of the UK nobles are wealthier than the Queen?
By far and away the winner in the riches stakes is the Duke of Westminster, who, with a fortune of over £9 billion, is the ninth-richest person in the country. This is way above the wealth ranking of Her Majesty. The present Duke, aged only 26, inherited a vast family estate from his father the previous duke, a money spinner which includes some 300 acres of land in the wealthiest parts of London. This landholding is what accounts for much of the family’s fortune. It has simply been passed on from generation to generation. When the acreage was initially bought, in the 17th century, few people would have imagined that it would come to hold the value that it does today.
The Duke of Westminster isn’t the only person to benefit from long-held property assets. In fact, that is the most common source of riches for the wealthiest British aristocrats. It will hardly surprise us, then, to hear that the second-richest noble is the Earl of Cadogan, owner of the London-focused Cadogan property investment company. At number 17 on the Sunday Times Rich List, he’s worth around £6.5 billion. It’s a similar story for the next two wealthiest nobles, the Baroness Howard de Walden and the Viscount Portman, who are worth over £3 billion and £1 billion respectively. Other aristocrats who have more money than the Queen on account of property holdings are the Duke of Devonshire, Duke of Bedford, Duke of Sutherland, Duke of Northumberland, and Viscountess Townshend.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Lord Rothschild owes his fortune to a successful financial firm (although also owns a lot of land, and an astonishing wine cellar!) The Earl of Iveagh is a descendent of the founder of Guinness, the globally popular adult beverage, and possesses hundreds of millions of pounds worth of shares in the brand’s parent company. Viscount Rothermere, furthermore, is wealthy thanks to a large and prosperous media empire.
This state of affairs might have irked the rulers of old. Before royal powers and possessions were taken away or ‘managed’ by Parliament, the monarch literally owned a vast portion of the country and the assets on it: from forests and farmland to innumerable palaces and manor houses. And that’s not to mention all the tax receipts that they considered ‘theirs’! Yes, this has changed over the course of history, but some vestiges of the monarch’s epic private wealth remain. For example, the present-day Queen technically owns about half of the country’s shoreline and most of the seabed of its territorial waters. Were such ‘nationally held’ assets to be given over to her, her real wealth would rocket up to over £16 billion, placing her firmly in first place among the minted upper class.
Nobility and How to Achieve it
For the lucky folk born into hereditary wealth, their title brings with it a handsome sum of money. That might lead some to believe that a noble title is impossible to hold without serious financial backing behind you. (Who, after all, will pay for mowing the deer park? Who will fund the repair of the keep?). But this isn’t true. There is, in fact, a way to possess a title with barely any expense involved. This is thanks to a little-known legal technicality involving what are called ‘micronations’.
One such example is the Grand Duchy of Pomerania and Livonia, in Germany. Formally abolished as a result of the unification of Germany in the past few centuries, the memory and rites of the Grand Duchy live on. Royaltitles.net asserts its claim to the titles of the Grand Duchy, without actually making any challenge to the sovereignty of the modern German state, and thus holds the status of a ‘micronation’; not formally recognised by the international community, but having the right to distribute certain titles and privileges of its choosing.
As a result, this means that you’re able to purchase any title you like from the webpage. For under two hundred euros, you can purchase a legally valid title such as ‘Prince’, ‘Duke’, ‘Earl’, ‘Baroness’, ‘Princess’, and much more – titles that you’re allowed to add to official documents such as your passport and credit card. You furthermore receive a document proving your entitlement, and items such as a medal of the order of chivalry and a history of the Grand Duchy. Go ahead, join the ranks of the nobility now!