King Charles III inherited a lot more than a throne when Queen Elizabeth II died last week—and his eldest son, Prince William, inherited a financial empire Charles spent more than 50 years expanding. Under a century-old tradition, the wills of British royals are sealed, but as the reigning monarch, Charles is expected to inherit properties including Balmoral Castle and the Sandringham Estate, which Elizabeth inherited from her father, King George IV, the Washington Post reports. Charles automatically takes control of the Duchy of Lancaster, a $949 million portfolio of properties and investments intended to provide an income for the monarch, while William now controls the larger Duchy of Cornwall.
The Duchy of Cornwall, which owns 0.2% of land in the UK, including farmland, commercial properties, and residential properties, was established in the 14th century to provide an income for the heir to the throne. Experts say Charles took a more active role than many of his predecessors in managing it, the New York Times reports. "When Charles took over at age 21, the duchy was not in a good financial state," royal expert Marlene Koenig says. But it became "financially aggressive" when Charles got more involved in the 1980s and now operates like a corporation. Over the last decade, its value has increased by around 50%, to $1.4 billion. Charles paid himself around $25 million from the estate last year.
The queen's private fortune was estimated at around $500 million, but the vast bulk of the royal family's wealth lies in the $19 billion Crown Estate, a collection of lands and other holdings which now officially belongs to Charles, CNN reports. It includes a large amount of property in central London and much of the seabed surrounding England and Wales. Under an arrangement set up in 1760, the British government controls the estate and receives the money it generates—$361 million last year—but some of it is handed back in the Sovereign Grant, which covers royal expenses and was $99 million last year. Unlike other wealthy British families, the royals are exempt from paying inheritance tax, the Post notes. (Read more King Charles III stories.)