Jewels, stamps and 32,000 swans. This is how the inheritance of Isabel II, one of the richest women in the world, will be distributed | People
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She was not only the queen of England, but one of the richest people in the world. And while it is already known who will inherit the crown, there are more doubts about what will happen to her fortune. Elizabeth II’s private assets amount to 370 million pounds (about 426 million euros), according to the list of the Sunday Times 2022. These are rough estimates, as the queen was not required to disclose her private finances. The total, if we add to this amount, all the assets associated with the crown —which did not belong to her personally, but to her institution— could exceed 14,000 million (just over 16,000 million euros). This differentiation is key to understanding how Elizabeth II’s inheritance will be distributed.
“It is necessary to distinguish between those assets and personal rights of Queen Elizabeth II, which will form part of her inheritance, to which her will will refer; of those other assets and rights that belong to the crown, and that, therefore, will be transmitted by the laws of the crown”, explains Professor Sergio Llebaría Samper, professor of Civil Law at Esade Law School, by email. “Her will of hers cannot interfere with these assets,” he points out, which will automatically and obligatorily pass to her successor, King Charles III of England.
The new monarch will inherit the Crown Estate, a real estate business belonging to the crown, but managed independently, from which he will receive 15% of the profits. This includes properties such as the important commercial street Regent Street, in London, or the Ascot racecourse. There are also farms, forests and coastlines to account for around 1.4% of England’s land.
In this section is also the Duchy of Lancaster. Under this name are grouped an indeterminate number of properties that the British royal family has acquired over 700 years. From 18,000 hectares of land to nine castles and various real estate properties. These two real estate networks make up only a part of the finances of the Windsor house, which are extremely complex. So much so that the English refer to it as The Firmthe company.
People do not usually inherit a salary, but the king of England does, who with the position will also receive the so-called sovereign grant, an amount of money that covers the costs of travel, security, staff and maintenance of royal palaces. The queen received 85.9 million pounds of the sovereign grant in 2021 (99.10 million euros).
It is certainly not the strangest inheritance that Charles III of England will have to deal with. He will also have to deal with 32,000 swans and an unknown number of dolphins, whales and sturgeons. For more than 800 years, specimens of these species that live freely in the waters of the United Kingdom have been considered the property of the British monarch. This measure was taken in the 12th century, when swans were a delicacy and their poaching threatened the species. It was then decided to award the regent the property of these and other animals to preserve their population. Thus, albeit symbolically, Carlos will inherit a considerable number of beasts along with the crown.
All these assets will pass to the king in full, without the need to pay taxes. According to British law, inheritances that pass from consort to sovereign (as in the case of Philip of Edinburgh to Elizabeth II) and those that pass from sovereign to sovereign, as in this case, are exempt from paying 40% of the estate tax. inheritance that applies to any inheritance that exceeds 325,000 pounds (almost 375,000 euros).
Interest now focuses on the monarch’s private assets, those that she will be able to freely distribute among her descendants. It is conceivable that she will do it between her four children: Charles, Princess Anne, Andrew of York and Edward of Wessex, and her eight grandchildren. But she doesn’t have to be like this. “English law is characterized by a wide freedom to testate”, explains Professor Llebaría. “They do not exist [como en el derecho español] the legitimate or forced heirs, unless the judicial authority declares that a part of the inheritance must go to relatives in a state of economic dependence on the deceased. It doesn’t look like that will be the case, so the queen would have had absolute freedom to bequeath her private property as she pleased and, if she wants, she can leave some of her children and grandchildren out of it.
Among these are two lands and residences closely related to the crown, such as Balmoral Castle, Elizabeth II’s summer residence and place of her death, and Sandringham, where she usually spends Christmas. The 370 million pounds estimated by the sundaytimes, an impressive collection of jewels and another, less brilliant but equally valuable, of stamps. What will happen to these assets is not known and will probably not be known for another 100 years. Since 1911, the British royal family has managed to get around UK law, which requires that the wills of British citizens be made public.
The practice of sealing royal wills began with the death of Prince Francis of Teck. This well-known womanizer bequeathed in his will the most valuable jewels of the family to his mistress, a noble and married woman. Queen María de Teck, Francisco’s sister and grandmother of the current sovereign, then requested that the will of her relative be secret to avoid a scandal. And she succeeded, setting a precedent that the Windsors have clung to every time a family member has died. During this time, the family has asked the court to keep 33 wills secret and assets worth at least 187 million pounds (about 223 million euros) updated at today’s prices have been distributed behind the public’s back, according to calculations by Guardian. The judiciary has never rejected one of these requests.
It does not seem that in the inheritance of Isabel II there are lovers, secrets or a discretionary distribution of family jewels. However, the Windsors will predictably request the sealing of her will, as they have been doing for more than a century. Thus, nothing can be known about possible beneficiaries (and losers) within a saga with many wrongs, confrontations and scandals. In the Windsor family, dirty laundry is washed at the palace. And fortunes are shared with equal discretion.
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