Inside King Charles III’s $25 Billion Real Estate Empire
Giacomo Tognini Forbes Staff Staff Writer, Wealth Team. Oct 21, 2022,
Charles III’s official coronation may not occur until May 6, but the new British monarch has already inherited a $25 billion real estate portfolio fit for a king.
When he acceded the throne in September, the 73-year-old sovereign assumed control of a $42 billion empire, much of it in real estate. Forbes scoured property records, annual reports, audits, archives and legislative documents to find all of the king’s new possessions. His holdings span from Buckingham Palacethe official headquarters of the monarchy, which Forbes estimates is worth $4.9 billionto Highgrove House, a country residence in Gloucestershire that Charles first purchased in 1980 for £865,000 ($3.7 million today,) now valued at $39 million.
Although he has only had the crown for a few weeks, Charles is expected to break with seven generations of tradition and reject Buckingham Palace as his London residence to remain in his current home at Clarence House (estimated value: $72 million.) But he will also reportedly continue to spend some time at Highgrove. That means he’ll have to pay about $740,000 in annual rent to his son William, who succeeded him as Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and now holds Highgrove under the Duchy of Cornwall.
KING OF THESE CASTLES
Charles III’s $25 billion real estate empire is spread across the United Kingdom as well as two cottages in Transylvania. Here are all the properties where he can stow thrones.
Those properties are part of a vast collection of at least seven palaces, 10 castles, 12 homes, 56 holiday cottages and 14 ancient ruins, per Forbes’ count. Aside from Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham House in Norfolk, which he inherited from the Queen and now personally owns, none of these opulent residences and historic monuments are directly owned by the King. Most are held by the Crown Estate, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, institutions held “in right of the Crown” for the duration of his reign. Others are controlled by the monarchy itself “in trust” for his successors and the nation, while another four properties are held by two foundations which the King established when he was Prince of Wales.
And it’s not just palaces and countryside homes: through the Crown Estate and the Duchies, Charles now also oversees $12.9 billion in commercial, residential and agricultural properties throughout the U.K., ranging from Ascot Racecourse and the Oval cricket ground to at least three golf courses, a private airfield and the Savoy Chapel in Westminster, the private church of the reigning monarch. The Crown also holds one of England’s most famous monuments, Stonehenge, which was given “to the nation” in 1918 by Cecil Chubb, a local resident who purchased it for £6,600 in 1915 (about $590,000 today).
As the head of state in 15 Commonwealth realms in addition to 13 British territories and three crown dependencies Charles also has access to at least 49 residences for state visits across the globe, at the homes of his representatives in each nation. Whether he’s traveling to Canada (Rideau Hall in Ottawa,) the Caribbean (King’s House in Jamaica) or the Pacific (Admiralty House in Sydney,) the new monarch always has a place to rest the head that wears the crown.
Closer to home, the lavish estates, extravagant mansions and crumbling ruins maintained by the British monarchy, royal foundations or by the King personally are spread throughout three of the four nations of the United Kingdom, plus two cottages in Transylvania. And there used to be more: between 1998 and 1999, the Crown Estate ceded ownership of six castles, two palaces and one fort in Scotland including the millennium-old Edinburgh Castleto the Scottish government.
But only a small number of homes fourteen serve as official residences of the King and the royal family. Two more royal residences are personally owned by other family members Charles’s sister, Princess Anne, owns Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire (estimated value: $29 million), while the Duke of Gloucester, his first cousin once removed, has put his Barnwell Manor in Northamptonshire up for sale for $5.4 million. Another of Charles’ new digs, the royal palace in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough Castle, is owned directly by the British government, which purchased it in 1925 for £24,000 (or $1.3 million today.)
Average citizens can also get in on a piece of the royal lifestyle: the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster operate 56 holiday homes and cottages across England, Wales and the Isles of Scilly that can be rented out, while the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund operates two bed-and-breakfasts in Romania. Everything else, including medieval masterpieces such as the Tower of London and Caernarfon Castle, is a tourist attraction managed by various charities and trusts.
Forbes valued these properties with the help of estimates provided by Lenka Dušková Munter, a sales specialist for historical properties at Czech real estate agency Luxent, and Colby Short, co-founder and CEO of estate agent website GetAgent.co.uk. Here’s a breakdown of King Charles III’s real estate empire.
Est. Value: $4.9 BILLION
The official residence of the royal family since 1837, the 775-room palace with a private swimming pool is also King Charles’s birthplace. First purchased by George III in 1761 when it was still a house, construction to convert it into a palace began in 1820 and only completed in 1847 with the addition of a new wing for Queen Victoria’s growing family, financed largely by the sale of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton for £53,000 ($5.4 million today.) Despite an extensive renovation which began in 2017 and will cost more than $400 million, Charles is known to dislike the “big house.”
HAMPTON COURT PALACE
Est. Value: $1.2 B
Known as the Tudor Palace, Hampton Court is where King Henry VIII spent most of his time, with all six of his wives: by the 1530s, he had added a hotel, theater and numerous works of art; visitors can now see Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar plus works by Caravaggio and Rembrandt. The palace also features a grand colonnade, Fountain Courtdesigned by Sir Christopher Wrenwhich had a cameo in the second season of Netflix’s Bridgerton.
TOWER OF LONDON
Est. Value: $1.1 B
Built by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century, the towering castle at the heart of London is home to the Crown Jewels, worth an estimated $4 billion. Three Queens of EnglandAnne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Greywere executed here in the 1500s.
Est. Value: $743 MILLION
Windsor Castle was completed in 1086, one year before William the Conqueror’s death. In 1377, King Edward III spent £50,000 (some $57 million today) to convert it from a military fort into a gothic palacethe largest expense of any medieval king on a single building. Over its nearly thousand-year history, the castle been home to 40 monarchs and is still a favorite of the royal family. The surrounding estate includes Windsor Great Park, golf courses and Ascot Racecourse.
ST. JAMES’S PALACE
Est. Value: $700 M
Overlooking Green Park and St. James’s Park in Londontwo of the eight royal parks in the capital held by the CrownSt. James’s Palace was once the home of Elizabeth I during the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1558. More recently, it was also the location of King Charles’s accession ceremony on September 10.
Est. value: $674 M
Over its thousand-plus-year history, Lancaster Castle has served as a Roman fort, the site of witch trials and as a prisonuntil it was decommissioned and converted into a tourist attraction in 2011.
Est. Value: $630 M
The childhood home of Prince William and Prince Harry, Kensington was known as the “party palace” in the late 17th century for hosting extravagant balls where guests “ate, drank, gambled and flirted until dawn.” The palace is still William and Kate’s official London residence, while Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live in a $23 million mansion in Montecito, California, replete with 9 bedrooms, 19 bathrooms, a private pool, spa, theater and tennis court.
Est. Value: $296 M
The only remnant of the Palace of Whitehallonce the largest palace in Europe until its destruction in a fire in 1698Banqueting House in London is home to a 2,420-square-foot ceiling painting by Peter Paul Rubens commissioned by Charles I in 1629. (Rubens was paid £3,000 for the worksome $540,000 todayplus a heavy gold chain.) It’s also where Charles I met a gruesome end on January 30, 1649: just two decades after commissioning the Rubens ceiling, he walked under it and was then executed outside Banqueting House.
Est. value: $225 M
Located on the Isle of Wight, Carisbrooke Castle carries much darker memories for the royals: After its capture by parliamentary forces in 1642 during the English Civil War, the dethroned King Charles I was imprisoned there in the years leading up to his execution.
Est. Value: $211 M
Described as “unique marriage between a medieval and Tudor palace and a 1930s millionaire’s mansion,” Eltham Palace was used as a royal palace by monarchs who hunted in the surrounding parks from the 14th to the 16th century. Henry VIII, the last king to reside there, spent his childhood at Eltham. In 1933, millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld took a 99-year-lease on the palace from the Crown and installed a bomb shelter in the basement during World War II; they eventually moved out in 1944 after growing tired of the repeated air raids from the German Luftwaffe.
THATCHED HOUSE LODGE
Est. Value: $131 M
Thatched House Lodge is a Regency-era home built in the early 18th century on a 4-acre estate in Richmond Park, the largest park in London and another royal possession. The property is home to Queen Elizabeth’s first cousin Princess Alexandra, who has rented it from the Crown Estate since 1963 and paid a £670,000 premium ($1.4 million today) to extend the lease in 1994.
(14 Properties) Est. Value: $86 M
The Duchy of Cornwall’s 14 holiday properties near the medieval town of Lostwithiel in Cornwall are housed in and around Restormel Manor, a 500-year-old Gothic-style mansion with a steam room, sauna, tennis court and an indoor heated swimming pool. But living like an English lord is pricey: one week at the nine-bedroom Restormel Manor property in December will cost $4,000.
Est. Value: $73 M
One of two properties personally owned by King Charles, which he inherited from his late mother, Sandringham in Norfolk has been in the royal family since 1862. The estate includes the Royal Studs, a thoroughbred horse farm first established in 1886, as well as rental properties spread across 13 nearby villageswith a notorious “no cats” policy for would-be renters, reportedly due to the Queen’s fears the felines would kill the pheasants and partridges kept as game birds. Charles is also reportedly looking to sell some of the Queen’s prized race horses and scale down the Royal Studs.
Est. Value: $72 M
King Charles’s longtime home is one of the last surviving aristocratic townhouses in London, a stuccoed mansion completed in 1827 at the cost of £22,232 ($2 million today)more than double the original estimate. The Queen also lived there while she was still a princess, and it served as the home of her mother’s impressive art collection, featuring works by Fabergé and John Piper.
Est. Value: $70 M
Set among the Royal Botanic Gardenshome to more than 50,000 plants including rare and threatened species housed in a grand Victorian-era greenhouseKew Palace was the private retreat of King George III during a long period of mental illness, starting in 1788. The gardens are also home to the Chinese-style Great Pagoda, a 163-foot-tall tower with 80 dragons carved from gilded wood. The dragons, removed in 1784 and restored in 2018, were rumored to have been sold to pay off King George IV’s gambling debts.
Est. Value: $66 M
Standing guard over the Strait of Dover, the shortest sea crossing between England and Europe, Dover Castle originated as a Roman fort in 43 CE. Another castle on the site was erected in 1066 by William the Conqueror, who captured the city after the Battle of Hastings. The structure that stands today was established by Henry II in 1189. And while British royals haven’t used the castle since 1625, it’s been used in warfare throughout the centuries, including as a garrison for 16,000 troops during the First World War, a hospital in World War II and as a backup seat of government in case of a nuclear attack during the Cold War.
Est. value: $45 M
Located about ten miles south of the modern English-Scottish border, Carlisle Castle served as the Kingdom of England’s fortress against the Scots for half a century until the two realms were united in 1603. Built on the ruins of a Roman fort that provided support for garrisons on Hadrian’s Wall, the castle was besieged seven times by the Scots between 1173 and 1461, when it was again besieged during the English Wars of the Roses. It served as a base for Edward I in 1296; the prison of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1567; and as a British army barracks from the 1820s until 1959.
Est. Value: $39 M
Built in 1879 on the orders of Queen Victoria as a home for her third son, Prince Arthur, Bagshot Park in Surrey is a Tudor Gothic-style mansion set on 52 acres of gardens, including stables and a working farm. Prince Edward, Charles’s youngest brother, has lived there since 1998, paying roughly $100,000 in annual rent to the Crown Estate. Charles’ other brother, Prince Andrew, lives a 20-minute drive away at the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park, which he rented with a 75-year-lease in 2003 for a one-time payment of £1 million (or $1.8 million now).
Est. Value: $39 M
King Charles’ longtime family home, Highgrove was built in 1798 and acquired by the then-Prince of Wales in 1980. The estate is home to 15 acres of organic gardens with heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables and an adjacent shop where visitors can buy eggs, wine and spirits made on the property. It’s also a short drive from Ray Mill House, the private home of Charles’ wife, Camilla, the Queen Consort. She purchased the six-bedroom countryside cottage for £850,000 ($1.7 million today) in January 1996, a year after her divorce from her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowlesand just seven months before Charles’s own divorce with Princess Diana in August that year. Diana died a year later, in August 1997.
Est. Value: $35 M
Named for the numerous amphibians that live in the marshes around the property, Frogmore House was purchased by King George III in 1792 as a country retreat for his wife, Queen Charlotte. The mansion’s Britannia Room features paintings, porcelain and furniture taken from the interior of the royal yacht, HMY Britannia, after it was decommissioned in 1997. The Frogmore estate is also home to the mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and Frogmore Cottage, the U.K. residence of Prince Harry and Meghan. In September 2020, the couple repaid $3.2 million in refurbishing expenses, originally covered by British taxpayers.
Est. Value: $22 M
One of the many castles built by William the Conqueror in 1070, Chester Castle served as the military headquarters for Henry III’s and Edward I’s conquest of Wales, and as a Royalist headquarters during the English Civil War. The castle, which was used by the British military until 1999, features a chapel with wall paintings dating to 1240.
Est. Value: $19 M
This Italianate mansion was purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1845 for £28,000 ($3 million today) as a seaside retreat on the Isle of Wight. The eclectic mansion was designed with architectural features drawn from around the world: the Italian palazzo-style home with extensive terraces; the Indian-style Durbar Wing, in honor of Victoria’s status as Empress of India; and the Swiss Cottage, an “educational tool” for the royal children, where they grew fruit, flowers and vegetables.
DUCHY OF LANCASTER COTTAGES
(16 Properties) Est. Value: $12 M
The Duchy of Lancaster owns fifteen holiday cottages in Scarborough, a seaside resort located near North York Moors national park. A one-night stay at the 8-bedroom Scalby Lodge in late November will set you back some $720. Root Farm Cottage is a two-bedroom property in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, forming part of the Whitewell Estate, last visited by the Queen Elizabeth in 2006 for her 80th birthday celebrations.
(2 Properties) Est. Value: $4.1 M
The Duchy of Cornwall owns four holiday cottageswith complimentary fishing for guestsin St Tudy, a small countryside village in Cornwall. A seven-night stay in November in Menhenick, a two-story, three-bedroom barn, costs $735.
Est. Value: $2 M
The six-bedroom home on the island of Tresco is housed in an old granite rectory, with hilltop views of the Atlantic Ocean and the 19th-century Round Island lighthouse.
Est. Value: $1.5 M
Tamarisk is a four-bedroom cottage on Garrison Hill in Hugh Town on the island of St. Mary’s. Its name comes from the tamarisk trees on the property, a flowering plant mentioned in the Old Testament and the Iliad. While still an official royal residence, Charles and Diana snubbed the home on their vacations to the Isles of Scilly, preferring to stay with friends in Tresco.
Before it crumbled into ruins, Berkhamsted Castle was a motte-and-bailey built out of timber in 1070. It was briefly the home of Thomas Becket, then Archbishop of Canterbury, who rebuilt the castle in stone between 1155 and 1164. From 1225 to 1272, it was refurbished and expanded to serve as the palace of Richard, Earl of Cornwall, believed to be the richest man in England at the time.
King Henry IV was born in the 13th-century Bolingbroke Castle in 1367, but all that remains are the sunken hexagonal walls and surrounding earthworks.
One of the few remaining fortifications from the Interregnumthe period between 1649 and 1660 when Oliver Cromwell ruled England after executing Charles ICromwell’s Castle is a circular gun tower built in 1651, after Cromwell’s forces recaptured the Isles of Scilly from the royalists.
KING CHARLES’S CASTLE
Adjacent to Cromwell’s castle on the island of Tresco, King Charles’s Castle was built during the reign of King Edward VI and renamed by pro-Charles I royalists during the English Civil War. The gambit didn’t workparliamentarian troops bypassed the now-ruined castle by landing on the other side of Tresco in 1651.
Launceston Castle is a ruined 13th-century round tower and the remnants of a castle originally built by William the Conqueror for his half-brother. It later served as a prison where George Fox, founder of the Quakers, was detained in 1656 and held executions until 1821.
Lydford Castle sits on the western edge of Dartmoor national park, a vast expanse of moorlands where the Duchy of Cornwall owns a third of the land. The 12th-century square castle was a prison from the Middle Ages until the 1700s.
Described as “one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe,” Maiden Castle is the size of 50 soccer pitches, with enormous ramparts dating to the 1st century BCE.
Now in ruins, Peveril Castle, was one of the earliest Norman fortresses in England, with a keep built by Henry II in 1176.
Once a “luxurious retreat” in the 14th century and the home of Edward, the first Duke of Cornwall, Restormel Castle is now a ruin with a large circular keep.
ST. MARY’S COTTAGES
Besides Tamarisk, the Duchy of Cornwall also owns three more holiday homes on St. Mary’s, including a two-bedroom property in a 17th-century guard house and another housed in a former gun battery.
Now occupied by a private tenant who rents the land from the Duchy of Lancaster, the 11th-century Tickhill Castle was expanded by several English kings until its decline during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century: King Henry I built a gatehouse and a wall with ramparts in 1130, and Henry II added a new keep and a stone bridge in 1182.
Located on the rugged northern coast of Cornwall, little remains of this 13th-century castle.
The Duchy of Cornwallwhich owns nearly all of the land on the Isles of Scillyhas 15 holiday cottages on the island of Tresco, in addition to Dolphin House.
The ruins of Trematon Castle in eastern Cornwall were converted into a private garden with evergreen oaks and wild flowers in 2012, when it was leased by garden designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman from the Duchy of Cornwall.
Built in 1071 for Norman baron Henry de Ferrers, this now-ruined castle was confiscated by Henry III during the Second Barons’ War in 1267. Elizabeth I imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots at Tutbury multiple times between 1569 and 1585, when she was moved 80 miles south to Fotheringhay Castle and executed.
Est. Value: $289 M
Inspired by imperial Roman architecture and the walls of ancient Constantinople, the 13th-century Caernarfon Castle is ringed by 2,400 feet of stone walls studded with 12 octagonal towers and surrounded by a moat. King Edward I ordered its construction in 1283 after the conquest of Wales, but the colossal structure took 47 years and £25,000 (more than $23 million today) to completeroughly 90% of England’s annual income at the time. It also holds a special resonance to the new king: Charles was invested as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon in 1969.
Est. Value: $3.9 M
Located near the mountains of Brecon Beacons national park, Llwynywermod was King Charles III’s Welsh retreat while he was Prince of Wales. The 192-acre estate is now in the hands of his son, Prince William, who has his own Welsh connection: The wedding ring he gave Kate Middleton in 2011 is made of Welsh gold, and the couple lived on the isle of Anglesey off the northwest coast of Wales while William worked as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.
The Duchy of Cornwall owns two cottages on the Llwynywermod estate, housed in converted barns. Guests can expect to pay $1,000 for a weeklong stay at the smaller two-bedroom West Range cottage for the privilege of being William and Kate’s neighbor.
The oval-shaped ruins of Ogmore Castle feature a twelfth-century stone keep and date to 1116, when the castle was founded by the Norman de Londres family.
THE PRINCE OF WALES’S GUESTHOUSE
Est. value: $1.1 M
One of only two properties held by King Charles outside of the U.K., he purchased this private nature retreat and guesthouse in the rural Transylvanian village of Valea Z lanuluiknown locally by its Hungarian moniker Zalánpatakthrough Ecologic Transilvania SRL, a Romanian subsidiary of the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund. Visitors can go horse riding at the property’s stables or take advantage of a wood-fired “salty hot-tub” and a mineral water pool in the summer, or horse-drawn sleigh rides with mulled wine in the winter.
THE PRINCE OF WALES’S HOUSE
Est. value: $1.1 M
Located a two-hour drive west of Valea Z lanului in the town of Viscri, Charles’s second Romanian property is a bed and breakfast that doubles as a traditional crafts and training center housed in an 18th-century Saxon home. Beyond these two homes, Charles has another, centuries-old link to Transylvania: he is a distant relative of Vlad the Impaler, who ruled what is now Romania in the 15th century and served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Est. Value: $118 M
Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite residence, she spent her final days at Balmoral before she died on September 8 at age 96. Purchased by Prince Albert for his wife, Queen Victoria, in 1852 for £32,000 ($3.9 million today,) the castle was built in the Scottish Baronial style out of local white granite. The 50,000-acre estate includes a golf course, woodlands, a bridge across the river Dee designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and an obelisk commemorating Prince Albert. Along with Sandringham, it’s one of two properties personally owned by King Charles, which he inherited from the Queen.
PALACE OF HOLYROOD HOUSE
Est. Value: $83 M
The official residence of the monarchy in Scotland, Holyroodhouse sits on one end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, which connects the palace to Edinburgh Castle. Founded by King David I of Scotland as an Augustinian monastery in 1128a structure that’s still intact today as Holyrood AbbeyJames IV built a palace on the grounds in 1501, and later residents included Mary, Queen of Scots. (A box containing her hair is on display in her former chambers.) The palace rooms feature treasures from the Royal Collection, including the Darnley Jewel, a heart-shaped gold locket studded with Burmese rubies and Indian emerald.
Est. Value: $46 M
Set on 2,000 acres of land in rural Ayrshire in southwestern Scotland, Dumfries House is a Palladian, 18th-century mansion purchased by Charles in 2007 for £45 million (or $77 million today) through a trust. Built in 1759 by William Chrichton-Dalrymple, the Earl of Dumfries, and designed by the architect Robert Adam and his two brothers, the home is known for retaining its original 18th-century furniture from the workshop of Thomas Chippendale. Now in the hands of the Prince’s Foundation, a charity Charles set up in 1986, Dumfries House is open to visitors and is also used for training young people in traditional skills and crafts.
CASTLE OF MEY
Est. Value: $15 M
Built in 1567 by George, the Earl of Caithness on the northeastern coast of Scotland, the Castle of Mey features a grand entrance and dining room designed by William Burn in 1819. It fell into disrepair in the 20th century until it was purchased by the Queen Elizabeth’s mother in 1952, who renovated the castle and its 30 acres of gardens and parklands and restored the property’s original name. The Queen Mother handed the castle over to a trust in 1996, which now forms part of The Prince’s Foundation.