Queen Elizabeth II’s net worth is reportedly $480 million—amid claims she lobbied the government to change a law to keep her wealth secret.
The monarch’s lawyer pressured civil servants to change draft legislation so the public would not be able to find out about her share holdings in the 1970s, it has emerged.
A proposed new law was set to bring new transparency to companies, allowing directors to know who owned or controlled shares.
Matthew Farrer, the Queen’s attorney, said his clients took the issue “very seriously” and conceded the revelation of any investments would be “embarrassing,” according to declassified government papers at the U.K.’s National Archives.
The documents, published by The Guardian, say the queen’s private legal adviser claimed civil servants “had put them into this quandary and must therefore find a way out.”
It came during a 1973 meeting with staff from the Department of Trade and Industry, prompting officials to “warn ministers.”
The revelations expose the palace to allegations the Queen was given access to lobby the government in support of her own private financial interests.
Thomas Adams, constitutional law expert at Oxford University, told The Guardian the documents showed “the kind of influence over legislation that lobbyists would only dream of.”
Queen Elizabeth II’s Net Worth
Elizabeth is paid public money annually through the Sovereign Grant, which came to $118 million this tax year.
She also has income from the Duchy of Lancaster, a private estate held in trust for the sovereign of the U.K., valued at more than $738 million.
However, her personal wealth is much harder to track due to laws and exemptions that apply to the royal family.
Despite the added secrecy, the Sunday Times Rich List valued her net worth at £350 million ($480 million) in 2020, stating that much of her shares are invested in blue-chip stocks.
The Guardian‘s investigation showed how the government had drafted legislation in 1973 that was set to bring new transparency to U.K. companies.
For the first time, directors were going to be able to learn information about shareholders, which had not been available before.
Papers from the National Archives show the Queen’s lawyer believed the law as it stood could have led to directors and even the public and media knowing where Elizabeth had invested her money.
The documents quote civil servant CM Drukker writing on November 9: “I have spoken to Mr. Farrer.
“As I had recalled he—or rather, I think, his clients—are quite as concerned over the risk of disclosure to directors of a company as to shareholders and the general public.
“He justifies this not only because of the risk of inadvertent or indiscreet leaking to other people but more basically because disclosure to any person would be embarrassing.”
Buckingham Palace was first consulted about the proposed law because the U.K. Government needed to obtain “royal consent.”
The tradition in Britain is that the monarch must be consulted on legislation that might affect the interests of the crown.
The documents appear to show the advanced warning enabled the monarchy to intervene at an early stage of the drafting process in order to lobby the government to change the law.
The civil servant described in the internal U.K. government memo how the queen’s lawyer objected to any revelation about her investments, regardless of whether it was controversial.
Drukker wrote: “He did not like any suggestions that holdings were not these days so embarrassing, given the wide knowledge of, for example, landed property held.
“Nor did he see that the problem might be resolved by any avoidance of holdings in particular companies. It was the knowledge per se that was objectionable.”
The document details how Drukker told the lawyer giving the crown alone an exemption could backfire since the anonymity of an investor would indicate it must be the queen.
At this, the document says, Farrer “took fright somewhat, emphasized that the problem was taken very seriously and suggested—somewhat tentatively—that we had put them into this quandary and must therefore find a way out.”
Elizabeth’s attorney told the department “he must now seek instruction” from his client while Drukker advised a colleague: “I think we must now do what you suggested we should eventually do—warn ministers.”
A Change to the Law
A follow-up memo three days later by another civil servant, CW Roberts, repeated Farrer’s concerns, referencing the Queen by name.
He wrote: “Mr. Farrer was not only concerned that information about shares held for the Queen, and transactions in them, could become public knowledge (since it would appear on the company’s register) and thus the subject of possible controversy.
“He regards any disclosure of beneficial ownership of shares by the crown, even if restricted to the directors of the company, as potentially embarrassing, because of the risk of leaks.”
The government files show the draft law was ultimately changed so that a wider class of investor would be made exempt.
Geoffrey Howe, trade secretary in the Conservative government, wrote: “Such a class could be generally defined to cover, say, heads of state, governments, central monetary authorities, investment boards and international bodies formed by governments.”
“Consent is always granted by the monarch”
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson stressed the monarch had not tried to block the legislation.
A statement said: “Queen’s Consent is a Parliamentary process, with the role of Sovereign purely formal.
“Consent is always granted by the Monarch where requested by Government. Any assertion that the Sovereign has blocked legislation is simply incorrect.
“Whether Queen’s Consent is required is decided by Parliament, independently from the Royal Household, in matters that would affect Crown interests, including personal property and personal interests of the Monarch.
“If Consent is required, draft legislation is, by convention, put to the Sovereign to grant solely on advice of Ministers and as a matter of public record.”
Originally published at https://www.newsweek.com/queen-elizabeth-iis-net-worth-how-she-hid-her-wealth-lobbied-government-1567462 on .