The Royal Wedding: Who Pays the Bill?

Who foots the bill for The Wedding of the Century? Peter Hunt, BBC’s royal correspondent, looks at who will pay for Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s royal nuptials.

Kate Middleton and Prince William

ESTIMATE OF COST OF WEDDING

“We’re not in Elton John territory,” one royal official told me when discussing the possible cost of the flowers at Westminster Abbey. The actual expenditure for any aspect of the wedding will never be made public. But aides are keen to stress the total bill won’t be millions of dollars, but rather a six-figure sum – as it was back in 1981 when Charles and Diana married. This undisclosed bill will be for the dress, the bridesmaids outfits, the flowers, and the two receptions.

These are taking place at Buckingham Palace where staff are both well used to catering for such numbers and for cutting costs when necessary. A few years ago, the Palace uncovered an alarming statistic about guests attending the Queen’s annual garden parties. Rather than just nibbling on one or two snacks, they were consuming, on average, 14 sandwiches, cakes, ice creams, and scones. Those in charge came up with an ingenious solution – they reduced the size of the treats on offer.

HOW THE COSTS WILL BE DIVIDED BETWEEN THE FAMILIES

She’s the matriarch, the grandmother, and the woman who is going to have to dig deepest into her pocket. The Queen will pay for much of the wedding. In return, she’s been able to send out her invitations early, by fax, to other European royals – several of whom she is related to.

Her son, Prince Charles, is paying for the dinner and dance in the evening. He may be controlling the purse strings, but he will have little say over the music on offer. Prince William’s favorites – such as Linkin Park and Kanye West – are unlikely to be on his 62-year old-father’s iPod. Not that he’s likely to possess one.

And Kate Middleton’s parents, Carole and Mike, will make a contribution. One suggestion is that they will buy the dress. Their mail-order firm, which sells toys and party goods, has made them millionaires.

WHAT IS THE ROYAL TRADITION AS TO WHO PAYS?

Prince William is following the precedent set thirty years ago when his parents got married. It’s a helpful example at a time when Britain is undergoing a painful period of cuts and belt-tightening. If ordinary people had been left to foot the total cost of the wedding of their future King, at a time of austerity, there might have been an outcry.

But, and it’s a significant “but,” the taxpayer in Britain will be making a significant contribution to the proceedings. They’ll be paying the large, but never disclosed sum for providing the security on the day.

HOW DOES THE ROYAL FAMILY MAKE ITS MONEY?

Prince Charles funds his public work and his private activities from the profits generated by one of the largest and oldest landed estates, the Duchy of Cornwall. It owns, among many things, a famous cricket ground and a prison. Last year he received around $30 million.

The Queen will make her contribution to the wedding out of her private income. Like her son, she can also rely on the profits from private estates and her investments.

There have been many attempts to predict how much the 84-year-old Monarch is worth. Back in the Seventies, Buckingham Palace accepted the figure of $3 million was reasonably accurate. Since then, they’ve said nothing about the size of the Queen’s personal wealth, other than to insist some estimates are wrong because they include things she doesn’t own personally, such as the Crown Jewels.

As well as her private income, the Queen also receives money from the taxpayer to fund her work as Britain’s Head of State. Down the decades, indeed the centuries, there have been many arguments over how much the royals should get from the public purse.

During one such tussle, in 1969, the Queen’s husband intervened while being interviewed by NBC’s Meet the Press. Renowned for his bluntness, Prince Philip told his American interviewer that the Royal Family was going into the red; he’d been forced to sell a small yacht; and he expected he’d have to give up polo. The prince went on, “We may have to move into smaller premises, who knows?” Forty years on, Prince Philip and his wife are still in residence at Buckingham Palace.