Skimmed Milk Masquerades as Cream — Part 3

Michael McTague  |

Image: Prince Harry and Meghan’s carriage procession through the streets of Windsor, May 19, 2018. Source: Londisland, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This final entry in our series looks at that rare group of people who are filthy rich. There are not many people in this category, but the differences between them and those featured in Part 1 and Part 2 stand out.

Let’s begin with the wealthiest person in the world. No, not JK Rowling, not Donald Trump, nor Paul McCartney, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos nor Carlos Slim. The world’s wealthiest person is Queen Elizabeth II. Surprised? Read on!
Queen Elizabeth wants for nothing. She lives in a number of palaces with many servants, guards, automobiles, drivers, chefs, airplanes, jewels, nineteenth century carriages and various other accoutrements of wealth. No one else on earth rivals her opulence.
If you were surprised by her ranking as number one, consider these facts:

Queen Elizabeth may not be listed as the owner of various properties. They may be shown as belonging to the crown or the people, but she uses and controls them. She pays no taxes. And if anyone tried to take these vast holdings away, they would not succeed. The official position is that Queen Elizabeth II does not own Buckingham Palace; she only lives there. The 775-room home is nominally the property of the Crown Estates.

The financial value of the palaces that belong to the reigning British monarch would be hard to estimate. They are not prone to be on the market. In addition to the palaces, she owns half of Regent Street and many other prime locations including many outside the UK including several in New York City. 

The Queen’s relatives live tax free in a modern form of castle life — without the moats — on a series of royal lands spread across the realm. The sheer scope of people and land holdings involved insulates the queen from criticism and from any serious effort to chop British royalty down to size. 

The Queen is also immune from criticism from elected officials. Members of Parliament sign an Oath of Allegiance, which requires them to profess loyalty to the reigning monarch. New citizens also take the oath. The press may have freedom to criticize and make fun of royalty — consider the tabloid treatment of Charles and Camilla — but members remain reticent to deal with the issue of the queen’s wealth. The royal family and its sometimes peculiar personal habits provide enough material for tabloids.

Modern, Not Medieval Wealth

The wealth of the royal family and relatives/friends is not medieval as a few say who raise an alarm at their oversized holdings. Their wealth extends far beyond their ancestors and is much more secure. Kings were sometimes beheaded not to mention kings’ wives. Today’s British royalty is totally insulated from harm. It has been estimated that the British aristocracy and gentry still own 30% of the land, and potentially as much as 47% remains in hereditary aristocratic estates. This is according to Guy Shrubsole, whose 2019 book explored the details and generated sharp criticism from royalty lovers.

To put the Queen’s massive wealth in perspective, remember that Bill Gates must pay taxes — at least some taxes.  

Jeff Bezos has to sign off on the Amazon annual report and consider paying dividends. Elon Musk has to drive a Tesla and smile. No American president comes anywhere close to the Queen’s wealth. While recent presidents have dipped deeply into the pool of wealth, consider this historical note. In 1953, after the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower and shortly before Elizabeth II’s coronation, Harry and Bess Truman drove their car back to Independence, Missouri. Some years later, they ran out of money.

Recognize that power is not entirely related to wealth. Billionaire Donald Trump’s wealth fizzles compared to Queen Elizabeth, and he is certainly not immune to criticism.

The Myth Buster was on a trip to Canada once, and the hotel staff told him that the Queen had been there the prior week. They marveled at her well-known golden toilet seat, which they had to remove when she departed.

Meghan and Prince Harry show that they are truly noble — in terms of gaining and holding onto wealth. Insulated from bill-paying and employment by massive holdings, their reported wealth already exceeds $50 million. Even though their royal “departure” was ugly, don’t be surprised if huge amounts of capital somehow wind up being transferred to them. The public claim is they are “financially independent.” That is hard to believe. If they visit the palace anytime soon or if a visitor arrives in California, it might be good to check the lining of the luggage, which will not be opened by Customs. 

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Meghan and Harry also reveal more financial “luck” than anyone else. They signed lucrative deals with Spotify and Netflix. They invested in Clevr Blends, an oat milk latte start up. Disney and Apple are tracking the movements of the former royals. Financially, their futures are set. Henry VIII would be jealous. So are Bill Gates, King Felipe VI and King Willem Alexander.

Here is a final thought: Queen Elizabeth II does not have to even think about money or taxes. She is truly above such worries. 

 

The Myth Buster hopes you enjoyed this series. This myth holds up well. Thank you, Jonathan Swift. The get rich quick approach shows many gaps. Wealth does a better job of exhibiting itself in the manner of a bright pocket handkerchief and a straw hat than it does in providing actual cash or freedom from worry. Cash, of course, is king, and this series demonstrates that being king (or queen) means being rich. Next month, the Myth Buster moves onto another series.

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Michael McTague, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President at Able Global Partners in New York, a private equity firm.

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Equities Contributor: Michael McTague, Ph.D.

Source: Equities News
 

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