All eyes will be on Windsor Castle this weekend for the much-anticipated wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The ceremony will take place in St. George’s Chapel, which dates back to the 1400s and is situated in one of the oldest parts of the ancient royal palace. Windsor Castle is located to the west of London in the leafy county of Berkshire and is surrounded by the sprawling acreage of Windsor Great Park.
Along with Buckingham Palace in central London, Windsor is one of several signature residences currently occupied by Queen Elizabeth II and her family. Following her May 19 nuptials, Markle will officially take up residence in Kensington Palace, another London property held under the Crown Estate and formerly home to Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana. Like Windsor and Buckingham Palace, however, Kensington is not actually owned by the Royal Family but available to them through Elizabeth’s position as the reigning British monarch.
There’s no denying the British Royal Family’s incredible wealth and land holdings, but it has been incorrectly reported that Queen Elizabeth II is the world’s largest landowner. A 2011 Business Insider article made the claim that she owns 6.6 billion acres of land worldwide, including in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Canada and Australia. However, this assertion incorrectly attributes the fact that the British monarch is the titular head of countries like Canada and Australia that fall under the banner of the Commonwealth of Nations, a 53-member organization of sovereign nations that includes a number of former colonies of the British Empire.
In fact, most of the Queen’s real estate and land holdings fall under stewardship of the Crown Estate, a privately managed real-estate business that’s tasked with managing the crown’s portfolio of commercial, residential and investment holdings throughout the United Kingdom. These not only include stretches of prime London real estate like Regent Street, but offshore wind and tidal farms in the North Sea, forestry holdings in Scotland and some 263,000 acres of livestock and crop farmland across the U.K. Revenues from the estimated $12-billion Crown Estate portfolio are returned to the British government’s Treasury department for disbursement to the public purse.
Queen Elizabeth’s personal fortune is estimated to be around $500 million, and comprises a portfolio of fine art, jewelry, horse farms and real-estate holdings that include the 20,000-acre Sandringham Estate in Norfolk and 50,000-acre Balmoral estate in northeast Scotland, both inherited through her family.
Queen Elizabeth and her family regularly enjoy spending their summers at Balmoral, which sits within Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park and provides opportunities for grouse and deer hunting, as well as salmon fishing on the beautiful waters of the Dee River. The estate is crowned by the Gothic-style castle that was purchased in 1852 by Prince Albert for his wife, Queen Victoria.
Speculation currently abounds regarding which title Prince Harry and his American bride will receive from the Queen at their wedding. The current betting is on the couple becoming the next Duke and Duchess of Sussex, which will confer both title and property as part of the dukedom.