Money gurus: Prince Charles?

Can we learn anything from a man who inherited everything?


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The idea of a man whose life is funded by inheritance having an ounce of money nouse may bring on a fit of apoplexy among commentators. It's fair to say that Prince Charles's accounts, released recently, reveal a moneyed and cosseted life where it's perfectly reasonable to spend £246,160 on a private flight in order to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral. However, behind the enormous cost of running the monarchy, there lies an alternative argument: that Prince Charles has made some sound money decisions.

So what do you think? Does he qualify as a money guru?

The source of his income isn't something he can claim any credit for. Prince Charles doesn't get any money from the Civil List. He gets money from the Duchy of Cornwall, and he receives money from the Queen's Household to fund his official engagements.

The Duchy of Cornwall is one of the oldest and largest estates in the country, and was created in 1337 by Edward III to provide an income for each Prince of Wales to live off. The estate is owned by a trust and simply pays an income to the Prince of Wales. He cannot sell the estate or benefit from any sale. Last year it paid him £19.5 million.

In addition, he used £2.1 million on job-related expenses, funded by the Queen's Household - paid for by the taxpayer. There's no denying that Prince Charles's expenses are phenomenal, and there are several journeys he took last year which begged the question as to whether he made the wisest choice - choosing a private jet or train over a first class ticket or a car. This included not only the funeral trip but also a £434,000 visit to India with the Duchess of Cornwall and a £19,578 trip on the royal train from Windsor to Worcester.

However, rather than spending all his days rolling in money, he does three very sound things with it, which could arguably qualify him as something of a money guru.

1. He has built a brand
The heir to the throne isn't going to top many lists of self-made men, but he has built a brand of his own from the Duchy of Cornwall. In 1992 he established Duchy Originals - a subsidiary company of his charities. The aim of the business is to sell products from the estate in order to make money for the charities and promote organic farming. He now makes 230 products and sells them in 30 countries, he has a profitable licensing deal with Waitrose, and the brand has made more than £11 million in profits for the charities.

He has a second Highgrove business - which recently shut its shop in Bath but continues to trade online and through Fortnum and Mason. It sells home and lifestyle wares inspired by the gardens of Highgrove - sourced responsibly and in many cases from British artisans using traditional techniques. It's a much smaller enterprise, but is also owned by the charities and exists to make money for them.

2. His endeavours raise money for others
From the early days of The Prince's Trust in the 1970s his charitable interests have grown to become the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the UK. The 20 different groups were founded to support things Charles feels passionate about - including responsible business, the built environment, young people and education. The individual charities range from Business in the Community and The Prince's Regeneration Trust, to the Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts and The British Asian Trust. He helps raise £100 million a year for these charities. In addition to this, he is also patron or president of over 400 other charities.

3. He does the right thing
Charles cannot be accused of cutting corners to make a fast buck. The producers he worked with on Duchy Originals had often never produced anything organic before. Now it is part of the mainstream and he is partly responsible for this. Similarly he uses the Highgrove brand to support traditional craftmakers who might otherwise struggle to find a market for handpainted and individually designed china that costs £125 for a plate.

And these companies exist entirely to make money for charities he passionately believes in. You could argue that it's easy for him to do this because he's rich enough to do what he likes. However, he's also rich enough to sit back and do nothing - he just chooses to raise money for charities instead.

He is also willing to pay for the privilege of standing by his principles. He is a believer in paying tax to support the more vulnerable in society, and has voluntarily paid income tax for the past 20 years. Last year he paid £4.1 million in tax.

Of course you could argue that it's easy to pay £4.1 million in tax when you're receiving £2.1 million from the taxpayer to fund your international jet-setting. Then again, you could argue that it's even easier to pay nothing at all.

What do you think?