King Charles renting out Edinburgh New Town property gifted to Queen Elizabeth II

The profit from the building treated for decades as state-owned is now pocketed by the firm that owns King Charles’ lands and houses.
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An expensive Edinburgh property that was given to Queen Elizabeth II in her role as sovereign is being privately rented out by the King for profit. The Georgian house in the New Town area, which is divided into two flats, was given to the queen in 1953 by its previous owner. It was treated as an official gift when it was put into the government’s control in 1954. For more than 40 years it was managed by the UK government,

The apartments, worth between £1.5m and £1.8m, became part of the Queen’s estate. Now they are being let to private tenants at full market rates – held by the company that owns the king’s extensive lands and houses at Balmoral and Delnadamph in the Scottish Highlands on his behalf.

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It has prompted questions around Buckingham Palace’s policy on gifts, which is supposed to prevent official gifts from being treated as private property.

King Charles rents out the property previously gifted to his motherKing Charles rents out the property previously gifted to his mother
King Charles rents out the property previously gifted to his mother

One land reform expert has said the King should pay a market price for the property to the government. Property records show that in early 1954 the flats were registered as being held by a government department and considered an official gift to the queen as the sovereign. Government papers uncovered by the Guardian newspaper show that the property was treated as a state-owned building for decades and used as “grace and favour” homes for dignitaries and employees of the royal household.

In the mid-1990s, the government handed over their maintenance and management to Buckingham Palace. But the Edinburgh flats needed significant work done. After some concerns were raised it was concluded by officials that the government shouldn't meet the costs saying it ‘would be asking for trouble’ if the government gave the royal household money for the renovations. It was ruled to be ‘doubly so as the house might be regarded as the queens’ own property’.

Papers show that civil servants believed the property would continue to be part of the “grace and favour” estate and be paid for by the royal household after it was handed over to the sovereign. However, instead they became part of the Queen's estate.

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Andy Wightman, a Scottish land reform expert and former Scottish Green party MSP, said the house seemed to have been a publicly owned asset used to help the royal family’s employees or people associated with the royal family. He argued this was a public benefit. He said: “Since the property is now being rented out on a commercial basis as part of the king’s personal property portfolio, this historic understanding no longer has any validity. The king should pay a market price for the property to the government.”

A palace spokesperson said: “In the 1990s, at the request of the Department of the Environment, the property was handed back to the queen who took on the responsibility for its maintenance and upkeep privately.” The palace’s policy on official gifts states that they “are not the private property of the member of the royal family who receives them.”

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