Why Is the Royal Family Called “The Firm,” You Ask? Here’s the Deal

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The British royal family has been occupying the news for weeks months years decades and if you’ve been lurking here a while, you’ve probably heard them referred to as “The Firm.” But this isn’t simply a throwaway nickname. “The Firm” is a very particular term, one that’s specifically used when talking about the billion dollar business enterprise that is the royal institution—an operational entity that chugs along no matter who happens to be sitting on the throne (or waiting in the wings).

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What Is “The Firm,” Exactly?

The Firm describes not just the royal family, but their entire organization and operational establishment. As the New York Times puts it, “It is an enterprise that reaches well beyond the royals themselves, encompassing an army of private secretaries, communications advisers, ladies in waiting, heads of households, chauffeurs, footmen, domestic servants, gardeners, and all the other people who run the palaces, and the lives, of the royals who live in them.”

In other words, The Firm is the umbrella term for all royal operations. It also articulates the fact that the royals are larger than themselves. As author Edward Owens put it, “The Firm suggests that these bonds of family are an afterthought. It is duty and the business of the royal family that comes first.”

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Use of “The Firm” can also take the onus off individual members of the royal family when critiquing the organization. As the Duchess of Sussex put it while talking to Oprah, “There’s the family, and then there’s the people that are running the institution.” She added that it’s “important to be able to compartmentalize that, because the Queen, for example, has always been wonderful to me.”

It Dates Back to King George VI

According to the New York Times, King George VI once said “We’re not a family. We’re a firm.”

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‘The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor’

'The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor'

‘The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor’

Prince Philip was also known to use the phrase according to royal biographer Penny Junor, who wrote in The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor, “Prince Philip calls it ‘The Firm,’ and all the royal executives and their powerful associates are supposed to make every effort to avoid even a hint of scandal that could diminish the reputation of the family business.”

There’s Also “The Establishment”…

…which is basically another less-official term for The Firm. Princess Diana used “The Establishment” during her infamous tell-all interview with Martin Bashir, saying, “I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts, in people’s hearts, but I don’t see myself being Queen of this country. I don’t think many people will want me to be Queen. Actually, when I say many people I mean The Establishment that I married into, because they have decided that I’m a non-starter.”

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The Firm Makes Huge Amounts of Money

The Firm’s primary purpose—other than uplifting the very concept of monarchy—is generating huge amounts of money while they’re at it. As Forbes succinctly put it, the Firm is an “empire that pumps hundreds of millions of pounds into the United Kingdom’s economy every year.”

And this money hammers home The Firm’s distinction from the royals themselves. For Example? King Charles has a personal net worth of $750 million. The Firm is worth $28 billion. And they would be no matter who was sitting on the throne.

We have a whole breakdown of The Firm’s numerous assets this way, but The Crown Estate pretty much sums everything up. This estate is a collection of lands and holdings worth $19.5 billion that specifically belongs to The Firm. Of the $475 million the Crown Estate made in profit back in 2020, 75 percent went to the British Treasury and 25 percent went to the royals—not for personal use, but to fund royal expenses such as security, staff, and engagements.

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Monarchs Come and Go, The Firm Is Forever

Well, unless Britain gets rid of its monarchy full stop, which doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. So barring total societal upheaval in ye olde England, The Firm is forever, with a revolving door of royal family members inextricably tied to it.

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