Belgium's royal properties worth at least 230 million euros, Royal Trust reveals
For the first time in more than 120 years, the Royal Trust Society of Belgium has revealed the value of its assets. The properties, part of the legacy of King Leopold II, are worth at least 231.4 million euros, Het Nieuwsblad writes on Monday.
The Royal Trust Society of Belgium is a public institution that manages most of Belgium's royal properties. The royal patrimony consists of more than 7,500 hectares of land and 77 buildings, such as the homes of the royal family and the Royal Greenhouses in Laeken. The Royal Palaces of Brussels and Laeken are not owned by the Royal Trust: they are the property of the Belgian State.
The trust began as a donation from King Leopold II, who was notorious for exploiting the natural resources of the Congo Free State, resulting in the death of about half the population. A significant part of the Royal Trust's endowment was funded by the profits of these activities.
Leopold donated the properties to the Belgian state in 1900 in order to prevent the foreign spouses of his three daughters from inheriting them. In 1930, a royal decree made the Royal Trust an independent public institution, meaning that it had to be completely self-sufficient financially. Some properties are at the disposal of the King, while others are rented out to generate income.
Lack of transparency
The Royal Trust has long been criticised for its lack of transparency and has never revealed its financial inner workings. An investigation by Flemish media in 2019 revealed that the institution itself did not know how much its properties were worth, and that some of the costs were indirectly paid for by taxpayers.
In response, it promised to be more transparent, and has now published its balance sheet for the 2022 financial year. According to the report, the Royal Trust is worth at least 231.4 million euros. This figure does not include buildings such as the greenhouses or the Japanese Tower in Laeken, nor uncultivated land such as fields, meadows and dunes, so the total is likely to be much higher.
In total, the Royal Trust posted a loss of 5.4 million euros in 2022. "However, this loss does not affect the taxpayer in any way," the institute told Het Nieuwsblad.
The greenhouses of the royal paace in Laeken, Brussels © BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT