From helicopters to canapes, here's how the Queen spends her £340 million fortune

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The Independent Online

The Queen's £369 million ($459 million) renovation of Buckingham Palace has put her spending in the spotlight.

The refit will be funded by British taxpayers out of the Sovereign Grant. This is the allowance provided to the Queen by the government to support her official duties.

The Queen received a £40.1 million allowance this year, with a further £13.9 million coming from other sources, such as property rental.

The grant is the Queen's main source of income and contributes to her overall fortune of around £340 million, according to The Sunday Times Rich List.

The Sovereign Grant annual report provides a detailed breakdown of her outgoings — ranging from helicopter transport to utility bills — and it makes for illuminating reading. Here is how the Queen spends her money.

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The Queen spent £39.8 million of the £40.1 million Sovereign Grant in the 12 months to the end of March 2016. Her outgoings were up £4.1 million on the same period last year. The spike in spending was blamed on an £18 million bill for "property maintenance and major projects." The biggest ticket item: A £1.3 million new roof for the North Terrace of Windsor Castle. The Queen splashed out £600,000 drawing up plans to renovate Buckingham Palace. She also built a new £700,000 helicopter hangar at RAF Odiham. More on the chopper later.

General property maintenance costs hit £4.3 million. This includes clearing blocked drains, repairing leaking roofs, and changing light bulbs. Cleaning, laundry, and other chores cost the Queen £700,000. The Queen employs 431 staff, who are paid a total of £19.5 million out of the Sovereign Grant. The average salary of a member of the Queen's household is £35,144 a year. Five employees were sacked by the Queen in 2015/16 and were paid off a total of £209,000. The biggest of these exit packages was more than £50,000.

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The Lord Chamberlain's Committee oversees the running of the royal household. It is chaired by the Earl of Peel, who is paid £99,000 a year from the Sovereign Grant.

The Queen's gas and electricity bill was £1.6 million in 2015/16. Her estate consumed 29.3 million kWh of energy, which is nearly 2,000 times the average UK household, according to energy regulator Ofgem. The royal household agreed a four-year, fixed-price gas contract in 2015/16, which will deliver savings of £1.1 million. It also participated in energy saving campaigns, such as The Big Christmas Switch Off.

The Queen's food and drink spend was £1.4 million. Here, canapes are being prepared for guests in the Buckingham Palace kitchen. Entertaining 96,000 guests a year requires a toast or two. It is why the Queen splashed out half a million pounds on wine and spirits in 2015/16.

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Away from the banqueting table, some £2.6 million was invested in technology systems for the royal household. Print, postage, and stationary costs stacked up to £1 million. The Queen sent 232,000 cards to Brits celebrating their 100th birthday. A further 710,800 messages were sent to people on their Diamond Wedding anniversary.

Sometimes business has to be done in person, however. It is why the royal household spent £4 million on travel to fulfil 3,000 official engagements in 2015/16. This included her £64,000 trip to Germany in 2015. The Sovereign Grant also funds other royal trips, such as the Prince of Wales' £75,000 visit to Turkey in 2015. The Queen gets around in her own and leased helicopters, which cost £1.7 million. Some £1.1 million was spent on planes, while car and train travel hit £1 million.

With all that spending, it's no wonder Her Majesty needs a tipple or two. Her favourite Champagne, Pol Roger, can fetch up to £80 a bottle.

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