What does 'Occupation: Princess' mean? Here's what the royals actually do

Shine On
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Now that Princess Charlotte’s birth registration has been released, Will and Kate’s occupations have been officially listed, once again, as “Prince” and “Princess." But what do those jobs actually entail -- and how does the couple they make money?

It turns out there’s a lot more to the royal couple’s job descriptions than dazzling cameras.

“Since the 18th century, philanthropic work has been very important to the members of the royal family,” says Toronto’s Carolyn Harris, royal historian and author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights. “Charity work expanded greatly in Queen Victoria’s time as her children assumed charitable patronage.”

More recently, the Royals have identified with several causes: the late Diana the Princess of Wales dedicated time to land-mine victims and AIDS advocacy; Prince Charles has become a proponent of organic farming and sustainable development.

Prince William, meanwhile, supports conservation efforts, in particular the fight against poaching, while Princess Kate has embraced palliative care for dying children and kids’ medical health services.

Princess Charlotte's official birth registration (Courtesy Kensington Palace/Twitter)

“As Princess Charlotte grows older, a lot of her adult life will likely be taken up by charity work and charitable advocacy,” Harris says.

Meanwhile, Will and Kate also have a diplomatic role to play representing Queen Elizabeth II on visits throughout the Commonwealth. This is the kind of official business that brought the couple to Canada in 2011.

“Representing the Queen has become very central part of the job under the modern constitutional monarchy,” Harris says.

So who signs their paycheques?

“Professional income relating to public appearances comes from the sovereign grant,” Harris explains, referring to a fixed percentage of the income generated by Crown lands. 

The couple are largely financed by Will’s dad, Prince Charles, who generally pays for the couple’s staff and the official costs of being a royal. He derives much of his income from the Duchy of Cornwall, an expanse of land with a collection of properties currently worth £763 million, or about US $1.2 billion. In 2011, after Charles published a review of his personal accounts, it was revealed that he had spent about US $55,000 in the first six months of that year on designer clothes for his daughter-in- law. (Although she’s a style icon, Kate is not permitted to accept free clothes or accessories, which get sent to her daily.) Charles and the Queen also paid for the renovations of Will and Kate’s Apartment 1A at Kensington Palace.

Then there are inheritances. Prince William has an inheritance from his mother worth about $15.6 million, as well as money from his great-grandmother, Queen Mum.

William, who worked formerly as a search and rescue pilot, is training to be an air ambulance pilot. He’ll resume training following his unpaid paternity leave. His salary for that is £40,000 pounds before taxes, or about US$62,000 a year. Most of his earnings will go to charity.