Royals Who Couldn't Afford Their Lavish Lives

Oh, to be a royal and not have to worry about the money spent on, well, whatever it is royals spend money on. It's no secret royals have access to money we commoners lack — the British royal family alone is worth $28 billion. But what about the royals who are left without? Have we given ample consideration to the people who, despite having titles, aren't afforded the luxuries of some who literally wear crowns?

All sarcasm aside, wealth disparity is real, and it exists even among families most of us probably assume to be set for life. But not every royal person is dripping in diamonds and swimming in gold the way we envision. Whether from needless spending or extenuating circumstances beyond the royal's control, several heirs to several thrones have been unable to afford the capital required to fund a lavish lifestyle. Let's take a look at some of these dignitaries.

Harry and Meghan were cut off from King Charles

Prince Harry and his bride Meghan Markle have been at the center of unprecedented royal controversy since the beginning of their relationship. From widespread disapproval of their courtship to their ultimate exodus from their roles as Senior members of the royal family, Harry and Meghan have given the press plenty to report on — one of the most prominent news cycles coming from their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared several interesting tidbits with Winfrey, perhaps the most glaring was Harry's assertion that his father, now King Charles, had "literally cut [him] off financially," as reported by Vanity Fair.

Reports corroborated Harry's claim about his father's financial decision. While acting as working royals, nearly all of Harry and Meghan's income came from Harry's father, and when they stepped away, their financial support was pulled, too. Reports suggest, though, that the two royals were not left high and dry as the Winfrey interview might have suggested. Instead, they were supported by the crown through their shift. Whether the couple received continued funding from King Charles or not seems moot now, though, as the couple reportedly struck a deal with Netflix for as much as $100 million for content exclusive to the streaming service, including their documentary "Harry & Meghan."

Sarah Ferguson was reportedly facing bankruptcy

Sarah Ferguson, better known as Sarah, Duchess of York, or Fergie for short, joined the royal family when she married Prince Andrew, Duke of York. The couple had two children together, Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice, but divorced in 1996. Although she's no longer married to a royal, the Duchess maintains her royal status in the eyes of the public, and when she reportedly flirted with filing for bankruptcy over a decade ago, the Windsors allegedly bore the shame of her seemingly outrageous spending.

The Telegraph had reported that Ferguson owed as much as £5 million to her debtors, though that figure was refuted by a spokesperson for the royal. "There is a number of options open to the duchess, of which bankruptcy is one. But it would be premature to say she is going into bankruptcy as the situation is being managed," the spokesperson said of Ferguson's finances at the time.

Any lingering questions about Ferguson's bank accounts were seemingly put to rest in 2022 when she and her ex-husband made good on their debt, allowing them to sell their Switzerland home. While the sale was reportedly necessary for Prince Andrew to move forward with a legal battle regarding allegations of sexual misconduct, it did indicate that his ex-wife is no longer in the precarious situation she once was.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Prince Andrew reportedly outspends his allowance

It's hard to imagine anyone outspending an annual income of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, yet there are some who reportedly do. Prince Andrew, Duke of York, brother to King Charles and son of the late Queen Elizabeth II reportedly began spending more than his income of £270 thousand from various sources, including a stipend from the crown. Some of his posh purchases included a fleet of luxury vehicles such as a Bentley and Range Rovers, as well as designer watches. These reported reckless spending habits were amid Prince Andrew's legal proceedings when he was accused of sexual misconduct after reports of his alleged friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein surfaced, though stories of his finances were nothing new.

Prince Andrew's stipend was paid while he was a working member of the royal family, but when he stepped down in the midst of the allegations, it was not made public whether he was still receiving his yearly allotment, and that, coupled with his alleged dubious financial position, led people to wonder whether he'd be good for payment on what he owed Virginia Giuffre, the plaintiff Prince Andrew's case. "If the figure does turn out to be of the order of £5m to £10m, I don't think he has that money. And it's more than likely the Queen will fork out some money," a source told the BBC of the probable payment arrangement.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Hyderabad Nizam's family duked it out in the courts over his fortune

When we hear the term royal family, we almost undoubtedly think of the Windsors, the royal family that resides in England. But there are several other countries with royal families just as prestigious in their native lands as the Windsors, and their financial drama is just as intriguing. Shortly after India gained independence from Britain, India invaded Hyderabad. The previously autonomous state boasted royals with immense wealth, the most recent ruler being Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan.

Fast forward to 2019, and descendants of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan wanted a piece of his very large pie. Per News 18, 120 kin of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan sued for a claim to a portion of a £35 million fortune sitting in a London bank. Many believed the money would be rewarded to Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan's grandsons, but the other descendants alleged a legal right to the inheritance. "If the two brothers deny us our share, we will go to court. We will not keep quiet," one purported heir said. The courts sided with the state of India, giving the money to the grandsons, though the 120 descendants were awarded £400,000 to split.

Raja of Tigiria lost his fortune and died penniless

Rags to riches is rare, but riches to rags is even rarer. Unfortunately, such was the case for the Raja of Tigiria. Raja Brajraj Kshatriya Birbar Chamupati Singh, Mahapatra of Tigiria once ruled Orissa, a state of India. Now called Odisha, Orissa acceded to India when the country gained independence from Britain in 1947, and with it, Raja Brajraj forked over incredible wealth. Per the National Post, Raja Brajraj was once the envy of all, known for partying, hunting, and his affinity for posh vehicles. "I would drink to my heart's content and have a good time," he was once quoted saying.

Raja Brajraj's fortune dwindled after his state formally joined India. For a time he was given an allowance, but the amount slowly declined until Raja Brajraj was left with not a dime to his name. The man who once had nearly unparalleled wealth died broke, living in a hut made of mud and owing his subsistence to the kindness and generosity of his neighbors whom he once ruled.

An heir of Sultana Begum lost access to her family's fortune

The history of India is as rich as some of its royal descendants, but not all. Some, like Sultana Begum, have been cut off from the assets afforded to the plethora of heirs in the country for one reason or another. Members of Sultana Begum's family, like Zeenat Mahal Shaikh, claim the reasons are political. Despite coming from a historically wealthy family, Shaikh only received small monthly payments from the government. Hoping to change this was her brother-in-law, Iqbal Ahmed, who shared with the Times of India his family's financial strains. Many have campaigned for the ancestor to receive what they believe to be her due from the Indian government.  

While the heirs did not go from extreme wealth to extreme poverty, their ancestor did. Shaikh was favored by the emperor she married, and whatever she wanted, he procured for her. The empress even arrived to a chorus of drums when visiting her homes (though it's unclear whether she wanted that or not). After a politically-charged fall from glory, Shaikh lived and died in abject poverty. 

Per The Patriot, the palace where Shaikh once lived is now used as a girls' school. And although she wasn't able to bestow upon her progeny generational wealth, many still recognize her in a positive light. "She stands as a tall feminist icon in Indian history, in fact, an inspiration for the young girls of Delhi," Dr. Farhat Nadir Rizvi told the outlet of her legacy.

Saudi royals sold $600 million in assets

There's money, and then there's oil money. While some royal families are fighting over millions of dollars, Saudi princes are selling off hundreds of millions in assets. In 2022, various Saudi princes put some of their most valuable belongings, like yachts and artwork, totaling around $600 million, up for sale to appease their ruler, Mohammed Bin Salman, who demanded the family make major adjustments to its spending habits.

And if the ruler is insisting everyone curb its audacious purchases, you know the family makeup must be quite the motley crew of spenders. Saudi princes know how to spend their money. Take Prince Abdullah al Saud, a royal who's also an accomplished equestrian whose grandfather instructed the Saudi Equestrian Fund to find the best horses for the sport, leading to at least $49 million in expenditure. Then there's Prince Bader who, albeit on someone else's behalf, spent over $450 million on a piece of art painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

Not all Saudi princes have such obscene wealth, though (or so they say). As Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad told an outlet, "I've seen the stereotype of a Saudi who can call upon $18 billion" (via the New York Post). "I tell you what. If I was worth $18 billion, I would have bought the 49ers and Arsenal!" Keep in mind that he does own part of the Sheffield United Football Club. Champagne problems.

Saudi Princess Maha owed millions after her posh spending

If you don't feel bad for millionaires who lose their fortunes due to unnecessary spending, you're not alone. Members of the Saudi royal family have had access to unimaginable wealth for centuries, and Princess Maha Al-Sudairi, who used to be married to the late Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, dried up the money she had by purchasing over a reported $15 million in luxury goods (and an astronomical unpaid bill at the Shangri-la Hotel in Paris, France). It was reported that the princess had to abandon her possessions in order to pay back those she owed for her debts.

It's likely safe to assume the princess wasn't awarded in the settlement much of what the royal family has access to. Per House of Saud, the Saudi Arabian royal family is worth as much as $1.4 trillion. That's right, trillion with a T. Although there are an estimated 15,000 members with access to the wealth, that's still more than plenty for each of them.