A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

What Does the British Royal Family Actually Do?

Updated: Jul. 23, 2021

If you dream about living like a prince or princess, you'd better look to Disney, because in real life the British Royal family attends thousands of engagements a year while leading charities, taking care of children, and even working 9 to 5.

1 / 9
A Davidson/SHM/REX/Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth trained as a mechanic

The most famous royal in the world, Queen Elizabeth II, is quite busy for a nonagenarian. “Cabbage,” as she is affectionately called by her husband, attends numerous engagements entertaining heads of state, having palace parties, taking diplomatic trips, and more, Business Insider reports. Queen Elizabeth attended 283 engagements in 2018. And this 93-year-old keeps on going. Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told Express.co.uk in 2016: “She [the Queen] and the Duke of Edinburgh are unique in over 1,000 years of monarchy and their dedication to duty, and their commitment continues as it has in previous years. So does their robust health, which permits them to undertake so many duties.” There’s no time for knitting in a rocking chair for this great-grandmother who has taken her duty as queen seriously for 65 years, this past June marking her Sapphire Jubilee. But even before she was crowned, Elizabeth pulled her weight for her country. During World War II, the then-18-year-old princess joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service and, according to History.com, clipped on her tool belt to get down and dirty as a mechanic and truck driver for the military. The Queen is the only living head of state who served in WWII and remains the only female member of the royal family to serve in the armed forces. Here is how much the British royal family is actually worth.

2 / 9
02-Yes, the British Royal Family Actually Works. Here's What They Do-Editorial-8961348n

The Duke of Edinburgh was a pro at unveiling plaques

As the Queen’s better half of over 70 years, Prince Phillip is no slacker, but the 98-year-old has retired and it’s well-deserved. The Duke of Edinburgh consistently accompanied his bride (and third cousin) on many of her engagements, not to mention the 22,191 he attended on his own. He called himself the “world’s most experienced plaque unveiler” with 5,493 speeches under his belt. Post-retirement, he had planned to continue working with the 780 organizations with which he’s involved.

3 / 9
03-Yes, the British Royal Family Actually Works. Here's What They Do-Editorial-8977527ar

The Prince of Wales is a filmmaker

So, besides the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, what does the royal family do?  The job description on the official royal website for Charles and Camilla isn’t something you can apply for, but it certainly sounds like a lot to live up to: “Undertaking official Royal duties in support of Her Majesty The Queen and on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, working as a charitable entrepreneur, by supporting charitable and civil causes which promote positive social and environmental outcomes and promoting and protecting national traditions, virtues, and excellence.” Not only is Charles committed to attending various royal engagements like his dear old mum, but at the request of the British Government, he’s been asked to further British diplomatic interests with visits overseas. And when he’s home he heads up many of his own charities, including The Prince’s Trust, The British Asian Trust, and Business in the Community. He is a well-known environmentalist and has introduced many sustainability initiatives, including reducing food waste and organic farming, to many of the royal homes and grounds, and he made the movie Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World. As for the Duchess of Cornwall, in addition to supporting her hubby at engagements, Camilla is also involved with many charities and events.

4 / 9

The Duke and Duchess Cambridge are college grads

Royal parents to toddlers George and Charlotte and baby Louis, both William and Kate have had their hands full changing nappies (that’s diapers to Americans). Now with Prince Philip retired and the Queen staying closer to home, they will continue to combine parenthood with royal duties full time, like their eight-day royal tour through Canada with children in tow, and more international royal tours, like Poland and Germany. According to ABC News, William and Kate valued the normalcy that William’s job as an air ambulance pilot allowed their family. It’s not like the prince or duchess didn’t have other plans for the future. After all, they hooked up while studying at St. Andrews University, where both graduated with honors, William earning a degree in geography and Kate in art history. According to the L.A. Times, the prince is one of only three British royals in recent history to graduate from college.

For Kate, finding a job before the two were betrothed wasn’t easy, as any position she took was scrutinized by the royal family, plus she had to be able to “call in sick” for last-minute royal obligations. Kate did eventually land a job at a store in London as an assistant accessories’ buyer. She went on to study portrait photography and then almost started a cake company with her brother. To think Britain could have had it’s very own Cake Boss or rather Cake Princess! These are the words you will never hear the royal family say.

5 / 9
Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Princess Anne is an Olympian

If engagement attendance was an Olympic event, Princess Anne would get a gold medal. After all, the 68-years-young Anne has never been one to dodge a challenge, remaining the only royal to ever compete in the real Olympics as an equestrian. Although she didn’t win gold, she continues to carry a reputation as one of the hardest-working royals. That Olympic work ethic extends far after the competition with these athletes, so it’s easy to see where Anne gets her drive. She attended 518 combined domestic and international engagements in 2018, more than any other royal. But the sometimes stern daughter of the Queen also makes time to play doting grandma to her five grandchildren.

6 / 9
07-Yes, the British Royal Family Actually Works. Here's What They Do-Editorial-8967093r

Prince Harry was a dedicated serviceman

And in answer to the question, what does the royal family do, Prince Harry has had an illustrious military career. As a teen, this royal ginger was a bit of a wildcat, but he settled down by serving in the armed forces with two deployments to Afghanistan.  Prince Harry held the rank of lieutenant since 2008 and was promoted to Captain in 2011. After ending his active service, Harry continued to volunteer for the army in support of wounded servicemen. Besides keeping busy by supporting a mix of charitable causes, like his brother, he takes his royal duties very seriously. Here are the myths about the royal family that are totally false.

7 / 9
08-Yes, the British Royal Family Actually Works. Here's What They Do-Editorial-8289759d
Raul Martinez Pino/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

The Earl of Wessex is interested in the arts

Before both becoming full-time working royals, Edward, the Queen’s youngest son, and wife Sophie had full-time jobs. Edward worked for a theater company while Sophie ran a PR firm. In 2018, Prince Edward attended 170 days worth of engagements. To keep his spot on the royal ladder, the Queen has decreed that Prince Edward will eventually inherit the title Duke of Edinburgh from his father.

8 / 9
09-Yes, the British Royal Family Actually Works. Here's What They Do-Editorial-8961167c

The Duke of York took an early retirement

Since quitting his role as the United Kingdom’s special representative for international trade and investment, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, has taken his lead from his mum, the Queen. He continues to take on royal duties and supports charities of his own choosing.

9 / 9
David Parker/ANL/REX/Shutterstock

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie are hard-working social butterflies

So, if they’re not working in support of the Queen, what does the royal family do? Andrew’s daughters, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, have everyday jobs. Eugenie is a director at the art gallery Hauser & Wirth in London, while Beatrice is a vice president of partnerships and strategy at Afiniti. A Palace source described the princesses this way: “They are working girls who have jobs. They will appear at family occasions and at some receptions at the Palace, but there will be no change in their status.” Like others in the royal family, they remain involved with charities but otherwise aren’t as much in the public eye performing royal duties. Rather, they are known for attending society functions, being spotted in nightclubs, and taking exotic vacations. Although she has a degree in history, Beatrice has gone through four jobs in only a five-year span. Eugenie graduated Newcastle University with degrees in both English literature and art history. Next, check out the surprisingly frugal habits of the royal family.