From an email posted to Baen's Bar Honorverse dated June 1, 2005:

Cathy Montaigne's wealth

    In Crown of Slaves, you and Eric talked a little bit about Cathy Montaigne's ability to finance frigate-sized vessels for the Anti-Slavery League. Apparently, there's some confusion about just how rich Cathy actually is, on the one hand, and just how much a frigate costs, on the other. Someone has pointed out that Cathy is apparently rich enough to own a palatial private yacht, but no one seems to know exactly how the cost of such a private, unarmed vessel would compare with that of a frigate. Also, when you refer to Cathy being among the top 3% to 4% of the Star Kingdom's population in terms of wealth, what exactly does that mean? Where does she stack up compared to Klaus Hauptman, for example? Is that 3% to 4% in reference to the total population of the Star Kingdom, or does it refer to some smaller segment of the total population?

     

    Cathy Montaigne is very wealthy. You have to remember that Crown of Slaves was a collaboration. As a result, there are a couple of places in the book -- this is one -- where Eric and I each understood perfectly what the other fellow meant when the passage was written, but that clarity may not have come through completely to our readers. Before Cathy renounced her title in order to run for Parliament, she was undoubtedly well up in the top 1% of the Star Kingdom in terms of wealth. The reference to "3% to 4%" was not to the population of the Star Kingdom as a whole, but to that portion of the population generally regarded as "wealthy." Cathy wasn't as wealthy as Klaus Hauptman (who's probably a couple of percentage points of the total worth of the Star Kingdom all by himself), but she was right up there at stratospheric, near-Bill Gates levels of wealth. By the standards of the universe at large, even an average-income Manticoran is obscenely rich. Someone in Cathy's position goes well beyond that. I'm not going to offer you a dollar amount for her wealth, and I will say that Honor is now substantially wealthier than Cathy ever was, but the Tor Fortune was one of the larger ones among the filthy rich of the Star Kingdom.

    Cathy could have afforded to buy a frigate. What she could not have afforded would have been to purchase additional units, man them, maintain them, set up the necessary support and organizational systems, and keep them supplied with expendables. She could probably have theoretically set up at least a relatively small squadron of frigates on her own, but doing so would have gutted her fortune, primarily because she would have been forced to liquidate investments and property and would have been able to generate only a fraction of their very real but "paper" value. Klaus Hauptman is probably the only person in the Star Kingdom who could actually have undertaken such a project out of current revenues, and even he would probably have a hard time pulling it off without the enthusiastic support of his stockholders and fellow investors. As far as Cathy's yacht is concerned, she didn't build it in the first place. If you'll recall, I believe there's a reference to the fact that quite a lot of her personal fortune came from her mother's side of the family and wasn't entailed. That side of Cathy's family -- which doesn't speak to her very much, given her political views -- has been extremely active in the Star Kingdom's merchant shipping industries for several generations, and "her" yacht was actually built by her maternal grandfather.