With the headlines blaring, “Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is in financial trouble,” a clarification might be in order.
The queen herself is not running out of money.
The report that such stories are based on comes from the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, which says the royal “household” had just 1 million pounds (about $1.7 million) in its reserve fund as of March 31 last year.
Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said lawmakers felt the queen had “not been served well” by her household accountants or by the Treasury, which is supposed to scrutinize royal spending.
“The household needs to get better at planning and managing its budgets for the longer term –- and the Treasury should be more actively involved in reviewing what the household is doing,” she said.
The household spent 44.9 million pounds in 2012-13. That’s $74.4 million at the current exchange rate. And it paid its bills thanks mostly to a taxpayer-funded grant of 31 million pounds from the British government and the 11.6 million pounds in income that the royals generated from visitors to palaces and other revenue sources.
Calculating the numbers shows that 31+11.6 = 42.6. That means the royals were short the 2.3 million pounds needed to cover their household spending. “The household drew down £2.3 million from its £3.3 million Reserve Fund, leaving a balance of only £1.0 million at 31 March 2013,” says the House of Commons report.
This is all a problem, the report says, because the queen should have more socked away “to cover unforeseen demands.” What’s more, some such demands may not be so unforeseen.
The reports also criticized the royals’ ‘complacency’ in allowing some 39 percent of royal buildings and land to slip into a state of disrepair. It said the 60-year-old heating system in Buckingham Palace alone will cost between £500,000 and £1 million to replace.
But what the headlines are discussing is the royal household account, which probably could use a bit of tightening. However, the queen is not broke, nor will she ever be, “her personal net worth [is] around $500 million.”
Her wealth, “comes from property holdings including Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, stud farms, a fruit farm and marine land throughout the U.K.; extensive art and fine jewelry; and one of the world’s largest stamp collections built by her grandfather.”
“Not included above are those assets belonging to the Crown Estate, which she gets to enjoy as queen, such as $10 billion worth of real estate, Buckingham Palace (estimated to be worth another $5 billion), the Royal Art collection, and unmarked swans on stretches of the Thames.”
We expect some may wish to discuss in the comments thread whether a family with that much money needs as much help as it is getting from Britain’s taxpayers.
The Atlantic notes that critics of the monarchy claim it really costs about $307 million a year to keep the royal family housed, fed, and protected. Other officials, though, claim that royal-related tourism generates about $767 million in annual revenue for Britain.
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