Did you hear about Queen Elizabeth II? That times are tough for Britain's monarch?
Or as an inspired headline writer at Australia's Canberra Times put it:
Well, don't schedule a telethon for her just yet.
The queen herself is not running out of money.
The report that such stories are based on, from the House of Commons' Committee of Public Accounts, says the royal "household" had just 1 million pounds (about $1.7 million) in its reserve fund as of March 31 last year.
Basically, what happened was this:
-- The household spent 44.9 million pounds in 2012-13. That's $74.4 million at the current exchange rate.
-- 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.
-- If you've been doing your math, you've figured out that 31+11.6=42.6. That means the royals needed another 2.3 million pounds to cover their spending. That money came from the reserve fund. "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. As NBC News says:
"The report 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."
That's $828,000 to $1.7 million.
But let's get back to our original point about misleading headlines and what the queen is or is not worth. According to Forbes, "her personal net worth [is] around $500 million." It adds that the half billion:
"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 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 has looked at the costs vs. the benefits. It 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.