Queen Elizabeth and her financial advisers have come in for a chiding from the U.K. Parliament's Public Accounts Committee for failing to balance the Royal books. In the 2012-13 fiscal year, the Royal Household spent £33.3 million, the committee reports—just over its annual "sovereign grant" limit of £31 million. The household wound up dipping into its reserve fund for £2.3 million, bringing the pot to a mere £1 million, "a historically low level of contingency," according to the committee. Oh my.

News of the Royal budget-busting has been greeted with a chorus of tutting about the supposedly lavish monarchy. But it's worth noting that Elizabeth isn't exactly letting her family fritter away taxpayer cash like, say, a government agency. The Sovereign Grant is calculated as 15% of the annual profits from the Crown's property portfolio, which the Windsors surrender annually to the government. The sovereign allowance is thus what's left over after the Queen effectively pays an 85% corporate tax rate on an inherited business that she isn't allowed to sell. Since 1993 she has voluntarily paid capital gains and income tax at the going individual rate.

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Wall Street Journal Europe editorial writer Anne Jolis on the royal family's budget-busting spending habits. Photo credit: Associated Press.

The committee report also hits the Royals for failing to keep up with maintenance and repairs on their extensive properties, despite the overspend. "The boiler in Buckingham Palace is 60 years old," Committee Chair Margaret Hodge told the BBC, adding "if it doesn't get replaced, the bills go up." Windsor Castle and the Victoria and Albert Mausoleum, too, are badly in need of repairs.

But the critique only underlines that it's expensive to be Queen. The Sovereign Grant not only pays for official Royal duties, but also all the staff and upkeep for thousands of acres of property, hundreds of buildings and residences and at least six castles more than 100 years old. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms.

The committee gives credit to the Royals for having boosted household income to £11.6 million last year from £6.7 million in 2007-08, in part from expanded paid-visiting hours at Buckingham Palace and a payout from the BBC's Jubilee concert. But it advises the Queen to do more while finding new cost savings.

The Queen could no doubt be doing more to raise cash—the product-placement revenues from a Kardashian-style reality show could easily balance her books. We doubt the gains to the Exchequer would be worth the effort. If Britain wants a monarchy—and the traditions, pomp and glamor that go with it—it'll have to accept the price. At least the current monarch has provided excellent value for money.