By - Terence Pare

(FORTUNE Magazine) – The richest women in the world are queens. Therein may lie a bedtime story. Her Most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, commands a personal treasure FORTUNE estimates at over $7.4 billion. Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard, Queen of the Netherlands, Princess of Orange-Nassau, Princess of Lippe-Biesterfeld, is worth $4.4 billion. In fairy tales the princess's wealth usually comes from magic. Tears turn to diamonds, straw to gold. But in life, Elizabeth, 61, and Beatrix, 49, owe the royal lion's share of their wealth to prosaic investments in the stock market and real estate. Therein lies a story of a different order. Certainly Elizabeth's famous history is the stuff of fairy tales. At age 10 she was a distant third in line for the crown when a storybook romance intervened. Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson, leaving the throne to his brother, Elizabeth's father, George VI. Like a good storybook princess, Elizabeth fell in love at first sight with the first eligible man she met, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, and married him in 1947. While touring Kenya with her prince in 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen -- the second of that name, but the first to accede, says royal biographer Robert Lacey, ''while she was sitting in the top of a tree.'' She has lived happily and vigorously ever after, making more than 100 overseas visits and tours as part of her often exhausting job. She loves the job, and her affection for it is handsomely repaid: Elizabeth II is by all accounts the most popular queen in English history -- and that includes Victoria. One reason, suggests poet laureate Ted Hughes, is that Elizabeth is ''a flawless mirror.'' She reflects what the English feel themselves to be, inspiring her subjects not with a singular, regal countenance but with a subtle variation of their own. Cataloguing her wealth is not easy. Her private possessions must be distinguished from those belonging to the institution of the monarchy. The crown jewels and the three famous residences -- Buckingham Palace, Holyrood Castle, and Windsor Castle -- are Elizabeth's only in the sense that the White House is President Reagan's or the White House china the First Lady's. In addition, as monarch Elizabeth enjoys the most fantastic perquisite next to immortality: She is exempt from paying taxes. As a result she need never set forth an accounting of her income or belongings. ! Her private jewel collection -- not the monarchy's -- is vast and breathtaking: 14 crowns, 11 tiaras, uncounted diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Her Faberge collection, including two of the famous Easter eggs, would stop a Cossack in his tracks. Equally extensive is the royal art collection: 900 Leonardo drawings, 26 van Dycks, dozens of Holbeins, works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Canaletto. But all this inherited (tax-free) opulence reflects the taste of her acquisitive predecessors, most notably Victoria and Albert. And noblesse oblige, if not lex terrae, dictates that Elizabeth treat such treasures as the wealth of the nation. She is more the ultimate British shopkeeper keeping a watchful eye on collections she owns but would never sell. Elizabeth reveals herself most in her unquestionably private assets, the ones her hirelings buy, sell, and manage. Scotland's Willie Hamilton, a former M.P. and well-known throne baiter, sees a side to his monarch that he must admire. ''Beneath the Queen's smooth and shining veneer,'' says Hamilton, ''the machinations are revealed of a shrewd and calculating businesswoman.'' Start the calculations with at least 25 mares at two studs, 28 horses in training, plus a half dozen mares in the U.S. Elizabeth is a formidable player at the earthy sport of kings. The value of her stables can only be guessed, but in 1982 one of the Queen's fillies, Height of Fashion, fetched well over $1 million from Sheikh Rashid al Maktoum, Dubai's head of state, proving that horse racing is a business for both kings and ''a country lady with a lot of dogs and horses,'' as Elizabeth once described her dream self. Her personal real estate holdings include the Duchy of Lancaster, which generated an untaxed rental income of $2.4 million in 1986. Reputedly one of the largest landowners in Manhattan, the Queen also has large holdings in France and West Germany, in addition to her own Sandringham House, a 274-room castle, and Balmoral Castle, set in the Scottish Highlands. Total estimated value of Her Majesty's jewelry, art, horses, and real estate: $4.1 billion. Most secret are Elizabeth's stock portfolios. City analysts place the worth of the Queen's shareholdings at no less than $3.3 billion. Like Elizabeth, Beatrix is wildly popular, and for much the same reason. The Queen of the Netherlands holds up a mirror to her subjects and gives them back a wishful image of themselves. Says a retired cabinet minister: ''She is the best Dutch monarch ever, the prototype of the modern manager and a woman with great style and character.'' In the business-minded Netherlands, the best monarch is a good businesswoman. Beatrix's training in the business of the monarchy began early. Her father, Prince Bernhard, strictly limited Beatrix's pocket money and insisted any small loans he doled out be promptly and fully repaid. When the Nazis invaded in 1940, Beatrix was evacuated to Canada with her sister, Irene, and their mother, soon to be Queen Juliana. There, Beatrix attended public school just outside Ottawa as part of Juliana's plan to accustom her children to the wider, more democratic world on the horizon. After the war Beatrix was sent to a highly progressive elementary school run by former anarchist Kees Boeke. A decade later she tested Boeke's philosophy of ''sociocracy,'' essentially egalitarianism and tolerance of diversity, in her choice of a husband, Claus von Amsberg. No one in the Netherlands wanted the union. Like most German men his age, von Amsberg had been in the Hitlerjugend and the Wehrmacht. The memory of Nazi occupation remained vivid in the Netherlands: More than 100,000 Dutch Jews were killed in World War II, about 80% of the Jewish population. But Beatrix held firm. At the royal wedding in 1966, over 1,000 demonstrators threw smoke bombs, brickbats, and stink bombs, and shouted, ''Claus, raus!'' (Claus, get out!). Gradually the Prince won his adopted people's respect by learning to speak flawless Dutch, then their hearts by fathering Willem-Alexander -- the first male heir of the House of Orange in a century. He finally gained their sympathy, even affection, in 1983, when he suffered and recovered from a severe mental breakdown. At Leyden University, Beatrix studied sociology, law, and parliamentary history, taking a law degree in 1961. Then she embarked on an extensive program of foreign travel. By the time the septuagenarian Juliana abdicated in favor of her oldest daughter in 1980, Beatrix was a levelheaded 42 and had served on the Council of State, the highest government advisory board in the Netherlands, for 24 years. She was well prepared to take her oath and assume control of one of the largest fortunes on earth. Like the House of Windsor, the House of Orange enjoys tax exemption, rendering anything more than an estimate of its wealth virtually impossible. But while legal and traditional distinctions separate the personal wealth of the British monarch from the wealth of the British monarchy, the House of Orange makes no such division. The crown of the House of Orange receives little attention, but it is priceless and more than worthy company for the fabulous House of Romanov jewelry brought into the family when Anna Pavlovna Romanov married King Willem II in 1816. The Czarevna also brought three sets of golden tableware and two billion guilders, roughly one billion U.S. dollars. The family owns immense real estate, including five palaces. Huis ten Bosch palace in The Hague, recently redecorated by Beatrix, is fully equipped with a nuclear bomb shelter and bulletproof glass. But it also boasts of past elegance with its Louis XVI decor and a huge Waterford crystal chandelier. The most substantial portion of the royal wealth is in stocks. The family is known to hold huge numbers of shares in Exxon, the ABN bank, Anaconda, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The most valuable shareholding in the family is undoubtedly Royal Dutch/Shell. ''The Royal in Royal Dutch/Shell,'' observes William Hoffman, Juliana's biographer, ''was the House of Orange.'' In 1890, Jean Kessler obtained a charter from the Dutch government to form what would become the third-largest company in the world (after General Motors and Exxon), with sales in 1986 of $64.8 billion. The royal family reportedly still controls some 5% of the stock, worth about $1.8 billion. When Beatrix was born, the story goes, Dutchmen sang and danced to the following ditty: Beatrix, Beatrix This little guilder Will grow into rijks. Rijks are rijksdaalders, worth 2 1/2 guilders each. From the very first moments of her life, it seems, Beatrix was a queen meant for business.