All the Countries You Didn't Know Had Royal Families
The British royal family might be the first group you think about when someone mentions "the royals," but Britain isn't the only country with a monarchy still in place. In fact, there are actually 43 countries that still have a royal family — with 28 families or rulers who rule over all of them — and we're totally surprised at how many still exist.
Sure, there are probably a few countries on this list that wouldn't surprise you, like Britain, obviously — really, how could you forget Queen Elizabeth II and the adorable Prince George and Princess Charlotte? — and Denmark still having a monarchy isn't totally unbelievable, but 43 total? Yes, there are 43 different countries (some of which are ruled by one monarch) with royal families who live in lavish estates and rule over their people. No matter how many times we read this number, we can't get over it, we just can't.
Luckily, we've done a little investigating on behalf of all of the fans of royal families out there and put together a gallery full of royal goodness ready for you to explore. What are you waiting for? Grab your fake tiara, get your tea prepped, and start reading!
United Kingdom: Queen Elizabeth II
Long live the queen! Queen Elizabeth II has been the reigning monarch in the United Kingdom since 1952. What you might not know is that in addition to being the longest-reigning monarch in British history, the queen is also the monarch of 15 other countries — Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and St. Kitts and Nevis are all under her reign.
The British royal family is formatted so that the monarch is the head of state, and since it is a constitutional monarchy, the ability to create laws and pass them still resides with the Parliament, which is elected.
As they're the most prominent royal family, you might already know who is next in line for the throne, but in case you don't, here's a refresher. Queen Elizabeth II has four children with husband Prince Philip. Prince Charles is her eldest son and the heir to the throne. He has two sons with the late Princess Diana (who passed away after they divorced), Prince William and Prince Harry, therefore, Prince William is third in line followed by his firstborn child, Prince George.
Saudi Arabia: King Salman
King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud is the head of Saudi Arabia. Since Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, Salman is not only the monarch of the country, but he is also the prime minister. Salman became king in 2013 at the age of 79, after his half-brother King Abdullah (who was 90 years old) passed away. According to The Washington Post, although Saudi Arabia is currently run by a hereditary king, all future kings will be picked by a committee of Saudi princes, based on a 2006 decree.
Kuwait: Emir Sheikh Sabah IV al-Ahmad al-Sabah
Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah has been in politics for years in Kuwait. He was the prime minister in 2003, and in 2006 he became the emir (or king) of the country. Although Sabah has been in charge for more than a decade, he was actually not the next in line for the throne. He took the office after the next in line was unable to recite the oath of office due to health problems. He is now the head of the royal family and the commander of Kuwait military forces. Sabah has four children and is 88 years old.
Liechtenstein: Prince Hans-Adam II
As the oldest son of Prince Franze Josef II and Princess Gina, Prince Hans-Adam II inherited the throne of Liechtenstein after his father's death in 1989. Surprisingly, Prince Hans-Adam is the first prince of Liechtenstein to have actually grown up in Liechtenstein, the royal family's website reveals, and he's the 15th ruler overall.
The prince is married to Countess Marie Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau, and the couple have four children, three sons and one daughter. Their eldest, Hereditary Prince Alois, has already been named as his father's successor when he eventually steps down or dies.
Even though Prince Hans-Adam rules over a small country, he is Europe's richest royal, according to Forbes via Express, with his estimated net worth at $3.5 billion in 2011. His family does own the Liechtenstein Global Trust (LGT), which is the largest family-owned private wealth firm in Europe, so that's probably a big reason he has so much money!
Qatar: Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was named the emir of Qatar in 2013 after his father abdicated the throne. His father ruled Qatar for 18 years, and although Tamim was only 33 years old when he took over, the country didn't seem too nervous for the transition.
The Al Thani family is part of a dynasty of rulers in Qatar, having ruled since 1825, and many additional family members hold key posts in the country's government, making Tamim's role as emir easier.
United Arab Emirates: President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Emir of Abu Dhabi
The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven districts, each of which is governed by a hereditary monarch, known as the emir. The emir of Abu Dhabi is also the federation president and therefore the monarch who other countries correspond with. The current emir of Abu Dhabi (and the president of United Arab Emirates) is Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who took over in 2004 after his father died. He has eight children, which means the throne (and presidency) should stay in the family for years to come.
The Netherlands: King Willem-Alexander
In 2013, King Willem-Alexander (far left) succeeded his mother, Queen Beatrix, as the monarch of the Netherlands when she decided to abdicate the throne. Because the Netherlands has a bicameral parliament, he doesn't rule directly, but he does have power as the president of the Council of State.
King Willem-Alexander is married to Queen Máxima, and together they have three children, Princess Catharina-Amalia, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane.
According to Dutch News, the king runs an expensive monarchy, costing taxpayers roughly 40 million euros a year, not including security, making the Dutch monarchy one of the most expensive in Europe.
Swaziland: King Mswati III
Swaziland might not be big, but King Mswati III has a lot of power. Mswati took the throne at the age of 18 (in 1983) after his father died. As king of Swaziland, he appoints the parliament — although some members are appointed by popular vote. Mswati, who is now 49 years old, is known for having many wives, the 14th of which was just named in September, according to Africa News.
The king has reportedly divorced three wives throughout his time as monarch and has over 30 children. He has also been trying to ban divorce in Africa, by royal decree, which makes sense based on his numerous wives and openness to polygamy.
Brunei: Sultan Sir Muda Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzadin Waddaulah
The sultan of Brunei is known as Hassanal Bolkiah — despite the fact that his name is so much longer than that — and took over the small country in 1967 and has been the monarch and head of government ever since. In 2016, Hassanal Bolkiah was considered the richest monarch in the world, Yahoo! reported, and he has a large, expensive car collection to prove it. According to the publication, his majesty earns nearly $100 per second from oil earnings (and other investments), which is roughly $2 billion per year, equaling a total net worth of around $20 billion.
Although the sultan has 13 children (with many different wives) to share that wealth with, it's still pretty extravagant. Plus, in 2006, he changed the Brunei constitution, making himself "infallible," CBS News explained, so not only is the sultan rich beyond his wildest dreams, but he can basically do no wrong.
Sweden: King Carl XVI Gustaf
King Carl XVI Gustaf ascended the throne in 1973 when he was only 27 years old. His reign was brought under scrutiny in 2010 when a book was released called The Reluctant Monarch, which claimed the king had an affair with a Swedish-Nigerian singer and took part in underground nightclub hot-tub parties in the 1990s.
Despite the scandal, the king is still the head of Sweden and married to Queen Silvia (since 1976). Together they have three children, the oldest being the Crown Princess Victoria, who is set to take the throne when her father decides to step down or, more than likely, when he passes. Their other two children are Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip.
The Crown Princess Victoria has two children of her own, Princess Estelle (who is 5 years old) and Prince Oscar (who is 1 year old) with her husband, Prince Daniel Westling.
Oman: Sultan Qaboos bin Said
In 1970, Sultan Qaboos bin Said took power after overthrowing his father, who was known as "inward-looking and reclusive." Sultan Qaboos is the longest-reigning Arab leader, and yet after a failed marriage, he has no direct heirs, which is very interesting. Despite his bachelor status, Sultan Qaboos is very much a father to his country and has improved the economy and living standards throughout his reign.
He is rarely seen in public these days, but he still holds all of the important titles in the Omani government, NPR reported back in 2014, including foreign minister, defense minister, finance minister, and governor of the central bank.
Bahrain: King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa was dubbed emir of Bahrain in 1999 when his father, Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, died. In 2002, Hamad declared himself king, making him the first king of Bahrain in the history of the country. His family, however, has ruled the country since 1783 and has always had a lot of power.
Despite continued turmoil in the Middle East, especially religious turmoil, King Hamad and his royal family (he has 12 children from a few wives) plan to host a New York City rabbi and some of his followers in Bahrain for the first time ever in 2018, The Jerusalem Post reported this year, which will ideally lead to more religious tolerance throughout the surrounding areas.
The Vatican: Pope Francis
We know what you're thinking: it's the pope, he is a religious figure and head of the Roman Catholic church. And you'd be right. But Pope Francis is also considered the monarch of the Vatican and Vatican City, which is a European city-state and technically its own country.
According to the Vatican's official website, Vatican City State is governed as an absolute monarch, with the head of state (and king, technically) being the pope. He holds full legislative, executive, and judicial powers. As the ruler of the world's smallest country, the pope is the only elected, nonheredity, absolute monarchy in the world, which is totally insane. When the pope dies and another one has not been named, the country is run by the College of Cardinals, who eventually name the next pope/king/ruler, which is all the same person.
Jordan: King Abdullah II
Jordan has been ruled by King Abdullah II since 1999, when he ascended the throne after his father, King Hussein, passed away. King Abdullah is married to Queen Rania of Jordan, and their eldest child (who is one of four), a son named Hussein, Crown Prince of Jordan, is slated to take the throne when he eventually steps down.
King Abdullah and his relatives claim that they are direct descendants from the Prophet Muhammad, making him the 41st descendant of the founder of the Islamic faith, MSN reported.
Morocco: King Mohammed VI
In 1999, King Mohammed VI ascended the thrown after his father, King Hassan II, passed away. Mohammed is married to Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Salma, and they have two children, a son named Crown Prince Moulay Hassan and a daughter named Princess Lalla Khadija. Mohammed's official title is "His Majesty the King Mohammed the Sixth, Commander of the Faithful, may God grant him Victory." Talk about a mouthful!
Monaco: Prince Albert II
Prince Albert II, or His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II, as he's known within Monaco, has ruled since 2005. He is the son of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace, aka actress Grace Kelly. He is married to Charlene Wittstock and has two children, twins Princess Gabriella Therese Marie and Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, with her. Prince Albert has two more children with two other women.
Monaco is a sovereign principality, so it is ruled by a prince, but it also has an elected legislature. Prince Albert does, however, get to appoint the minister of state and has some political power.
Thailand: King Maha Vajiralongkorn
At the age of 64, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun became the 10th monarch of the Chakri dynasty. According to BBC, he is also known as Rama X. King Vajiralongkorn became the ruler of Thailand after his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, passed away in 2016. King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the longest-reigning monarch in the world, having ruled for seven decades beginning in 1946 and ending in 2016 . . . he even had Queen Elizabeth II beat, who has 65 years under her belt as monarch.
Tonga: King Tupou VI
The king of Tonga was not the child of his predecessor like most royals are; instead, King Tupou VI was the brother to the late King George Tupou V, who had no legitimate heirs when he passed in 2012. King Tupou VI is in fact married to Nanasipau'u Tuku'aho and has three children, so his legacy will continue once his time as king is done.
At the age of 55, King Tupou VI took the throne and was the leader of this country, which is the only constitutional monarchy in the South Pacific, Australia's ABC News pointed out during the king's coronation in 2015. Most recently, King Tupou caused a commotion when he dismissed the prime minister, Akilisi Pohiva, in August and dissolved the Tongan Parliament. The New Zealand Herald reported the news, explaining that there will be new elections held in November to resolve this problem.
Norway: King Harald V
King Harald V might've been the third child of King Olav V and Queen Martha, but he ascended the throne when his father passed away in 1991, because he was the only male heir. Although he had two older sisters, it wasn't until 1990 (once Harald V was already named successor) that the Norwegian Constitution of 1814 was amended to make the oldest child, no matter the gender, the next in line for the throne.
Since King Harald V and his wife, Queen Sonja, had their children before the constitution change went into effect, their eldest child, daughter Princess Märtha, who was born in 1971, cannot be the next monarch. Instead, her younger brother, Crown Prince Haakon, born in 1973, is next in line, followed by his firstborn, who is a girl (yay!). Prince Haakon has three children (one is adopted), two boys and one girl with wife Princess Mette-Marit.
The best part about the Norwegian royal family is that it's rooted in love. Back in the '60s, the current king refused to marry a royal and instead said he would only marry his now-wife, even though she was the daughter of a clothing merchant, aka a commoner. According to the official House of Norway website, the now-king and queen dated in secret for nine years before they were allowed to marry, and the rest is history!
Bhutan: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
In Bhutan, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is known as the Druk Gyalpo, which means "Dragon King," which is pretty awesome. He was officially coronated in 2008 after taking over most of the royal responsibilities in 2006 when his father abdicated the throne. King Jigme was only 26 years old when he took power, but his father was only 16 years old when he became king, so young blood is somewhat of a trend in the Bhutan royal family.
King Jigme's father made Bhutan into the constitutional monarchy it is today, and the reigning king has followed in his footsteps, keeping the peace and being beloved by the inhabitants of his country.
The king did, however, cause a little commotion when he married a commoner in 2011, but after he officially tied the knot with Jetsun Pema, the people eventually approved. Together the happy couple have one son, Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, who was born in February 2016 and is now the heir to the throne.
Lesotho: King Letsie III
King Letsie III has been in power formally since 1996 (and informally since 1990). Although he has no political powers and is instead a figurehead for the country of Lesotho, he is described as a "living symbol of national unity" on the national constitution.
Despite the fact that the king has always been a part of constitutional monarchy, Letsie recently spoke with Al Jazeera about being willing to take on more power if the country wants him to do so.
"I'm committed to the principles of a constitutional monarchy. However, if there is a view among the population that I could have a role in one way or another — there is a process of reform that is about to begin, reforming the Constitution . . . if the people say this is what we want, then I am ready for it," he said.
Belgium: King Philippe
King Philippe took over the Belgian throne in July 2013 after his father, King Albert II, abdicated. The king is married to Queen Mathilde (they married in 1999), and they have four children: Princess Elisabeth, Prince Gabriel, Prince Emmanuel, and Princess Eléonore.
In 1991, the constitution was altered to allow women to ascend the thrown and become queen for the first time, which means Philippe's eldest daughter, Princess Elisabeth, is the heir to the Belgian monarchy. When she does ascend the throne, she will become the first woman to ever be the head of state in Belgium!
Malaysia: Sultan Muhammad V
In 2016, Sultan Muhammad V took over as the 15th king and was dubbed Yang di-Pertuan Agong, which means, "He who is made Lord." Unlike every other country with a monarch in place, the ruler of Malaysia is a rotational monarchy that is passed between nine hereditary state rulers, BBC reported last year.
Muhammad's predecessor, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu-adzam Shah, is the only king to have sat on the thrown twice, once in the 1970s and again from 2011 to 2016. The sultan's reign will most likely last five years, which is the norm for any Malaysian king (who is always part of the elected monarchy system), and his role is more of a ceremonial one, rather than one of major power.
Spain: King Felipe VI
In 2014, King Juan Carlos surprised his country by abdicating the thrown after 39 years of service. He named his son, Felipe VI, the new king of Spain, and less than three weeks after his father abdicated the throne, King Felipe VI took over as monarch and head of Spain's military. At the time, King Juan Carlos said his son, who is a former Olympian, had "the maturity, the preparation and the sense of responsibility necessary [to serve as king and] to lead to a new stage of hope using his experience and the drive of a new generation," CNN reported.
King Juan Carlos is currently 49 years old and married to Queen Letizia, and together they have two daughters: Leonor, Princess of Asturias, who is the heir to the throne (and 11 years old), and her younger sister, Princess Sofía of Spain (who is 10 years old).
Cambodia: King Norodom Sihamoni
Cambodia is one of many countries with more of a ceremonial king than one who actually rules the people. King Norodom Sihamoni took over the role in 2004 after Thailand's Royal Throne Council hand-picked him (which is the custom with any new king). He was in competition with other male royals — even though he was the son of the reigning king at the time (who abdicated after 60 years on the throne).
He might've been an unconventional choice seeing as he was a professional ballet dancer who lived most of his life in France, but he won the job. Although he is now a figurehead for the country, Sihamoni previously played a role in politics acting as Cambodia's ambassador to UNESCO.
Luxembourg: Grand Duke Henri
In the 1800s, the kings of the Netherlands ruled the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and it wasn't until 1839 that the nation got its independence. In 1890, the Grand Duchy — which is what Luxembourg defines itself as, and is therefore not a kingdom, and why their monarchy is led by a duke, not a king — received its own ruling house, which was originally run by Grand Duke Adolphe.
Since then, the direct descendants from Adolphe have ruled Luxembourg, the most recent ruler being Grand Duke Henri, who ascended the throne in 2000, and because he has five children, the legacy will continue after him. The Grand Duchy might have a sovereign, but its power is in the hands of the nation. Grand Duke Henri is to follow the rules that the constitution and laws have laid out, and his actions are supposed to follow the statement, "the Sovereign reigns but does not govern."
Japan: Emperor Akihito
Japan's Yamato dynasty goes back to 660, according to The Washington Post, and its current ruler is Emperor Akihito. He has reigned since 1989 and will be the first ruler of Japan in over two centuries to be allowed to abdicate the throne come December 2018 (around his 85th birthday), The Telegraph revealed.
Akihito will be stepping down as emperor — from the Chrysanthemum Throne, which sits in the Imperial Palace — in order to give the throne to his oldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito.
Denmark: Queen Margrethe II
The United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II isn't the only reigning monarch who is a fierce female. Denmark (and Greenland) is ruled by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II (and has been since 1972), and she's not going anywhere anytime soon.
The queen is married to HRH Prince Henrik, and she has been since 1967. Together they have two children, the eldest being HRH Crown Prince Frederik — who will take over the monarchy eventually — who is married to Mary Elizabeth (who now has the title of HRH Crown Princess), and together they have four children. Their second son is HRH Prince Joachim, who is married to Princess Marie, and they too have four children.