"The Royal Family are not like you and me. They live in houses so big that you can walk round all day and never need to meet your spouse. The Queen and Prince Philip have never shared a bedroom in their lives. They don't even have breakfast together."
―A. N. Wilson
―A. N. Wilson
There are a number of royal families around the world - a majority of them ceremonial, and a few absolute. The members of the royal family are the descendants of a king who used to rule the country before the concept of democracy emerged as a plausible option of government.
In most countries, the royal family is the constitutional head of the state, but the real power lies in the hands of the President, or the Prime Minister, who is an elected representative of the people. Nevertheless, here are the most famous royal families that are spread out all over the world.
Royal Houses of the World
- Bahrain - Al Khalifa
- Belgium - Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
- Bhutan - Wangchuck
- Brunei - Bolkiah Royal Family
- Cambodia - Norodom
- Denmark - Glücksburg
- Japan - Yamato Dynasty
- Jordan - Hashemite Dynasty
- Kuwait - Al Sabah
- Liechtenstein - Liechtenstein
- Luxembourg - Nassau-Weilburg
- Malaysia - Kedah
- Monaco - Grimaldi
- Morocco - Alaouite Dynasty
- Netherlands - Orange-Nassau
- Norway - Glücksburg
- Oman - Al Bu Sa'īd
- Qatar - Al Thani
- Saudi Arabia - Al Saud
- Spain - Bourbon
- Swaziland - Dlamini
- Sweden - Bernadotte
- Thailand - Chakri
- Tonga - Tupou
- United Arab Emirates - Al Nahyan
- The Windsor - Commonwealth Realms
Al Khalifa (Bahrain)
The Al Khalifa family traces its origins to Utub tribe, which is a part of the larger Anizzah tribe. The Al Khalifa family has a history of ruling Bahrain, and the first monarch Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Khalifa ruled Bahrain in 1783. Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is the constitutional monarch of the country. He is the emir as well as the King of Bahrain, and has appointed his uncle Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa as the Prime Minister of the country.
- Current Head: Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
- Heir Apparent: Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Belgium)
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is one of the oldest families in the world and traces its origins to Germany. The family would have been the royal family of England had King George V not abandoned the family name due to anti-Germany sentiment in 1917. Currently, Andreas, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke of Saxony is the constitutional head of the family. The royal family is represented in Belgium by Albert II, who is the King of Belgium.
- Current Head: Albert II
- Heir Apparent: Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant
The House of Wangchuk (Bhutan)
The House of Wangchuk has been ruling Bhutan since 1907. The Wangchuck family were the hereditary penlops of Trongsa district. The King of Bhutan is officially known as Druk Gyalpo, or "Dragon King." The current King is Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. His father Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the former King of Bhutan is a much respected figure, and grabbed headlines when he coined the term - 'Gross National Happiness', in place of the conventional Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Bhutan used to be an absolute majority until 2008, when the House of Wangchuck decided to shift to a democratic style of government with the King as the constitutional head.
- Current Head: Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
- Heir Presumptive: Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck
The Bolkiah Family (Brunei)
The Bolkiah family of of Brunei has been in power for the last six hundred years. It is believed that the first Sultan of Brunei was Muhammad Shah and he ruled Brunei from 1363 to 1402. He was born as Awang Alak Betatar, and converted to Islam after his marriage to Johorean-Temasik princess. Currently, the country is headed by Hassanal Bolkiah, who is the Sultan as well as the Prime Minister of Brunei.
- Current Head: Hassanal Bolkiah
- Heir Apparent: Al-Muhtadee Billah
House of Norodom (Cambodia)
The Norodom family came into prominence when King Norodom requested the French to protect Cambodia against Siamese and Vietnamese intervention. Since then, Cambodia has been ruled by the Norodom family. Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with Hun Sen as the Prime Minister and Norodom Sihamoni as the king.
- Current Head: Norodom Sihamoni
- Heir Apparent: To be elected
The House of Glücksburg (Norway and Denmark)
The House of Schlesinger-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, or in short, The House of Glücksburg, is a royal house, members of which enjoy the position of being the constitutional monarchs of the countries, Denmark and Norway. The family is named after the town of Glücksburg in Germany. The family traces its roots to the House of Oldenburg, which is connected to King Christian I of Denmark. Harald V and Margrethe II from the House of Glücksburg are the constitutional monarchs of Norway and Denmark respectively.
- Current Head: Christoph
- Heir Apparent: Friedrich Ferdinand
Al Sabah Family (Kuwait)
Like the royal family of Bahrain, the House of Sabah, or Al Sabah in Arabic, trace their ancestry to the Utub tribe. The tribe migrated to Kuwait in the 18th century and have been her rulers since 1718, when Sabah I became the Sheikh of Kuwait. Today, the family is represented by Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who is the emir of Kuwait, however, being a constitutional monarchy, the country is run by a government headed by Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.
- Current Head: Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
- Heir Apparent: Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
The Imperial Family (Japan)
According to some historians, the Imperial Family of Japan is one of the oldest royal families of the world, dating to 660 BC. The family traces its roots to Emperor Jimmu, who was the first Emperor of Japan. However, modern historians do not verify the reign of Emperor Jimmu due to lack of credible evidence on this subject. They recognize the reign of Emperor Kimmei, who according to Japanese was the 29th Emperor of Japan. The Imperial Family of Japan continued to rule Japan through its hereditary kings until 1947, when Japanese constitution dissolved the absolute monarchy and made the position of the Emperor purely ceremonial. Today, Japan is a fully functional constitutional monarchy and the Emperor is seen as a symbol of Japan's proud history. He does not play a major role in the government of Japan though.
- Current Head: Emperor Akihito
- Heir Apparent: Prince Naruhito
The Hashemites trace their ancestry from Hashim ibn 'Abd Manaf - great-grandfather of Prophet Muhammad. Hashemties were engaged in a power struggle with Umayyads to establish themselves as the successor of Prophet Muhammad. The Umayyad caliphate was overthrown by Abbasids - which was the third of the Islamic Caliphates, and the representatives of Hashemites. Due to the ancestry of the Hashemites, every Sharif and emir of the holy city of Mecca was a Hashemite. This arrangement continued until Sharif Hussien bin Ali proclaimed himself the King of Hejaz. After the end of World War I, the sons of Sharif Hussien bin Ali were made the kings of Jordan (Transjordan at that time). Currently, King Abdullah II is the constitutional monarch of Jordan.
- Current Head: King Abdullah II
- Heir Apparent: Hussein bin Abdullah
Liechtenstein Dynasty (Liechtenstein)
The country of Liechtenstein gets its name from Liechtenstein dynasty - a family from Castle Liechtenstein in Austria. In the past, the House of Liechtenstein shared close ties with the Habsburg family - also known as House of Austria. The members of the family acted as advisors to the House of Austria until 1719, when Emperor Charles VI carved out the new principality of Liechtenstein from the domains of Schellenberg and Vaduz. Anton Florian became the first prince of Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein, along with Luxembourg has the distinction of being the only states of the Holy Roman Empire that exist today.
- Current Head: Hans-Adam II
- Heir Apparent: Alois Philipp Maria
The House of Nassau-Weilburg (Luxembourg)
In 1806, the counties of Nassau-Usingen and Nassau-Weilburg combined to become the Duchy of Nassau. Both these counties were a part of the Confederation of the Rhine. As the house was formed as a result of the combination of two counties, the Duchy of Nassau was under the joint rule of Prince Frederick August and Prince Frederick William. It was agreed that after the death of Prince Frederick August, the duchy would not be jointly ruled, and Prince Frederick William will become the sole leader. However, Prince Frederick William died in 1816 and his son William was made the duke of Nassau. The dukes continued to rule Nassau until 1866, and took over the governance of Luxembourg in 1890.
- Current Head: Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
- Heir Apparent: Prince Guillaume
The Kedah Family (Malaysia)
The Sultanate of Kedah is one of the oldest in the world. It was founded in 1136, when the Hindu king Phra Ong Mahawangsa converted to Islam and started the Kedah dynasty. Kedah traces its origins to the kingdom of Kedah which was founded by Maharaja Derbar Raja in 630 CE (AD). Abdul Halim is the 27th Sultan of Kedah, and the current King of Malaysia. As Malaysia has a constitutional monarchy, the functions of the king are only representative.
- Current Head: Abdul Halim
- Heir Apparent: N/A
The House of Grimaldi (Monaco)
On the night of 8 January 1297, Francesco Grimaldi, dressed as a monk, entered the gates of Monaco's castle and seized it with the help of his acolytes. Although he was chased out of the palace after four years, his was the first attempt to install the House of Grimaldi as the royal family of Monaco. The Grimaldis came to power in Monaco from 1419 to 1642, after they purchased Monaco from crown of Aragon. Due to the threat of Spanish invasion, the Grimaldis sought the protection of the French under Louis XIII. Monaco remained a French protectorate until the French Revolution. Monaco gained its sovereignty by Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861, and in order to run the economy without taxing its people, the Grimaldis opened a casino - Montle Carlo, which even today, is one of the most popular casinos in the world. Prince Albert from the House of Grimaldi is the current constitutional head of Monaco, while Michel Roger is the Minister of State. Monaco has the distinction of being the second smallest country in the world with an area of 2.02 square kilometers. Nevertheless, the country has the highest GDP PPP per capita in the world ($132,571) and the lowest unemployment rate (0%) in the world.
- Current Head: Prince Albert
- Heir Presumptive: Caroline Louise Marguerite Grimaldi
Alaouite Dynasty (Morocco)
The Royal Family of Morocco are the descendants of the Alaouite dynasty which has been reigning since 1631. The Alaouite dynasty is believed to be related to Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and her husband the 4th Caliph Ali. The founder of the Alaouite dynasty, Moulay Ali Cherif became the Prince of Tafilalt in 1631. His son, Mulay Al-Rashid continued his legacy and was successful in uniting the country. After the death of Mulay Al-Rashid, allegedly after falling from a horse, his half-brother Ismail Ibn Sharif became the ruler of Morocco. After his death, Morocco continued to be ruled by the Alaouite dynasty, and today, Mohammed VI is the constitutional head of Morocco.
- Current Head: Mohammed VI
- Heir Apparent: Moulay Hassan
The House of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
The House of Orange-Nassau has played a major role in the politics of Netherlands, and is credited for creating the independent Dutch State. In the year 1815, Netherlands became a monarchy ruled by the House of Orange-Nassau, with William I as the king. Over the years, The House of Orange-Nassau has enjoyed immense popular support from the people of Netherlands. Beatrix is the current queen regnant of the Netherlands, with Mark Rutte as the Prime Minister.
- Current Head: Queen Beatrix
- Heir Apparent: Willem-Alexander
Al Said Family (Oman)
The Al Said family is the absolute monarchy of the Sultanate of Oman. The family traces its roots to Ahmad bin Said Al Busaidi, who famously defended the town of Sohar from the Persians. After forcing them to retreat, he was chosen as the imam, and his descendants have ruled Oman ever since. Qaboos bin Said al Said is the Sultan of Oman and is the 14th generation descendant of Ahmad bin Said Al Busaidi. Oman has a parliament, but being an absolute monarchy, its role is limited.
- Current Head: Qaboos bin Said al Said
- Heir Apparent: To be elected
Al Thani Dynasty (Qatar)
The Al Thani dynasty of Qatar has been in power since 1825. The dynasty is the descendant of Bani Tamim tribe - one of the oldest tribes in the world. The first ruler of Qatar from the family of Al Thani was Shiekh Thani bin Mohammed, who ruled from 1825 until 1850. Today, Qatar is an absolute monarchy and is ruled by Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who is the seventh emir of the Al Thani dynasty.
- Current Head: Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
- Heir Apparent: Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
Al Saud Family (Saudi Arabia)
The Al Saud is the ruling family of Saudi Arabia. It is considered one of the biggest royal families of the world, with an estimated 15,000 members. It is believed that Muhammad bin Saud, an emir of Al-Diriyyah, is the founder of the Al Saud family. The family runs Saudi Arabia on the style of an absolute monarchy, and currently, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the King of Saudi Arabia. The King of Saudi Arabia is one of the richest royals in the world, with an estimated fortune of $18 billion.
- Current Head: Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
- Heir Apparent: Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
The House of Bourbon (Spain)
The House of Bourbon is one of the most important royal families of the world. It is believed that its members are the descendants of Louis I - the grandson of King of France Louis IX. The family is from one of the oldest dynasties in the world, known as the Capetian dynasty. The descendants of House of Bourbon were the rulers of France, Spain, Naples, and Sicily. Today, the family is the constitutional monarchy of Spain, with King Juan Carlos I as the constitutional monarch.
- Current Head: Juan Carlos I
- Heir Apparent: Felipe, Prince of Asturias
Dlamini Dynasty (Swaziland)
The Dlamini dynasty rule as an absolute monarchy in Swaziland - a landlocked country in Africa. The dynasty is believed to have been found by Dlamini I, who was a member of Bembo-Nguni tribe. The Dlmini has a distinct culture of its own, and the king can have as many wives as he wants. In fact, the king is encouraged to choose a new wife annually from a different clan so that relations can be cemented with numerous clans. The royal family of Swaziland is currently headed by King Mswati III with Queen as the joint Head of State.
- Current Head: Mswati III
- Heir Apparent: To be elected
The House of Bernadotte (Sweden)
The House of Bernadotte is the royal family of Sweden and derives its name from Jean Bernadotte, a marshal of France under the reign of Napoleon. He was appointed as the heir presumptive to the Swedish throne after Charles XIII failed to produce an heir. Jean Bernadotte assumed the title of Charles XIV of Sweden and started the rule of Bernadotte family. Currently, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy under King Carl XVI Gustaf, and the government is headed by Fredrik Reinfeldt.
- Current Head: Carl XVI Gustaf
- Heir Apparent: Victoria
Chakri Dynasty (Thailand)
The Chakri dynasty is the royal house of Thailand and has been ruling the country since 1782. The family was founded by Phraphutthayotfa Chulalok, also known as Rama I. Mahidol Adulyadej, a descendant of the Chakri dynasty formed the House of Mahidol, members of which are the constitutional monarchs of Thailand. Currently, the king of Thailand is Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX.
- Current Head:Bhumibol Adulyadej
- Heir Apparent: Vajiralongkorn
Tupou Family (Tonga)
The Tupou royal family are the descendants of George Tupou I, who was the King of Tonga from 1845 to 1893. The family is the constitutional monarchy of the archipelago comprising 176 islands. Currently, the country is headed by Tupou VI with Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō as the Prime Minister.
- Current Head: Tupou VI
- Heir Apparent: Tupoutoʻa ʻUlukalala
Al Nahyan Family
The Al Nahyan family is the ruling royal family of the United Arab Emirates and are related to the House of Al-Falasi - one of the most respected and dominant tribal federation through the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Al-Falasi is related to the Bani Yas - a tribe which was linked to several important tribes of the area what is now known as Middle East. The UAE is a federation of seven emirates, with each being governed by an emir. Although UAE is a constitutional monarchy, the seven emirates are absolute monarchies and the power is not vested in the hands of the government. Currently, the country is headed by Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan - the emir of Abu Dhabi - who is the President and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoumm who is the Prime Minister and Vice-President of UAE.
- Current Head: Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
- Heir Apparent: N/A
The British Royal Family
The House of Tudor ruled England for 118 years. The family is named after Henry Tudor, who came to power after the Wars of the Roses. Upon becoming the king, he assumed the title of Henry VII. His descendants continued to rule England and its realms until Queen Elizabeth died childless in 1603, and as she had not named a successor, the Tudor dynasty came to an end. James I, (James VI in Scotland) became the King of England as his great-grandmother Margaret Tudor was the sister of King Henry VIII - the son of Henry VII. After his reign started, the House of Stuart took over as the rulers of England and Scotland.
King James I of The House of Stuart brought the kingdoms of Scotland and England together upon his ascension to the throne. After his death in 1625, his son King Charles I became the ruler of the kingdoms of England, Ireland, and Scotland. However, his relationship with the English Parliament was tumultuous and resulted in the English Civil War and the Second Civil War. King Charles I was defeated in both the wars and was executed on January 30, 1649. After his death, monarchy was abolished and replaced by a republic known as the Commonwealth of England. After restoration of monarchy in 1660, Charles II became the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. King Charles II didn't leave any heirs, and therefore, his brother King James II ascended to the throne. He had four legitimate children - Mary II, Anne, James Francis Edward Stuart, and Louisa Maria Teresa Stuart. Anne, who became Queen of Great Britain, died childless in 1714 despite seventeen pregnancies. As there was no one from the House of Stuart to inherit the crown, The Act of Parliament was passed to facilitate the transfer of power to Electress Sophia of Hanover. This was deemed appropriate as she was the granddaughter of James I. She died two months before she was to become the queen, and as a result, her eldest son George I (George Louis) became the king of Great Britain and Ireland.
The House of Hanover ruled Great Britain and Ireland for about 200 hundred years. It is widely believed that during their reign, the concept of democracy thrived in Great Britain. The reign of the House of Hanover continued until the death of Queen Victoria in 1910. Queen Victoria had married Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel , who was the Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Their son Albert Edward, ascended the throne in 1901, and was known as King Edward VII. Although, he was the first monarch from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, many historians include him in the House of Hanover, on account of her mother being a Hanoverian. King Edward VII's reign lasted for nine years and upon his death, his son George Frederick Ernest Albert became King George V of the United Kingdom.
Five years after King George took over as the ruler of the Great Britain and Dominions, First World War started, and a result of which, tensions grew between the people of Britain and Germany. In March 1917, the Imperial German Air Service used a heavy bomber - Gotha G.IV - to bombard the city of London. As King George V was a descendant of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, there was an apprehension in the minds of some of his advisors that use of German names could cause bitterness among the people of Britain. To address this issue, a royal proclamation was issued by King George V, which declared abandonment of all the titles held under the German crown. The royal family took on the new name - The House of Windsor - after the town of Windsor, and Windsor Castle. After the death of King George V, his son, Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, ascended to the throne as King Edward VIII. His reign lasted for only 326 days as he abdicated his throne to marry Wallis Simpson, who had had two divorces, and both her husbands were still alive. Due to the abdication of King Edward VIII, his younger brother Albert Frederick Arthur George became the King of United Kingdom on December 11, 1936. His struggles and eventual triumph over his speech impediment was the subject of the 2010 Academy Award-Winning movie - The King's Speech. Upon his death in 1952, his eldest daughter Elizabeth Alexandra Mary became the constitutional monarch of Commonwealth realms - a consortium of sixteen nations, including United Kingdom. Her eldest son Charles, Prince of Wales, is the heir apparent to the throne.
(In the above-mentioned illustrations, only those names have been mentioned who ascended to the throne, or are heir apparent.)