Monarchies occupy a strange place in the modern world. In some parts of the globe, they seem to linger as expensive anachronisms, their powers neutered by constitutional arrangements, while other regions have never known anything but the iron grip of an all-powerful ruling family. But, there’s one thing they all have in common, along with the official titles to go along with their names.
There are ruling families of countries that haven’t existed for centuries, yet still, the families own property and wealth. The funny thing is, the smaller the area often means the larger the fortune. In Europe, some of the tiniest countries have the richest royals. Land, buildings, and business ventures – holding on to it all becomes the family business.
Now, there is no really exact way to calculate royal wealth, especially since many of the ruling monarchs pay no taxes and answer to no one. Some of it comes in the form of personal assets, while some fortunes belong to the family historically. Other sources of wealth are public buildings and assets which fall to the hereditary ruling monarch. There’s a lot of variation in what you can come up with when you start to look into the finances of the ruling classes.
Here’s a list of 15 of the richest rulers in the world today, with a look at how they manage to stay that way.
15. H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – $35 To $75 Billion+
Elizabeth II Alexandra Mary Windsor, known as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, as well as head of state of her former colonies Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, has an enormous fortune that can be measured in various ways, and she arguably tops the list of richest living monarchs. Born in 1926, she ascended to the throne in 1952, and since then, the UK, once known as the British Empire, has lost 12 nations that went on to their own independent, democratically ruled lives, including Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis. The loss of territory, however, hasn’t meant a drop in fortunes for Britain’s reigning Queen, although the estimates vary widely depending on who you ask and what you count. While it’s said her personal fortune amounts to a paltry $365 million or so, the long list of hereditary properties and assets she claims by right of her being Queen and all includes the land and Property assets of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Crown Estates, no fewer than four Royal Palaces (including Buckingham, Windsor Castle, the Tower of London), the Crown Jewels, her family’s investments, the Royal Art Collection and several other family properties.
14. H.M. King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Of Saudi Arabia – $50 Billion+
When you’re born into a huge royal family, sometimes you can end up with the whole deal just by staying alive. Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was born into the royal house of Saud in 1935. It’s a large royal family with actually thousands of members. King Salman began his lucrative career in public service with a position as Deputy Governor, then the Governor of the capital city of Riyadh for a comfortable 48 year period from 1963 until 2011, when he was appointed Minister of Defense. As these complicated lineages go, he was made a Crown Prince in 2012 after the death of his brother, Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. He became King of Saudi Arabia in January 2015 after the death of King Abdullah, his half-brother. Naturally, King Salman’s riches have roots in the liquid gold that runs underneath the sands of the Arabian desert – aka oil – a base that he’s diversified into properties and other investments around the world. Since he took the throne, public beheadings – usually by sword – have reached a 20-year high in Saudi Arabia, including 153 in 2016 alone.
13. Bhumibol Adulyadej, King Of Thailand – $30 To 35 Billion+
Bhumibol Adulyadej was King of Thailand was the world’s – and Thailand’s – longest-reigning monarch at nearly seven decades on the throne. He was also one of the best loved, adored by most Thais, renowned as a kind and wise ruler who tried to help his people. After the devastation of the Vietnam War, and in competition with the ruling communist party of the day, the King won over his people by personally overseeing irrigation projects, among some 3,000 projects he personally funded for poor rural areas of the country during his reign. His fortune included, among other things, over 3,000 acres of land in central Bangkok owned by the Royal Thai Estates Agency, shares in Siam Cement and Siam Commercial Bank, and the dazzling 545-carat Golden Jubilee Diamond, the largest cut and faceted diamond in the world, along with other investments and properties. After the King’s death in October 2016, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn declared a year of mourning before his ascension to the throne. However, the Crown Prince has a scandal-filled reputation as a playboy partier and some Thais are said to prefer his younger sister Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn in his place. The title, while lucrative, is largely ceremonial. Today, Thailand is actually ruled by a military junta which took control of the country in 2014.
12. Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Emir Of Abu Dhabi — $15 To $35 Billion+
Along with Emir of Abu Dhabi, Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan holds the titles President of the United Arab Emirates and Supreme Commander of the Union Defence Force. He’s the second president of the United Arab Emirates and the 16th Emir, and he’s been on the hereditary throne for about 12 years. As you’d expect, much of his wealth derives from about 98 billion barrels of oil reserves in his emirate, but that’s not all there is to our savvy Emir. He personally runs Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. The organization manages excess oil money from the UAE, including assets of about $700 billion. In addition to amassing wealth, the Emir is known for his philanthropic efforts and has ponied up over $460 million out of his own pocket to help fund medical facilities and other humanitarian causes. The Al Nahyan royal family is believed to be collectively worth about $150 billion.
11. Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir Sheikh Of Dubai — $4 To $30 Billion
Estimates of the net worth of Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Emir Sheikh of Dubai, simultaneously Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, vary wildly depending on the source. A 2011 piece in Forbes puts him at the lower end of the range, while a more recent directory of royalty pushes it to the upper edge of $30 billion, the estimates riding the waves of global oil prices. Along with the country’s vast oil reserves, his wealth is built on international property and investments, but the Sheikh puts his money, at least some of it, to good use. In 2007, he donated $10 billion to set up the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, a charitable organization that has helped to fund a wide variety of humanitarian efforts around the world, focusing on sustainable projects, education, health, and disaster relief, among other things. He’s also the owner of the largest horse breeding operation in the world, and an avid lover, rider, and owner of horses. He’s even a published poet of some note. If you’re interested in keeping up with HH Sheikh Mohammed, you can follow his Twitter account @HHShkMohd.
10. H.M. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Of Brunei – $30 Billion
When Haji Hassanal Bolkiah took on the sultanate of Brunei in October 1967, he was continuing a family tradition of six centuries as its 29th ruler. Once installed as Sultan, Prime Minister, and Yang di-Pertuan or head of state, he went on to amend the constitution in 2006 to make himself infallible under the law. He’s known not only for his massive wealth but for his lavish spending of said wealth, including a royal residence with 1,788 rooms, incorporating 257 bathrooms, spread over 2,152,782 square feet. It’s the biggest royal palace in the world and cost over $350 million to build. He owns several thousand cars, including 600 Rolls Royce cars, over 300 Ferraris, 134 Koenigsegg, 11 McLaren F1s, 6 Dauer Porsche 962 LMs and a few Jaguars just to mix it up. The Sultan also likes customized private jets, including a Boeing 747-400.
9. H.M. King Willem-Alexander Of The Netherlands – $12 Billion
Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand is a relative newcomer to the club, having only taken over the throne of Holland in April of 2013. He’s the first male heir to the throne since 1890. As King of the Netherlands, he’s also monarch of the countries of Curaçao, Aruba, and Sint Maarten. His wealth is actually submerged in that of his mother, the former Queen Beatrix, and the Dutch Royal Family, who collectively are the largest shareholder in Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company. Their share is estimated to be approximately 25 percent, and that comes in addition to his and the family’s other assets, priceless works of art, jewel collections, and more. Before becoming King, Willem-Alexander served as a member of the International Olympic Committee, and as chairman of the Secretary-General of the United Nations’ Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation from 2006 to 2013.
8. H.H. Sheikh Sabah IV Bin Ahmad Al-Sabah, Emir Of Kuwait – $9 Billion
Being Sheikh for life means that your kids may not get the throne until they are long past being kids themselves. Sheikh Sabah IV bin Ahmad Al-Sabah took the throne of Kuwait in 2006 at the age of 77. In his case, his overall worth is deceptive. The biggest chunk of the family’s wealth was garnered in previous generations, based on Kuwait’s vast reserves of oil. These days, the Sheikh has to make do with an annual stipend that amounts to about $190 million per year. He took the throne in 2006 after a dramatic series of events following the death of Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who ruled from 1977 until he died in January 2006. First in line to the throne was Sheikh Saad Al-Salim Al-Sabah, a cousin. However, Sheikh Saad was only king — or emir — for nine days and was deposed by the National Assembly, who favored then Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Salem al-Sabah for the throne. The Sheikh has presided over tumultuous years, such as 2008 when he dissolved the National Assembly over infighting between government factions, and again in 2012 when he dissolved parliament over a bribery scandal. There have been protests in the streets over the family’s 250-year lock hold on the nation, and the last elections were held in November 2016.
7. H.H. Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani Of Qatar – $8.5 Billion
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani became the 8th Emir of Qatar when his father abdicated in 2013. He was the fourth son of the previous sheik’s second wife, but in contrast with some of the player princes of the Arab world, he was the one who returned to his father’s side shortly after his schooling, working with him for years as the face of the regime. Born in 1980, he’s the youngest ruler in the region and came to power during a major shake-up of the country’s royals. During the time of the Arab Spring and its aftermath, the move to give a younger generation power was seen as a way of quelling dissent. Along with oil money, the Sheikh is the head of the Qatar Investment Authority, which has invested billions in companies around the world, including a significant portion in Great Britain, where the Emir went to school.
6. H.M. Sultan Qaboos Bin Said As-Said of Oman – $700 Million To $7.5 Billion
Sultan Qaboos Bin Said As-Said of Oman came to power in 1970 after tossing his dad off the throne in a palace coup. As such he’s the Arab world’s longest reigning monarch, and it’s something that has gotten his subjects worried. The Sultan has no heirs and isn’t married. He was briefly married to a cousin in 1976 but has remained single since that union’s quick demise. It has led to rumors of homosexuality, which is considered a sin in his native Oman. Whatever happens, once he has gone, most people credit the Sultan for plowing oil money back into the country in the form of modernized healthcare and infrastructure. The Sheikh is also the foreign minister, the defense minister, the finance minister, the governor of the central bank, and his level of control and long-term rule make it very difficult to determine his actual worth. He’s been known to personally pay for the restoration of mosques around the country, but not all of his spending is altruistic. He owns one of the largest yachts in the world at 500-feet and lives in a stunning royal palace in the capital of Muscat.
5. Hans Adam II, Prince Of Liechtenstein — $3.5 To $6 Billion
Tiny Liechtenstein is a country in central Europe. The whole country, which lies between Austria and Switzerland, is about 15 miles long and covers about 60 square miles. You can walk from village to village through a series of trails. But, its small size hasn’t prevented its ruling family from amassing one of the largest royal fortunes on the continent. Hans-Adam II, Ferdinand Alois Josef Maria Marko d’Aviano Pius von und zu Liechtenstein is the current ruling Prince of the small country, and also bears the titles Duke of Troppau and Jägerndorf, Count of Rietberg. The family over which he presides owes their wealth to ownership of a bank, the LGT Bank Ltd., described on its website as “part of the largest Private Banking and Asset Management group in the world that is wholly owned by an entrepreneurial family.” Entrepreneurial. That’s cute. The prince also owns almost 50,000 acres of land in Austria, palaces in Vienna – because Liechtenstein is too small, dahlings – and a renowned art collection that is on display at the Liechtenstein Museum.
4. H.R.H. The Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg – $3 To $4 Billion
Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume has held the title of Grand Duke of Luxembourg since 2000 after his father stepped down. Bordered by France, Belgium, and Germany, the small duchy covers only about 1,000 square miles. Grand Duke Henri almost lost his shot at the title after marrying a – gasp – commoner in 1980. Luxembourg may be tiny, but it is a very wealthy country, with tax loopholes for corporations that have attracted their fair share of shady customers. The family gained wealth in the 1800s as rulers of another duchy by the name of Nassau-Wiesbaden that is now part of Germany, and where legal gambling filled the family coffers. These days, it’s said to be largely real estate. The Grand Duke’s role in signing his assent to laws before they become legislation was stripped in 2008 after he refused to sign a bill that would have legalized euthanasia. Nowadays, he’s a largely ceremonial figure.
3. H.M. King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa Of Bahrain – $3.5 Billion
In 1999, he became Emir of Bahrain on the death of his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, and in 2002 Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa declared himself King. Under one title or another, the Al Khalifa dynasty has been ruling Bahrain since 1783. The King has four wives and 12 children, but it sounds like he can afford them. The rulers of Bahrain received about a third of all the oil revenues until 1973 when a constitutional change called for paying the royals a fixed amount each year. What’s interesting is that there seems to be a lack of accounting for the exact amounts given to the royal family between 1926 and 1970. The King is a history buff and sometimes gets involved in heritage conservation efforts. His royal hobbies include falconry, golf, and Arabian horses.
2. Albert, 12th Prince Of Thurn Und Taxis – $1.5 To $2.5 Billion
Albert, 12th Prince of Thurn und Taxis, has all the wealth and fun of royalty and none of the obligations. The former County of Thurn und Taxis was located in Germany, with its capital in Regensburg. It existed as a state within the Holy Roman Empire between 1608 and 1806, but the fact that it disappeared hasn’t stopped the family from owning castles and getting rich – proving royalty really is forever. The family’s assets are tied up in real estate, including the St. Emmeram Castle they have occupied in Regensburg since 1748. They also rather famously made some of their considerable fortune in beer under the Thurn und Taxis brand that was sold to a Munich corporation in 1996. The Prince owns an enormous fine art collection worth millions, along with a tech company and about 75,000 acres of land in Germany. He’s also an auto racing fanatic and has competed in the FIA GT1 World Championship and FIA European Rally Championship.
1. King Mohammed VI Of Morocco – $2 Billion
Like Europe, the continent of Africa is littered with kings and kingdoms, some of them current and many of them largely symbolic hereditary roles. Of them, all His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco is the wealthiest. The savvy King controls the Société Nationale d’Investissement (SNI), an investment company that manages assets worth more than $10 billion. King Mohammed owns about half the world’s supply of phosphate reserves through Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), the state-owned phosphate monopoly. In fact, Morocco has been called the Saudi Arabia of phosphate, which is used in a wide variety of products from fertilizer to detergents, food additives, and even lithium-ion batteries. Because of the link to new technology, the price of the commodity more than doubled in the last decade, adding to the King’s coffers.