To most people, kings, queens, princes, and princesses belong in the world of fairytales. Tons of little girls across America and the world grow up dreaming of being princesses. However, there are many countries today where royalty is not just a fanciful childhood dream, but an inherited reality—or an elected privilege. When it comes to monarchs, each type has varying degrees of power and reach. The oldest and most rare form of monarchy is the absolute kind. This type of ruler exercises supreme authority over the region and its people without any limitations. On the other hand, constitutional monarchs do not hold supreme authority and are somewhat limited by the guidelines set within that region’s constitution. Regardless, both types come into power either through inheritance or marriage. In some cases, succession to the throne is elected by a group of high-standing members within the government.
The British royal family has maintained world popularity for some time. Most recently, the royal wedding of the century between Prince William and Kate Middleton—officially known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge—coupled with the subsequent birth of Prince George has brought a wave of interest on this particular royal family. Since 1952, the Duke’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, reigns over 16 sovereign states that form the Commonwealth realm and can give Royal Assent to pass any law, declare war, and many other formidable roles. Still, there are plenty more monarchs who hold just as much influence in their own backyards. Here’s a list of 5 other monarchs in the world today that you might not know about.
5. Monaco- Prince Albert II (2005)
The second smallest country in the world, located just miles from Nice, France along the French Riviera, the Principality of Monaco has been under permanent rule by the House of Grimaldi since gaining independence in 1419. The current ruler is Prince Albert Louis Pierre Grimaldi who succeeded to the throne upon his father’s death in April of 2005. Prince Albert is the son of his predecessor Prince Rainier III and the beloved Hollywood actress turned princess, Grace Kelly. The Prince is the second child of the royal pair; however, male offspring take precedence over females, leaving his older sister, Princess Caroline, as heir presumptive instead. Prince Albert has the final say in appointing the minister of state among other political roles even though the principality itself is governed by an elected legislature. In 2011, he married the South African swimmer, Charlene Whittstock. The two have no legitimate children although the Prince himself has two illegitimate children of which he officially claimed prior to the marriage. Despite the scandal involved with having children out of wedlock, this monarch has contributed to his country positively. He is very involved in environmental issues regarding the Mediterranean and strives to assist in the development of eco-friendly forms of private and public transportation. He has an estimated net worth of $1 billion.
4. Sweden- King Carl XVI Gustaf (1973)
The Scandinavian country of Sweden situated in Northern Europe has a monarchy that is more so ceremonial in nature. It works as a parliamentary democracy in which the people hold the power of government and are represented by the Riksdag. King Charles XVI Gustavus is the nation’s Head of State and holds the highest office; yet, the king is merely a figurehead and has no political power. He succeeded his grandfather, King Gustaf VI Adolf, in 1973 at the ripe age of 27. The young king had grown up under his grandfather’s tutelage after his father, the Crown Prince, was killed in a plane crash one year after his birth. Together with his wife, Queen Silvia, the royal couple has three children: Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Phillip, and Princess Madeleine. In 2011, King Carl XVI Gustaf was recorded as having a net worth of $42 million which leaves him with plenty of spending money. Who said royals don’t know how to party? Apparently, this is exactly what he did in his younger days. A book published in 2010 detailed the king’s scandalous history. According to The Telegraph, he had a “past predilection for wild, alcohol-fuelled orgies and naked Jacuzzi parties with models”. What was most shocking to the Swedes is that their king never went on record denying these allegations; he simply touted them as being in the past—over and done.
3. United Arab Emirates- Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed (2004)
The President of the UAE and hereditary Emir Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan stands as one of the world’s richest monarchs. The Al Nahyan family is said to be worth an unbelievable $150 billion combined, and Sheikh Zayed is worth $15 billion on his own. He assumed the role after his father, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, passed away in 2004. The king rules over a mixed monarch in which the succession to the throne is by way of inheritance but members of the country’s Federal National Council, or legislature, are granted their positions through elections. One of Sheikh Khalifa’s driving political objectives has been to increase the voice of the people of the UAE through the council. He has initiated various funding programs for impoverished citizens and effectively increased the income of state employees 100% when he first took office. In control of 97.8 billion barrels of oil reserves, he has almost single-handedly enhanced the wealth and world significance of the Emirates. Unfortunately, in early 2014, the sheikh suffered a stroke and is said to be recovering. His eldest son, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is handling affairs and reassuring the country’s citizens of their President’s health.
2. Saudi Arabia- King Abdullah (2005)
The 6th king of Saudi Arabia, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz assumed the role after the death of his half-brother, King Fahd, in 2005. One of the 37 sons of the modern-day founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud, the king also serves as the Prime Minister of the Council of Ministers and the Commander of the National Guard. King Abdullah has maintained relations with the United States for many years beginning with President Gerald Ford. Today, the relationship between the two countries is somewhat strained as unrest grows in Syria. However, the King has focused his entire reign on the development of the country. The monarch has granted women the right to vote as a step towards moving Saudi Arabia into the future. In addition, he established King Abdullah University of Science and Technology which is a graduate research university that fosters its students to take part in the economic development and advancement of the Kingdom. With a net worth of over $18 billion, he has more than enough to enjoy his many passions and interests which includes breeding pure Arabian horses.
1. The Vatican- Pope Francis (2013)
Lastly, the leader of the Holy See and what some think to be the last absolute monarch, Pope Francis rules over the smallest country in the world. While, the Vatican may be merely 100 acres in size (about an eighth of New York’s Central Park) it has considerable power as the supreme authority and seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis became the 266th pontiff on March 13, 2013 and the current Sovereign of the Vatican City State. Unlike many of the other monarchs mentioned above, the Pope has ultimate power over each individual church, every individual bishop and priest, and all of the faithful. He answers to no living being and there is no separation of powers on his rule. He answers only to God. Despite the infinite amount of influence that the current Pope has, he is proving to be a transparent leader. In addition to being the teacher of all Christians, he is taking time out to kiss the disabled, help the poor, and receive consultation from others as opposed to simply issuing orders. The vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth prefers to be called the Bishop of Rome and wants to be treated as an equal, just as Jesus did, among cardinals, bishops, and the rest of the 1.2 billion followers of the Catholic Church. Perhaps, this Pope will put an end to even the last absolute monarchy.