Beyond King Charles: Your Guide to the World’s 28 Other Monarchs

AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool, File
Prince Charles is seated next to the Queen’s crown during the State Opening of Parliament, at the Palace of Westminster in London, May 10, 2022.

Monarchs and royals from around the globe are descending on Britain for the crowning of King Charles III, a grand event that will be watched by millions.

The British monarchy often attracts the most global attention with its pomp and circumstance, not to mention its squabbles. But there are wealthier, more powerful royal families from Southeast Asia to the Middle East – and they come with their own headline-worthy controversies.

There are 28 other monarchs around the world. Seventeen of them are kings. Margrethe II of Denmark is the only queen. The microstate of Andorra has co-princes, the president of France and a Spanish bishop.

Japan has an emperor. Brunei and Oman have sultans. Liechtenstein and Monaco have princes. Qatar and Kuwait have emirs. Luxembourg has a grand duke. And the United Arab Emirates has a president, though he is a monarch.

At 87, the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, is the oldest monarch. Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in neighboring Qatar is the youngest at 42.

Although Charles is estimated to have a personal net worth between $750 million and $1.44 billion, others far surpass him. It’s hard to obtain exact figures (most monarchs prefer to keep their finances private). But these leaders are estimated to be worth well over $10 billion.

Monarchs can be divided into three general types:

– Total governing power, where the monarch has complete control.

– Some governing power, where the monarch shares control with an elected body. Some have very little influence, while others have almost total power.

– Little-to-no governing power, where the monarch plays a largely ceremonial role.


Most of Europe’s monarchies are ceremonial.

And most of its monarchs are related to Charles.

Europe’s monarchs are quite popular in their countries, though polls suggest they are losing support among young people. To stay relevant, several monarchs have taken steps to downsize and modernize.

Around three years ago, the Swedish king stripped five of his grandchildren of their royal titles and duties. While they didn’t lose their line to the throne, they no longer get taxpayer benefits as working royals. Denmark’s queen followed suit last year.

“Allowing their political power to shrink virtually to zero has been the secret of their survival,” write Robert Hazell and Bob Morris in “The Role of Monarchy in Modern Democracy.”

Despite their slimmed down appearance, the European royals enjoy lavish lives. Sweden’s royal family has over a dozen royal palaces and properties. Each summer, Norway’s royal family sets sail on its more than 260-foot-long yacht, to compete in regattas or visit fishing villages along the country’s scenic fjords.

Some of Europe’s kings have evolved on key cultural issues.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander apologized in 2020 for his country’s use of “excessive violence” during his country’s colonial rule of Indonesia.

As the British royal family became deeply divided over how Prince Harry’s biracial wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has been treated, Norway’s king, Harald V, took a public stand against the racism his Black, future son-in-law has faced. Norwegian Princess Martha Louise gave up her royal duties last year to focus on holistic health care with her fiance, Durek Verrett, a self-proclaimed shaman. In the statement announcing Princess Martha stepping back from royal duties, the Royal House condemned the racism targeting Verrett and said, “It is a strength that the Royal Family reflects the ethnic diversity that exists in Norway.”

The Middle East

Most of the world’s youngest and most autocratic monarchies are in the Middle East and have their roots in British colonialism.

The man who would become Jordan’s first king, Abdullah I, rose to power under the British mandate in 1921. He enjoyed a close relationship with the British monarchy and was honored with a 21-gun salute while visiting Britain for the coronation of King George VI in 1937.

The al-Thani family was in charge of parts of Qatar since the 1800s and increased its power while the area was a British protectorate. It’s a similar story with al-Saud family in Saudi Arabia, which consolidated its power and pushed back rivals with the help of the British.

“We acted as this kind of guarantor in many ways,” said David Roberts, an associate professor at King’s College London, of the British. “We sometimes chose leaders or segments of the family.”

While other despotic regimes in the region have been toppled by foreign intervention or internal uprisings, the Gulf monarchies have remained stable. The discovery of oil and natural gas in the Gulf facilitated modernization, transforming desert ports such as Dubai and Doha into major global hubs of commerce and travel.

But despite modernizations, these monarchs rule with an iron fist.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia since 2017, billed himself as a reformer, but he has jailed dissidents and, according to U.S. intelligence, approved the murder of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Yet Gulf states’ wealth and control over global energy supplies allows them to continue playing prominent roles in geopolitics.


Only three monarchies remain in Africa: one in Morocco and two in the tiny southern nations of Lesotho and Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland.

The ruler of Eswatini, King Mswati III, is an autocratic despot. Crowned in 1986 at age 18, Mswati III has ruled the country for more than 35 years. When pro-democracy protests broke out in 2021, they were crushed by police shooting live ammunition.

In contrast, King Letsie III of Lesotho in southern Africa has few executive or legislative powers.

The monarchies of Lesotho and Eswatini retained their power partly because they were seen as defending their people against South African rule, said Nick Westcott, director of the Royal African Society.

“In both those countries, the royal family was an important element in their assertion of national autonomy,” Westcott said.

Southeast Asia

The eccentric Thai King Vajiralongkorn is known for wearing crop tops, fathering seven children from three women and throwing his poodle, Foo Foo, a four-day funeral. While his powers are limited, insulting the monarchy is illegal in Thailand, a law the ruling junta has used to crack down on dissent.

The Thai monarchy has in part modeled and aligned itself after European constitutional monarchies, said Susie Protschky, an associate professor of history at Deakin University in Australia.

“The rulers travel. The sons and grandsons are educated in Europe, and they are received by European royal court,” she said.

In 2021, thousands took to the streets to call for democratic reforms and took aim at the monarchy’s role in the country’s politics.

“We are calling for the reform of the Thai monarchy, like in England, where the royal family does not directly intervene in politics,” protester Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul said at the time.

The sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, is one of the most powerful national leaders in the world. As an absolute monarch and billionaire, he’s the country’s self-appointed prime minister and controls the state media. He is currently the longest-reigning monarch in the world. The country’s small population and oil wealth allows its people to live comfortably.

In 1962, the British helped quash an armed rebellion against the Brunei monarchy.