Introducing the 26 royal families of the world: From Britain to Bahrain to Bhutan

Stephanie Ayako Karaki Harris
·Contributor
The monarchs (L-R) of Tonga, Qatar, and Bhutan. (Reuters/Getty)
The monarchs (L-R) of Tonga, Oman, and Bhutan. (Reuters/Getty)

When you think of the Royal Family, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William probably spring to mind.

But the UK doesn’t have the monopoly on the monarchy: there are kings and queens, emirs, sultans and emperors dotted across the world.

Not all have lasted the long-haul - Nepal’s monarchy was most recently dissolved, in 2008 - but, there are still 26 in existence globally.

Bahrain

Current ruler: King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, born 28 January 1950 (age 69).

How did it begin: In 1783, Bahrain fell under the control of Khalifa bin Mohammed, who began the Al Khalifa dynasty. The country has been ruled by them ever since.

Fun fact: Bahrain is the smallest country in the Middle East and is Asia’s third smallest country.

FILE - In this May 21, 2017 file photo, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The king reinstated the citizenship of 551 people convicted amid a crackdown on dissent on the island. The surprise royal decree, announced Sunday, April 21, 2019, by the state-run Bahrain News Agency, gave no explanation for his decision. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
King Hamad has four wives and twelve children in total. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Belgium

Current ruler: King Philippe, born 15 April 1960 (age 59).

How did it begin: Leopold I became the first King of the Belgians in 1831, when Belgium separated from the Kingdom of the Netherlands and became its own country.

Fun fact: The monarchs originally belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The family name was changed by Albert I in 1920 to the House of Belgium as a result of anti-German sentiment after the First World War.

In this photo taken on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, Belgium's King Philippe poses for a photographer prior to his yearly Christmas message at the Royal Palace in Laeken, Belgium. (Frederic Andrieu/Pool Photo via AP)
King Philippe poses prior to his yearly Christmas message. (Frederic Andrieu/AP)

Bhutan

Current ruler: Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, born 21 February 1980 (age 39), also known as Druk Gyalpo or “Dragon King”.

How did it begin: The House of Wangchuck has ruled since 1907, when Ugyen Wangchuck was elected unanimously by the representatives of the people, the officials and the clergy and enthroned as the first King of Bhutan.

Fun fact: In 2008, Bhutan transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema pose for pictures after their marriage at the Punkaha Dzong in Bhutan's ancient capital Punakha October 13, 2011. Bhutan's "Dragon King" married a commoner in a Himalayan monastic fortress on Thursday, sipping a chalice of ambrosia symbolizing eternal life, in a wedding that has transfixed a reclusive kingdom slowly embracing globalization.   REUTERS/Adrees Latif   (BHUTAN - Tags: ROYALS ENTERTAINMENT)
The Druk Gyalpo and Queen Jetsun Pema pose for pictures after their marriage. (Reuters)

Brunei

Current ruler: Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, born 15 July 1946 (age 73).

How did it begin: The beginning of the monarchy is thought to be 1363, when Muhammad Shah established the Sultanate of Brunei.

Fun fact: The sultan is considered one of the wealthiest royals in the world, with an estimated net worth of $20 billion.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah dressed in full military regalia salutes to an honor guard during his 73rd birthday celebrations in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Monday, July 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ahim Rani)
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah dressed in full military regalia. (AP/Ahim Rani)

Cambodia

Current ruler: King Norodom Sihamoni, born 14 May 1953 (age 66).

How did it begin: According to historical records, the first ruler of Cambodia was Queen Soma, who reigned during the first century.

Fun fact: Since 1993, the King of Cambodia is an elected monarch, making Cambodia one of the few elective monarchies of the world. The king is chosen for life from among the members of the Norodom and Sisowath bloodline who are at least 30 years old by the Royal Council of the Throne.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni, center, greets his government officers during the Independence Day celebrations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. Sihamoni is joined by civil servants and students to mark the country's 64th Independence Day. The country gained independence from France on Nov. 9, 1953. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
King Norodom Sihamoni at Cambodia's Independence Day celebrations. (AP/Heng Sinith)

Denmark

Current ruler: Queen Margrethe II, born 16 April 1940 (age 79).

When did it begin: The unified Kingdom of Denmark was founded by the Viking king Gorm the Old in 935. The present queen is from the House of Glücksburg, which has also produced multiple monarchs for Norway, Greece and several northern German states. It was created by Friedrich Wilhelm in 1825.

Fun fact: Queen Margrethe II is the first female monarch of Denmark since Margrethe I, who ruled between 1375-1412.

Denmark's Queen Margrethe arrives for a press conference at the in her Chateau de Caix residence near Cahors, southwestern France, Thursday, Aug.16, 2018. In her first public comments since Henrik died Feb. 13 at age 83, Margrethe says "it's healthy to be busy," adding "things go pretty well." (AP Photo/Fred Lancelot)
Queen Margrethe at her Chateau de Caix residence. (AP/Fred Lancelot)

Japan

Current ruler: Emperor Naruhito, born 23 Feburary 1960 (age 59).

When did it begin: The origins of the Japanese monarchy is not fully known, but according to legend, the first ruler of Japan is Emperor Jimmu. His reign is traditionally dated from 660 BC to 585 BC.

Fun fact: The previous emperor abdicated in favour of his son due to his failing health. This was the first time in more than 200 years this has happened in Japanese history.

Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan, graphic element on gray
Emperor Naruhito of Japan. (Getty)

Jordan

Current ruler: King Abdullah II, born 30 January 1962 (age 57).

When did it begin: The House of Hashim, the ruling family of Jordan, began in 1916 when Hussein bin Ali declared himself King of Hejaz - now a region in the west of Saudi Arabia.

Fun fact: In 2016 King Abdullah II was regarded as the most influential Muslim in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and King Abdullah II of Jordan pose for a photo inside 10 Downing Street in London, Thursday Feb. 28, 2019. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)
Theresa May and King Abdullah II inside 10 Downing Street. (Stefan Rousseau/AP)

Kuwait

Current ruler: Emir Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, born 16 June 1929 (age 90).

When did it begin: According to official Kuwaiti history, Abu Abdullah Sabah I bin Jaber Al Sabah was unanimously chosen to be sheikh, an honorific title for male royal family members. He was the first ruler of Kuwait and reigned from 1752 to 1762.

Fun fact: The brother of the current emir is the oldest crown prince in the world, at the age of 82.

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah attends the opening of the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, Sunday, March 31, 2019. Leaders meeting in Tunisia for the annual Arab League summit on Sunday were united in their condemnation of Trump administration policies seen as unfairly biased toward Israel but divided on a host of other issues, including whether to readmit founding member Syria. (Fethi Belaid/ Pool photo via AP)
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah at the opening of the 30th Arab Summit. (Fethi Belaid/AP)

Lesotho

Current ruler: King Letsie III, born 17 July 1963 (age 56).

When did it begin: In 1822, Moshoeshoe, the son of a minor chieftain, formed his own clan and took his people to a stronghold in the mountains which became known as Basutoland, a British Crown colony. It was renamed as the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966 after it gained independence from Britain.

Fun fact: King Letsie III succeeded to the throne in 1996 after his father King Moshoeshoe II, 57, was killed in a car accident. He had set out to visit his cattle at one in the morning, but on his return journey his car plummeted off a mountain road.

FILE - In this April 29, 2013, file photo, King Letsie III of Lesotho, right, waves in front of military honors at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany. The poor, mountainous kingdom encircled by South Africa has had a ceremonial, constitutional monarchy throughout decades of political instability since its independence from Britain in 1966. King Letsie III has openly criticized politicians for manipulating the military and shown interest in a more active political role. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
King Letsie III of Lesotho waves in front of military honours at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin. (AP/Michael Sohn)

Liechtenstein

Current ruler: Prince Hans Adam II, Prince Regnant of Liechtenstein, born 14 February 1945 (age 74).

When did it begin: The House of Liechtenstein was founded in 1608 by Karl I.

Fun fact: The family has a long history with the name - they have owned Castle Liechtenstein in Lower Austria on and off since 1140.

** ARCHIV ** Fuerstin Marie-Aglae von Liechtenstein, rechts, und Fuerst Hans-Adam II. von Liechtenstein, links, am 15. August 2008 in Vaduz. Der Fuerst hat Deutschland in einem Brief an das Juedische Museum Berlin mit einem vierten Reich verglichen. Hintergrund der verbalen Attacke ist offenbar unter anderem der Steuerstreit zwischen Berlin und Vaduz. In dem im Zuercher "Tages-Anzeiger" vom Donnerstag, 11. September 2008, geht es um die Absage des Fuersten an das Berliner Museum, das sich fuer ein Gemaelde aus der fuerstlichen Sammlung fuer eine Ausstellung zum Thema "Raub und Restitution" interessiert hatte.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Eddy Risch)  ---Hans-Adam ll., Prince of Liechtenstein, and Marie-Aglae, Princess of Liechtenstein, on the occasion of Liechtensteins National Day, Friday, August 15, 2008, in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. (AP Photo/Keystone, Eddy Risch)
Prince Hans-Adam II and Princess Marie-Aglae celebrate Liechtenstein's National Day. (AP Photo/Eddy Risch)

Luxembourg

Current ruler: Grand Duke Henri, born 16 April 1955 (age 64).

When did it begin: The first monarch was William I of the Netherlands in 1815, when the two countries entered a personal union. The union ended in 1890 as after the death of William III, the Netherlands’ crown passed to his daughter Wilhelmina, but a law prohibited women ruling Luxembourg and the throne passed to Adolph of Nassau-Weilburg.

Fun fact: Luxembourg is the world's only sovereign grand duchy, a territory where the official head of state has the title grand duke or duchess. Grand Duke Henri is a first cousin of King Philippe of Belgium.

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa of Luxembourg attend a visit at the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) in Toulouse, southwestern France, Wednesday March 21 2018. (Guillaume Horcajuelo, Pool via AP)
Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa visit the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) in Toulouse. (Guillaume Horcajuelo/AP)

Malaysia

Current ruler: Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah, born 30 July 1959 (age 59).

When did it begin: The office was established in 1957, after Malaysia gained independence from the United Kingdom.

Fun fact: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, known as the Supreme Head or just King, is chosen once every five years, making Malaysia one of the few elective monarchies in the world.

FILE- In this Jan. 11, 2019, file photo, Pahang state Crown Prince Tengku Abdullah arrives for a private event at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. King Sultan Muhammad V shocked the nation by announcing his abdication in January 2019, days after returning from two months of medical leave. The 49-year-old sultan from eastern Kelantan state only reigned for two years as Malaysia's 15th king and didn't give any reason for quitting. Sultan Abdullah Azlan Shah succeeded his ailing 88-year-old father on Jan. 15, in a move seen as paving the way for him to become the next king. (AP Photo)
Tengku Abdullah ascended the throne after his father reigned for only two years. (AP)

Monaco

Current ruler: Prince Albert II, 14 March 1958 (age 61).

When did it begin: The House of Grimaldi has long been connected with the state, and the first ruler of the area now known as Monaco was Rainier I, who lived from 1267-1314.

Fun fact: Prince Albert II is the son of Prince Rainier III and Grace, Princess of Monaco, formerly known as Grace Kelly.

Prince Albert II of Monaco waves from the balcony of the Monaco Palace during the ceremonies marking the National Day in Monaco, Monday, Nov.19, 2018. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Prince Albert II of Monaco waves from the balcony of the Monaco Palace. (AP/Claude Paris)

Morocco

Current ruler: King Mohammed VI, born 21 August 1963, (age 55).

When did it begin: The Alaouite dynasty has been ruling Morocco since 1631, when it was founded by Sharif ibn Ali.

Fun fact: One of the sultans, Moulay Abdullah, ascended the throne six times due to being deposed many times by his brothers.

In this photo dated Sunday, July 29, 2018, released by the state news agency, Moroccan News Agency (MAP), and provided by the Moroccan Royal Palace, King Mohammed VI, is flanked by his brother Prince Moulay Rachid, right, and Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, during the annual Throne Speech, in Al-Hoceima, Morocco. Mohammed VI has criticized the North African kingdom's social development programs as overlapping, uncoordinated and missing target populations in a speech from the northern town that has been the epicenter for social unrest. (Moroccan Royal Palace via AP)
King Mohammed VI is flanked by his brother Prince Moulay Rachid (R) and Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, during the annual Throne Speech. (Moroccan Royal Palace via AP)

Netherlands

Current ruler: King Willem-Alexander, born 27 April 1967 (age 52).

When did it begin: William I, Prince of Orange, inherited the lands from his cousin when he was 11 in 1544, and is now known as the the Father of the nation. For a long time the country was governed by Spanish rule, but he revolted against them and created an independent Dutch state.

Fun fact: Willem-Alexander is an avid pilot and during the reign of his mother, he regularly flew the Dutch royal airplane.

Photo by: KGC-22/STAR MAX/IPx 2019 6/18/19 Prince Andrew The Duke of York and King Willem-Alexander of The Netherlands at Royal Ascot Day One at Ascot Racecourse. (Ascot, Berkshire, England, UK)
King Willem-Alexander at the Royal Ascot. (AP)

Norway

Current ruler: King Harald V, born 21 February 1937 (age 82).

When did it begin: The first recored king to claim sovereignty over all of Norway was Harald I, Harald Hårfager in Norwegian (born c. 860 - died c. 940).

The current dynasty comes from the House of Glücksburg, a family that has produced multiple monarchs for Norway, Denmark, Greece and several northern German states, created by Friedrich Wilhelm in 1825.

Fun fact: Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, is from this lineage.

Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja arrive at the State Guest House, Helsinki, Finland, on Monday Sept. 5, 2016, during a state visit to Finland. (Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP)
King Harald V with his wife, Queen Sonja. (Heikki Saukkomaa/AP)

Oman

Current ruler: His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, born 18 November 1940 (age 78).

When did it begin: The House of Al Said has ruled Oman since around 1744. Founded by Ahmad bin Said al-Busaidi, who was a governer of Sohar, a port city, he consolidated power when he liberated the country from Persian occupancy.

Fun fact: Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said is the longest serving leader in the Middle East and Arab world, having held the office since 1970.

Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said al-Said sits during a meeting with the US secretary of state at the Beit Al Baraka Royal Palace in Muscat on January 14, 2019. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said at a meeting with the US Secretary of State. (Andres Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty)

Qatar

Current ruler: Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, born 3 June 1980 (age 39).

When did it begin: The Al Thani dynasty has been ruling Qatar since the family house was established in 1825 by Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani.

Fun fact: At present, Sheikh Tamim is the youngest sovereign worldwide.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, July 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani with President Trump at the White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Saudi Arabia

Current ruler: Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, born 31 December 1935 (age 83).

When did it begin: Ibn Saud, the current king’s father, was the first monarch and founder of modern Saudi Arabia. He established his reign through conquest and created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

Fun fact: After Ibn Saud, all subsequent kings have been his sons.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz attends the opening of the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia, Sunday, March 31, 2019. Leaders meeting in Tunisia for the annual Arab League summit on Sunday were united in their condemnation of Trump administration policies seen as unfairly biased toward Israel but divided on a host of other issues, including whether to readmit founding member Syria. (Fethi Belaid/ Pool photo via AP)
King Salman bin Abdulaziz at the 30th Arab Summit in Tunis, Tunisia. (Fethi Belaid/AP)

Spain

Current ruler: King Felipe VI, born 30 January 1968 (age 51).

When did it begin: The monarchy in Spain has had a very turbulent history - at one point it was even abolished during the 20th century until it was reinstated in 1975.

The first rulers of the area known as Spain today were Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Through their union they brought together their respective lands under one dominion.

The present ruling family hails from the House of Bourbon, which began its rule in 1700 with King Philip V.

Fun fact: Last year, the budget for the Spanish monarchy was €7.9 million, one of the lowest public expenditures for a royal family in Europe.

MADRID, SPAIN - February 21: King Felipe VI of Spain and Queen Letizia of Spain attend the National Research Awards 2018. February 21, 2019. Credit: Jimmy Olsen/Media Punch ***NO SPAIN*** /IPX
King Felipe VI speaks at the National Research Awards in 2018. (AP)

Swaziland/Eswatini

Current ruler: King Mswati III, born 19 April 1968 (age 51).

When did it begin: Ngwane III is considered to be the first king of modern Swaziland, he began his reign in 1745.

Fun fact: The kings practice polygamy and therefore have many wives and children. King Mswati III has 14 wives and 35 children.

Swaziland's King Mswati III addresses the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at the United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
King Mswati III addresses the United Nations General Assembly. (AP/Frank Franklin II)

Sweden

Current ruler: King Carl XVI Gustaf, born 30 April 1946 (age 73).

When did it begin: In 1818, the House of Bernadotte was begun by Charles XIV John, born Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, as the previous king was childless.

Fun fact: In 1947 the current king’s father died in an airplane crash in Denmark when Carl XVI Gustaf was just nine months old.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf is pictured during a visit at the Beaumont house in Pau, southwestern France, Monday, Oct.8, 2018. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
King Carl XVI Gustaf during a visit to Beaumont house in Pau, southwestern France. (AP/Bob Edme)

Thailand

Current ruler: King Maha Vajiralongkorn (also known as King Rama X), born 28th July 1952 (age 66).

When did it begin: Military leader Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I) seized control over Siam - which later changed its name to Thailand - after overpowering a rebellion, and crowned himself as the monarch in 1782. This rise to power started the roots of the Chakri Dynasty.

Fun fact: The previous king was the longest reigning monarch in history - he was on the throne for 70 years and 126 days (1946-2016).

BANGKOK, THAILAND - 2019/05/09: Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (Rama X) and Queen Suthida watches the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Sanam Luang. The annual royal ploughing ceremony is an ancient rite which officially marks the beginning of the main rice cultivation season in Thailand. (Photo by Chaiwat Subprasom/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
King Rama X and Queen Suthida watch the annual Royal Ploughing Ceremony. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Getty)

Tonga

Current monarch: King Tupou VI, born 12 July 1959 (age 59).

When did it begin: Originally Tonga was made up of three ruling houses, however, they ended up going to war with each other for the first half of the 19th century. Taufa’ahau emerged victorious and was later crowned King George Tupou I in 1845.

Fun fact: Tupou’s first daughter, Salote Tupou III, became the first and only Queen of Tonga, and was on the throne for 47 years, longer than any other Tongan monarch.

NUKU'ALOFA, TONGA - OCTOBER 26:  Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex Standing with King Tupou VI and Queen NanasipauÔu TukuÔaho of Tonga at the farewell with His Majesty King Tupou VI  on October 26, 2018 in Nuku'alofa, Tonga. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on their official 16-day Autumn tour visiting cities in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.  (Photo by PhotographerÕs Name Ð Pool/Getty Images)
King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipauʻu Tukuʻaho with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. (Getty)

United Kingdom

Current monarch: Queen Elizabeth II, born 21 April 1926 (age 93).

When did it begin: Multiple families have commanded the British Isles, but the current household is the House of Windsor. It was originally the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but the name was changed in 1917 due to anti-German sentiment.

Fun fact: There have been 66 monarchs of England and Britain spread over a period of 1,500 years.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reacts during a visit to the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, Tuesday July 9, 2019. The Queen will view  some of the new state-of-the-art facilities during her visit to the newly refurbished leading heart and lung specialist Royal Papworth Hospital. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)
Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. (Joe Giddens/AP)