Monarchies have ruled countries for centuries. In Europe, 12 countries are still ruled by royal families. The system is generally hereditary, but two of the European royalties were based on public vote.
Monarchies come in three forms: principality, kingdom or duchy. When a prince and/or a princess govern a country, we speak of a country of principality, for example Andorra. The United Kingdom, as its name suggests, is a country-kingdom, this type of monarchy is headed by a king and/or a queen.
Meanwhile, a duchy is a dominion or region ruled by a duke or duchess. A local example of this is Kate Middleton, who is the Duchess of Cambridge.
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Who are the 12 royal families of Europe? Here’s everything we know about them.
Who are the 12 royal families of Europe?
Queen Elizabeth II is the sovereign and head of state of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The Queen, Britain’s oldest monarch, is the source of legislative and executive power. However, despite the royal family’s status as a constitutional monarchy, the real political decisions are exercised by Parliament.
The monarch has a limited number of constitutional functions such as appointing the Prime Minister, approving parliamentary legislation and official appointments, representative functions as head of state, state visits and reception credentials of foreign ambassadors.
Spain is ruled by King Felipe VI. He became king in 2014 after the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos I. Previously, he was a member of the Spanish Olympic sailing team at the Barcelona Games in 1992. His father and sister were also Olympic sailors for Spain.
As monarch, King Felipe VI is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Spanish armed forces, he has the military rank of captain general. The King and his wife Queen Letizia share two daughters known as Princess Leonor of Asturias and Infanta Sofía of Spain.
Monarch of Andorra
Andorra, a small independent country located between France and Spain among the southern peaks of the Pyrenees has an interesting monarch. Since 1278 AD, the small state has been ruled by co-princes. Today the Bishop of Urgell Joan Enric Vives Sicília and the French President Emmanuel Macron are the co-princes of Andorra.
Each co-prince appoints a representative since the princes do not live in Andorra. Patrick Strzoda currently represents the French Co-Prince while Josep Maria Mauri represents the Episcopal Co-Prince. Andorra is one of the two non-inherited monarchies.
Belgium is ruled by King Philippe. In 2013 he was abdicated by his father King Albert II of the House of Belgium. Formerly an officer in the army, King Philippe is now a general in the Belgian army for the air and land forces.
The King attended Oxford University to study politics, he later married in 1999 to Queen Mathilde. The royal family shares four children: Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, Prince Gabriel, Prince Emmanuel and Princess Eléonore.
Queen Margrethe II rules Denmark, her legacy stretching back over a thousand years, making the Danish monarch one of the oldest in the world. His son, Crown Prince Frederik, is next in line to the throne and Prince Frederik’s son Christian will be next.
Unlike the British royal family, the children of the Danish royal family attend public schools, and adult members of the family are often seen shopping and dining in public. Greenland and the Faroe Islands also form the Kingdom of Denmark.
Monarch of Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein, located between Austria and Switzerland, is a constitutional monarchy on a democratic and parliamentary basis. Alois is the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein and he does not receive a salary but rather an annual allowance of 250,000 Swiss francs.
The people of Liechtenstein are the second sovereign, which means that they can express their lack of confidence in the reigning prince or decide to abolish the monarchy at any time.
Luxembourg is ruled by the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Henri, who is the first cousin of King Philippe of Belgium and the eldest son of Grand Duke Jean and Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium. The Grand Duke was abdicated from the title in 2000 by his father. In 2019, he was thought to have a net worth of around $4bn (£3.2bn). He also does not receive a salary but the ducal family receives 300,000 gold francs for the functions.
Albert II is the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, he is also the son of Hollywood actress Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III. In honor of his mother, who died in 1982 from injuries sustained in a car accident, he helped establish the Princess Grace Awards in 1984 to recognize emerging artists in film, theater and dance.
Monaco has a prince rather than a king due to the size of Monaco. In a tradition that dates back centuries, small principalities are ruled by a prince or princess.
Willem-Alexander is the King of the Netherlands and has been King since April 2013. The monarch himself has limited power. Although he enjoys immunity, the real power rests with ministers. The royal family remains neutral and makes no decisions on political matters. The King is married to Queen Maxima and they have three daughters: Princess Catharina-Amalia (Princess of Orange), Princess Alexia and Princess Ariane.
Norway is currently ruled by King Harald V, who has ruled since 1991. His only son, Crown Prince Haakon, is next. The duties of the king are mainly representative and ceremonial, therefore, legislative and executive powers rest with the elected political bodies of the country.
A very long time ago, in 1380, Norway and Denmark were merged under one monarch, but now they are under two different monarchs. Their union was dissolved in 1814 following the Napoleonic wars.
Sweden is ruled by King Carl XVI Gustaf, the other members of the royal family are Queen Silvia and their three children Crown Princess Victoria Ingrid Alice Désirée, Duchess of Västergötland, Prince Carl Philip Edmund, Duke of Värmland, and the Princess Madeleine Thérèse Amélie Joséphine, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland.
Royal family status extends to children and spouses of children, but Princess Madeleine’s husband has refused a royal title and is not officially recognized in the royal family. The role of the Swedish royal family is mainly ceremonial and they don’t have much say in political decisions.
Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Vatican. Pope Francis has authority without restriction by legislature, statute, or custom. The Vatican has a population of around 1,000 people and is the second European country without a hereditary monarchy.
It operates as an elective monarchy due to the oath of celibacy that Catholic priests take to become pope. Another key difference between the Vatican and other countries is that there are no taxes, no restrictions on imports or exports.