World History
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Modern Countries With Monarchs Who Actually Wield Real Power

April 21, 2017 33.9k views13 items

When you think "royalty," who comes to mind? You probably pictured a famous ruler like Queen Elizabeth II of England or King Felipe VI of Spain. But despite their titles, these rulers don't actually have much governmental power. Are there monarchs who actually rule? Most definitely - though they aren't always the most benevolent leaders.

Real-life powerful royals rule with varying degrees of authority all over the world. The individual rulers of each of the United Arab Emirates, for example, hold lots of sway, while King Salman of Saudi Arabia is well-known for being an autocrat. In Europe, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein exercises considerable control over his tiny monarchical country. The same goes for Prince Albert of Monaco.

Thankfully, the days of brutal medieval monarchs are long over. But modern monarchies with real power continue to thrive.

  • Saudi Arabia
    Photo: Secretary of Defense / via Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    For decades, all of the kings of Saudi Arabia have been sons of Ibn Saud, the man who single-handedly created the modern country. Since Ibn Saud himself was born in 1875, that means that his country's monarchs have been increasingly old men with increasingly short reigns in recent years.

    The current ruler, King Salman, and his family have control of the country's vast oil reserves (and thus of a lot its wealth). The king has tons of political, legislative, and judicial power, much of it controversial.

    • Capital: Riyadh
    • Founded: 1926-01-08

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  • Vatican City
    Photo: Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) / via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Vatican City might be tiny, but it's powerful. The smallest independent state in the entire world, the 100-acre area has its own currency, its own monarch - the Pope - and its own flag. Technically, Vatican City isn't even part of Italy, and the Holy Father, the last absolute monarch in Europe, has authority over everyone and everything in his jurisdiction.

    • Capital: Vatican City
    • Founded: 1929-02-11

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  • Oman
    Photo: U.S. Department of State / via Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    At the southwestern tip of the Saudi peninsula sits the tiny nation of Oman, ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Since ascending to power in a coup in 1970, Sultan Qaboos, as he is popularly known, has led Oman into the modern era. He has massively improved the country's GDP and is known as a determined peace-keeper. The Sultan holds pretty much every major political role himself, but remains a mysterious, little-seen presence.

    The succession to the sultanate is up in the air. The Sultan has left the decision to a council, with his own preference - written in an envelope - only to be revealed if they can't decide on a successor.

    • Capital: Muscat
    • Founded: 1651

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  • Monaco
    Photo: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade / via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 au

    The tiny principality of Monaco is ruled by Prince Albert II, a member of the famed Grimaldi family and the son of Hollywood luminary Grace Kelly. Monaco is one of the few countries in Europe where the monarch plays a regular role in politics. Prince Albert is also amongst the world's richest royals, with a net worth estimated about $1 billion. But he's had his fair share of scandals - he allegedly assaulted a woman, ducked out of paying his bills, and has accepted bribes.

    • Founded: 1297