12 Major Royal Families of Europe

Published January 25, 2021
Stockholm crown bridge

The royal families of Europe have survived centuries, maintaining their hold over 12 European monarchies. The history of these families reveal a unique connection that is often overlooked.

List of Royal Families of Europe

Of the 12 monarchies of Europe, two are not hereditary. Andorra (a diarchy) and the Vatican City rulers are elected. The remaining 10 monarchies are hereditary. The monarchies may be a principality, kingdom, or duchy.

  • A principality is ruled by a prince and/or a princess.
  • A kingdom is ruled by a king and/or a queen.
  • A duchy is ruled by a duke and/or a duchess.

1. Andorra (Principality)

Andorra is an oddity for a principality or any type of royal rule. It is a small country in the Pyrenees and is landlocked between Spain and France. It has been ruled by co-princes since 1278 AD. The Bishop of Urgell and the French Count of Foix, although the King of France was eventually given the princedom of Andorra. Each co-prince appoints a representative since the princes don't live in Andorra.

Division of Power

In 1993, a new constitution was created. This established executive, legislative and judicial branches for Andorra. The executive power is held by the Prime Minister of Andorra while the co-princes remain as the heads of state. Since France no longer has a ruling monarchy, the French president automatically becomes the co-prince of Andorra. Today, President Emmanuel Macron (France) and the Bishop of Urgell, Joan-Enric Vives Sicília, serve as the co-princes of Andorra.

France's President Emmanuel Macron

2. Belgium (Kingdom)

On July 3, 2013, King Albert II of the House of Belgium (Saxe-Coburg-Gotha branch) made the announcement that he was going abdicate to his eldest child, Philippe (DOB April 15, 1960). On July 21, 2013, Prince Philippe became King of the Belgians. Prince Philippe married Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz December 4, 1999. Queen Mathilde's noble line is the daughter of Belgium's Walloon count. She is a descendant of Polish princes and counts.

House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

The origin of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is German. This house is a cadet branch of one of the oldest houses in Europe, the House of Wettin.

Children of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde

The royal couple has four children. The eldest, Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant (DOB October 25, 2001) is his heir apparent and will one day become the first queen regnant of the Belgians.

The other children include:

  • Prince Gabriel
  • Prince Emmanuel
  • Princess Eléonore

3. Denmark (Kingdom)

Queen Margrethe II was born Margrethe Alexandrine Þórhildur Ingrid (DOB April 16, 1940). She was born of the House of Glücksburg (house origins in northern Germany). She was married in 1967 to Henri de Laborde de Monpezat (DOD 2018). The royal couple has two sons, heir apparent, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim.

House of Glücksburg History

The history of the House of Glücksburg is complex as a branch of the House of Oldenburg. The royal members have reigned in four countries throughout history. These countries include Denmark, Greece, Norway, and various states of Northern Germany. This gives a larger family tree that includes King Harald V of Norway, former Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Constantine II, the former king of Greece, and Spain's Queen Sofía.

Coat of arms of the House of Glücksburg

Prince Philip and Prince Charles

This cadet branch also includes Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was a prince of Denmark and Greece and in line of succession to the thrones thanks to his lineage of Greece's George I and Denmark's Christian IX. This makes him a patrilineal descendant, along with his heir apparent, Prince Charles of the Glücksburg dynasty.

4. Liechtenstein (Principality)

Reigning prince of Liechtenstein, Hans-Adam II (Johannes Adam Ferdinand Alois Josef Maria Marco d'Aviano Pius) was born on February 14, 1945. He took the throne on November 13, 1989 as the heir apparent upon the death of his father, Prince Franz Joseph II (1906-1989). His mother was Princess Gina, the Countess Georgina von Wilczek (1921-1989) and his godfather was Pope Pius XII (1876-1958).

The prince has four siblings. They include;

  • Prince Philipp
  • Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein
  • Princess Norberta
  • Prince Franz Josef of Liechtenstein

House of Glücksburg

The House of Glücksburg (House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg) is a branch of the House of Oldenburg. The origins of the Oldenburg dynasty are Danish and North German. Its members have been rulers of Denmark, Greece, Norway, and northern Germany.

Marriage and Children

Hans-Adam II married Countess Marie Aglaë von Wchinitz und Tettau in 1967. The royal couple has four children:

  • Hier Apparent Prince Alois
  • Prince Maximilian
  • Prince Constantin
  • Princess Tatjana

Power and Transition

In addition to his title of Prince, Hans-Adam II is the Duke of Jägerndorf and Troppau. He also holds the title Count of Rietberg. Prince Hans-Adam is touted as the wealthiest European monarch. He increased his power with a 2003 amendment to the constitution. He then began the monarchy transition in 2004 to his eldest son, Alois, Hereditary Prince and Regent of Liechtenstein and Count of Rietberg. In 1993, Alois married the Duchess Sophie in Bavaria and the couple has four children.

  • Prince Joseph Wenzel
  • Princess Marie-Caroline
  • Prince Georg
  • Prince Nikolaus

5. Luxembourg (Grand Duchy)

The Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Henri (Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume - DOB April 16, 1955) is first cousin of King Philippe of Belgium and the eldest son of Grand Duke Jean and Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium. He took over the title of Grand Duke when his father abdicated the title in 2000.

House of Liechtenstein

The origins of the House of Liechtenstein began near Vienna, Austria. Over the centuries, the region of control extended to Lower Ausria, Moravia, Styria, and Silesia.

Royal Lineage

His father was the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg and Prince Félix of Bourbon-Parma's eldest son. His mother was Belgium King Leopold III's only daughter. He has four siblings that include:

  • Archduchess Marie Astrid of Austria
  • Prince Jean of Luxembourg
  • Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein
  • Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg
Grand Ducal couple (Jean and Princess Joséphine Charlotte of Belgium) with their children

Marriage and Children

In 1981, Henri married Cuban-born María Teresa Mestre y Batista in 1981. The royal couple has five children:

  • Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg
  • Prince Félix of Luxembourg
  • Prince Louis of Luxembourg
  • Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg
  • Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg

6. Monaco (Principality)

Sovereign Prince of Monaco, Albert II (Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi) of the Princely House of Grimaldi was born on March 14, 1958. The son of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace (former American actress), he has two siblings, Princess Caroline and Princess Stéphanie. In 1982, Princess Grace had a stroke and died in a car accident. In 2005, Prince Rainier III died, and Prince Albert II became Sovereign Prince of Monaco.

House of Grimaldi

The origins of the House of Grimaldi are found in the Republic of Genoa. The House of Grimaldi was founded by Francesco Grimaldi. In 1297 AD, Grimaldi was the Guelphs' Genoese ruler. He seized Monaco and established the principality that still rules to this day.

Great coat of arms of the house of Grimaldi

Marriage and Children

In 2011, Prince Albert married Charlene Wittstock, a South African Olympic swimmer. The couple has a set of twin children, Princess Gabriella and Hereditary Prince Jacques. Albert is father to two illegitimate children prior to his marriage to Princess Charlene. One child was born in America, Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, and the other was born in France, Alexandre Grimaldi-Coste. According to law, only legitimate children can be in line of succession.

7. Netherlands (Kingdom)

King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander (Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand) was born on April 27, 1967. He is the eldest child Princess Beatrix and Claus van Amsberg, a diplomat. Princess Beatrix ascended to the throne in 1980, making Willem-Alexander the heir apparent. In 2013, King Willem-Alexander ascended to the throne when his mother abdicated.

House of Orange-Nassau

The origin of the House of Orange-Nassau is a branch of the House of Nassau. The House of Nassau has two branches, the Walramian of German King Adolf and the Ottonian of the Princes of Orange and Netherlands monarchs.

Marriage, Children and Ascension to the Throne

In 2002, then heir apparent Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander married Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti. Queen Máxima was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and is the daughter of the Secretary of Agriculture Jorge Zorreguieta (1928-2017) and María del Carmen Cerruti Carricart (DOB 1944). The royal couple has three daughters.

  • Heir apparent Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange
  • Princess Alexia
  • Princess Ariane
The Prince Of Orange And Princess Maxima Of The Netherlands And Family

8. Norway (Kingdom)

King of Norway Harald V (DOB February 21, 1937) ascended the throne when his father, King Olav V, died on January 17, 1991. Harald is the only son of King Olav V and Princess Märtha of Sweden.

House of Glücksburg

The House of Glücksburg (House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg) is a German branch of the House of Oldenburg. Historically, Denmark, Norway, Greece, and northern Germany have been ruled over members of the House of Glücksburg.

German Occupation and Exile

The King and his family fled to Sweden during World War ii when Germany occupied Norway. He also spent some of his childhood in the United States. The family returned to Norway after the war.

Marriage and Children

In 1968, Prince Harald married Sonja Haraldsen, daughter of Karl August Haraldsen, a clothing merchant and Dagny Ulrichsen. The couple has two children:

  • Princess Märtha Louise
  • Heir Apparent, Crown Prince Haakon

9. Spain (Kingdom)

The King of Spain, Felipe VI or Philip VI (Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Grecia) was born January 30, 1968. He is the eldest son of Juan Carlos (DOB 1938) and Queen Sofía (DOB 1938) In 2014, his father abdicated the throne to him. Queen Sofía is the daughter of Greece's King Paul and Frederica of Hanover. During World War II, she and her family exiled to Egypt. King Felipe has two sisters, Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo, and Infanta Cristina, both older than him.

House of Bourbon

The origins of the House of Bourbon are French royalty and date back to 1272 AD. The House of Bourbon is a branch of the Capetian dynasty that is the royal House of France. The Bourbon kings ruled France, Navarre, and branched into the dynasty of the Spanish Bourbon kings that ruled Spain, Sicily, Naples, and Parma. Even Luxembourg has monarchs that belong to the House of Bourbon.

Marriage and Children

Felipe and TV journalist Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano were married in 2004. The royal couple has two daughters:

  • Heir apparent Princess Leonor
  • Princess Sofía
Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia with their daughters

10. Sweden (Kingdom)

King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf (Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus) was born April 30, 1946, to the Duke of Västerbotten, Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. In 1947, his father was in a fatal airplane crash, leaving the infant second in line. In 1950, his great-grandfather King Gustaf V died, and his grandfather ascended the throne, making four-year-old Carl Gustaf Crown Prince and heir apparent.

Power of the Throne

In 1973, upon the death of his Grandfather King Gustaf VI Adolf, the Crown Prince ascended the throne. However, in 1974, his executive power was taken from him by the legislature, leaving him without any real governmental powers, other than ceremonial.

House of Bernadotte

The royal house of Sweden, the House of Bernadotte, was founded in 1818. Until 1905, it was also the royal house of Norway. King Carl Gustaf is the head of the House of Bernadotte, so he still decides what positions and titles members of the house receive.

Marriage and Children

In 1976, King Carl XVI Gustaf married Silvia Renate Sommerlath (DOB 1943). Her parents were Alice (née Soares de Toledo of Brazil) and Walther Sommerlath of Germany. The couple has three children.

  • Heir Apparent Crown Princess Victoria
  • Prince Carl Philip
  • Princess Madeleine

11. United Kingdom (Kingdom)

Perhaps the most well-known monarch, Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor) was born on April 21, 1926. She is Queen of the United Kingdom, along with 15 Commonwealths. She is the first child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. King George ascended to the throne in 1936 upon the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, making Elizabeth the heir apparent. She had one sibling, Princess Margaret (1930-2002). Elizabeth ascended to the throne upon the death of her father in 1952.

House of Windsor

The royal house of the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth is the House of Windsor. It originated from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. In 1917, World War I sentiments toward Germany resulted in the German name of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha being changed to the English name of Windsor.

Marriage and Children

Heir Apparent Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh, Philip, who was the Prince of Greece and Denmark and is her second cousin once removed. The royal couple has four children and eight grandchildren, along with eight great-grandchildren. Grandson Prince William, Duke of Cambridge is second in line of succession after his father, Prince Charles.

  • Heir Apparent, Charles, Prince of Wales
  • Anne, Princess Royal
  • Prince Andrew, Duke of York
  • Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace

12. Vatican (Theocratic State)

Included in the list of 12 European royal families is a rather unlikely one, the Pope. Vatican City is considered a state, specifically a theocratic state. This means it is governed by divinity's supervision or in this circumstance, by an official, the Pope, believed to be guided by divinity.

Vatican City and the Pope

Vatican City was recognized as an independent state by the 1929 Lateran Treaty. It is the smallest independent state on the planet. The ruler is known as the King of the Ecclesiastical State or more appropriately, the Pope. Unlike the other monarchies, the King of the Ecclesiastical State is not decided by hereditary, but by an election. The Pope is the Holy See, also known as the Bishop of Rome. The current Pope is Francis, who was born on December 17, 1936 as Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He is the first Jesuit to become Pope. He is also the first Pope from the Americas, specifically, Buenos Aires, Argentina in South America. Unlike the other 11 monarchies, the Pope's power is Absolute, meaning he has complete autocratic authority over Vatican City.

Examining the 12 Royal Families of Europe

The list of the 12 royal families of Europe can give you a better insight into these monarchies and their royal last names. These families of antiquity may not weld the same power they once had, but they are still very much a vital part of their kingdoms and lives of their subjects.

12 Major Royal Families of Europe