The Top 5 Monarchs Who Still Have Real Power

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Perhaps part of the reason people so enjoy watching things like Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebration or royal weddings is because they know that modern “royals” are all about the pomp and ceremony, not about the power and governance. Long gone are the days when a person became king or queen and ruled over the masses merely because they happened to be conceived by people who happened to be king and/or queen. Except in a few places where those days are not gone, that is. Believe it or not, even a decade into the 21st century, there are still monarchs who rule over their subjects as if they were, well, subjects!

5 Yes, We Still Have Sultans, Apparently

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The nation of Brunei is located on the island of Borneo, which it shares with Indonesia and Malaysia. Brunei has the distinction, however, of being ruled by a sultan. His name is Hassanal Bolkiah and the official government he oversees is termed an “absolute constitutional monarchy.” That seems like a wild contradiction to us, but having never been the sultan of anything, we guess we just don’t understand it well enough.

4 Try to Follow All This

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The Kingdom of Bhutan is perched between India and China, and it is a place of mountainous beauty and confusing politics. It was ruled by an absolute monarchy for many generations, but under King Jigme Singye Wangchuck it was allowed to transition to a constitutional monarchy around the recent turn of the century. The king then took another step toward democracy when he allowed elections for two parliamentary bodies to take place a decade ago. The king then abdicated power … but he handed it over to his own son, the crown prince. So they’re getting there.

3 And He Looks Great on a Motorcycle, Too

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Abdullah II, the King of Jordan, (AKA the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) is both a thoroughly modern monarch, and also a guy who clearly enjoys being himself. He took the throne in 1999, and is currently only in his early 50s – young by today’s monarchical standards. He has been hailed as a “modern king” who behaves more like an elected official than an absolutist. And not only is Abdullah II the king of a country, but he has also made a cameo on “Star Trek”! What more could anyone ask for? Other than full democracy, we mean.

2 It’s Not Hereditary, But It’s Absolute

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OK, so technically the pope is kind of an elected official, if you can count a secretive conclave of cardinals as electors in the democratic sense. But once a pope is pope, he rules for life. Or, every few hundred years, until retirement. The Vatican is one of the world’s smallest countries, and as its head of state, a pope wields power over only about 800 people and less than a square mile, but his ceremonial powers? Those go pretty far.

1 It Pays to be the King

Saudi Arabia is often referred to as “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” so it should come as little surprise that the country is ruled by a king. The current king, born in 1924 and ruling since 2005, goes by the name King Abdullah, because his full name is (take a breath): Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Saud. There is far too much to say about this guy here, so we’ve chosen just one fact for you: His net worth is estimated at around $21 BILLION.

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