Over Christmas, I binge watched both seasons of the Crown on Netflix. As an anglophile, I’ve always been mildly interested in British royal family (and let’s be honest, compared to other reigning monarchs around the world, British royal family is probably the most popular, almost like a commercial product). The Netflix series left me even deeper in love with British culture, but also hungry for knowledge. About the Queen, but not only her – about monarchies in general. The last of Polish kings died in 1798, so I’ve never experienced life in a country ruled by royals. Which probably makes the whole concept even more interesting to me! So, eager to explore the topic, I went on to search for interesting fun facts about monarchies around the world. Here’s what I learnt!
We’re going to start with the British royal family – after all, they’re the ones who sparked my interest. Plus, due to them being so popular, most of the articles about monarchies I came across were all about the British royal family – therefore, they’ll play a big part in this post. But we’ll visit other countries too!
1. As promised, we’re starting with the Brits. More specifically, the British Queen, who happens to have… two birthdays! The perks of being a royal, huh? 🙂 Queen Elizabeth II was born on the 21st of April, 1926. That’s also when she celebrates her birthday with family. However, since 1748, the king’s or queen’s birthday has been a public holiday. Celebrated around the end of May or beginning of June… in order to have a high chance of good weather during official outdoor celebrations and parades!
2. Staying in the UK: The Queen doesn’t need – or have – a passport. Technically, passports are issued by the Queen – it wouldn’t make sense for her to issue one for herself. Other members of the family do have their documents. The surname used by the Queen’s closest relatives is usually Windsor or Mountbatten-Windsor (after Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband).
3. Let’s move to Sweden for a second. In 1810, the Swedish king of that time – Charles XIII – was in poor health and had no children. In order to prevent chaos after the childless king’s death, an heir-presumptive was elected – Jean Bernadotte. Not a born royal or anything of that kind. He was a soldier – a French soldier – with close relationship to Napoleon. So why did he become king of Sweden? Well, he was… nice. He gained huge popularity due to the kindness he showed towards Swedish war prisoners – and that was enough to get him to Swedish throne.
4. Back when monarchies were a thing in most countries, they would usually form marriages between members of royal families of different countries. As a result, in Europe, most of the ruling kings and queens were actually related, which brought some negatives along the way. Queen Victoria’s son – Prince Leopold – died due to haemophilia (which he inherited from his mother) at the age of 30. Overall, royal haemophiliacs descended from British Queen Victoria could be found in Russia, Austria and Spain. Possibly in other countries too.
5. In 1943, when Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was about to be born, her parents were living in Canada, where they had fled during World War II. To make sure the princess would only inherit citizenship from her mother, and not the country she’d be born in, the maternity ward in Ottawa was declared to be temporarily extraterritorial by the Canadian government. Thanks to this, it was possible to preserve the newborn’s place in the line of succession to the Dutch throne.
6. In most countries, the crown is usually passed to the eldest (in some countries, eldest male) child of the previous king or queen. However, that’s not always the case. In the Malaysian state of Perak, Sultanship rotates among three different branches of the royal family. The eldest son of the ruling Sultan is usually placed at the end of the line of succession.
7. As the mummy of Ramesses II was rapidly deteriorating, it was flown to Paris for examination. But he wasn’t treated like an object, no! The Egyptian government issued the mummy a passport that listed its occupation as “King (deceased)” and the corpse was greeted in Paris with full military honours!
8. Let’s get back to the UK for a second, where… all swans are the property of the Queen. It’s a holdover from days of yore, when eating a swan was considered a privilege worthy only of God’s representative on Earth.
9. From the UK to the world’s smallest kingdom. Antonio Bertoleoni – a fisherman who spends most of his days in sandals and shorts, also running a restaurant as his day job, is the king of the world’s tiniest kingdom. He rules over Tavolara, a 5-square-kilometer island. It’s home to 57 part-time residents and about 100 mountain goats. The kingdom declared independence in the 19th century and Bertoleoni family continues the tradition, but their “monarchy” isn’t officially recognized. The island is considered to be part of Italy.
10. There are currently 31 countries in the world still ruled by some form of monarchy. These include Sultans, Emirs, Princes, Princesses, Kings, Queens, and Emperors. Well, one emperor – Japanese Emperor Akihito. He’s expected to abdicate in April this year, and his son will succeed to the throne.
11. With the crown being passed to the eldest child of the deceased monarch no matter the age, it often happened that kings and queens were children at the time of coronation. The extreme case happened with Mary, Queen of Scots – also known as Mary Stuart. When her father died (and she automatically became the queen) she was just six days old.
12. Crown prince Sado of Korea was both the heir to the kingdom… and a serial rapist and killer. Not really someone you’d want in line for the throne, was he? His father, King Yeongjo of Joseon, was prevented from killing him outright by law. He found a way to do it “lawfully” – locked his son in a rice chest and refused to allow it to be opened for 8 days. As you can probably guess, that was the end of Sado’s life.
13. Now let’s visit my own country for a second! We’ve learnt about the crown rotating between different branches of royal family in Malaysia – now, let’s explore another method for passing the crown. Election! From 1573, kings of Poland were elected by an assembly of lords, called the Republic of Nobles. Many of those chosen as king were actually foreigners, popular in Poland for various accomplishments (typically, war related ones).
14. And back to the UK for the very last time! Even though individual monarchs naturally do die, the Sovereign (in other words, the reigning monarch) never dies. That’s how the British Crown operates: the moment one king or queen dies, their successor instantly takes over. As a result of this, the royal standard never flies at half-mast! Well, close to never. It can be flown at half-mast over a building or vessel (but not at Buckingham Palace) if the deceased body of the previous monarch is housed there. Also, this is only the case if the current monarch is not in attendance at the same place.
15. Those who consider monarchies unnecessary and would like to see them left in the past, only to be met in history books, often claim that royals are lazy and unskilled, living off regular citizens’ taxes and doing no real work. However, there have been multiple cases of talented royals, successful in various activities! Many royal heads participated in the Olympics, typically competing in equestrian disciplines. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, on the other hand, illustrated artwork for the Danish edition of Lord of the Rings!
Do you live in a country ruled by a monarch and would you add anything interesting to this list? Or perhaps you’re interested in history and know of some other interesting facts about past and present royalties around the world? If so – share those facts with us!