From enjoying lavish riches to wallowing in endless power, we have an idea of how it might be to live like kings. But do we know what it’s like to die like a monarch? Well, in the cases of these 20 British kings – including such famous royalty as George V, Richard III and James I – the end might involve assisted murder, falling from a cliff or toilet troubles – among other gruesome, shocking final acts. So it’s safe to say that we might be better off not knowing how it all ends…
20. Henry VI
Henry VI ascended to the English throne twice: once in 1429 as an eight-year-old, and again in 1470 after a nine-year exile from his kingdom. But the second time he returned to power would end even more tragically than political banishment. That’s because his rival, Edward, Duke of York, had to make a brutal decision in order to take the reins of the country.
You see, in 1471 Edward’s forces had a big win over Henry VI’s at Tewkesbury. After this, the king ended up in the Tower of London. It seems that Henry VI then died on May 21 – perhaps due to his sadness at being locked away and stripped of his power. But excavators have found evidence that the king died much more violently. Namely, the experts discovered blood-soaked hair near Henry VI’s damaged skull – signs of a much more traumatic end to his royal life.
19. Edmund I
Edmund I had some pretty flattering nicknames, including “Edmund the Just” and “Edmund the Magnificent.” He did his best to promote peace along the country’s borders, too. This is especially true for the first king to have ascended to the throne of an England united. But things went south for Edmund seven years into his reign – and what happened left the entire kingdom shocked.
In fact, Edmund I died on May 26, 946, in a stabbing – which is a gruesome enough end on its own. Initial reports stated that a thief named Leofa knifed the king after he had spotted the banished criminal in the crowd at a Gloucestershire gathering. Nowadays, though, historians think that Edmund I’s death was a politically charged assassination.
18. Alexander III
Alexander III reigned over Scotland from the mid-to-late 13th century, managing to build a powerful royal family and purge the country’s Western Isles of Norse influence. And yet the most enduring story of his time in power is how it ended. The tragic story began in March 1286, when Alexander III decided to travel from his base at Edinburgh Castle to Kinghorn. That’s where he could reunite with his queen, Yolande de Dreux.
To get there, though, Alexander III chose to follow a treacherous route. And at a certain point, his guides suggested he turn back instead of making the crossing. But the king went anyway – and this ended up being a fatal decision. It’s believed that his horse then lost its footing along a cliff’s edge, launching the monarch down a rock-covered embankment. Alexander’s body – complete with a broken neck – was discovered the next day.
17. Charles I
Charles I ascended to the English throne fairly – but Parliament and the people didn’t like his style of rule. That’s because Charles tried to limit the power of the country’s legislative branch – and this earned him a reputation as a tyrant. That was a characterization he showed no interest in trying to shake off, either. After the English Civil War, though, Charles fled the country – only to be returned by the Scottish.
Yet Parliament decided not to execute its king. Instead, its members envisioned Charles I as a figurehead of the government that they’d run. Of course, Charles wouldn’t stand for this. He then partnered with the Scottish and promised to bring Presbyterianism throughout England should they help restore him to the throne. This alliance made Parliament realize that the king would never back down – so he was tried for treason. An executioner ended Charles’ life with a single, clean swipe that took off his head in 1649.
16. William Rufus
Things seemed to be going well for William Rufus, who took over from William the Conqueror as the King of England. At the turn of the 12th century, you see, he had assumed control of Normandy, and his brother, Robert, used the Crusades as a chance to expand their territory. But it all came crashing down when the monarch went on an ill-fated hunting trip in the New Forest in the year 1100.
While on the hunt, William Rufus’ companion, a man named Walter Tirel, misfired at a stag. His arrow went straight through the monarch’s chest. Rufus snapped the shaft of the arrow just before he fell to the ground and died. Some have wondered whether Tirel, who was known to have been a great shot, had really hit his intended target. But there’s no solid proof that the slain king’s companion had had orders to kill him that day.
People didn’t particularly like King John. As chronicler Matthew Paris put it, “Foul as it is, Hell itself is made fouler by the presence of John.” And, knowing the royal’s behavior, that take is pretty fair. You see, John had a tendency to put his prisoners through sadistic, tragic torture – even nobles, women and children he had captured were unexempt.
Needless to say, no one was sad when King John died – and he met an end that was fitting for someone of his character. In October 1216 the loathed monarch died either on or next to a toilet at Newark Castle. The cause of death was likely dysentery – a gut parasite he may have picked up from eating rotten peaches. Some theorized that he had been poisoned, though there’s no solid proof of that.
14. Henry I
Henry I took the throne after his brother, William Rufus, was either accidentally killed or murdered on a hunting trip. Henry proved to be a great leader on and off the battlefield, too, reforming the government and pushing England ahead of her rivals in Normandy. But more than three decades after his predecessor died tragically, Henry I also succumbed to an unexpected fate.
As it turned out, Henry I had a penchant for eating lamprey – a jawless, rather creepy-looking fish. His doctor advised against the king’s favorite protein while he felt unwell in 1135, but the monarch didn’t listen. Instead, Henry gorged on the slimy seafood – and he got sick and died shortly thereafter.
13. James II
After his father, James I, died in 1437, six-year-old James II became the King of Scotland. By the time he was old enough to rule, though, the monarch had developed into a fearless, aggressive leader. He even participated in the murder of the Earl of Douglas, whose brain was axed out of his skull.
James II’s dark side may have pushed him into one of his major hobbies: weapons. He had a fascination with the artillery of his era – particularly cannons. And firing one of those during the Wars of Scottish Independence ended up leading to his 1460 demise. Yes, the gun backfired, instantly smashing his femur and creating a gaping injury that eventually killed him.
12. William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror ascended to the throne after rising through the ranks of French nobility and beating then-English king Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Like his predecessor (whose demise features elsewhere in this article), the one-time Duke of Normandy would meet a grisly end – albeit more than 20 years into his reign.
During 1087’s Battle of Mantes, William the Conqueror smashed into his horse saddle’s pommel. This crushed his intestines. The strange injury that killed him made for a gruesome funeral, too. That’s because he was shoved into a too-small sarcophagus. Eventually, then, the king’s body burst out – and his intestines spilled from his stomach – to make for a graphic, smelly send-off.
11. Harold II
Harold II held the English throne for a mere nine months before Norman invaders defeated him in 1066, killing him in the process. Before his demise, though, Harold II stood as the last Anglo-Saxon king of the country. He ruled with strength and had proved to be formidable on the battlefield – until he died there.
During 1066’s Battle of Hastings, you see, an arrow pierced Harold II’s eye. And while history has long remembered this as what killed him, the king faced much more trauma than that. After all, Norman invaders proceeded to slice the monarch’s limbs and head from his torso, which left his remains unrecognizable.
10. James III
James III was the son of James II and the grandson of James I, both of whom also feature on this list. One of no fewer than five consecutive Scottish kings with the same name, James III proved an unpopular leader during his reign, which lasted from 1460 until his death in 1488.
In fact, James III was so disliked that his own son and heir, James IV, joined the rebellion against him. Eventually, they took down the reigning monarch at the Battle of Sauchieburn, and he died shortly thereafter. Supposedly, a rebel slipped into a priest costume before murdering the Scottish king. No matter how it happened, though, James IV always felt guilt for his involvement in his father’s demise.
9. George II
King George II led England and had sound political ideas. The only problem was, he didn’t have much confidence in himself. While on the throne, then, he relied on others to help him make decisions. Yet at home he had no problem relying on his own brain. He even followed a rigid schedule that included drinking chocolate first thing in the morning every day – until his tragic death.
How did it happen? Well, on October 25, 1760, George II awoke for a breakfast of hot chocolate at 6:00 a.m., then took a seat on his convenience (toilet). Shortly thereafter, the king’s valet heard a crashing noise and went into the bathroom to find the monarch dead. This had nothing to do with his sweet breakfast – although it couldn’t have been a boon to his health. The king had suffered an aortic dissection, meaning the main artery had ripped away from his heart, cutting off all blood circulation and killing him.
8. Richard I
Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart, had a “knightly manner,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. That, combined with his skills on the battlefield during the Third Crusade, made him a popular leader during his decade-long reign. Ironically, though, he died doing exactly what he loved.
In 1199 Richard’s forces were laying siege to Château de Chalus-Chabrol, and he took some time to survey the area. As he did, though, someone loosed an arrow into his shoulder. Such an injury might not have proved fatal, except that the king’s wound turned gangrenous. Richard could later sense the end was near and requested to meet the person who’d fired the fatal shot. It turned out that it had been a child who held the king responsible for his father’s and brothers’ deaths.
7. Richard III
Historians long knew that Richard III died in battle. The king, who reigned over England for a mere two years, lost his life in 1485’s Battle of Bosworth Field. The conflict marked the end of a 30-year civil war between two powerful English houses: York and Lancaster. Both wanted control of the throne and both fought under banners featuring a rose.
The discovery of Richard III’s remains in 2012 painted a much clearer picture of how he had perished in battle, though. He’d died after a forceful blow to the skull from a halberd, which is a kind of battle-ax. But his remains featured a slew of other horrific injuries, some of which had come after he’d already passed. Perhaps most notably, Richard had had a dagger or sword driven straight through his right buttock.
6. James I
Clearly, rulers in Scotland called James didn’t have a great deal of luck. Yet this one actually survived a kidnapping by pirates when he was 12 years old. Then he returned to Scotland in 1424 and received his rightful crown – but it wouldn’t stay on his head for long. Instead, he met a horrific demise at a monastery in Perth.
In 1437 conspirators working against James I admitted a gang of 30 people into the Perth monastery where he was staying. But the king then snuck down into a sewer. This would have been an effective escape route – had he not ordered the other end sealed just days prior. So, once the angry mob located the royal, it was over for him. They cornered and stabbed James multiple times, and he perished in a puddle of his own blood.
5. King George V
King George V’s health took a serious decline after he fell off his horse in 1915. First, the tumble caused him breathing issues – but he exacerbated the problem by smoking heavily. Then, a decade later, George had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which led to life-threatening issues with inflammation. So in 1936 he knew the end was near – and his family did, too.
But King George V didn’t technically die of lung disease. Instead, his royal physician administered a lethal dose of morphine and cocaine to hasten his death. That’s because the monarch wanted the news in the morning papers, rather than the evening editions. Still, euthanasia is not permitted in English law – so technically this amounted to murder. What’s more, the king’s son, soon to become Edward VIII, did not get along with his father, and he okayed his father’s overdose.
4. Edward the Martyr
In the 10th century, English king Edgar the Peaceable ushered the Anglo-Saxon country through its golden age. When he died, though, his two sons – brought into the world by two different mothers – vied for the throne. Yet Edward the Martyr was the oldest and became king, while his brother Ethelred was second in line.
In March 978 Edward went to visit Ethelred and his stepmother, Elfryda, at Corfe Castle. Rumor has it that immediately after a hunt, the then-teenaged Edward accepted a glass of wine from Elfryda. Then, straight afterward, someone stabbed him in the back. Edward then fell off of his horse but remained latched into his stirrups, meaning his steed dragged his body until it could be recovered. With Edward’s death, Ethelred became king. And if the story’s true, then Edward’s stepmother may quite possibly have planned her son’s ascension to the throne.
3. William III
William III – also known as William of Orange – hailed from the Netherlands. This was a fact never forgotten by his high-ranking English constituents. Yet the lower classes loved their king, who reigned from 1689 until 1702. William did bring a renewed sense of stability to Great Britain, one that has become a hallmark of the nation ever since.
These contributions make William III’s death all the more tragic. The king had always suffered from less-than-stellar health, but few could have predicted a molehill would spark his demise. You see, the ruler fell from his horse after the animal tripped over the mound. William hit the ground, cracked his collarbone and survived – at least at first. But from wound-related complications, the king developed pneumonia, which is what ultimately killed him.
2. Edward II
Edward II, who ascended to the English throne in 1307, did not make a good impression on his in-laws. After all, he married Isabella, the daughter of King Philip IV of France, a year after he became king. But she wielded little power in court compared to the king’s friend, Piers Gaveston. Some people believed that the two men had a secret romantic relationship, too.
Regardless of the nature of Edward’s relationship with Gaveston, things soon went south for the king. Eventually, you see, Isabella turned on him – invading England with the French and eventually forcing the royal to hand over his crown. But it didn’t end there: some say that the disgraced former monarch was tortured to death in 1327 with hot pokers shoved into his backside. Some historians brush this off as a smear campaign regarding the king’s sexuality, though.
1. Edmund Ironside
Edmund Ironside earned his name after he led the resistance against a Danish invasion. But his reginald name was Edmund II. He sat on the throne for a short time: from April 23 until November 30, 1016. He met a terrible fate at the end – but not on the battlefield, as his story might suggest.
Edmund Ironside’s murder was grisly for both him and the person responsible for his slaying. That’s because the killer hid inside the monarch’s toilet – yes, among the royal waste piled inside – awaiting the moment to strike. Then, when Edmund took a seat overhead, the assailant shoved a spear or dagger straight through him, killing him while on the porcelain throne.
For hundreds of years, the British royal family have enjoyed astonishing popularity in many countries around the world. Even to this day, news that one of the members of the clan is getting married can put the planet into a frenzy. But while Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle’s respective entries to The Firm prove that aristocrats aren’t the only ones allowed to wed a prince, traditionally things were once a little different. And as it happens, even current-day royals have some alarmingly close connections within their family tree.
20. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
With a reign only surpassed in length by her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria remains one of Britain’s most iconic monarchs. Notably, Victoria’s time on the throne saw the further development of the U.K.’s constitutional monarchy; her husband, Albert, you see, had urged her to be less partisan when dealing with Parliament. And while Victoria and Albert were famously very close, their familial ties didn’t stop at marriage. In actual fact, the pair were first cousins.
Regardless of this genetic link, Victoria and her spouse had nine children – all of whom would go on to become members of other preeminent families. Unfortunately, though, many of the queen’s descendants throughout Europe were stricken with hemophilia – a genetic disorder passed down by Victoria herself. And owing to its spread throughout the monarch’s clan, the illness would ultimately earn the nickname “the royal disease.”
19. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Since 1952, Queen Elizabeth II has ruled over the U.K. and other Commonwealth nations with Prince Philip at her side. And yet the pair’s relationship goes even further back, as the then-Princess Elizabeth actually fell in love with Philip at the age of 13. It’s perhaps no surprise, though, that the two were acquainted well before they wed in 1947.
You see, the Queen and her husband have a shared family connection through Queen Victoria, who was great-great-grandmother to both. And if that wasn’t enough, the couple possess yet another genetic link through Denmark’s King Christian IX – making them second cousins to boot.
18. King George V, Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II
The concept of noble families being ripped apart by war may sound like the plot of a Shakespearean tragedy, but it actually happened to Europe’s leading monarchies during World War I. As the grandsons of Queen Victoria, however, England’s King George V, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II and Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II were bound together by their genetics. Nicholas also shared a maternal grandmother with George – not to mention remarkably similar looks.
Nonetheless, blood turned out to be thinner than water in the end. At the onset of war in 1914, Britain and Russia turned against Germany, while the Russian Revolution three years later would eventually lead to George shunning Nicholas for fear of political reprisals in Britain. It was a tragic turn of events that – as Kaiser Wilhelm reportedly opined – wouldn’t have been permissible under their grandparents’ rule.
17. King George IV and Caroline of Brunswick
Not all royal weddings have a happily ever after. Just take the unfortunate marriage between King George IV and his first cousin Caroline of Brunswick, for example. As a young man, George had lived the life of a libertine until crippling debts caused him to receive an ultimatum from his father. Specifically, King George III decreed that his son would either marry his cousin Caroline or be cut off financially.
Despite already being married, George glumly accepted and wed his relation in 1795. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two shared an almost immediate dislike for each other, and they would be separated within a year. Still, that split didn’t come until after the birth of daughter Charlotte, who would sadly die in 1817 before becoming eligible for the crown.
16. King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon
The tale of Henry VIII and his six wives is perhaps the most famous story in royal history, and it’s one that has been recounted by generations since. In 1509 the monarch married his first wife Catherine of Aragon, who was also a distant relation through John of Gaunt. And yet the pair’s marriage was a family affair in more ways than one.
Before getting hitched to Henry, you see, Catherine had been married to his brother, Arthur, who was also first in line for the throne. That union would be sadly curtailed just six months on, though, when Arthur died. Then, following that bereavement, Catherine wed her brother-in-law and stayed with him until 1533 – when Henry had their marriage invalidated in order to wed Anne Boleyn.
15. Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
After meeting Prince Charles in the early 1970s, Camilla Parker Bowles reportedly had some choice first words for her future husband. Yes, according to Leslie Carroll’s 2010 book Notorious Royal Marriages, the now-Duchess of Cornwall apparently said, “My great-grandmother and your great-great-grandfather were lovers, so how about it?” And from then on, the two became an on-off couple until they married in 2005.
With her risqué pickup line, Camilla had referenced the relationship between King Edward VII and her relative Alice Keppel. And considering that Camilla’s grandmother Sonia Keppel could be the regent’s illegitimate daughter, this may make the duchess and Charles half-second cousins once removed. Additionally, the two share a common ancestor through the second Duke of Newcastle, Henry Cavendish.
14. King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Before Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne, her father, George VI, was king. Yet the monarch – who was married to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, or the Queen Mother – may never have held court had it not been for his brother’s own marriage. You see, after his father passed away in 1936, George’s older sibling, Edward, naturally took the crown. Famously, though, Edward soon abdicated thereafter in order to wed U.S. divorcee Wallis Simpson.
But while officials may have disapproved of Edward’s choice of partner, they surely had fewer reservations about George and Elizabeth. After all, the Queen Mother came from noble stock, having been descended from King Henry VII’s daughter Margaret. And owing to George’s own relation to the Tudor king, this made the parents of the present Queen 13th cousins.
13. King William IV and Queen Adelaide
With royal marriages, sometimes hereditary lines have been more important than love. Certainly, this was the case with William IV, who as a young prince enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Irish actress Dorethea Bland. After the royal’s niece – and heir apparent – Princess Charlotte passed away in 1817, though, William attempted to secure his own place on the throne.
Then, when various attempts at finding a wife capable of giving him an heir had failed, William finally married his third cousin Adelaide. But there was a hitch. Although William successfully gained the crown following this union, his daughters with Adelaide would all tragically pass away before becoming eligible for succession. In their place, Queen Victoria would be the one to carry on the family line.
12. King George V and Mary of Teck
Although she was the great-granddaughter of George III, Mary of Teck held only a small amount of status within her family. Nevertheless, the young royal grew to be a firm favorite of her grandmother Queen Victoria. And through the queen, Mary became betrothed to her second cousin Prince Albert Victor – the man who was expected to next take the throne.
Alas, the pair wouldn’t see themselves become man and wife. Mere weeks before their wedding, Prince Albert became ill with the influenza from which he ultimately passed away. And so, despite her grief, Mary subsequently struck up a relationship with Albert’s brother George, who was next in the line of succession. Then, in 1893 – so, 17 years before George’s coronation – the two married, with their union going on to yield six children.
11. Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones
As the youngest child of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Edward was never really destined to sit on the throne. Before his mother passes away, in fact, he’s unlikely to rise any higher than 11th in line. Weirdly enough, though, the number 11 has another meaning for the prince and his wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones.
In fact, Edward and former PR chief Sophie – who wed in 1999 – are also distant relatives. Through his grandmother, you see, the royal is linked to Nicholas St. John – a man whose descendants also spawned the Rhys-Jones family. And, apparently, these genetic ties make the couple 11th cousins.
10. Prince Charles and Princess Diana
Prior to his marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles, Princes Charles shared a much-documented union with Diana Spencer. And thanks to her charity work and warm public persona, Diana would end up becoming hugely popular in her own right. It so happens, too, that the late princess had ancestral heritage of her own. In fact, in 1981 Time magazine claimed that Diana actually possessed “more English royal blood in her veins” than the man who was to become her husband.
Following news of Diana’s engagement to Charles that year, Time published a piece revealing the future bride’s royal lineage. This detailed her genetic links to both Charles II and James II – a fact that made Diana and Charles 16th cousins once removed. And this wasn’t all, either, as the report also unearthed Diana’s familial ties to several prominent political leaders, including Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
9. King George I and Sophia Dorothea of Celle
By all means, adultery can create awful repercussions within a marriage. And for Sophia Dorothea of Celle, cheating on her husband King George I certainly led to terrible consequences. After marrying her first cousin in an arranged ceremony, the German-born queen apparently felt abandoned by the king’s constant philandering, and this in turn seemingly led her to take a lover of her own.
Through adventurer Count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, Sophia found respite from her boredom – but their tryst wouldn’t stay a secret for long. When George discovered the affair, the king struck back by first choking his wife before condemning her to Ahlden House for the rest of her life. Philip, for his part, vanished from the kingdom entirely, with many believing that the jealous monarch had ordered his murder in secret.
8. King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
Fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones will be familiar with its theme of royal families fighting for the crown. However, they may not be aware of the theory that the much-loved series was partly based on England’s real-life War of the Roses. During that conflict, the houses of Lancaster and York took up arms in a fierce competition that ended with Henry Tudor’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
Despite their mutual animosity, though, both factions actually had shared ancestry through the House of Lancaster’s founder John of Gaunt. And perhaps this fact inspired Henry to go on to marry Elizabeth of York following his subsequent coronation as Henry VII. Certainly, their union revealed the commonalities between both clans, and this in turn led to an outbreak of peace throughout the country.
7. Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark
Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Edward VII, looked abroad for a spouse. And through his sister, the heir would meet the Danish princess Alexandra, who only just passed her in-law’s high expectations. Apparently, it has been suggested that Victoria only approved the Scandinavian consort-to-be as no more suitable matches for her offspring could be found.
Yet although their respective kingdoms were separated by the North Sea, Edward and Alexandra actually shared a common link. Both were great-great-grandchildren of George II, which actually made them third cousins. Their son George V would keep the line within the family, too, when he married Mary of Teck – with whom he shared a great-grandfather in George III.
6. King George III and Queen Charlotte
As blind dates go, there are surely few in history that rival the one between George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Incredibly, the royal couple – who were also second cousins – met only six hours prior to their 1761 marriage. They only did so, moreover, after the queen consort – who hailed from Germany – had endured a torturous two-week voyage by sea.
Yet despite their lack of acquaintance – not to mention the fact that neither shared a common language – George and Charlotte were a successful couple who bonded over their mutual love of music. The couple would become parents to 13 children, too, although they would ultimately lose three of them – a tragic series of events that may have contributed to George’s issues with mental illness.
5. Princess Victoria, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Grand Duke Ernest of Hesse
We all know that there has been plenty of drama within the royal family, but a love triangle between first cousins sounds a little too far-fetched even for their standards. Nonetheless, this happened to Victoria Melita who – in accordance with the wishes of her grandmother Queen Victoria – married her cousin Grand Duke Ernest of Hesse. The only problem was that the princess was already in love with another of her cousins: Russian Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich.
And throughout her marriage to Ernest – whom Victoria claimed was secretly gay – the princess continued to swoon for Kirill. Following her grandmother’s death, then, Victoria divorced her husband in favor of her other cousin. Yet that move didn’t come without some consequences. You see, Kirill’s union with the royal would lead to his temporary exile from Russia, as the duke had wed without the Tsar’s approval.
4. Anastasia Romanov and Prince Philip
The tragic tale of the Romanovs is one that will likely be told for decades – if not centuries – to come. After Russia’s 1917 revolution forced Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate, Soviet officials murdered the former ruler and his family – including the young princess Anastasia – while under house arrest the following year. But while the Romanov dynasty may now be over, their legacy still lives on through the British royal family.
Strangely enough, Britain’s Prince Philip actually possesses genetic ties to Anastasia’s mother Alexandra, who was his great-aunt. And the Duke of Edinburgh’s links to the Romanovs have come in handy in more recent times, too. When the remains of two children were discovered in Russia in 2007, the prince allowed his DNA to be used to determine if the youngsters in question had in fact been Anastasia’s siblings.
3. King George II and Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Often throughout history, the spouse of a ruling monarch was not expected to contribute to the running of their country. However, this certainly wasn’t the case with Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, who was at one time the queen consort of Great Britain. And after marrying George II – who also happened to be her third cousin – in 1705, the German-born bride went on to have an arguably even greater political influence than her husband.
With the aid of politician Robert Walpole, Caroline gained a political voice and influenced her husband’s decision-making. Yet although their relationship was fraught – with George often seeking out extra-marital affairs – the king and his wife still shared a strong bond. In fact, after Caroline passed away in 1937, the monarch decided not to remarry out of a belief that he simply wouldn’t find anyone else as capable as she had been.
2. Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
When Prince William revealed his engagement to Kate Middleton in 2010, the British media became somewhat obsessed with the future queen. Some members of the press became enthralled, too, by the idea that someone who seemingly possessed no aristocratic ties could marry into the royal family. But a deeper look at the duchess’ family history has revealed that her ancestry is actually a little more complicated than that.
Indeed, Britain’s Channel 4 News revealed that the so-called “middle-class princess” actually has distant blood ties to the royal family. As is the case with her husband, Catherine is directly descended from Edward III, which means that she and William are actually 14th cousins once removed. And if that wasn’t enough, the duchess also has genetic links to several baronesses – including Baroness Airedale, who attended King George V’s 1911 coronation.
1. Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
It’s no understatement that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle come from very different backgrounds. One is an English-born royal who is sixth in line for the British throne; the other, meanwhile, originally hails from Los Angeles and was best known for a recurring role on TV’s Suits before her 2017 engagement.
Despite their very dissimilar upbringings, however, Harry and Meghan actually share common – albeit distant – ancestors. Yes, according to a 2017 report by The Mail on Sunday, the couple are related through the 15th-century sheriff Ralph Bowes. All in all, this makes the prince and the duchess 15th cousins.
As it turns out, then, being related to one another isn’t uncommon for members of a royal family. Something else that usually comes as part of the gig? Money, of course. Yes, some monarchs and their relatives are wealthy, while some are flat-out loaded. These are 20 of the richest royals in the world – and the ways in which they splash their cash will blow your mind.
20. Mohammed VI of Morocco – $5.8 billion
Even before he became king in 1999, Mohammed VI of Morocco gained a reputation for embracing the playboy lifestyle. Apparently he liked to party and drive fast cars, and he certainly had the money to back it all up. Indeed, in 2015 Forbes estimated him to be worth $5.8 billion.
Plenty of stories have come out over the years regarding Mohammed’s wild spending habits. He owns a private jet which has a gymnasium on board, keeps 12 palaces fully stocked and air conditioned, and apparently once flew his Aston Martin over to Britain just to have it fixed there.
19. Mswati III – $100 million
In 1986 Mswait III, born Prince Makhosetive, was appointed monarch of Swaziland aged just 18, making him the youngest ruling monarch in the world at that point. And although he enjoys relative popularity in his home country, his tendency to spend too much has drawn ire locally and internationally. Indeed, as of 2010 he was worth $100 million, according to Forbes.
Mswati III, who renamed Swaziland Eswatini in 2018, has a royal palace and a fleet of BMWs. And to celebrate his 40th birthday, a massive sports stadium was commissioned, leading to protests in Swaziland’s capital. In 2008 the New York Times reported that the king took $30 million from the government’s budgets. However, he remains popular in the country, it added.
18. Beatrix of the Netherlands – $200 million
Beatrix was Queen of the Netherlands from 1980 until 2013, the year she abdicated. But no matter her royal title, she’s rich. Worth $200 million in 2011 according to Forbes, some of her wealth comes from property investments, and she previously had a stake in Shell Oil. However, the family is still surprisingly down-to-earth.
Indeed, despite the Dutch royal family’s evident wealth, they are surprisingly austere when it comes to pomp and ceremony. The crown of the monarch is made from gold-plated silver, and the jewels are false ones made from glass, foil, and even fish scales.
17. Sheikh Sabah IV Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah – $350 million
Sheikh Sabah IV Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, was worth $350 million of 2011, Forbes reported. A lot of that is due to his status as a member of the Al-Sabah family, which has ruled Kuwait since 1752. They’re reportedly worth at least $90 billion all together, with a lot of it in shares.
The royal family of Kuwait throws lavish parties and can take their pick of some of the world’s finest speedboats and yachts. However, Sheikh Sabah IV is also noted for his humanitarian work. Former US President Jimmy Carter is among those who’ve praised him for his efforts in disaster relief and public health.
16. Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan – $300 million
Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan is the ruler of Ugbo Kingdom in Nigeria. He’s the second-richest king in the whole of Africa, behind only Mohammed VI of Morocco. He made his fortune from oil, being the founder of Nigeria’s Obat Oil company. According to Forbes his net worth was $300 million as of 2014.
Fredrick owns million-dollar wristwatches and other items of jewelry. He loves cars, too, and owns a seven-door Mercedes limousine. And Nigeria’s Daily Post reported that Akinruntan had become the first ever black person to buy the 2014 Bentley model that year. It had been specially customised for him as well.
15. Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said – $700 million
Qaboos bin Said Al Said is the Sultan of Oman and currently the longest reigning Arabic leader. He gained his riches via the wealth of natural resources in his country. But he’s also credited with bringing Oman into a new era of modernity and prosperity, thanks again to those valuable natural resources.
The Sultan’s wealth amounted to $700 million as of 2011, according to Forbes. And he used some of that money to restore mosques all across Oman. But despite his successes, there is a problem. Qaboos bin Said Al Said is elderly now but he has no children, spouses or brothers. And when he passes away, what happens to his country and vast fortune is unknown.
14. Queen Elizabeth II – $450 million
Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of Britain and the longest-serving ruler in the world, has certainly collected a lot of cash over the years. In fact, her wealth is around $450 million, Forbes reported. She receives money from her Sovereign Grant, along with her investments, property portfolio and from the occasional win by one of her racehorses. However, despite this, the Queen is famously frugal.
Though Queen Elizabeth could probably buy almost anything she wanted, she sticks to inexpensive items. Her favorite nail polish retails for just $9. She refuses to waste electricity and run up a big bill, ordering her staff to turn the lights out in Buckingham Palace whenever they leave a room. It’s not what you’d expect of a queen, but it clearly works.
13. Abdullah II of Jordan – $750 million
Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein , King of Jordan, is reportedly worth $750 million. That’s a lot of money to spend on things you like. So ever since he came into his fortune, Abdullah has been living out every geek’s dream. That’s because in 2012 he became the main investor for a Star Trek theme park, which is part of Jordan’s $1.55 billion Red Sea Astrarium.
Abdullah was actually an extra in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Investigations” in 1996. And he even threw a party for the cast and invited members of the production team to visit his country. Indeed, star Ethan Phillips, who played Neelix, even took the king up on the offer, visiting Jordan between Voyager’s second and third seasons.
12. Aga Khan IV – $800 million
Aga Khan IV, a.k.a. Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, is unique in that he doesn’t actually preside over a country.. Instead he’s the Imam of Nizari Ismailism, a subset of Shia Islam with about 15 million followers. And he’s also a businessman and a breeder of racehorses with an estimated $800 million fortune to his name, according to Forbes in 2010.
The Aga Khan, as he is known, owns over a hundred racehorses. And that’s not all he spends his money on. Indeed, he has several stud farms, two jets, a yacht club, and even a private island in the Bahamas. But the Imam is also a philanthropist, and, with his charitable organizations, spends around $600 million a year worldwide, as of 2008.
11. Albert, 12th Prince of Thurn und Taxis – $1.6 billion
Albert Maria Lamoral Miguel Johannes Gabriel, 12th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, appears to have it all. Since the tender age of eight he’s been a billionaire, the youngest one in the world at that time. And even though he’s a royal, he doesn’t rule over a country, therefore he has fewer responsibilities. And with an estimated wealth of $1.4 billion according to Forbes, life could be worse.
Albert spends his time being a racing car driver, and he’s a pretty good one at that. Although that’s his main career, he’s embarked on other projects too, including a solar energy farm which never came to fruition. He owns woodlands, estates, artworks and more. And good news, ladies – he’s not married.
10. Albert II, Prince of Monaco – $1 billion
Albert II is the son of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and the American actress Grace Kelly. When his father died in 2005, he took the throne. Monaco is a very small country, but Albert’s fortune is big. He has a net worth of $1 billion, according to Forbes in 2014, and owns lots of interesting things.
Albert apparently actually owns at least a fourth of Monaco itself. He also collects both stamps and antique cars, which aren’t cheap things to hoard. More touchingly, though, he bought the home of his late mother for $754,000 in 2016. Grace tragically died in a car crash back in 1982.
9. Emir Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani – $2.4 billion
Emir Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar gained his wealth, estimated by Forbes in 2011 to be around $2.4 billion, from his country’s natural resources. Under his rule, gas production increased and turned it into the richest country in the world per capita. And the Qatar Investment Authority, who Sheikh Hamid was a CEO of for four years until 2018, has invested billions all over the world.
And Sheikh Hamid seems to have a particular interest in sports. He has made bids on several football teams including Manchester United and Rangers F.C. Qatar will also be hosting the World Cup in 2022, although this has met with a lot of controversy, with Amnesty International condemning the conditions faced by the construction workers building the venues.
8. Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein – $3.5 billion
Hans-Adam II is the Prince of Liechtenstein but he’s also a businessman. He owns the LGT banking group, which is headquartered in the principality but has clients all over the world. And considering that his family’s wealth was left in a huge mess after World War II, Hans-Adam has done pretty well for himself.
Hans-Adam also happens to own a massive collection of art, one comprised of hundreds of pieces, but luckily he doesn’t keep it hidden from public view. Ordinary folks can go see it at the Lichtenstein Museum. Hans-Adam is Europe’s wealthiest monarch, and Forbes calculated in 2011 his net worth to be $3.5 billion. He is also pretty popular with his subjects, even if he did once joke about selling the country to Microsoft.
7. Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg – $4 billion
Henri Albert Gabriel Félix Marie Guillaume has been the Grand Duke of Luxembourg since 2000. And the role comes with some considerable perks. Indeed, Henri is believed to be worth $4 billion, and he and his family still receive money to carry out their public duties as royals. They also live in an impressive castle.
The primary residence of Henri and his family is Berg Castle, a magnificent building in Luxembourg. Nope, you can’t go inside, you’re only allowed to observe it enviously from a distance. And that’s not all Henri has of course; he also owns a holiday home at Cabasson in France.
6. Princess Madeleine – $10 million
Princess Madeleine of Sweden has a net worth believed to be $10 million. However, when she married American businessman Christopher O’Neill in 2013, she spared no expense, shelling out nearly half a million dollars. Indeed, her Valentino Garavani dress alone reportedly cost at least $100,000.
Madeleine has lived in some impressive houses over the years. In 2018 she and her husband sold their home in Palm Beach for $3.6 million, and moved to a gated community in Miami. That place featured, among other things, a communal swimming pool and a tennis court.
5. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan – $15 billion
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the President of the United Arab Emirates and the Emir of Abu Dhabi, is so rich that he’s even got a building named after him. The tallest building in the world, originally called the Burj Dubai, was renamed the Burj Khalifa in 2010. Forbes calculated his wealth to be $15 billion in 2011.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Sheikh also owns the largest private yacht in the world, Azzam. It cost at least $400 million to create and is luxurious inside and out. According to Superyacht Times, Azzam was created in the shortest amount of time possible, too. Indeed, Sheikh Khalifa must like having his name in the record books.
4. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – $17 billion
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has been the king of Saudi Arabia since 2015. He’s a member of the House of Saud, the ruling family of the country, and reportedly put together they’re worth $1.4 trillion, according to CNBC. That’s higher than Spain’s entire GDP. Meanwhile, Forbes estimates King Salman’s net worth to be $17 billion.
The House of Saud is known for spending insane amounts of cash, and King Salman is no exception. Reportedly he has a massive yacht with its own banquet room, golden furniture, private jets and helicopters, a gold-plated tissue dispenser, and – for obvious reasons – hundreds of personal bodyguards.
3. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah – $20 billion
Forbes estimated Hassanal Bolkiah, 29th Sultan of Brunei, to be worth $20 billion as of 2008. And he appears to be happy to spend that dough. In fact he seems to mostly spend it on cars, his favorite luxury item. He has a collection of 100 of them, which he keeps in a huge underground garage, which itself is part of a palace.
The Sultan’s home is named the Istana Nurul Iman – “The Light of Faith Palace” – and it’s the largest residential palace in the world. It has 1,788 rooms, and includes a mosque, a banquet hall which can sit 5,000, and a throne room. Sadly, you can’t visit, apart from on very special religious festival days.
2. Maha Vajiralongkorn – $30 billion
King Rama X of Thailand, a.k.a. Maha Vajiralongkorn, took the throne in 2016 and became king of vast, almost unimaginable wealth. And apparently he’s a proponent of the idea that when you’ve got it, you should flaunt it. He owns, among other things, a 545-carrat Golden Jubilee Diamond. And Forbes estimates his staggering wealth to be around $30 billion.
However, Maha is not particularly popular in the country he rules. He once told an interviewer that servants tied his shoelaces for him throughout his childhood – not exactly an endearing quality. And he’s partaken in some pretty odd behaviour too, Including making his poodle an Air Chief Marshal and dressing it up in tiny uniforms.
1. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum -$31.7 billion
Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, a member of the royal family of Dubai, is one of the wealthiest members of one of the richest families in the world. And there’s a lot of money in his wallet. Indeed, in 2011 he was believed to be worth a colossal $31.7 billion, and he sits in senior positions for a number of stunningly wealthy companies.
But the sheikh’s reported personal life is just an interesting. That’s because in 2012 it transpired that he had reportedly had a child with Egyptian interior designer, Nivin El-Gamal. Indeed, who knows what will happen in the future when a person is worth so much money?