This week, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated her crown to her son Willem-Alexander of the House of Orange-Nassau, who will become the country's first king in 123 years.
So what does the king of the Netherlands do? Not much. According to the BBC, Willem-Alexander will be expected to be politically neutral, co-sign acts of parliament, and go on state visits. Still, the new 46-year-old king, his Argentine-born wife Maxima, and his three daughters will receive a hefty sum from the Dutch people: $52 million a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Despite that, the royal family remains fairly popular in the Netherlands, although they do face some opposition from leftist politicians. How are other royal families around the world faring?
King Juan Carlos hasn't been too popular with his own people lately. The 75-year-old monarch made headlines for sneaking off on an elephant-hunting retreat in Africa while his country suffered through austerity measures and record unemployment. His daughter, Princess Cristina, is being investigated in an embezzlement case involving millions of euros.
No wonder nearly half of Spaniards think Carlos should abdicate the throne, while a third wants to get rid of the monarchy altogether.
Ah, the travails of a king. The bespectacled and mild-mannered King Carl XVI Gustaf first had to watch disapprovingly as his daughter, Crown Princess Victoria, married her personal trainer. Then he was the center of a tell-all book that accused him of "alcohol-fueled orgies and naked jacuzzi parties with models." All he has to show for his troubles is the nearly $20 million he gets every year from the Swedish people.
Like all Japanese emperors since the end of World War II, Emperor Akihito's position is mostly a ceremonial one spent hosting foreign dignitaries in the Imperial Palace. Akihito, who is also a part-time ichthyologist, has some serious royal cred, with a blood line going back 125 emperors to Emperor Jimmu, who supposedly began his rule in the year 660 BC.
Fun fact: The 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, probably the most famous living monarch, is the second-longest serving queen in English history behind Queen Victoria, who reigned between 1837 and 1901. All in all, Queen Elizabeth II and her beloved, though sometimes controversial family cost the U.K. taxpayers more than $50 million every year.
While King Bhumibol Adulyadej is technically just a figurehead, Thailand boasts strict lèse-majesté laws that make it a crime to insult, defame, or threaten the king and his family. That has resulted in a string of controversial arrests, including that of magazine editor Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting the king, and Katha Pajariyapong, who was sentenced to four years for speculating on the 85-year-old king's health on the Internet.
Crown Prince Haakon Magnus, son of King Harald V, caused a scandal in 2000 when he married Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby, who was not only a commoner, but had a child out of wedlock and admitted to doing drugs at wild parties in the past. Haakon's sister, Princess Martha Louise, also raised some eyebrows by claiming she had the ability to communicate with angels. They are the recipients of more than $56 million of taxpayer money a year.
You would expect this glamorous city-state on the French Riviera to have a glamorous monarch — and you would be right. The marriage of Prince Albert II's mother, Grace Kelly, to Prince Rainier III was one of the most buzzed-about weddings of the 1950s. Albert is also one of the wealthiest monarchs in the world, reportedly worth more than $1 billion, which would explain his love of yachts and vintage sports cars. Another thing he is known for: Illegitimate children.
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