Why did European royal houses get married?

Lilibeth and Co: Europe's royal houses

Lilibeth, as the ruler of the United Kingdom is called by friends, displays the greatest splendor. The Queen and the other 17 members of her family, who represent the royal family on official occasions, are the most famous royal "company" in the world. The ARD aristocracy expert Rolf Seelmann-Eggebert sees a simple reason for this: "It is the royal family that unfolds the greatest pomp. You only have to think about which of the current kings - apart from the Queen - you will ever wear a crown on Head saw. " Elizabeth has been sitting on the throne for 60 years and is still not thinking of abdicating at the age of 86. "She is more popular than ever," says her biographer Kate Williams. Allegedly she wants to break the record of her ancestor, Queen Victoria, who ruled for 63 years in the century before last.

Seven kingdoms in Europe

They are the only queens who are on their terms: Trixi (Netherlands) and Lilibeth (Great Britain).

The British royal family is not alone in Europe. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, the heads of state are also kings. They inherit their offices and are not elected, even though these states are all parliamentary democracies. Monarchies have survived wherever it has been comparatively quiet in the past 150 years, says the aristocratic historian Monika Wienfort: "Where there was no upheaval and no revolution in the classical sense, where the world wars had a different meaning, exist everywhere Monarchies continue. "

Denmark is a good example of this, says Wienford. "The constitutional monarchy remains because, I suspect, there is also no social majority in favor of abolition." This also applies to Great Britain: In a recent opinion poll, around 80 percent of the subjects were in favor of keeping the court, crown and queen in any case. "One would not expect these revolutions to break out in a united Europe either. That is why the monarchies have a good chance of continuing to exist," said the aristocratic historian.

Monarchies older than republics

Gathered at the Queen's anniversary dinner in 2002: Beatrix, Elisabeth, Margrethe of Denmark and Sofia of Spain (from left to right)

The natural form of government in Europe is actually a monarchy with centuries of tradition, says Monika Wienfort. The only republic of any significant age is Switzerland. All other states have only had this form of government for a few decades. In Spain the monarchy was only interrupted by the fascist Franco dictatorship. Juan Carlos I has ruled Belgium since 1975, when the monarchy was established in 1830 when the new state was established. To this day, the royal house, which is headed by Albert II, is the decisive bracket for the state with its two divided ethnic groups, the Walloons and Flemings. In contrast to his British colleague, Albert II does not appear in public that often and is mostly silent. Queen Beatrix rules the Netherlands. She was married to the German Claus von Amsberg, who died in 2002.

The Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gl├╝cksburg family has ruled Denmark since 1448. Queen Margrethe II represents the oldest dynasty in Europe today. The talented artist and avowed smoker is very close to the people. On the occasion of her throne jubilee in 2002, she said of herself that she had learned a lot in office. "I think I've found my balance. Maybe I've become more open, also more critical. I think both are very important: to be tolerant, but not timid."

"German" Queen Silvia

Norway has been ruled by kings since the Middle Ages - but from 1370 onwards they came from another country for a long time. Until 1905 Norway belonged to Sweden under constitutional law. Then a grandson of the Danish king became a monarch in Norway. It is only since 1991 that Harald V has been ruled by a real Norwegian-born king. Carl XVI has been sitting in Sweden since 1973. Gustaf on the throne. He is married to a German, Silvia Sommerlath.

All related to each other

All kings and queens have reached retirement age, the youngest is Carl XVI. Gustaf in Sweden at the age of 66. In all of Europe's monarchies, there will be a generation change in the next ten to twenty years. Heirs to the throne exist in all kingdoms, the continuation is assured. However, one no longer marries princes and princesses with one another as in the past, but prefers so-called "commoners". Nobility expert Monika Wienfort justifies the trend with the fact that the ruling houses are more popular and national today. In addition, when princes and princesses went to university they inevitably got to know and love people who did not belong to the nobility. In the past, it was customary to only marry in accordance with one's status, primarily for reasons of maintaining power. As a result, the ruling families, kings and queens are all related to one another. Most European monarchs today come from the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gl├╝cksburg or Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha families. Even the Queen has German blood in her veins: the family name of the English kings was only changed from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the artificial name Windsor after the First World War.

A last "absolute" prince in Europe

Church prince Benedict XVI. (r.) Visiting the Catholic Majesties of Spain, Juan Carlos and Sofia

In Germany, Kaiser Willhelm II had to abdicate after the loss of the First World War and make way for the newly emerging republic. Nevertheless, the Germans in particular are loyal fans of the European royal houses. Millions of people participate in the private life and the scandals of the royals through the gossip press and tabloid television. "You are looking for a family at the top of the state with a high potential for identification," says the historian Wienfort. "They actually do normal things. They marry, have children, die. But they do it publicly and with great pomp. When do you ever see a carriage, a castle, great clothes? Of course, you look there."

Incidentally, from a purely constitutional point of view, there is also an absolute monarchy in Europe without parliament and proper jurisdiction: In the Vatican, the head of the Catholic Church rules with absolute power in worldly matters. The Pope, however, obtains his office by election and not by inheritance. In addition to the kingdoms, there are also a number of small principalities in Europe, for example Andorra located between Spain and France. Two so-called co-princes rule there. One is the Bishop of La Seu d'Urgell, the other is the French President Francois Hollande.