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A royal family is the extended family of a king or queen regnant. The term "imperial family" more appropriately describes the extended family of an emperor or empress regnant, while the terms "ducal family", "grand ducal family" or "princely family" are more appropriate in reference to the relatives of a reigning duke, grand duke, or prince. It is also considered proper in some circles to refer to the extended relations of a deposed monarch and his or her descendants as a royal family.

Members of a royal family

A royal family typically includes the spouse of the reigning monarch, surviving spouses of a deceased monarch, the children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, and cousins of the reigning monarch, as well as their spouses. In some cases, royal family membership may extend to great grandchildren and more distant descendants of a monarch. In certain monarchies where voluntary abdication is the norm, such as the Netherlandsmarker, a royal family may also include one or more former monarchs. There is often a distinction between persons of the blood royal and those that marry into the royal family. In certain instances, such as in Canada, the royal family is defined by who holds the titles Majesty and Royal Highness. Under most systems, only persons in the first category are dynasts, that is, potential successors to the throne (unless the member of the latter category is also in line to the throne in their own right, a frequent occurrence in royal families which frequently intermarry). This is not always observed; some monarchies have operated by the principle of jure uxoris.


In addition certain relatives of the monarch (by blood or marriage) possess special privileges and are subject to certain statutes, conventions, or special common law. The precise functions of a royal family vary depending on whether the polity in question is an absolute monarchy, a constitutional monarchy, or somewhere in between. In certain monarchies, such as that found in Saudi Arabiamarker or Kuwaitmarker, or in political systems where the monarch actually exercises executive power, such as in Jordanmarker, it is not uncommon for the members of a royal family to hold important government posts or military commands. In most constitutional monarchies, however, members of a royal family perform certain public, social, or ceremonial functions, but refrain from any involvement in electoral politics or the actual governance of the country.

The specific composition of royal families varies from country to country, as do the titles and royal and noble styles held by members of the family. The composition of the royal family may be regulated by statute enacted by the legislature (e.g. Spain, the Netherlandsmarker, and Japan since 1947), the Sovereign's prerogative and common law tradition (e.g. the United Kingdom), or a private house law (e.g., Liechtensteinmarker, the former ruling houses of Bavariamarker, Prussia, Hanovermarker, etc.). Public statutes, constitutional provisions, or conventions may also regulate the marriages, names, and personal titles of royal family members. The members of a royal family may or may not have a surname or dynastic name (see Royal House).

In a constitutional monarchy, when the monarch dies, there is always a very specific order of succession that indicates the exact order of family members in line to the throne.

Some countries have abolished the royals altogether, as in post-revolutionary France and Russia.

Famous royal houses and dynasties







Current royal families



See also



References

  1. Department of National Defence: The Honours, Flags and Heritage Structure of the Canadian Forces; pg 281



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