From the 26 royal families in the globe, we talk about the nine dynasties from Asia. Here are the Sultans and Queens of the East and interesting facts from their reigns.
The British Monarchy might be top of mind when it comes to royal families—perhaps because of the highly-publicized controversies and developments such as Prince Philip’s death, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s explosive Oprah interview with Oprah.—but the life and times of Asian royals are interesting all on their own.
Here are the existing monarchies in Asia, including the world’s most wealthy royal family, the largest residential palace ever built (which was designed by a Filipino), and the youngest reigning queen today.
With a net worth of $30 billion, King Maha Vajiralongkorn is the richest reigning royal. His family’s wealth grew through properties managed by Thailand’ ‘s Crown Property Bureau, which includes 3,000 acres of land across central Bangkok.
Emperor Naruhito is Japan’s head of state and head of its imperial dynasty. The 126th emperor of Japan has one daughter, Aiko, Princess Toshi. Traditionally, women in the Japanese royal family lose their titles if they marry a commoner. It was only in November 2020 that Japanese lawmakers started to consider a compromise if female royal family members tied the knot with a commoner. Japan’s government would replace their original titles with Kojo, Japanese for “imperial woman.”
Hassanal Bolkiah is the current Sultan of Brunei and the father of 12 children, currently resides in his colossal palace estate. In 1984, Filipino architect Leandro V. Locsin designed the residence dubbed as Istana Nurul Iman. With an area of 200,000 square meters, the property has 1,788 rooms and 257 bathrooms, and it holds the Guinness world record for the world’s largest residential palace. Brunei is one of the last few absolute monarchies globally, together with Saudi Arabia, Vatican City, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
Norodom Sihamoni is the official head of state and current king of Cambodia, as he serves as a figurehead for the country’s monarchy. As dictated by Cambodia’s laws, Sihamoni is a symbol of “unity and perpetuity.” He is the reigning king, but he doesn’t rule, given that the nation is a constitutional monarchy.
The royal families of India are now only nominal royals since monarchies were abolished from the constitution in 1971. However, many of these families maintain their acquired wealth and continue to live lavishly today. One of the most prolific descendants of royalty in India is the Mewar Dynasty. Arvind Singh Mewar is the 76th custodian of House Mewar; he heads the HRH Group of Hotels, a chain of heritage palace hotels.
Every five years, the nine monarchs of Malaysian regions rotate as the country’s head of state. Malaysia is the only country with this system of elective monarchy. Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah was crowned Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the title of Malaysia’s King) in January 2019. He is known for his empathy exhibited by his habit of breaking protocol by aiding accident victims on public roads. Abdullah will reign as Yang di-Pertuan Agong until year 2024.
Saudi kings hold a unique place in the Islamic religion. They are recognized as custodians of the holiest mosques of Islam— Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. Saudi Arabia’s current ruler is King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the son of the late King Abdulaziz, who founded the modern kingdom of the nation in 1932.
The Indonesian province of Yogyakarta is the only part of the country that is governed by a monarchy. The current ruler is Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, who also serves as the city’s governor. Sultan Buwono X sparked controversy in 2015 when he made the royal title gender-neutral. Instead of only allowing men to be in power—the sultan did not father any sons—the law was amended for one of his five daughters to take over one day.
When Bhutan’s Queen Jetsun Pema married Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in 2011, she became the world’s youngest living queen. Today, she is 30 years old. The royal couple welcomed their first son and heir to the throne, Prince Jigme Namgyel, in 2016. The 41-year-old King Wangchuck took over the monarchy when his father abdicated his title in December 2006. The queen’s social media accounts are active, as it regularly posts photos of her family and her husband executing their public service duties.