Many people in the United States are fascinated by royalty. That’s probably because, unlike many other countries, we don’t have kings and queens here in America.

Ready to take a peek under the crown to get the lowdown on royalty? All of us have different ideas about royalty.

Young children, for example, probably think about princesses, like Cinderella, when they hear the word royalty. Others might immediately think of the British royal family, like Princess Diana, or American women who became real-life princesses, like Princess Grace of Monaco.

Kings, queens, princes and princesses — they seem like larger-than-life figures who live privileged, almost-magical lives. Yet, they’re also human beings like the rest of us. No one can deny, though, that they lead lives quite different than most.

royalty developed centuries ago under the feudal systems of medieval Europe. Under feudalism, a few powerful landowners gained large territories through either military force or purchase.

The mightiest of these landowners was crowned king. Other, less-powerful landowners gained noble titles by pledging their allegiance to the king and managing smaller territories on his behalf.

Over time, a king would die, and his heirs would succeed him, usually according to the rules of inheritance of money and property. Other nobles would pass on their titles and positions to their heirs in a similar way.

In this way, many European countries developed a complex system of royalty over many hundreds of years, including a wide variety of special traditions and rituals. Although Europe was the only place with a true feudal system, monarchies (governments ruled by royal families) also developed in a similar fashion in Japan and the Middle East.

In the 17th to 19th centuries, many monarchies were replaced with democratic governments that featured leaders elected by the people. When this happened, the royal family often kept an important, but mainly symbolic, role in the government, while actual power was held by elected officials.

Were you born into a royal family? Probably not. Let’s face it, the odds are against you. But that’s OK. A very select few people still marry into royal families from time to time.

Before you start searching for a prince by kissing frogs, though, you might want to ask yourself an important question. Would you really want to be royalty?

Sure, the crowns and fancy clothes are nice. But royals are also subjected to intense media scrutiny. Would you want your every move watched by others?

Depending on what country you live in, you might have a royal title that’s something other than king, queen, prince or princess. Here are a few royal titles used now or in the past in other countries:

  • Russia: czar/czarina
  • Asia and Africa: emir
  • Japan and Ancient Rome: emperor/empress
  • Ancient Egypt: pharaoh
  • India: raja
  • Iran: shah
  • Muslim countries: sultan
 

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