From a former waitress and reality star to a divorce scandalising the crown: who's who in the European royal families
As the royal wedding approaches, we take a look at some European royalty guaranteed to be on the guestlist. And their stories vary from inspiring to downright juicy.
Queen Silvia and King XVI Gustaf
Gustaf ascended the throne in 1973 and within a year, Sweden’s modern monarchy stripped the role of any legislative powers. In 1976, he married Silvia Sommerlath, a German interpreter he met at the 1972 Olympics in Munich and after their wedding, she was named Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden. Gustaf has the most influence over deciding who, if anyone, receives royal titles, what they are – and if they will be revoked (as was the case with his sister Christina who was removed from the royal house after marrying a non-Swedish man). He later established a practice of marrying outside nobility, which was followed by all three of his children.
Children: Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Madeleine
The couple welcomed heir apparent Victoria in 1977, who wed personal trainer Daniel Westling in 2010 (they have two children); Prince Carl Philip in 1979 (he married reality tv star and model Sofia Hellqvist in 2015 (they have two children) and Princess Madeleine, who married British financier Christopher O’Neill in 2013 (they have three children).
Queen Margrethe. Her late husband Henrik, Prince Consort, died last month.
Margrethe has ruled the throne for 46 years, also acting as supreme authority of the Church of Denmark and Commander-in-Chief of the Danish Defence as part of her role, and she was the first female Danish monarch in centuries. She has been sitting in on meetings for the Council of the State since she was 18 years old; speaks five languages and has studied at four universities.
She married Frederik in 1967, who came to international prominence last year when he said he didn’t want to buried next to his wife because she never made him king. It was later confirmed he was suffering with dementia and he died in February.
She resides at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen.
Children: Crown Prince Frederik is married to Australian marketing consultant whom he met the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and they have four children together – Prince Christian, Prince Vincent, Princess Isabella and Princess Josephine.
Prince Joachim has been married to marketing coordinator Marie Cavallier, whom he has two children with – Prince Henrik and Princess Athena. He was previously married to sales and marketing executive Alexandra Christina Manley and has two children with her, Prince Nikolai and Prince Felix.
Queen Sonja and King Harald
Last year, the couple celebrated both of their 80th birthdays and the ensuing celebrations earned them the title of ‘most fun royals in the world’ by newspapers. Sonja, who wed the prince in 1968, had no royal connections but was an accomplished and educated woman with a degree in French, English and Art History from the University of Oslo (all the more impressive when you consider the decade it was). His decision to marry Sonja wasn’t popular with his father, but Harald followed his heart and said he would refuse to marry anyone else if, effectively ending the Norwegian monarchy because he was the only heir.
The family’s wealth is estimated at the lower end of the royal wealth scale at €10m, but they’re not exactly hurting.
Children: Crown Prince Haakon (he married single mother and waitress Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby in 2001 and they have two children, she has a son from a previous relationship) and Crown Princess Martha Louise (she has been married to author Ari Behn for 16 years and they have three children).
It was Haakon's choice of future wife that proved controversial because her ex-partner, and father of her child, was in prison for drug related offences. Before her wedding,she delivered a heartfelt delivery on television apologising for the errors made in her "rebellious youth" and it wasn't long before she was embraced by the Norwegian people.
Queen Máxima and King Willem Alexander
King Willem-Alexander wed Argentinian financial sales director Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in 2002 after initially meeting in 1999 in Seville. Like Frederik above, he only introduced himself as Alexander and didn’t reveal his royal status until he knew they would meet again. In the early days of their relationship, there was some public backlash due to the fact that Máxima’s father Jorge Zorreguieta was a high ranking politician involved in Argentina’s brutal regime under President Jorge Rafael Videla.
She was embraced publicly by her husband’s parents Beatrix and Claus and has been well regarded by the Dutch people for the last 16 years.
They reside at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam and cost the taxpayer €30m per year.
Children: Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange, Princess Alexia of the Netherlands, Princess Ariane of the Netherlands
King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia
Felipe ascended the throne in 2014 after his father King Juan Carlos abdicated. He said his decision was based on timing, after his 76th birthday, and he was thrilled with the "transformation of Spain" during his reign, which included steering the country from Francisco Franco’s dictatorship towards a successful democracy.
Felipe wed television journalist Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano (who he reportedly sought out after seeing her on the news) in 2003 after keeping their relationship largely secret. Her early days in the family were reportedly rocky because she was the first non-noble blooded woman to be in line for the throne and she was also divroced.
During their 14 years of marriage, they’re regarded as down-to-earth and happily married. They live in Zarzuela Palace in Madrid.
Children: Sofia, Infanta of Spain and Princess Leonor
Prince Albert and Princess Charlene, Her Serene Highness
Albert, the only son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace (he has two sisters Caroline, Princess of Hanover and Princess Stephanie) met Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock in 2000 and they announced their engagement 10 years later. The run-up to their fairytale wedding wasn’t without its drama when she was branded the ‘runaway bride’ as it was reported she tried to leave the country before her trip up the aisle and was stopped by police at Nice airport and her passport removed. She later called the speculation “categorical lies”.
Albert is one of the world’s wealthiest royals, having ascended the throne in 2005 after his father’s death. He spends most of his efforts on environmental causes.
Children: Princess Gabriellea, Countess of Carladès and Jacques Honoré Rainie
Albert has two older children from previous relationships: Jazmin Grace Grimaldi and Alexandre Coste
Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Maria Teresa, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
Maria Teresa was born in Cuba before fleeing to New York City with her family during Fidel Castro’s rise to power. After moving from Spain to Switzerland (the family boasted an impressive personal fortune thanks to baking and business) where she studied political science and focused on women’s and children’s issues. It was here that she met her husband and after their 1981 wedding, she moved, once again, but this time for good, to Luxembourg.
“The more time we spent together it was more clear to us that we would spend our lives together,” she said. Like most of the other courtships in this list, his parents reportedly were none too pleased at his choice of a non-royal partner, but they eventually relented. In 2002, she asked 15 journalists to the palace to tearfully discuss her difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, whom she accuses of calling her “the little Cuban”.
Children: The Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg (married German bioethics researcher Claire Margareta Lademacher); Prince Louis Xavier Marie Guillaume of Luxembourg wed former soldier Tessy Antony in 2006); Princess Alexandra Joséphine Teresa Charlotte Marie Wilhelmine of Luxembourg (27), and Prince Sébastien Henri Marie Guillaume of Luxembourg (26).
Of the above, Louis’ divorce with Tessy hit headlines last year and things turned messy and she was branded a “gold digger”.
Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein and Marie, Princess of Liechtenstein
The wealthiest European royals with a net worth estimated at €4.5bn, a fortune which was earned independently through private banking and asset management.
Hans Adam, Fürst von Liechtenstein, became prince and head of state in 1989 running a charitable organisation and gaining professional experience in banking. Despite maintaining sovereign status, day-to-day decisions are made by the government, as was decided in the 1980s.
By 1990, the country was a member of the United Nations, and in 2003, a referendum voted in his favour to grand him more political power in their principality.
He wed his distant cousin, Countess Marie Aglaë Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau in 1967 and they reside at Vaduz Castle.
Children: Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein (married to Duchess Sophie of Bavaria), Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein (married to American stylist Angela Gisela Brown), Prince Constantin Ferdinand Maria of Liechtenstein (married to Countess Marie Gabriele) and Princess Tatjana Nora Maria of Liechtenstein (married to Matthias Claus-Just Carl Philipp).
Queen Mathilde and King Philippe
Phillipe ascended the throne in 2013 after his father King Albert abdicated for health reasons. He was an unlikely choice going back to the previous generation: he was born during his uncle Baudouin’s reign, but due to the fact that Baudouin had no children, the line of succession moved to his brother Prince Albert, Phillipe’s father.
Unlike most of the other entries in this list, Phillipe’s choice of wife is blue-blooded - Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz was a Countess before they wed in 1999. She was working as a speech therapist in Brussels before her royal wedding and speaks four languages.
Children: Princess Elisabeth (17), Prince Gabriel (15), Prince Emmanuel (13) and Princess Eléonore (10).