I will admit to being kind of fascinated by royalty. As an American, the idea of royalty or a monarchy goes against everything my country was founded on, a government “by the people, of the people, and for the people.” However, this kind of government obviously has it’s own kind of problems, such as corrupt elected officials, and partisan bickering. I can see where having an all-powerful monarch could be a good solution, provided the monarch is a “benevolent monarch” who puts the needs of his/her subjects before their own. Having someone with absolute power and authority could really get things done. Of course, if the person is unfit for rule, they could really screw things up, which is the downside.
Anyway, being American, I knew very little about how royalty “works.” Now that I live in a country with a Queen, I figured I should study up. I thought royalty consisted strictly of Kings, Queens, Princes, and Princesses. I was vaguely aware of Dukes and Lords and Counts, but I wasn’t sure how that worked. Turns out I was pretty naive, and there are different “levels” of almost every royal title.
A King is a King, no matter what. That’s easy. However, a Queen can be a Queen Consort or a Queen Regnant. A Queen Consort is the wife of the ruling King, sort of like being the First Lady of the US. A Queen Regnant is herself Royal, and is the ruler. Hence, a Queen Consort is married to a King (who is himself the ruler), while a Queen Regnant is married to a Prince Consort, since “promoting” her husband to King would mean he was more powerful than her. Such is the case in both the UK and the Netherlands. The Netherlands is ruled by Queen Beatrix, who is the eldest child of Queen Juliana and her husband. Queen Beatrix (a Queen Regnant) was married to Prince Claus (a Prince Consort), who has now passed away.
So now we know about Kings and Queens, and we know there is such a thing as a Prince Consort. There is no Prince Regnant (at least not in the UK or the Netherlands) since a Prince does not rule (never-mind places like the Principality of Monaco, which is ruled by a Prince), but there is also a Crown Prince, and a normal Prince. The Crown Prince is the oldest son of the current monarch, and stands to inherit the throne. A normal Prince is any other son born to the monarch. Likewise, there is a Crown Princess, and a normal Princess. I’m not quite sure if the wife of a Prince or Crown Prince is just a Princess, or a Princess Consort.
While reading about the Dutch royalty, it can get even more confusing. Let’s say we have a ruling King and Queen. The King dies. As the King was himself of royal blood, that would mean the Queen was not, and therefore could not rule on her own, hence the crown would be passed to the Crown Prince or Princess. The Queen would no longer be Queen, and hence would revert back to Princess. However, upon her death, she will again be promoted to queen (with a lowercase “q”). Hence, she could go: commoner -> Princess -> Queen -> Princess -> queen. However, what if at the time of the King’s death, the Crown Prince/Princess was not yet of legal age to rule? In that case, the Queen may be appointed as the Regent for the Crown Prince/Princess, to rule until the heir apparent is old enough to assume the throne.
I used to wonder why there were actually people who specialized in the royals, the line of succession, and such. Turns out it’s pretty complicated. I won’t go into how successors are identified, but it involves very large family trees going back many many generations. The line of succession for the English monarch is currently 1,863 people long. The Dutch line of succession is 12 people long, but I assume there are rules to dictate what happens if all 12 of those people are dead. The Queen of the Netherlands, Beatrix, is actually on the line of succession for the British Crown, though at #837, she stands pretty much no chance of ever serving.
I won’t go into Counts and Dukes and whatnot here. Perhaps at a later date. I also won’t bore you with how the Queen of the Netherlands has virtually no power, yet at the same time has all the power. Her approval is required before any law can go into effect, making her very powerful. At the same time, she is constitutionally required to sign any law that comes to her desk, making her essentially powerless.