What are the sources of wealth of the world’s richest monarchs?

Political control and economic domination are the keys.

In the royal world, King Charles III, who has inherited from his mother, late Queen Elizabeth II, a net wealth worth between 530 million and 750 million US dollars, is considered a poor among his ranks.

As a head of state with his hands and money tied by the constitution, he weighs little political power or economic influence in the United Kingdom. It turns out these two factors are crucial in becoming astonishingly rich.

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Those who rule de facto, have extensive access to resources, and aren’t legally limited to do with their money whatever they want, enjoying the opportunity to grow financially unchecked.

This conclusion is based on estimates compiled by the Bangladeshi publication The Business Standard, which has identified the planet’s ten richest monarchs. 

The richest ones are in Asia and reign with absolute powers.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand is the richest among the ruling royals, with a net worth of 43 billion US dollars. His extraordinary wealth comes from stakes in the real estate market in Bangkok, the country’s capital, as well as ownership in the country’s largest cement company and bank (Siam Cement Group and Siam Commercial Bank). His family owns over 16,210 acres of land in Thailand, with 40,000 rental contracts nationwide, including 17,000 in the capital.

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For 80 years Thailand’s monarch’s assets were managed by Crown Property Bureau until they were transferred directly to the king himself in 2016.

His extravagant lifestyle forced mass protests over the past years by students who demanded halting the funding of the royal family.

The ruler of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, is the second richest monarch, with an estimated net worth of 28 billion dollars. Most of this wealth comes from investments in the oil and gas industry, a sector generating more than half of the Asian country’s revenues. The Brunei sultan loves bathing in luxuries; he is known for the collection of 7,000 expensive cars worth over 5 billion, including a fleet of 600 Rolls-Royces, and several private jets.

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud is ranked the third richest monarch with more than 18 billion while two sheikhs from the United Arab Emirates share the fourth and fifth places: Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Abu Dhabi, 18 billion) and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Dubai, 14 billion).

Although King Salman bin Saud does not exhibit his wealth to the public, he too is a collector of some of the most expensive houses, cars, yachts, helicopters, private jets, and paintings.

The European monarchs cannot compete with their Asian or Middle East “blue-blooded” peers, due to constitutional limitations on their powers. Grand Duke Henry of Luxembourg, for example, is worth around 4 billion US dollars, comparable with Prince Hans Adam II from Liechtenstein, who is on the seventh spot of the ranking. Monaco’s Prince Albert II – the poorest in the top ten richest monarchs – has an estimated wealth of 1 billion US dollars.

The 8th and 9th places see the Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani with slightly more than 2 billion and Morocco King Mohammed VI with 2 billion.

King Charles III of the UK could be theoretically added to this top if we count all the assets owned by the British Crown (2 billion) rather than the wealth he has inherited from his mother directly.

The former king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, who abdicated in 2014, is likewise worth 2 billion dollars, but he didn’t made into top ten because he is no longer at the reign.

Other notable royal bags with cash are Frederick Obateru Akinruntan, king of Ugbo in Nigeria, who's worth 300 million dollars thanks to his company Obat Oil, and The Netherlands' Queen Beatrix, who abdicated in 2013 with 200 million dollars thanks to investment in real estate and other businesses, as well as a stake in Shell.

These are just estimates and the true size of these monarchs' wealth is hard to assess, given their reluctancy to share information.

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