The World’s Richest Royals

The World’s Richest Royals
Devon Pendleton and Tatiana Serafin 08.30.07, 6:00 PM ET

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In Pictures: The World’s Richest Royals

Video Profile: The Sultan Of Brunei

Last year’s movie sensation , The Queen, about Queen Elizabeth II, captured the monarch’s lavish lifestyle with footage of her opulent castles and many servants. Not a bad life, but she comes in a mere 11th on our ranking of the world’s richest royalty, worth an estimated $600 million. She can take some comfort in the fact that she’s the world’s wealthiest female ruler and just one of two women to make our list.

In the top spot is the Sultan of Brunei, worth $22 billion, 36 times more than the Queen of England. The Sultan who inherited the riches of an unbroken 600-year-old Muslim dynasty recently celebrated his 40th anniversary as ruler of the oil-rich land. The only other Asian monarch to make the cut is the world’s longest-reigning living monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the deity-revered king of Thailand, who we estimate is worth $5 billion.

More than a third of the rulers, six to be precise, preside over oil-rich territories in the Middle East including the Emir of Qatar who funded Al Jazeera, the King of Saudi Arabia who is building a $26 billion city named in his honor and the ruler of Dubai, whose government bought stakes in HSBC (nyse: HBCnews people ) and Deutsche Bank (nyse: DBnews people ) this year. The region’s richest is Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ranked No. 2 overall, who rules over the tiny emirate of Abu Dhabi, home to one-tenth of the world’s oil reserves.

We estimate his net worth to be $21 billion. He is promoting the territory as the cultural hub of the Middle East and plans to open a Frank Gehry-designed branch of the Guggenheim Museum in 2011. Seventy-eight-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al Sabah took over as emir of Kuwait last year after the crown prince was deemed too ill to ascend the throne; he wasted no time in voting for a significant raise in the royal family stipend.

The list’s youngest member and the only one from sub-Saharan Africa is 39-year-old King Mswati III of Swaziland, with a net worth of $200 million. Almost every year, he chooses a new bride from among 20,000 naked bare-breasted virgins; so far, he has 13 wives and is building a palace for each. The list’s only bachelor is Prince Albert II of Monaco. Best known as a playboy who fathered two children out of wedlock, he inherited the tiny principality that is just about the size of New York City’s Central Park in 2005, after his father died.

Prince Albert’s title, and much of his fortune, has been in his family for 700 years. But that’s not unusual for these dynasties. Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein, for instance, resides over a $4.5 billion fortune that stretches back 900 years and encompasses a 400-year-old art collection with 1,600 paintings, including 33 Rubens, the largest such collection in private hands.

The collective worth of the list’s 15 rulers is $95 billion, about the size of the gross domestic product of Chile or New Zealand. The only ruler who doesn’t preside over a geographic territory is the Aga Kahn. Rather, he is the spiritual leader of the world’s dispersed 15 million Ismaili Muslims. A suave businessman, he’s been in the press recently because he is divorcing his second wife; his first ex-wife reportedly received a $20 million payout.

Keep in mind that the wealth of the royals is often shared with extended families and often represents money that is controlled by them in trust for their nation or territory. Therefore none of them would qualify for our list of the world’s billionaires, regardless of their net worth.

Another note: While we have tracked the fortunes of a few high-profile royals like the Queen of England and Sultan of Brunei for years, this is the first time we scoured the globe in search of a truly definitive list. Monarchs of such countries as Spain and Japan failed to make the cut.

In Pictures: The World’s Richest Royals
In Pictures: The World’s Most Eligible Royals

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© STRINGER / GETTY

No. 1
Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah

Sultan/Brunei

$22 billion

Age: 61

Became 29th Sultan of Brunei 40 years ago, inheriting riches of an unbroken 600-year-old Muslim dynasty. Rules concurrently as the oil-rich land’s prime minister, defense minister, finance minister and head of religion. Collector of fine jewels is also an avid polo player.

 

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No. 2
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan

President/United Arab Emirates

$21 billion

Age: 59

Hereditary ruler of tiny emirate Abu Dhabi, home to one-tenth of world’s oil reserves. Trying to reinvent emirate as “cultural hub” of the Middle East; Frank Gehry-designed branch of the Guggenheim museum is set to open in 2011.

 

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No. 3
King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz

King/Saudi Arabia

$19 billion

Age: 83

King since August 2005; soon after, began construction on a $26 billion city named in his honor. More fiscally conservative than his big spending half-brother, the late King Fahd. Breeds Arabian horses. Established two libraries in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

 

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No. 4
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Ruler/Dubai

$16 billion

Age: 57

“CEO of Dubai Inc.” shares fortune with two brothers; government holding companies bought big stakes in HSBC and Deutsche Bank in the past year; bid for U.S retailer Barneys New York. Announced plans to donate $10 billion for Middle East educational foundation.

 

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No. 5
King Bhumibol Adulyadej

King/Thailand

$5 billion

Age: 79

World’s longest-reigning monarch is U.S.-born, Swiss-educated and revered as a deity in Thailand. Family fortune includes investments, real estate mostly held through Crown Property Bureau. Environmentalist has royal car that runs on palm oil.

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No. 6
Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein

Prince/Liechtenstein

$4.5 billion

Age: 62

Heads self-named country. Family, whose fortune goes back 900 years, has been collecting art for four centuries; own 33 Rubens, largest number in private hands. Also own private LGT bank, real estate and Rice Tec, a U.S. producer of genetically engineered rice.

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No. 7
King Mohammed IV

King/Morocco

$2 billion

Age: 44

Nicknamed “king of the poor” for efforts to alleviate poverty and improve human rights. Palace’s reported operating budget exceeds $960,000 a day; much of it spent on clothes and car repairs.

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No. 8
Prince Albert II

Prince/Monaco

$1.2 billion

Age: 49

Eligible bachelor inherited tiny principality after his father’s death in 2005 as well as a fortune in real estate, art and stake in Monte Carlo’s casinos. This year, hosted tributes to honor his mother, U.S. actress Grace Kelly, who died 25 years ago.

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No. 9
Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani

Emir/Qatar

$1 billion

Age: 55

Overthrew father in a bloodless coup in 1995. Sports enthusiast bringing events like Asian Games to tiny state. Funded Al Jazeera and its English sister station.

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No. 10
Prince Karim Al Husseini

Aga Khan

$1 billion

Age: 70

Celebrated 50th anniversary as leader of world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims this year. Suave businessman runs business conglomerate from France and Switzerland; also has extensive horse farms. Currently divorcing second wife; first ex-wife received a reported $20 million.

 

In Pictures: The World’s Richest Royals
In Pictures: The World’s Most Eligible Royals
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