How Royalty Works

Bruneian Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah Bolkiah and his bride, commoner Sarah Salleh, sit in the throne chamber at the Balai Singgahsana, Indera Buana. See more pictures of Royality.
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Royals, nobles, aristocrats, princes, k­ings and queens -- they often seem like strange creatures who live bizarre lives under constant public scrutiny, especially to those of us who live in countries without royals of our own. They enjoy incredible privilege, yet the histories of royal families are marked by scandal and intrigue.

Our attitudes toward royals can be complex. We may envy and despise them, yet admire their charm and the beauty of their traditions. From murderous kings and dour queens to graceful movie star princesses and dignified heads of state, royalty comes in many forms -- just like the rest of us.


Just who are these people called "royalty"? What do they do, why do we have them, and how did they become royalty in the first place? In this article, we'll learn about the origins of royal families, find out what their functions are both today and in the past, and dig through their dirty laundry to find some of the most shocking royal scandals in history.