Can you quit being king?

For those born into royalty, do their responsibilities ever end?

(Image by Mark Jones/ Wikimedia Commons)

To be a prince, princess, king or queen sounds like a fairy tale that many children dream of. But what is it really like to be born or married into a role of such importance? And if it isn’t the life for you, is there a way out?

At the beginning of 2020 the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, decided to shift away from the public eye, dropping their titles and royal roles. Aiming to become completely financially independent, it symbolised a new era for British royals. Over the course of a year, Britain’s royal family carries out over 2,000 official engagements. So with fewer family members carrying out these duties, there will be fewer engagements going forward. 

Each royal usually prioritises a cause to raise awareness for. Harry’s was environmental work while Meghan often shone light on gender equality. Some worry that these causes will miss out. Others praise the couple for not just blindly following an ancient tradition.

The last royal Brit to quit

(Image credit: National Media Museum/ Wikimedia Commons)

As it stands, King Edward VIII is the only British king to have ditched his duties in modern times. After falling for an American, Wallis Simpson, Edward found himself more devoted to the divorcee than a role which forbade him from marrying her. This situation, which stemmed from the fact Wallis had previously been married, shows how views have adapted. The British royal family has become more flexible on subjects such as divorce, allowing Harry and Meghan to marry – Meghan also being an American divorcee. On 11 December 1936, Edward announced the news of his abdication on the radio, and the throne was passed on to his younger brother, George VI.

Global monarchies

King Salman of Saudi Arabia is both a king and politician. (Image credit: US Department of State/ Wikimedia Commons)

There are more than 25 monarchies found across the globe, but as the queen of 16 commonwealth countries, Queen Elizabeth II is generally the best known. While connected by the fact they all have a form of royal family, each country has its own rules, with the responsibilities of kings and queens varying. For example, in countries such as Saudi Arabia, if you abdicated as king you would essentially be quitting as prime minister as well. This is because they have an absolute monarchy. Other countries with this system include Brunei, Eswatini, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Vatican City and the United Arab Emirates.


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