When we look at existing monarchies in Europe, following are of German descent:

  1. Royal Family of Belgium
  2. Royal Family of United Kingdom
  3. Royal Family of Denmark
  4. Royal Family of Liechtenstein
  5. Royal Family of Luxembourg (Now Italian House of Bourbon-Parma but historically Germanic House of Nassau)
  6. Royal Family of Holland
  7. Royal Family of Norway

These make up for almost all existing & reigning dynasties in Europe except Monacan, Spanish and Swedish royal families. In the past German House of Habsburg has even ruled Spain & Mexico. Hohenzollerns ruled Romania. German houses also ruled Greece and some other countries. Sometimes vacant thrones were offered to German ethnic nobles, sometimes they were just next in line to the throne. What seems to be the real factor in German noble families gaining thrones of European countries? Why is the eventuality of them getting a throne higher than other ethnicities? Why didn't such an event cause resentment in native population? Wouldn't it be more appealing to the common people if their King was one of their own, not someone imported from Germany who would have to learn the language of the country and shape his children to the culture of his subject nation? What were the political motives behind such offers in cases when German candidate was not in line to succession in anyway?

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    I'd have thought that the royal families were so inter-married that by now they are just of general European descent.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:36
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    @SteveBird's point is a good one. You would have to go a good way back to find any ancestor of Britain's present Queen who was actually born in Germany. But the reason for so many Germans in the 18th & 19th centuries may have been due to the fact that there were so many German royals. In 1866 there were 42 German states, including Austria and Prussia. Some were no larger than a good sized university campus. But they all had royals, or at least "electors" of some description. So there were a lot of German princes and princesses available.
    – WS2
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:52
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    This is essentially a coincidence. Three of these monarchies originated within the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they are ruled by families of German lineages. Saxe-Coburg and Gotha married into the British family. The Danish and Norwegian dynasty actually traces back to someone (Christian I) who was in fact a descendant of 13th century Danish king. Basically, I don't think you have a trend here.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 15:12
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    I think this is relevant: Queen Victoria was called Grandmother of Europe, and Christian IX was called Father-in-Law of Europe, which is funny in its own right. :)
    – taninamdar
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 15:24
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    It is worth mentioning that Catherine the Great (and thus all the Russian Czars that followed her) was German.
    – user15620
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 19:38

6 Answers 6


@SteveBird makes a good point. You would have to go a good way back to find any ancestor of Britain's present Queen who was actually born in Germany.

But the reason for so many Germans in the 18th & 19th centuries may have been due to the fact that there were so many German royals.

In 1866 there were 42 German states, including Austria and Prussia. Some were no larger than a good sized university campus. But they all had royals, or at least "electors" of some description.

So there were a lot of German princes and princesses available. It was the Hanoverians who got their hands on the British throne.

In contrast France dismissed its last Bourbon in 1830, and Britain its last Jacobite (arguably Scottish anyway) went in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, its last Tudor in 1603.

I will also try to answer the OP's question: Wouldn't it be more appealing to the common people if their King was one of their own, not someone imported from Germany who would have to learn the language of the country and shape his children to the culture of his subject nation?

The idea of a national identity did not start to gather traction in Europe until the French Revolution in 1789. Indeed prior to the 30 years war, ending in 1648, mainland Europe had been essentially governed by two great families - the Bourbons in Paris and the Habsburgs in Vienna.

People's loyalty was to their Emperor. And since the Habsburgs governed Spain as well as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and at times the Netherlands, a sense of ethnicity was not important. There are exceptions to this and Britain, an island nation, does have elements of nationhood that go back to earlier centuries.

People also felt a sense of identity with their confessional belief - Protestant or Catholic. That took priority over ethnicity before the late 18th century.

But it was the events in Paris and the wars of Napoleon that started to engender a spirit of ethnic nationalism. Nowhere does this catch on more than in Germany. All kinds of strange devices are invented to bond people together - German Eagles, Scottish kilts etc. And languages start to be rationalised into nationwide systems. (Prior to Louis XIV more than half the territory of what is now France never spoke anything which was recognisably French. The trend to a national tongue was accelerated after the Revolution.)

There were no great international sporting events like the Olympic Games, or the World Cup where fans could wear their country's colours, national anthems be played etc. All that started in the 19th century. So prior to then people were perhaps not that concerned where their rulers came from as long as they had enough to eat.

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    that makes sense that German Royal houses were larger in number than others, presenting more suitable matches to men and women of other royal families. But I am assuming that there were political motives as well when marriages were not the case? Like Swedish throne was given to a French General to gain favour of Napoleon I?
    – NSNoob
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 13:57
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    @NSNoob Adding to what WS2 said, after the Napoleonic Wars, the mediatised princely families of Germany were a great source of eligible princesses of "equal birth" who could be married by European royal houses. Within Germany in particular, the doctrine is that marrying a non "equal birth" member disqualifies any offspring from inheritance and royal titles.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 15:40
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    It's also worth pointing out that people felt more towards their local landlord, Duke, Count, whatever, who would have more to do with their day-to-day lives than some King they've never seen. And that the noble family that owns their land will likely remain the same as Kings come and go.
    – Schwern
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 21:28
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    @NSNoob: You need to rad more about Marshal Bernadotte. He was offered the Swedish throne in large part because of his animosity towards Napoleon, and promptly joined the anti-French coalition. He is rumoured to have had "Death to Tyrants" tattooed on his derriere and clearly regarded Napoleon as one. Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 15:49
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    " You would have to go a good way back to find any ancestor of Britain's present Queen who was actually born in Germany." -- depending how you define Germany, I think the last was Prince Albert, born in Saxony in 1819. So just the 200 years or so, although I might have missed someone. The Queen's great-grandfather Francis of Teck was born in Slavonia in 1837, which is sort of near Germany, and she has closer ancestors born in Denmark, which is near Germany the other way ;-) Commented May 25, 2016 at 13:44

Two reasons, sheer volume and the Holy Roman Empire. Germany has an incredibly vast number of royal families which increased their odds of succeeding a throne upon either intermarriage or death without an heir. This plus the HRE caused the rapid expansion of the Karling, Luxembourg, Hohenstaufen and Habsburg dynasties in the Middle Ages, uniting almost all of Western Europe under German dynasties early on. Then when France started flexing its own noble power, the Germans turned east to marry into the royalty of Hungary, Russia, Poland and the Balkans. At this point every European dynasty is either German in name or in bloodline.

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    Sources to support assertions would greatly improve this answer. Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 18:44

Some people say that the Holy Roman Empire had a lot of royal families. But at anyone time there is only one royal family per kingdom. In the earlier middle ages the Holy Roman Emperor was sometimes the over lord of several different European kingdoms with their own royal families.

The previously more or less hereditary positions of king of Germany and King of Italy or Lombardy were united with the position of Emperor in 962 when Otto I the Great, King of Germany and Italy, was crowned Emperor. The previously hereditary position of King of Arles or Burgundy was united with the position of Emperor in 1032.

So the Holy Roman Empire, and the Kingdom of Germany within it, didn't have lots of royal families.

What Germany did have a lot of was princely families. The princes (fursten) of the Holy Roman Empire were individually the first men in their principalities and collectively the first men in the Empire as a whole.

A noble counted as a prince of the Empire if he ruled an immediate fief directly subordinate to the emperor and had one of the princely titles which ran from lowest to highest as:

Princely count.



Count Palatine.

Prince (Furst in German).


Grand Duke.


A number of states and fiefs were also ruled by clergy, including Bishops, Archbishops, Abbots, and Abbesses, and some of them counted as princes of the Empire.

There were also hundreds of small immediate fiefs ruled by the imperial knights, who didn't count as princes. And there were a number of Free Imperial Cities.

And of course there were many fiefs ruled by nobles who were vassals of other nobles and who thus didn't count as princes of the Empire.

In the earlier middle ages European royal families married with nobles in their own kingdoms and foreign nobles as well as with other royal families. But in the later middle ages and modern times the royal families of Europe married almost exclusively only members of other royal families, becoming a separate caste which has only begun to marry with other families in the last few generations. In fact in many countries royals who married beneath them lost the right to pass on the throne to their descendants.

But the princely families of the Holy Roman Empire and Germany were the exception to that rule. They were considered much higher than nobles with equivalent titles in other European countries and high enough to intermarry with royal families, in part because they continued to rule principalities when most other nobles had lost their right to rule fiefs.

If European royal families had considered the German princely dynasties to be beneath them and not suitable marriage partners, they would have had a hard time finding suitable marriage partners, since there were usually only about ten separate catholic royal families in Europe in the later middle ages. When royal families stopped marrying with ordinary nobles in their kingdoms and foreign kingdoms and became a separate royal caste, they had to include the German princely dynasties within that caste in order to have enough suitable potential marriage partners.

After the Protestant Reformation caused a split between various Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, it became rare for royalty to marry members of the other side of the split. Thus it became even more necessary for European royalty to consider German princely families of the same faith as equal and valid marriage partners in order to have enough potential marriage partners.

Thus as a result of those intermarriages, it became possible for a person to inherit both a principality within the Holy Roman Empire and a kingdom outside it. For example, for about half a year in 1762 there were 10 persons who ruled both fiefs and principalities within the Holy Roman Empire and kingdoms or nations outside of it.

Which European nation had the most kings in the 18th century?1

How did member states of the Holy Roman Empire justify only including part of their land inside it?2

After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 there were tens of former principalities in Germany which were now independent states, even though only a minority of their rulers took the title of king. And many of those states remained as semi independent states in the German Empire between 1871 and 1918. So until 1918 Germany had many reigning princes and dukes who were considered almost the equal of royal families in other countries, as well as mediatised (formerly ruling) families which were still considered to be of almost royal rank.

Thus during the 19th century many members of the German princely dynasties married into European royal families and sometimes inherited their thrones, while other members were considered, and sometimes selected, to become the new monarchs of newly independent countries.

English or Spanish or French nobles wouldn't have been considered to become the monarchs of new kingdoms because their status was so much lower than that of the almost royal status of the German princely dynasties.

So that is why the majority of the European royal families in the 19th and 20th centuries were descended in the male line from royal or princely dynasties ruling in Germany.

  • This is generally good, but the Plantagenet dynasty in England was restricting their marriage partners almost exclusively to sovereign houses by the mid-12th century, not the 16th as you claim. Likeiwse in other royal houses if you research it. Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 17:31
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    @Pieter Geerkens I have edited the answer.
    – MAGolding
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 17:42

Romania did elect a minor German prince as king in mid 19-th century (Carol I Hohenzollern) as Romanian politics were notoriously messy and no local king could be elected.

For what it's worth it was an excellent choice. Romania was in way better shape at his death than at his ascension.

Also all countries in your list speak a German-derived language.

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    The modern kings of Greece were descendants of Christian IX of Denmark, and the Greek language is not a German-derived language. Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 0:44

There's another element to the paradigm that no one has brought up, that I think is worth mentioning.

Anglo Saxons are ethnically Germanic themselves. They were barbarian invaders from Germany, who conquered the British Isles after the Romans left the region. With that factor being considered, it's hard to argue that the Germanics aren't the dominant ethnicity in European royalty.

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    What about the Normans?
    – user28609
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 8:07
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    Anglo-Saxons were Germanic; calling them "Germans" is iffy.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 8:10
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    @fourierwho: Not to mention the Gaels, Celts, Britons and Danes Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 11:46
  • I am not entirely sure that the "Germanic" ethno-linguistic heritage of the English back around ca. 450-1066 CE is really all that relevant to explaining how the Prince-Elector of Hanover ended up King of Great Britain in 1714 -- let alone how the current royal family ended up descended from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1840. The 1st might have rather more to do w the development of the Protestant Reformation and the aftermath of Church-State conflicts in 17th c. England. The 2nd might have more to do w 19th c. dynastic politics & the personal affections of an 18 year old Queen. Commented Apr 20, 2022 at 16:18

I thought that countries choose Germans - reason was were educated on how to run a country from an early age and were told how to administer a country. What I am saying is that they were academically qualified for the job.

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    Weren't other royals so educated? What sources do have to back up these assertions? Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 22:48

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