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Charlemagne or Charles the Great (748–814) was King of the Franks, King of the Lombards, and the first Holy Roman Emperor. Due to his military accomplishments and conquests, he has been called the "Father of Europe".

King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. A king is an absolute monarch if he holds the powers of government without control, or the entire sovereignty over a nation; he is a limited monarch if his power is restrained by fixed laws; and he is an absolute, when he holds the whole legislative, judicial, and executive power, or when the legislative or judicial powers, or both, are vested in other people by the king. Kings are hereditary sovereigns when they hold the powers of government by right of birth or inheritance, and elective when raised to the throne by choice.

The term king may also refer to a king consort, a title that is sometimes given to the husband of a queen regnant, but the title of prince consort is more common.


The English term king is derived from the Anglo-Saxon cyning, which in turn is derived from the Common Germanic *kuningaz. The Common Germanic term was borrowed into Estonian and Finnish at an early time, surviving in these languages as kuningas. It is a derivation from the term *kunjom "kin" (Old English cynn) by the -inga- suffix. The literal meaning is that of a "scion of the [noble] kin", or perhaps "son or descendant of one of noble birth" (OED).

The English term translates, and is considered equivalent to, Latin rēx and its equivalents in the various European languages. The Germanic term is notably different from the word for "King" in other Indo-European languages (*rēks "ruler"; Latin rēx, Sanskrit rājan and Irish ; however, see Gothic reiks and, e.g., modern German Reich and modern Dutch rijk).


The English word is of Germanic origin, and historically refers to Germanic kingship, in the pre-Christian period a type of tribal kingship. The monarchies of Europe in the Christian Middle Ages derived their claim from Christianisation and the divine right of kings, partly influenced by the notion of sacral kingship inherited from Germanic antiquity.

The Early Middle Ages begin with a fragmentation of the former Western Roman Empire into barbarian kingdoms. In Western Europe, the kingdom of the Franks developed into the Carolingian Empire by the 8th century, and the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England were unified into the kingdom of England by the 10th century.

With the breakup of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, the system of feudalism places kings at the head of a pyramid of relationships between liege lords and vassals, dependent on the regional rule of barons, and the intermediate positions of counts (or earls) and dukes. The core of European feudal manorialism in the High Middle Ages were the territories of the former Carolingian Empire, i.e. the kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire (centered on the nominal kingdoms of Germany and Italy).[4]

In the course of the European Middle Ages, the European kingdoms underwent a general trend of centralisation of power, so that by the Late Middle Ages there were a number of large and powerful kingdoms in Europe, which would develop into the great powers of Europe in the Early Modern period.

By the end of the Middle Ages, the kings of these kingdoms would start to place arches with an orb and cross on top as an Imperial crown, which only the Holy Roman Emperor had had before. This symbolized them holding the imperium and being emperors in their own realm not subject even theoretically anymore to the Holy Roman Emperor.

Contemporary kings

Currently (as of 2023), seventeen kings are recognized as the heads of state of sovereign states (i.e. English king is used as official translation of the respective native titles held by the monarchs).

Most of these are heads of state of constitutional monarchies; kings ruling over absolute monarchies are the King of Saudi Arabia, the King of Bahrain and the King of Eswatini.[5]

Monarch House Title Kingdom Reign begin Age Monarchy est.
Harald V, King of Norway Glücksburg konge Kingdom of Norway January 17, 1991 87 11th c.
Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden Bernadotte konung Kingdom of Sweden September 15, 1973 78 12th c.
Felipe VI, King of Spain Bourbon rey Kingdom of Spain June 19, 2014 56 1978 / 1479
Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands Orange-Nassau koning Kingdom of the Netherlands April 30, 2013 57 1815
Philippe , King of the Belgians Saxe-Coburg and Gotha koning / roi / König Kingdom of Belgium July 21, 2013 64 1830
Salman, King of Saudi Arabia Saud ملك malik Kingdom of Saudi Arabia January 23, 2015 88 1932
Abdullah II, King of Jordan Hashim ملك malik Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan February 7, 1999 62 1946
Mohammed VI, King of Morocco Alaoui ملك malik Kingdom of Morocco July 23, 1999 60 1956
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain Khalifa ملك malik Kingdom of Bahrain February 14, 2002 74 1971
Vajiralongkorn, King of Thailand Chakri กษัตริย์ kasat Kingdom of Thailand October 13, 2016 71 1782
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King of Bhutan Wangchuck འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་པོ་ druk gyalpo Kingdom of Bhutan December 9, 2006 44 1907
Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia Norodom ស្ដេច sdac Kingdom of Cambodia October 14, 2004 71 1993 / 1953
Tupou VI, King of Tonga Tupou king / tu'i Kingdom of Tonga March 18, 2012 65 1970
Letsie III, King of Lesotho Moshesh king / morena Kingdom of Lesotho February 7, 1996 61 1966
Mswati III, King of Eswatini Dlamini ngwenyama Kingdom of Eswatini April 25, 1986 56 1968
Charles III, King of the United Kingdom Windsor King United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Commonwealth realms September 8, 2022 75 927 / 843
Frederik X, King of Denmark Glücksburg Konge Kingdom of Denmark and its autonomous territories January 14, 2024 56 710

See also


  1. ^ The notion of a king being below an emperor in the feudal order, just as a duke is the rank below a king, is more theoretical than historical. The only kingdom title held within the Holy Roman Empire was the Kingdom of Bohemia, with the Kingdoms of Germany, Italy and Burgundy/Arles being nominal realms. The titles of King of the Germans and King of the Romans were non-landed titles held by the Emperor-elect (sometimes during the lifetime of the previous Emperor, sometimes not), although there were anti-Kings at various points; Arles and Italy were either held directly by the Emperor or not at all. The Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empires technically contained various kingdoms (Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Illyria, Lombardy–Venetia and Galicia and Lodomeria, as well as the Kingdoms of Croatia and Slavonia which were themselves subordinate titles to the Hungarian Kingdom and which were merged as Croatia-Slavonia in 1868), but the emperor and the respective kings were the same person. The Russian Empire did not include any kingdoms. The short-lived First French Empire (1804–1814/5) included a number of client kingdoms under Napoleon I, such as the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Westphalia, the Kingdom of Etruria, the Kingdom of Württemberg, the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Saxony and the Kingdom of Holland. The German Empire (1871–1918) included the Kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, Württemberg and Saxony, with the Prussian king also holding the Imperial title.
  2. ^ Pine, L.G. (1992). Titles: How the King became His Majesty. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-56619-085-5.
  3. ^ History Crunch Writers. "Aztec Emperors (Huey Tlatoani)". History Crunch - History Articles, Summaries, Biographies, Resources and More. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  4. ^ see e.g. M. Mitterauer, Why Europe?: The Medieval Origins of Its Special Path, University of Chicago Press (2010), p. 28.
  5. ^ The distinction of the title of "king" from "sultan" or "emir" in oriental monarchies is largely stylistics; the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, the State of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are also categorised as absolute monarchies.


  • Media related to Kings at Wikimedia Commons