Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding: Do monarchies still matter?
Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding may have tinges of the turreted-castle fairy tale. But from romantic to ruthless, more than 40 modern monarchies, including Prince William's family, still influence global realities for better or worse.
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Qatar is home to the news network, Al Jazeera, one of the most potent forces in the region. The country's international rise was also signaled when the country was awarded soccer's 2022 World Cup. These significant developments were accomplished under the rule of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, whose own rise to power occurred in a bloodless coup against his father in 1995.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The kings and queens of modern monarchies
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In the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has sought to build a glittering global city in Dubai, where national aspiration is embodied by soaring towers filled with offices and residences. Some stand virtually empty as grand plans have given way to the reality of a world recession.
The world's most potent monarchy exists in Saudi Arabia, where the House of Saud presides over vast oil reserves as well as Mecca, the holiest site in Islam. King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz and his family are absolute rulers. Yet they face a great tension within the country, trying to preserve stability and their power while also combating extremist elements. The cosseted ruling elite must walk a very fine line in presiding over the people and the vast oil wealth.
Human Rights Watch says that in Saudi Arabia, "authorities continue to systematically suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shia citizens. Each year thousands of people receive unfair trials or are subject to arbitrary detention."
And yet, Gordon says that monarchies are not stagnant.
"There are tension points in all of these societies for greater say, but by and large the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula are living a very comfortable lifestyle," Gordon says. "And it becomes a kind of bargain; you live with it.… The regimes are always defining themselves under certain pressure."
Change may yet come to the Middle East.
In Britain, change occurred over centuries, a slow yet steady seepage of royal power. What's left is something of an ideal bargain: Royalty keeps the perks but not the power; the people enjoy the pomp and circumstance of royalty while exerting their political will at the ballot box.
William and Kate, a prince and his bride-to-be, somehow connect the monarchy with the people through the simple power of a single word: love.
"The monarchy is not going away, nor should it," says Vickers, the royal biographer. "People say you wouldn't invent and create this strange system and yet, it's wonderful to have."