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Global Royal Families

Concepts, Cultures, and Networks of International Monarchy, 1800–2020

International Conference

16–18 January 2020

Conveners: Falko Schnicke (German Historical Institute London), Robert Aldrich (University of Sydney) and Cindy McCreery (University of Sydney)
Venue: German Historical Institute London


Monarchies, by definition as hereditary institutions, are defined by their familial context. Other than for a very few examples of monarchical titles that survived without them (such as the papacy or the Holy Roman Empire until 1806), the families of sovereigns are crucial to succession to the throne, and to the survival and legitimacy of a dynasty. While royal families are usually celebrated as icons of nationalism, they have often maintained a global presence. Both in and beyond Europe, royal families have developed and maintained sustained international connections, for example by marital strategies, royal tours, royal diplomacy, the practice of sending heirs abroad for education or military training, correspondence and gift-exchange with relatives in foreign dynasties. Such practices accelerated in the nineteenth century, with the rise of European imperialism in the Asia-Pacific and Africa, and new technologies of communication and transportation, as well as necessary responses to the challenges of republicanism and democratisation. In the case of non-Western royal families, there was also the challenge of resisting colonial conquest or accommodating new colonial overlords, and adapting European conventions of monarchy to assert the position of non-European sovereigns as peers of European monarchs.

The familial nature of monarchy in global terms thus commands analysis. Members of royal families, as well as the sovereign head, played important roles in public life. The ‘virtual’ global families of monarchies who granted mutual recognition of status (or, for the colonisers of countries outside Europe, often manifestly did not do so), remained in regular contact, and assimilated influences concerning monarchical roles and performances from around the world. This conference will investigate these themes from a global viewpoint in carefully selected case studies ranging from the early nineteenth century to the present.

See the convener’s interview on the conference:

Conference programme (PDF file)

Conference report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 42 (2020), Vol 1