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A royal family is the extended family of a monarch - a King or Queen, or an Emperor or tribal leader.
- A country with a monarch as the head of state is called a monarchy or a kingdom
- Royalty is hereditary. That means that you can only be royal if one of your parents was, or if you married a member of a royal family. There are sometimes very strict laws about who can become a king or queen. In Japan, only male children are permitted to become Emperor
The British Royal Family
In the UK, the royal family is currently the family of Queen Elizabeth II whose surname is Windsor.
- Britain's type of government is a constitutional monarchy which means that the Queen is the Head of State, but there is also a parliament that governs the country
- The Queen is the Head of the Armed Forces and soldiers must swear an oath of allegiance to her when they join the army
- As Head of State, the Queen can declare war, make peace, recognise foreign states or take over or give up territory on behalf of the United Kingdom
- The Queen is in theory the most powerful head of state in the world - she's the world's only monarch who is the Head of State of more than one independent nation, with territories in Europe, North and Central America, the Caribbean and Oceania
- Some people believe it is unfair for one family to hold power because of who they are rather than for their achievements. In France in the 18th century, people rebelled against the royal family, and they were all executed. The Italian royal family were exiled during the second world war, and had to give up their claim to the throne before they were allowed to return to Italy
- European countries which are still kingdoms are the United Kingdom, Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Monaco, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden