This Is the Reason Why Saudi Arabia Has So Many Princes

The line of succession has become more confusing lately.

Today, monarchies are trying to cut down their number of full-time royals, but it’s a different story in the Middle East.

Since the establishment of the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the House of Saud began a tradition that passed on the title of king from brother to brother. It began when the first king, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, led a band of men to reconquer his homeland of Riyadh, on which he eventually established an Islamic kingdom. It was officially called the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on September 23, 1932.

The founder of modern Saudi Arabia went on to have 45 sons and numerous daughters. (He allegedly had 98 children in total). He had about 22 wives, but never more than four at a time, according to the New York Post. Today, he has thousands of grandchildren. Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdul Aziz, one of Ibn Saud's granddaughters, once said they had "15,000 royals." Author of Succession in Saudi Arabia Joseph Kechichian pegs the number of princes to be around 12,000 to 15,000, while a Saudi spokesperson refuted that by saying there are no more than 5,000 in the House of Saud, reports The New York Times. It all depends on whether one would count the distant relatives.

After Ibn Saud's death in 1953, his son from his second wife, Saud, acceded to the throne.

When King Saud abdicated from the throne and was exiled, five other kings—all of whom were Saud’s brothers—would eventually go on to succeed him. This is called agnatic seniority, when the monarch is succeeded by a brother, instead of his own sons.


This system was practiced until recently, when current ruler and 25th son of Ibn Saud, King Salman, replaced his younger brother Prince Muqrin as Crown Prince with his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef. Salman later promoted his favorite son Mohammed Bin Salman as Crown Prince in place of Nayef.

Confused? Here are some of the notable kings and princes you need to know apart from Abulaziz Ibn Saud:

King Salman Bin Abdulaziz


The current ruler took the throne in 2015, after the death of his half-brother. He is reportedly worth $17 billion and was one of the founding king’s favorite sons. Salman was also part of the “Magnificent Seven" or the "Sudairi Seven,” the seven sons of Ibn Saud born from his favorite and 10th wife, Hassa al-Sudairi. Despite talk of his failing health, King Salman met with U.S. President Donald Trump last year.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman


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At times known simply by his initials, M.B.S., the current Crown Prince is the youngest defense minister in the world at the age of 32. He is also deputy prime minister and best known for actively pushing foreign policy.

Two years ago, he introduced Vision 2030, which aims to make Saudi Arabia the capital of the Arab and Islamic world and make the country less dependent on oil by privatizing the economy, reports Al Jazeera.

King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz


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Before Salman, Abdullah efficiently ruled as king for a decade. Before that, he was the de facto ruler of the kingdom for 10 years, filling in for his brother King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz, who suffered a stroke. He had introduced the most reforms in the kingdom and grew its economy.


King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz


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Before facing a health crisis, King Fahd modernized the kingdom with projects and further efforts to promote private businesses and investments. He was also in power during the first Gulf War and during the oil price crisis in the 1980s, which tested his abilities as a leader.

King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz


King Faisal is credited for innovating the kingdom while keeping its ties with tradition. He was in charge of the first public school for girls, as well as introducing infrastructure and economic reforms that would transform the kingdom into the energy powerhouse it is now. He was assassinated by a nephew in 1975.

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