The early Olympic competitions were limited to amateurs, like many sports in those days. Participation in sport was mostly by upper class citizens as only they would have the available leisure time and funds required. A group which undoubtedly could afford the time and expense to play sports is the royalty, a section of the population not usually associated with involvement in international sporting competitions.
There is a surprisingly high number of royal participants from past Olympic Games. Below is a listing of royal family members that have been to the Olympics as participants, many of them medalists. Not to forget the Ancient Olympics - Emperor Nero participated in the games of 67 AD - and of course he won every event he entered.
While searching for Olympic Royalty, I discovered there are many more Olympic Royals than are usually listed, some from quite obscure royal families and others who became royals after their Olympic success when marrying into Royalty. Here are those that I have found.
Summer Olympics Royalty
- Count Hermann Alexandre de Pourtalès — from an old Huguenot family of Switzerland, he won a gold and a silver in the 1-2 ton sailing class at the 1900 Olympic Games. He was the first member of royalty to become an Olympic champion. His wife, Countess Hélène de Pourtalès was also a sailor on the same yacht, and became the first woman to compete at the Olympics and the first female Olympic medalist.
- Count Alexander Mercati — from Greece, he competed in the golf at the 1900 Paris Olympics.
- Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia — a German prince who competed in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, winning bronze in the Team jumping equestrian event. His parents were Prince Friedrich Leopold of Prussia and Princess Louise Sophie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.
- Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia — he was the son of his Princess Alexandra of Greece, grandson of Tsar Alexander II and a cousin to Tsar Nicholas II. He competed against Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia in the individual and team jumping equestrian event in 1912.
- Prince Ernst zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst — An Austrian fencer who competed in the individual sabre event in 1912. His parents were Prince Egon zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst and Princess Leopoldine von Lobkowicz
- Olav V of Norway — He won a gold medal in sailing (6m class) at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam when he was crown prince. He became the king of Norway in 1957, and remained so until his death in 1991. His parents were Prince Carl of Denmark (King Haakon VII of Norway) and Princess Maud of Wales, daughter of King Edward VII of the UK.
- Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh of Thailand — Prince Bira, as he was called, was a member of the Thai Royal Family. He was more famous as a race car driver, though he competed in sailing at the 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1972 Olympics. His best performance was 12th in the star class in 1956.
- Constantine II of Greece — In 1960 at the Rome Olympics, competing as Crown Prince Constantine he won a gold medal in the Dragon class sailing event. He became King of Greece from 1964 until the abolition of the monarchy in 1973.
- Queen Sofia of Spain — She is the brother of Royal Olympian Constantine II of Greece, and married to another Olympian King Juan Carlos I. Prior to her marriage into the Spanish royal family, she took part as a reserve for her native Greece in the 1960 Olympics in sailing.
- Harald V of Norway — Harald represented Norway in Olympic yachting events like his father before him. He competed in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympics. The Crown Prince also carried the Norwegian flag at the opening parade of the 1964 Games. Harald is now the King of Norway, succeeded to the throne after the death of his father Olaf V in 1991.
- Juan Carlos I — In 1972, Juan Carlos competed in the Dragon class sailing event at the Olympic Games, finishing 15th. He became the King of Spain in 1975.
- Infanta Cristina, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca — Infanta Cristina is the daughter of Olympians King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain. She participated with the Spanish Olympic sailing team at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, just like her brother Felipe. Infanta is married to Iñaki Urdangarin (Duke of Palma de Mallorca), who became a Royal Olympian by marriage. Iñaki was an elite handball player. He competed in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics. In the last of those events, which were his first Olympics as a royal, he was the team captain. He won two Olympic medals – bronze in both the 1996 and 2000 Games.
- Felipe, Prince of Asturais — Felipe's mother, father, uncle, and sister were all Olympic sailors. He was, in fact, the most successful, with a 6th-place finish in the Soling Class event at the 1992 Olympics. He is first in line to the throne, followed by his two daughters Leonor and Sofia.
- Captain Mark Phillips — Phillips is the first husband of Princess Anne, who he was married to from 1973 to 1992. In 1972 he was a member of the British three-day event team, which won the gold medal at the Munich Olympics. At the 1988 Olympics, while still married to Princess Anne, he won silver in the same event. It was through equestrian events that he met Princess Anne.
- Anne, Princess Royal — Anne is the only daughter of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. She competed as a member of the UK equestrian team in 1976, at the time the only member of the British Royal Family to have competed in the Olympic Games. She competed in both the individual and Team eventing competition. In the individual, she placed 24th overall, and as a team Great Britain placed 9th. At these Games she was also the only female competitor not to have to submit to a sex test - as the daughter Queen Elizabeth II, such a test was seen as inappropriate. The daughter of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, Zara Phillips, is also a very accomplished equestrian rider, and competed in the 2012 London Olympics.
- Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg — this German Princess competes for her mother’s native Denmark in equestrian at the Olympics. She is the daughter of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Princess Benedikte of Denmark. She was a reserve for the Danish team in Sydney 2000. She was a member of the Team Denmark dressage team in the 2008 Summer Olympics and was awarded a Bronze medal. She also came 4th in the individual dressage. She also competed in London 2012.
- Princess Haya of Jordan — she was on Jordan's Equestrian team in Sydney in 2000 for show jumping and didn't win a medal. She was also the flag bearer for Jordan.
- Sheikh Ahmad bin Mohammad bin Hasher Al Maktoum of Dubai — He is a member of the ruling family of Dubai, and competed at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games for UAE in trap shooting. His best performance was a gold medal in Double Trap in 2004.
- Sheikh Saeed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of Dubai — a member of the Dubai royal family, the son of the former ruler of Dubai Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Sheikh Saeed competed in Men's Skeet Shooting for UAE in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, his best performance 9th place in Sydney 2000. He was the flag bearer for the UAE at the opening ceremony of London 2012 Olympics.
- Prince Faisal Al-Shalan of Saudi Arabia — This Saudi Prince competed in the mixed jumping events for Saudi Arabia in both individual and team events in 2008 and 2012.
- Prince Abdullah bin Miteb Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia — competed in the Equestrian team in 2008 and 2012 for Saudi Arabia.
- Sheikha Latifa bint Ahmed Al-Maktoum of Dubai — competed in Equestrian Individual Mixed Jumping for UAE in 2008, finishing 54th.
- Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai — from UAE, she competed in Taekwondo Women's Welterweight and finished 7th in 2008. She is the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
- Zara Phillips — Zara, like her parents Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, is a very accomplished equestrian rider, and was in line to take part in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics but injuries to her horse prevented her from competing in either event. She finally made the 2012 Olympic team, and finished with a silver medal in the three day team event.
- Sheikh Juma bin Dalmook Al Maktoum — a double trap shooter in London 2012.
Winter Olympics Royalty
- Constantin von Liechtenstein — a Liechtenstein prince who competed in the 1948 Winter Olympics in Alpine Skiing. He finished 99th in the downhill event.
- Prince Max of Hohenlohe-Langenburg — a Liechtenstein prince who competed in the 1956 Winter Olympics in Alpine Skiing. He finished 45th in the downhill event.
- Prince Karim Aga Khan — competed for Iran in skiing in 1960, in the Downhill, Giant Slalom and Slalom.
- Albert II, Prince of Monaco — Prince Albert II competed in the bobsled event at every Winter Olympics from Calgary 1988 to Salt Lake City 2002. The press reported the prince refused any special treatment during his Olympic stints, and lived in the same basic quarters as all the other athletes. In 2011 he also married a former Olympian, Charlene Wittstock (now Princess of Monaco), a swimmer from South Africa. She finished in 5th-place in the 400 medley relay team at the 2000 Olympics. There is another Olympic link in this family. Albert's grandfather John Kelly (father of his mother Grace Kelly), won both the single and double sculls at the 1920 Games. John Kelly's son John junior (Albert's uncle) also competed in four Olympic campaigns.
- Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg — this prince competed for Mexico in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994 and 2010 in a range of alpine events. He is descended from the reigning dynasty of a former principality in what is now Germany. In Vancouver 2010, he was the oldest athlete at the games at 51, and the sole representative of Mexico.
- Baroness Susan Christina ('Chris') Von Saltza - swimmer from the United States who, at the age of 16, won one silver and three gold medals at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. Her grandfather Philip was a Swedish Count.
- Daria Pratt - she came third in the women's golf tournament at the 1900 Olympics. Years later (in 1913) she married Prince Alexis Karageorgevich of Serbia.
- Australian Olympic swimmer Michael Klim (gold in 4x100m and 4x200m relays in 2000) married Lindy Rama, a former model and fashion entrepreneur, in April 2006. Rama (known in Bali as Anak Agung) is a Balinese princess, being the niece of Ida Cokorde Pamecutan XI, the king of Denpasar.
- More Olympic highlights