Why so many Saudi Princes?

Just about everytime I hear about a Saudi dignitary, whether he be a diplomat, envoy etc. he is always referred to as a Prince. How is it the case that there are so many Princes?

Is it a title like a British knighthood, or is it just the case that they have a huge royal family?

For one thing, King Ibn Saud, the founder of the present state, had many offspring:

From wiki

Muslims can at most have four wives; each must be maintained in the same style and custom as the others. But divorce is not a tough thing to do, so with oil wealth some Saudi royals began to cycle through wives, adding new ones in as they divorced others.

Also, IIRC, when the House of Saud gained control of the Peninsula and joined together with the founders of Wahhabi, every Saud was a “prince”, not just those directly descended from Ibn Saud. In other words, the cousins and not just the sons were “princes”.

I don’t know about Saudi Arabia, but in many countries, “Prince” has been a title of nobility, like the English dukes.

Thus you can have non-royal princes.

I also suspect the Sauds bought off many potential opponents with a Princehood and financial gain.

Correct. According to “The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Sa’ud” by Robert Lacey, “Male members of the House of Sa’ud are known as “emirs”, and this is usually translated as prince.” The House of Sa’ud includes all male-line descendants of Muhammad ibn Sa’ud, the tribal ruler of the Eighteenth Century who first adopted Wahhabi’ism, and not to Abdul Aziz ibn Sa’ud, the founder of the modern Kingdom of Sa’udi Arabia. So there are many thousands of princes of the royal house, mostly in positions of wealth and influence, as discussed in this article. However, so far as I know, the title is not for sale.

“Prince” was used in a similar manner in czarist Russia, although again this is a matter of translation, as discussed here. The title originally referred to any descendant of Prince Rurik, so there were many princes, as for example Prince Andrei in War and Peace. After the time of Peter the Great, however, it could also be granted by the czar like an English peerage. This “debasement”, to my knowledge, has not happened in Sa’udi Arabia.

Correct, the unification of the Peninsula was done with a sword of steel and a sword of (ahem) flesh. King Abdulaziz married into many, many families, bore children with the wives and then divorced them to allow himself to forge new alliances.

All of these offspring (and their offspring) are princes and princesses. They in turn pass the title along to their prodigy. Royal-ness is determined by some system that has never been explained to me. In any case, a real-live prince has something nobody much else has, a diplomatic passport. Without one, he has no importance.

My husband works for one of the “Sudairi Seven” (probably shouldn’t say which one) but I have to confess, until Fahd died, I had no idea he was so close to the throne, and it wasn’t until I read that list above that I knew exactly how close. Cool.