What is a Monarchy?

What Does Monarchy Mean

We explain what a monarchy is, its origin, types and countries with a monarchy today. Also, differences with a republic.

Monarchs are rulers for life whose power is usually more or less absolute.

What is a monarchy?

Monarchies are those forms of government in which the greatest sum of political power falls on a single person , who holds the title of king (from the Latin rex ) or monarch, and who serves as head of state. The word comes from the Greek monos ("one only") and arkhein ("command", "rule"), so that, in principle, it is the government of a single person.

However, for a ruler to be considered a monarch, the following conditions must be met:

  • Power must be exercised in a strictly unipersonal manner , that is, by a single person and without vicars or intermediaries (although on different occasions monarchies may go through special regimes).
  • The office of king must be for life , that is, it must be exercised until death, unless an overthrow occurs first.
  • The power must be hereditary , that is, it must be transmitted by blood, from parents to children, and if there are none, to the closest relatives according to the family line. In some cases an election can be given, but always from a small group that administers power.

In other words, monarchs are rulers for life whose power is usually more or less absolute. In ancient times, kings were thought to be appointed by God himself to rule, or were sometimes thought to be gods themselves (like the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt), and therefore their will was sacred.

But in modern versions of the monarchy kings must generally coexist with a democratic apparatus . For this reason, their powers present restraints, limits and are inscribed in the national constitution.

In most contemporary western monarchies, in fact, the king or queen performs rather representative functions and the exercise of the head of government falls on Prime Ministers or Presidents elected according to the popular will.

See also: Theocracy

Origin of the monarchy

The first monarchies in history arose in the most remote times, after humanity adopted a sedentary life in the Neolithic, thanks to the invention of agriculture .

The first reigns that are recorded come from the Sumerian and Egyptian cultures, around 3,000 BC. They consisted of religious governments, in which the figure of the king could be at the same time god, priest or military leader. But depending on the case, one of these figures could prevail over the others, according to the characteristics of each civilization.

Thus, throughout antiquity , monarchies proliferated and soon fought each other, turning the winners into great empires. The largest of these empires in the West was the Roman Empire.

The Roman monarchy was established from the old republic in 27 BC. C. , and came to dominate the entire Mediterranean Sea and its adjacencies in Europe , Africa and the Middle East, all subject to the will of a single emperor. This monarchy was decisive in the life of Europe and the region . Its last remains (known as the Byzantine Empire) fell in AD 1453. C.

However, throughout the world there were many other forms of imperial monarchies, such as the Islamic caliphates, the Seleucid empire, the Achaemenid empire, the Japanese empire, the Mongol empire or the different imperial Chinese dynasties. Each of them was dominated by a monarch in a more or less absolute way.

Types of monarchy

In parliamentary monarchies, kings do not rule.

Depending on the degree of power that the monarch possesses and the existence of other political institutions in the State , we can differentiate between the following types of monarchies:

  • Absolute monarchy . In the absolute monarchy, power is entirely in the hands of the monarch, without there being any type of division of powers. The king exercises his will in an indisputable way (his will is the law ), often linked to divine or religious aspects.
  • Constitutional monarchy . In cases where absolute monarchical power is more difficult to sustain, many kings compromise with the existence of other political powers, voluntarily giving up a part of the royal power to allow the existence of institutions . In that case,national sovereignty passes from the king to the people themselves, and although the monarch is still the head of state, he must do so within the limits of what is established in the national Constitution.
  • Parliamentary monarchy . A case similar to the previous one, in which real power is limited by institutions, in this case democratic, such as a national parliament. Thus, although the monarch remains a lifelong authority within the State, with specific powers (such as appointing the president or exercising diplomatic functions), the head of government resides in a Prime Minister appointed by the legislature , and in this way the king "reigns , but it does not govern ”. Any real decision must be endorsed by parliament, and life under this regime conforms to the precepts of the separation of powers and democracy .
  • Hybrid monarchy . In this last category fall the intermediate regimes between the absolute and the constitutional monarchy, in which the king cedes some of his functions and powers to a relatively autonomous government, but without losing his influence within the State. It is common in principalities or irregular forms of the monarchy.

Countries with monarchy

At present (2020), the monarchy in its different forms is the government system of the following countries:

In Europe :

  • Kingdom of Belgium (ruled by Felipe Leopoldo Luis María of Belgium)
  • Kingdom of Denmark (ruled by Margaret II)
  • Kingdom of Spain (ruled by Felipe VI)
  • Kingdom of Norway (ruled by Harald V)
  • Kingdom of the Netherlands (ruled by William Alexander)
  • Kingdom of Sweden (ruled by Carlos XVI Gustavo)
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (ruled by Elizabeth II)
  • Principality of Liechtenstein (ruled by John Adam II of Liechtenstein)
  • Principality of Monaco (ruled by Albert II of Monaco)
  • Principality of Andorra (ruled by co-princes Joan-Enric Vives and Emmanuel Macron)
  • Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (ruled by Henry of Nassau-Weilburg and Bourbon-Parma)

In Asia and the Middle East :

  • Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (ruled by Salman bin Abdulaziz)
  • Kingdom of Bahrain (ruled by Hamad II)
  • State of Brunei Darussalam (ruled by Hassanal Bolkiah)
  • Kingdom of Bhutan (ruled by Jigme Khesar Namgyel)
  • Kingdom of Cambodia (ruled by Nodorom Sihamoní)
  • State of Qatar (ruled by Tamim bin Hamad Al Zani)
  • United Arab Emirates (ruled by Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai and Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan in Abu Dhabi)
  • State of Japan (ruled by Naruhito Shinno)
  • Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (ruled by Abdullah II)
  • State of Kuwait (ruled by Sabah IV)
  • State of Malaysia (ruled by Adbullah of Pahang)
  • Sultanate of Oman (ruled by Haitham bin Tariq Al Said)
  • Kingdom of Thailand (ruled by Maha Vajiralongkorn)

In Africa :

  • Kingdom of Eswatini (ruled by Mswati III)
  • Kingdom of Lesotho (ruled by Letsie III)
  • Alawite Kingdom of Morocco (ruled by Mohamed VI)

In Oceania :

  • Independent Kingdom of Samoa (ruled by Sualauvi II)
  • Kingdom of Tonga (ruled by Tupou VI)

Monarchy and republic

The choice between the monarchy and the republic was common to almost all the nations of the West when they entered contemporaneity, and it depends on which model of political power management is preferred.

On the one hand, the monarchy concentrates power (or at least one part of power) in a person for life. On the other hand, the republic appoints its authorities by popular vote (in the case of democratic ones) or by other designation systems that are not related to the nobility of blood, or to divine law. However, in the republic there may also be forms of authoritarianism, as in some communist republics.

However, in republics, ideally, every political power has a counterweight according to the separation and autonomy of the public powers of the State: an executive, a legislative and a judicial power, each independent of the other and capable of restricting decisions. on the other, according to their specific competencies.

Follow with: Republic

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