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Monarchy monarchic

Greek for rule by one person. Usually used to mean rule by hereditary king (or queen).

Absolute monarchies of the ruling kind are now confined to the Middle East and Africa.

Examples are: Jordan, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait; Bahrain; Oman ; Qatar and the constituent states of the United Arab Emirates.

In Africa: Swaziland

In South Asia: Bhutan.

In all these states the succession is decided by a council of the ruling family.

At the beginning of the 20th century monarchs with power included: the Tsar of Russia; Emperor of Austria-Hungary; Emperor of Germany (somewhat limited).

Much commoner is the Symbolic Monarchy in which the king or queen is the ritual head of state while the political head is elected.

In Europe ritual heads are found in:

European ritual heads usually descend in strict order from the first born. This guarantees a number of ineffectual and unfit successors, but in the past prevented wars of succession. Their political powers are usually small, though the king of Spain brought about democratization and prevented a military takeover.

Perhaps during the 19th century the family network of monarchs prevented conflict - but not in 1914.

In Asia:

  • Japan;
  • Thailand;
  • Nepal (until recently Absolute but now a Republic).

In Africa: Lesotho (disputed).

A large number of semi-official ritual monarchs are found in Africa, especially in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. These are usually elected by various types of limited electorates (elders) from the royal clan and are often retired civil servants or former military men. Their function is to conduct the traditional ceremonies. They may also have varying amounts of political influence, mostly over local affairs but a recent Sultan of Sokoto in Nigeria is believed to have had national influence.

Walter Bagehot - the English Constitution


Bagehot may have invented the idea that the British monarchy was the "dignified" part of the Constitution, as opposed to the effective part - the Commons and Cabinet.

Last revised 2/01/12


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