What is the Monarchy: Characteristics and Types

The monarchy is the political regime that has a monarch as head of state. Which is chosen for his position by inheritance or lineage, for what is also known as monarchy, to the entire royal family of a State.

In this way, monarchy is equated to the concept of royalty and we can talk about Spanish, British, Belgian, etc. monarchy.

In addition, during the Modern Age it was considered that many European monarchs were also monarchs by divine right. In this way, political power was linked to religious power.

Characteristics of the monarchy

  • The monarch is the highest authority of the State and, in the case of authoritarian or absolute monarchies, they exercise all the powers of the State: the executive, the legislative and the judicial.

  • He is chosen for the position by inheritance or lineage. On a large number of occasions the firstborn is chosen. On some occasions, the monarchical inheritance allows women of the royal family to also access the position, but in most cases not.

  • The territory over which the monarch exercises his authority is known as a kingdom.
  • The place occupied by the king or monarch is known as the “throne”, as it is the physical space in which monarchs traditionally sat in Europe.
  • Monarchies have their own symbols and tradition, which last over time. Even constitutional monarchies collect and keep the symbology of the absolute or authoritarian monarchs that preceded them.
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See also: Kingdom

Monarchy types

Monarchies can be divided into democratic or authoritarian. And based on these characteristics, there is the following classification.

Constitutional and parliamentary monarchy

The constitutional monarchy arose in Europe at the end of the 18th century, after the French Revolution. Although some of his ideas were not totally unknown to the British monarchy since the 16th century.

Since the middle of the 19th century, the constitutional monarchy frequently presents a democratic form of State with constitutional norms that derive from that form.

In the Constitutional Monarchy or Parliamentary Monarchy there is a Parliament (elected by the people) who exercises the Legislative Power. By not having the legislative function, the king has the role of guaranteeing the normal functioning of the institutions.

So, as they say, ‘the king reigns, but does not rule‘, an expression of Adolphe Thiers. A prime minister is elected as head of government, whose actions are controlled by a parliament. Japan is the world’s oldest monarchy and has a parliamentary system of government.

Absolute monarchy

Absolute monarchy was the dominant form of government in most European states between the 16th and 18th centuries. In this type of monarchy, the king was the supreme head of the nation, without restrictions in political terms, exercising the Executive and Legislative Powers. He was primarily responsible for the fate of the town. The famous phrase “I am the state“, of the French King Louis XIV, reproduces the form of government of the absolute monarchs of that period.

The absolute monarchy was established in the midst of the accountability difficulties of the great feudal lords who excessively conditioned their support for the king. During the eighteenth century, the absolute monarchy changed its character, reforms were attempted to introduce new necessary bodies.

elective monarchy

Another form of monarchical government is the Elective Monarchy, in which the head of government is elected by vote and has a lifetime position. Vatican City is an example of an elective monarchy, with the Pope being the supreme leader.

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Origin and evolution of the concept of monarchy

According to the Aristotelian tradition, the monarchy is the political form in which the supreme power of the State is concentrated in the will of a single person. The legitimacy of the monarch was considered to come from a supernatural divine right and sovereignty was exercised as his own right.

In the Ancient Age, some States were considered monarchical, but it was during the Middle Ages and, mainly, the Modern Age, when monarchies in Europe increased drastically. At first kingdoms and later empires, in many cases they went from authoritarian monarchies to absolute monarchies.

Finally, after the French Revolution, came the gradual decline of the European monarchies. And in the two subsequent centuries these either disappear or become constitutional or parliamentary monarchies. In this last case, the monarchies lost some of their main characteristics and their power is more symbolic than material.

See also: Status

The myth of divine right

The myth of ‘divine right‘ Of Kings was based on the idea that God or gods chose the king to be in power and the king was responsible only to him or them, as was the case with the pharaohs of Egypt or the Roman emperors.

Although this is currently a myth, some parliamentary monarchies are still linked to a certain religion. For example, Spain to Catholicism, United Kingdom to Protestantism, Saudi Arabia to Islam, etc.

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