Absolute monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch holds supreme authority and where that authority is not restricted by any written laws, legislature, or customs. These are often hereditary monarchies. In contrast, in constitutional monarchies, the head of state's authority derives from and is legally bounded or restricted by a constitution or legislature.
Some monarchies have weak or symbolic legislatures and other governmental bodies the monarch can alter or dissolve at will. Countries where monarchs still maintain absolute power are: Brunei, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Eswatini, Vatican City and the individual emirates composing the United Arab Emirates, which itself is a federation of such monarchies – a federal monarchy.
In Ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh wielded absolute power over the country and was considered a living god by his people. In ancient Mesopotamia, many rulers of Assyria, Babylonia and Sumer were absolute monarchs as well. In ancient and medieval India, rulers of the Maurya, Satavahana, Gupta and Chalukya Empires, as well as other major and minor empires, were considered absolute monarchs. In the Khmer Empire, the kings were called "Devaraja" and "Chakravartin" (King of the world), and exercised absolute power over the empire and people.
Throughout Imperial China, many emperors and one empress wielded absolute power through the Mandate of Heaven. In pre-Columbian America, the Inca Empire was ruled by a Sapa Inca, who was considered the son of Inti, the sun god and absolute ruler over the people and nation. Korea under the Joseon dynasty and short-lived empire was also an absolute monarchy. In the Ottoman Empire, many sultans wielded absolute power through heavenly mandates reflected in their title, the "Shadow of God on Earth".
Throughout much of European history, the divine right of kings was the theological justification for absolute monarchy. Many European monarchs, such as those of Russia, claimed supreme autocratic power by divine right, and that their subjects had no rights to limit their power. James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England) and his son Charles I of Scotland and England tried to import this principle. Charles I's attempt to enforce episcopal polity on the Church of Scotland led to rebellion by the Covenanters and the Bishops' Wars, then fears that Charles I was attempting to establish absolutist government along European lines was a major cause of the English Civil War, despite the fact that he did rule this way for 11 years starting in 1629, after dissolving the Parliament of England for a time. By the 19th century, the Divine Right was regarded as an obsolete theory in most countries in the Western world, except in Russia where it was still given credence as the official justification for the Tsar's power until February Revolution in 1917.
There is a considerable variety of opinion by historians on the extent of absolutism among European monarchs. Some, such as Perry Anderson, argue that quite a few monarchs achieved levels of absolutist control over their states, while historians such as Roger Mettam dispute the very concept of absolutism. In general, historians who disagree with the appellation of absolutism argue that most monarchs labeled as absolutist exerted no greater power over their subjects than any other non-absolutist rulers, and these historians tend to emphasize the differences between the absolutist rhetoric of monarchs and the realities of the effective use of power by these absolute monarchs. Renaissance historian William Bouwsma summed up this contradiction:
Nothing so clearly indicates the limits of royal power as the fact that governments were perennially in financial trouble, unable to tap the wealth of those ablest to pay, and likely to stir up a costly revolt whenever they attempted to develop an adequate income.— William Bouwsma
Though some historians doubt if he truly had, Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) is often said to have proclaimed "L'état, c'est moi" ("I am the State!"). Although often criticized for his extravagances, such as the Palace of Versailles, he reigned over France for a long period, and some historians consider him a successful absolute monarch. More recently, revisionist historians have questioned whether Louis' reign should be considered 'absolute', given the reality of the balance of power between the monarch and the nobility.
The King of France concentrated in his person legislative, executive, and judicial powers. He was the supreme judicial authority. He could condemn people to death without the right of appeal. It was both his duty to punish offenses and stop them from being committed. From his judicial authority followed his power both to make laws and to annul them.
One of his steps in creating an absolute monarchy in France was to build the Palace of Versailles, where he lived with many of his nobles and other important people, in order to control and watch over them.
Absolutism was underpinned by a written constitution for the first time in Europe in 1665 Kongeloven ("King's Law") of Denmark-Norway, which ordered that the Monarch "shall from this day forth be revered and considered the most perfect and supreme person on the Earth by all his subjects, standing above all human laws and having no judge above his person, neither in spiritual nor temporal matters, except God alone". This law consequently authorized the king to abolish all other centers of power. Most important was the abolition of the Council of the Realm.
In Brandenburg-Prussia, the concept of absolute monarch took a notable turn from the above with its emphasis on the monarch as the "first servant of the state", but it also echoed many of the important characteristics of Absolutism. Frederick William (r. 1640–1688), known as the Great Elector, used the uncertainties of the final stages of the Thirty Years' War to consolidate his territories into the dominant kingdom in northern Germany, whilst increasing his power over his subjects. His actions largely originated the militaristic streak of the Hohenzollern.
In 1653 the Diet of Brandenburg met for the last time and gave Frederick William the power to raise taxes without its consent, a strong indicator of absolutism. Frederick William enjoyed support from the nobles, who enabled the Great Elector to undermine the Diet and other representative assemblies. The leading families saw their future in cooperation with the central government and worked to establish absolutist power.
The most significant indicator of the nobles' success was the establishment of two tax rates – one for the cities and the other for the countryside – to the great advantage of the latter, which the nobles ruled. The nobles served in the upper levels of the elector's army and bureaucracy, but they also won new prosperity for themselves. The support of the Elector enabled the imposition of serfdom and the consolidation of land holdings into vast estates which provided for their wealth.
They became known as Junkers (from the German for young lord, junger Herr). Frederick William faced resistance from representative assemblies and long-independent cities in his realm. City leaders often revolted at the imposition of Electorate authority. The last notable effort was the uprising of the city of Königsberg which allied with the Estates General of Prussia to refuse to pay taxes. Frederick William crushed this revolt in 1662, by marching into the city with thousands of troops. A similar approach was used with the towns of Cleves.
Until 1905 the Tsars and Emperors of Russia governed as absolute monarchs. Peter I the Great reduced the power of the Russian nobility and strengthened the central power of the monarch, establishing a bureaucracy and a police state. This tradition of absolutism, known as Tsarist autocracy, was expanded by Catherine II the Great and her descendants. Although Alexander II made some reforms and established an independent judicial system, Russia did not have a representative assembly or a constitution until the 1905 Revolution. However, the concept of absolutism was so ingrained in Russia that the Russian Constitution of 1906 still described the monarch as an autocrat. Russia became the last European country (excluding Vatican City) to abolish absolutism, and it was the only one to do so as late as the 20th century (the Ottoman Empire drafted its first constitution in 1877).
The form of government instituted in Sweden under King Charles XI and passed on to his son, Charles XII is commonly referred to as absolute monarchy; however, the Swedish monarch was never absolute in the sense that he wielded arbitrary power. The monarch still ruled under the law and could only legislate in agreement with the Riksdag of the Estates; rather, the absolutism introduced was the monarch's ability to run the government unfettered by the privy council, contrary to earlier practice. The absolute rule of Charles XI was instituted by the crown and the Riksdag in order to carry out the Great Reduction which would have been made impossible by the privy council which comprised the high nobility. After the death of Charles XII in 1718, the system of absolute rule was largely blamed for the ruination of the realm in the Great Northern War, and the reaction tipped the balance of power to the other extreme end of the spectrum, ushering in the Age of Liberty. After half a century of largely unrestricted parliamentary rule proved just as ruinous, King Gustav III seized back royal power in the coup d'état of 1772, and later once again abolished the privy council under the Union and Security Act in 1789, which, in turn, was rendered void in 1809 when Gustav IV Adolf was deposed in a coup and the constitution of 1809 was put in its place. The years between 1789 and 1809, then, are also referred to as a period of absolute monarchy.
Many nations formerly with absolute monarchies, such as Jordan, Kuwait and Morocco, have moved towards constitutional monarchy, although in some cases the monarch retains tremendous power, to the point that the parliament's influence on political life is negligible.
In Bhutan, the government moved from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy following planned parliamentary elections to the Tshogdu in 2003, and the election of a National Assembly in 2008. Nepal had several swings between constitutional rule and direct rule related to the Nepalese Civil War, the Maoist insurgency, and the 2001 Nepalese royal massacre, with the Nepalese monarchy being abolished on May 28, 2008. In Tonga, the King had majority control of the Legislative Assembly until 2010.
On the other hand, Liechtenstein has moved towards expanding the power of the monarch: the Prince of Liechtenstein was given expanded powers after a referendum amending the Constitution of Liechtenstein in 2003, which led the BBC to describe the prince as an "absolute monarch again".
The ruling Kim family of North Korea (Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un) has been described as a de facto absolute monarchy or "hereditary dictatorship". In 2013, Clause 2 of Article 10 of the new edited Ten Fundamental Principles of the Korean Workers' Party states that the party and revolution must be carried "eternally" by the "Baekdu (Kim's) bloodline".
|Realm||Image||Monarch||Born||Age||Reign Since||Reign Length||Succession||Ref(s)|
|Brunei Darussalam||Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah||15 July 1946||72 years, 223 days||4 October 1967||51 years, 142 days||Hereditary|||
|Sultanate of Oman||Sultan Qaboos bin Said||18 November 1940||78 years, 97 days||23 July 1970||48 years, 215 days||Hereditary|||
|State of Qatar||Emir Tamim bin Hamad||3 June 1980||38 years, 265 days||25 June 2013||5 years, 243 days||Hereditary|||
|Kingdom of Saudi Arabia||King Salman bin Abdul‘aziz||31 December 1935||83 years, 54 days||23 January 2015||4 years, 31 days||Hereditary and elective|||
|Kingdom of Eswatini||King Mswati III||19 April 1968||50 years, 310 days||25 April 1986||32 years, 304 days||Hereditary and elective|||
|Vatican City State||Pope Francis||17 December 1936||82 years, 68 days||13 March 2013||5 years, 347 days||Elective|||
|United Arab Emirates||President Emir Khalifa bin Zayed||7 September 1948||70 years, 169 days||3 November 2004||14 years, 112 days||Hereditary and elective|||
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, and according to the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia adopted by royal decree in 1992, the king must comply with Shari'a (Islamic law) and the Qur'an. The Qur'an and the corpus of Sunnah (traditions of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad) are declared to be the Kingdom's constitution, but no written modern constitution has ever been written for Saudi Arabia, which remains one of two Arab nations where no national elections have ever taken place since its founding, with the other being Qatar. No political parties or national elections are permitted and according to The Economist's 2010 Democracy Index, the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated.
Anthropology, sociology, and ethology as well as various other disciplines such as political science attempt to explain the rise of absolute monarchy ranging from extrapolation generally, to certain Marxist explanations in terms of the class struggle as the underlying dynamic of human historical development generally and absolute monarchy in particular.
In the 17th century, French legal theorist Jean Domat defended the concept of absolute monarchy in works such as "On Social Order and Absolute Monarchy", citing absolute monarchy as preserving natural order as God intended.
Joseon was an absolute monarchy
The year 1932 was the 151st year of the Rattanakosin Kingdom of Siam (now known as Thailand). It was the eighth year in the reign of King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), and is reckoned as year 2474 (1 January – 31 March) and 2475 (1 April – 31 December) in the Buddhist Era. The year is most notable in the history of Thailand as the year in which the abolition of absolute monarchy by the Khana Ratsadon took place, on 24 June.2003 Liechtenstein constitutional referendum
A constitutional referendum regarding the Prince’s powers was held in Liechtenstein on 14 March 2003. The referendum had two questions; a "Princely Initiative" and a "Constitution Peace Initiative". The first question passed with 64.32% in favour and the second question was rejected by 83.44% of voters.The Princely Initiative asked voters whether to approve an extension of the power of the Prince to dismiss the government, nominate judges and veto legislation.
The Constitution Peace Initiative asked voters whether to approve or disapprove of constitutional modifications, including modifications which would have restricted the Prince’s powers. The BBC stated that the referendum in effect made Liechtenstein into an "absolute monarchy". In December 2012 the Venice commission of the Council of Europe published a comprehensive report analysing the amendments, opining that they were not compatible with the European standard of democracy. Prince Hans-Adam II had threatened to leave the country and live in exile in Vienna, Austria if the voters had chosen to restrict his powers.Absolute monarchy in France
Absolute monarchy in France slowly emerged in the 16th century and became firmly established during the 17th century. Absolute monarchy is a variation of the governmental form of monarchy in which the monarch holds supreme authority and where that authority is not restricted by any written laws, legislature, or customs. In France, Louis XIV was the most famous exemplar of absolute monarchy, with his court central to French political and cultural life during his reign.Constitutional monarchy
A constitutional monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the sovereign exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy (in which a monarch holds absolute power) in that constitutional monarchs are bound to exercise their powers and authorities within the limits prescribed within an established legal framework. Constitutional monarchies range from countries such as Morocco, where the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign, to countries such as Japan and Sweden where the monarch retains no formal authorities.
Constitutional monarchy may refer to a system in which the monarch acts as a non-party political head of state under the constitution, whether written or unwritten. While most monarchs may hold formal authority and the government may legally operate in the monarch's name, in the form typical in Europe the monarch no longer personally sets public policy or chooses political leaders. Political scientist Vernon Bogdanor, paraphrasing Thomas Macaulay, has defined a constitutional monarch as "A sovereign who reigns but does not rule".In addition to acting as a visible symbol of national unity, a constitutional monarch may hold formal powers such as dissolving parliament or giving royal assent to legislation. However, the exercise of such powers is largely strictly in accordance with either written constitutional principles or unwritten constitutional conventions, rather than any personal political preference imposed by the sovereign. In The English Constitution, British political theorist Walter Bagehot identified three main political rights which a constitutional monarch may freely exercise: the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn. Many constitutional monarchies still retain significant authorities or political influence however, such as through certain reserve powers, and may also play an important political role.
The United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms are all constitutional monarchies in the Westminster system of constitutional governance. Two constitutional monarchies – Malaysia and Cambodia – are elective monarchies, wherein the ruler is periodically selected by a small electoral college.Coronation of the Danish monarch
The coronation of the Danish monarch was a religious ceremony in which the accession of the Danish monarch was marked by a coronation ceremony. It was held in various forms from 1170 to 1840, mostly in Lund Cathedral in Lund, St. Mary's Cathedral in Copenhagen and in the chapel of Frederiksborg Palace in Hillerød.
Enthronements of the Danish monarch may be historically divided into three distinct types of rituals: the medieval coronation, which existed during the period of elective monarchy; the anointing ritual, which replaced coronation with the introduction of absolute monarchy in 1660; and finally the simple proclamation, which has been used since the introduction of the constitutional monarchy in 1849.Despotism
Despotism (Greek: Δεσποτισμός, despotismós) is a form of government in which a single entity rules with absolute power. Normally, that entity is an individual, the despot, as in an autocracy, but societies which limit respect and power to specific groups have also been called despotic.Colloquially, the word despot applies pejoratively to those who abuse their power and authority to oppress their populace, subjects, or subordinates. More specifically, the term often applies to a head of state or government. In this sense, it is similar to the pejorative connotations that are associated with the terms tyrant and dictator.Frederick III of Denmark
Frederick III (Danish: Frederik; 18 March 1609 – 9 February 1670) was king of Denmark and Norway from 1648 until his death in 1670. He also governed under the name Frederick II as diocesan administrator (colloquially referred to as prince-bishop) of the Prince-Bishopric of Verden (1623–29 and again 1634–44), and the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen (1635–45).He instituted absolute monarchy in Denmark-Norway in 1660, confirmed by law in 1665 as the first in Western historiography. He also ordered the creation of the Throne Chair of Denmark. He was born the second-eldest son of Christian IV and Anne Catherine of Brandenburg. Frederick was only considered an heir to the throne after the death of his older brother Prince Christian in 1647.
In order to be elected king after the death of his father, Frederick conceded significant influence to the nobility. As king, he fought two wars against Sweden. He was defeated in the Dano-Swedish War of 1657–1658, but attained great popularity when he weathered the 1659 Assault on Copenhagen and won the Dano-Swedish War of 1658–1660. Later that year, Frederick used his popularity to disband the elective monarchy in favour of absolute monarchy, which lasted until 1848 in Denmark. He married Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, with whom he fathered Christian V of Denmark.French Constitution of 1791
The short-lived French Constitution of 1791 was the first written constitution in France, created after the collapse of the absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime. One of the basic precepts of the revolution was adopting constitutionality and establishing popular sovereignty.Gustavian era
This is a History of Sweden from 1772 through 1809, more known as the Gustavian era of Kings Gustav III and Gustav IV, as well as the reign of King Charles XIII of Sweden.Liberalism in Thailand
Liberalism is poorly represented in the mainstream politics of Thailand. Although Thailand became a constitutional monarchy after the abolishment of absolute monarchy in 1932, it has since mostly been ruled by authoritarian leaders. Liberalism surfaced in the form of Pridi Banomyong's government (1946), the period following the 1973 student uprising, and the democratically elected governments of the 1990s which followed the Black May events of 1992.
Following the coup d'état of 2006 which ousted the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, many liberal scholars and activists have identified with the Red Shirt movement, which opposes the military dictatorship. The movement supports Thaksin, although his rule was highly illiberal and authoritarian.Marshal of the Realm (Denmark)
The Marsk (English: Marshal), from 1536 the Rigsmarsk, was in Denmark the head of the armed forces from the beginning of the 13th century until the introduction of the absolute monarchy in the 1660s. It was the third highest office in the country after the Steward of the Realm and the Chancellor. The Rigsmarsk was appointed by the king from among Danish-born nobles. During some periods, the king chose to leave the office vacant and instead personally lead the military. This was the case from 1380/81 and until 1440.In the beginning the Marsk was one of the king's men and Stig Andersen Hvide used the title Regis Danorum Marscalcus ("Marshal of the Danish King") shortly before his conviction in 1287 for the murder of King Eric V. Over the course of the 15th century, the Marsk came to represent the Realm (Privy Council), rather than the King, and in 1536 the title was finally changed to Rigsmarsk or Marscalcus Regni.
After the Scania War and with the introduction of absolute monarchy the office disappeared. Anders Bille died a Swedish prisoner of war and Axel Urup then served as a Rigsmarsk from 1658 to 1660 but was never formally appointed. After that the title continued to exist for a while as a sort of honorary title but was then abandoned. The function was taken over by generals who had been promoted through the ranks rather than being chosen among nobles.Monarchy of Thailand
The monarchy of Thailand (whose monarch is referred to as the King of Thailand or historically as the King of Siam; Thai: พระมหากษัตริย์ไทย) refers to the constitutional monarchy and monarch of the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly Siam). The King of Thailand is the head of state and head of the ruling Royal House of Chakri.
Although the current Chakri Dynasty was created in 1782, the existence of the institution of monarchy in Thailand is traditionally considered to have its roots from the founding of the Sukhothai Kingdom in 1238, with a brief interregnum from the death of Ekkathat to the accession of Taksin in the 18th century. The institution was transformed into a constitutional monarchy in 1932 after the bloodless Siamese Revolution of 1932. The monarchy's official ceremonial residence is the Grand Palace in Bangkok, while the private residence has been at the Dusit Palace.
The King of Thailand's titles include Head of State, Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, Adherent of Buddhism and Upholder of religions.Palace Revolt of 1912
The Palace Revolt of 1912 (Thai: กบฏ ร.ศ. 130) was a failed uprising against the absolute monarchy of Siam. Discontent in the army during the reign of King Vajiravudh (or King Rama VI) led to the unsuccessful coup.People's Movement I (1990)
The 1990 People's Movement (Nepali: जनआन्दोलन (Jana Andolan)) was a multiparty movement in Nepal that brought an end to absolute monarchy and the beginning of constitutional democracy. It also eliminated the Panchayat system.The movement was marked by a unity between the various political parties. Not only did various Communist parties group together in the United Left Front, but they also cooperated with parties such as Nepali Congress. One result of this unity was the formation of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist).Roundhead
Roundheads were supporters of the Parliament of England during the English Civil War (1641–1652). Also known as Parliamentarians, they fought against King Charles I of England and his supporters, known as the Cavaliers or Royalists, who claimed rule by absolute monarchy and the principle of the 'divine right of kings'. The goal of the Roundhead party was to give the Parliament supreme control over executive administration of the country/kingdom.Shah dynasty
Shah dynasty (Nepali: शाह वंश) was the ruling Chaubise Thakuri dynasty from the Indian subcontinent; they claimed Rajput origin from medieval India, and derived from the Gorkha Kingdom from 1559 to 1768 and later the unified Kingdom of Nepal from 1768 to 28 May 2008.
Shah dynasty traces their historical ancestor to King of Kaski, Kulamandan Khan, whose grandson Dravya Shah captured the throne of Gorkha from Khadka kings with the help of accomplices from six resident clans of Gorkha to become the King of Gorkha.Siamese revolution of 1932
The Siamese revolution of 1932 or the Siamese coup d'état of 1932 (Thai: การปฏิวัติสยาม พ.ศ. 2475 or การเปลี่ยนแปลงการปกครองสยาม พ.ศ. 2475) was a crucial turning point in 20th-century Thai history. The revolution, a coup d'état, was a nearly bloodless transition on 24 June 1932, which changed the system of government in Siam from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The "revolution" was brought about by a comparatively small group of military and civilians, who formed Siam's first political party, the Khana Ratsadon (Peoples' Party). It ended 150 years of absolutism under the Chakri Dynasty and almost 800 years of absolute rule of kings over Thai history. It was a product of global historical change as well as domestic social and political changes. It also resulted in the people of Siam being granted their first constitution.Statutory law
Statutory law or statute law is written law set down by a body of legislature or by a singular legislator (in the case of absolute monarchy). This is as opposed to oral or customary law; or regulatory law promulgated by the executive or common law of the judiciary.Statutes may originate with national, state legislatures or local municipalities.