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.
The oldest constitutional monarchy dating back to ancient times was that of the Hittites. They were an ancient Anatolian people that lived during the Bronze Age whose king or queen had to share their authority with an assembly, called the Panku, which was the equivalent to a modern-day deliberative assembly or a legislature. Members of the Panku came from scattered noble families who worked as representatives of their subjects in an adjutant or subaltern federal-type landscape.
In the Kingdom of England, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 led to a constitutional monarchy restricted by laws such as the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701, although limits on the power of the monarch ("a limited monarchy") are much older than that (see Magna Carta). At the same time, in Scotland, the Convention of Estates enacted the Claim of Right Act 1689, which placed similar limits on the Scottish monarchy.
Although Queen Anne was the last monarch to veto an Act of Parliament when, on 11 March, 1708, she blocked the Scottish Militia Bill, Hanoverian monarchs continued to selectively dictate government policies. For instance King George III constantly blocked Catholic Emancipation, eventually precipitating the resignation of William Pitt the Younger as prime minister in 1801. The sovereign's influence on the choice of prime minister gradually declined over this period, King William IV being the last monarch to dismiss a prime minister, when in 1834 he removed Lord Melbourne as a result of Melbourne's choice of Lord John Russell as Leader of the House of Commons. Queen Victoria was the last monarch to exercise real personal power, but this diminished over the course of her reign. In 1839, she became the last sovereign to keep a prime minister in power against the will of Parliament when the Bedchamber crisis resulted in the retention of Lord Melbourne's administration. By the end of her reign, however, she could do nothing to block the unacceptable (to her) premierships of William Gladstone, although she still exercised power in appointments to the Cabinet, for example in 1886 preventing Gladstone's choice of Hugh Childers as War Secretary in favor of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.
Today, the role of the British monarch is by convention effectively ceremonial. Instead, the British Parliament and the Government – chiefly in the office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – exercise their powers under "Royal (or Crown) Prerogative": on behalf of the monarch and through powers still formally possessed by the Monarch.
No person may accept significant public office without swearing an oath of allegiance to the Queen. With few exceptions, the monarch is bound by constitutional convention to act on the advice of the Government.
Constitutional monarchy originated in continental Europe, with Poland developing the first constitution for a monarchy with the Constitution of May 3, 1791; it was the third constitution in the world just after the first republican Constitution of the United States. Constitutional monarchy also occurred briefly in the early years of the French Revolution, but much more widely afterwards. Napoleon Bonaparte is considered the first monarch proclaiming himself as an embodiment of the nation, rather than as a divinely-appointed ruler; this interpretation of monarchy is germane to continental constitutional monarchies. German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in his work Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1820), gave the concept a philosophical justification that concurred with evolving contemporary political theory and the Protestant Christian view of natural law. Hegel's forecast of a constitutional monarch with very limited powers whose function is to embody the national character and provide constitutional continuity in times of emergency was reflected in the development of constitutional monarchies in Europe and Japan.
As originally conceived, a constitutional monarch was head of the executive branch and quite a powerful figure even though his or her power was limited by the constitution and the elected parliament. Some of the framers of the U.S. Constitution may have envisioned the president as an elected constitutional monarch, as the term was then understood, following Montesquieu's account of the separation of powers.
The present-day concept of a constitutional monarchy developed in the United Kingdom, where the democratically elected parliaments, and their leader, the prime minister, exercise power, with the monarchs having ceded power and remaining as a titular position. In many cases the monarchs, while still at the very top of the political and social hierarchy, were given the status of "servants of the people" to reflect the new, egalitarian position. In the course of France's July Monarchy, Louis-Philippe I was styled "King of the French" rather than "King of France."
Following the Unification of Germany, Otto von Bismarck rejected the British model. In the constitutional monarchy established under the Constitution of the German Empire which Bismarck inspired, the Kaiser retained considerable actual executive power, while the Imperial Chancellor needed no parliamentary vote of confidence and ruled solely by the imperial mandate. However this model of constitutional monarchy was discredited and abolished following Germany's defeat in the First World War. Later, Fascist Italy could also be considered a constitutional monarchy, in that there was a king as the titular head of state while actual power was held by Benito Mussolini under a constitution. This eventually discredited the Italian monarchy and led to its abolition in 1946. After the Second World War, surviving European monarchies almost invariably adopted some variant of the constitutional monarchy model originally developed in Britain.
Nowadays a parliamentary democracy that is a constitutional monarchy is considered to differ from one that is a republic only in detail rather than in substance. In both cases, the titular head of state—monarch or president—serves the traditional role of embodying and representing the nation, while the government is carried on by a cabinet composed predominantly of elected Members of Parliament.
However, three important factors distinguish monarchies such as the United Kingdom from systems where greater power might otherwise rest with Parliament. These are: the Royal Prerogative under which the monarch may exercise power under certain very limited circumstances; Sovereign Immunity under which the monarch may do no wrong under the law because the responsible government is instead deemed accountable; and the monarch may not be subject to the same taxation or property use restrictions as most citizens. Other privileges may be nominal or ceremonial (e.g., where the executive, judiciary, police or armed forces act on the authority of or owe allegiance to the Crown).
Today slightly more than a quarter of constitutional monarchies are Western European countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, Monaco, Liechtenstein and Sweden. However, the two most populous constitutional monarchies in the world are in Asia: Japan and Thailand. In these countries the prime minister holds the day-to-day powers of governance, while the monarch retains residual (but not always insignificant) powers. The powers of the monarch differ between countries. In Denmark and in Belgium, for example, the Monarch formally appoints a representative to preside over the creation of a coalition government following a parliamentary election, while in Norway the King chairs special meetings of the cabinet.
In nearly all cases, the monarch is still the nominal chief executive, but is bound by convention to act on the advice of the Cabinet. Only a few monarchies (most notably Japan and Sweden) have amended their constitutions so that the monarch is no longer even the nominal chief executive.
There are sixteen constitutional monarchies under Queen Elizabeth II, which are known as Commonwealth realms. Unlike some of their continental European counterparts, the Monarch and her Governors-General in the Commonwealth realms hold significant "reserve" or "prerogative" powers, to be wielded in times of extreme emergency or constitutional crises, usually to uphold parliamentary government. An instance of a Governor-General exercising such power occurred during the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, when the Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, was dismissed by the Governor-General. The Australian senate had threatened to block the Government's budget by refusing to pass the necessary appropriation bills. On November 11, 1975, Whitlam intended to call a half-Senate election in an attempt to break the deadlock. When he sought the Governor-General's approval of the election, the Governor-General instead dismissed him as Prime Minister, and shortly thereafter installed leader of the opposition Malcolm Fraser in his place. Acting quickly before all parliamentarians became aware of the change of government, Fraser and his allies secured passage of the appropriation bills, and the Governor-General dissolved Parliament for a double dissolution election. Fraser and his government were returned with a massive majority. This led to much speculation among Whitlam's supporters as to whether this use of the Governor-General's reserve powers was appropriate, and whether Australia should become a republic. Among supporters of constitutional monarchy, however, the experience confirmed the value of the monarchy as a source of checks and balances against elected politicians who might seek powers in excess of those conferred by the constitution, and ultimately as a safeguard against dictatorship.
In Thailand's constitutional monarchy, the monarch is recognized as the Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Upholder of the Buddhist Religion, and Defender of the Faith. The immediate former King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, was the longest-reigning monarch in the world and in all of Thailand's history, before passing away on 13 October 2016. Bhumibol reigned through several political changes in the Thai government. He played an influential role in each incident, often acting as mediator between disputing political opponents. (See Bhumibol's role in Thai Politics.) Among the powers retained by the Thai monarch under the constitution, lèse majesté protects the image of the monarch and enables him to play a role in politics. It carries strict criminal penalties for violators. Generally, the Thai people were reverent of Bhumibol. Much of his social influence arose from this reverence and from the socio-economic improvement efforts undertaken by the royal family.
In the United Kingdom, a frequent debate centers on when it is appropriate for a British monarch to act. When a monarch does act, political controversy can often ensue, partially because the neutrality of the crown is seen to be compromised in favor of a partisan goal, while some political scientists champion the idea of an "interventionist monarch" as a check against possible illegal action by politicians. For instance, the monarch of the United Kingdom can theoretically exercise an absolute veto over legislation by withholding royal assent. However, no monarch has done so since 1708, and it is widely believed that this and many of the monarch's other political powers are lapsed powers.
There are currently 43 monarchies worldwide.
The 1909 Chinese Provincial Assembly elections were held to elect the members of the Provincial Assemblies of China in April and June 1909 as part of the New Policies under the Qing government as a move toward constitutional monarchy. The Provincial Assemblies were convened on 14 October 1909 and were responsible for electing half of the members of the National Assembly convened subsequently in 1910. The assemblies survived until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912 after the Hsinhai Revolution.
About 1.7 million men, or 0.42 percent of a population of 410 million, were registered as eligible voters. It was marked as one of the most important episodes of Chinese democracy as "it is the first day in Chinese history that people can elect their representative," as promoted by newspaper Shi Pao, although a county council election in Tientsin had been held earlier in 1907. The Constitutionalists gained grounds in the election and became more active in the constitutional movement pushing for the establishment of constitutional monarchy.Australians for Constitutional Monarchy
Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM) is a group that aims to preserve Australia's current constitutional monarchy, with Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia. The group states that it is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organisation whose role is "To preserve, to protect and to defend our heritage: the Australian constitutional system, the role of the Crown in it and our Flag".Council for National Security
The Council for National Security (Thai: คณะมนตรีความมั่นคงแห่งชาติ; RTGS: Khana Montri Khwam Man Khong Haeng Chat) or CNS (Thai: คมช.), formerly known as the Council for Democratic Reform (Thai: คณะปฏิรูปการปกครองในระบอบประชาธิปไตยอันมีพระมหากษัตริย์ทรงเป็นประมุข; RTGS: Khana Patirup Kan Pok Khrong Nai Rabop Prachathipatai An Mi Phra Maha Kasat Song Pen Pramuk) or CDR (Thai: คปค.), was the military junta that governed Thailand after staging a coup d'état against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The council was led by Army Commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin who acted as the prime minister and the cabinet, until General Surayud Chulanont was appointed as a new prime minister. Under the CNS-drafted interim constitution, the Council continued to maintain considerable power, particularly over the drafting of a permanent constitution.
The council came to an end by operation of section 298, paragraph 2, of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, Buddhist Era 2550 (2007), which prescribes: "The National Security Council...shall vacate office en masse at the time when the Council of Ministers carrying out the administration of state affairs on the date of promulgation of this Constitution vacate office."Crowned republic
A crowned republic, or crowned democracy, is a form of constitutional monarchy where the monarch's role is commonly seen as largely ceremonial and where all the royal prerogatives are prescribed by custom and law in such a way that the monarch has limited discretion over governmental and constitutional issues.
The term has been used to informally describe governments of various realms, including Australia and the United Kingdom. It can refer to a constitutional monarchy where the sovereign personally exercises little discretion over the country's political or executive affairs, whether legally vested with ultimate executive authority or not.Federal monarchy
A federal monarchy is a federation of states with a single monarch as over-all head of the federation, but retaining different monarchs, or a non-monarchical system of government, in the various states joined to the federation.Kingdom of France
The Kingdom of France (French: Royaume de France) was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was one of the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.
France originated as West Francia (Francia Occidentalis), the western half of the Carolingian Empire, with the Treaty of Verdun (843). A branch of the Carolingian dynasty continued to rule until 987, when Hugh Capet was elected king and founded the Capetian dynasty. The territory remained known as Francia and its ruler as rex Francorum ("king of the Franks") well into the High Middle Ages. The first king calling himself Roi de France ("King of France") was Philip II, in 1190. France continued to be ruled by the Capetians and their cadet lines—the Valois and Bourbon—until the monarchy was overthrown in 1792 during the French Revolution.
France in the Middle Ages was a de-centralised, feudal monarchy. In Brittany and Catalonia (now a part of Spain) the authority of the French king was barely felt. Lorraine and Provence were states of the Holy Roman Empire and not yet a part of France. Initially, West Frankish kings were elected by the secular and ecclesiastic magnates, but the regular coronation of the eldest son of the reigning king during his father's lifetime established the principle of male primogeniture, which became codified in the Salic law. During the Late Middle Ages, the Kings of England laid claim to the French throne, resulting in a series of conflicts known as the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453). Subsequently, France sought to extend its influence into Italy, but was defeated by Spain in the ensuing Italian Wars (1494–1559).
France in the early modern era was increasingly centralised; the French language began to displace other languages from official use, and the monarch expanded his absolute power, albeit in an administrative system (the Ancien Régime) complicated by historic and regional irregularities in taxation, legal, judicial, and ecclesiastic divisions, and local prerogatives. Religiously France became divided between the Catholic majority and a Protestant minority, the Huguenots, which led to a series of civil wars, the Wars of Religion (1562–1598). France laid claim to large stretches of North America, known collectively as New France. Wars with Great Britain led to the loss of much of this territory by 1763. French intervention in the American Revolutionary War helped secure the independence of the new United States of America but was costly and achieved little for France.
The Kingdom of France adopted a written constitution in 1791, but the Kingdom was abolished a year later and replaced with the First French Republic. The monarchy was restored by the other great powers in 1814 and lasted (except for the Hundred Days in 1815) until the French Revolution of 1848.Kingdom of Laos
The Kingdom of Laos was a constitutional monarchy that ruled Laos beginning with its independence on 9 November 1953. The monarchy survived until December 1975, when its last king, Savang Vatthana, surrendered the throne to the Pathet Lao, who abolished the monarchy in favor of a Marxist state called the Lao People's Democratic Republic, which has controlled Laos since.Given self-rule with the new Constitution in 1947 as part of a federation with the rest of French Indochina, the 1953 Franco-Lao Treaty finally established a sovereign, independent Laos, but did not stipulate who would rule the country. In the years that followed, three groups led by the so-called Three Princes, contended for power: the neutralists under Prince Souvanna Phouma, the right-wing party under Prince Boun Oum of Champassak, and the left-wing, North Vietnamese-backed Lao Patriotic Front (now called the Pathet Lao) under Prince Souphanouvong and future Prime Minister Kaysone Phomvihane.Kingdom of Portugal
The Kingdom of Portugal (Latin: Regnum Portugalliae, Portuguese: Reino de Portugal) was a monarchy on the Iberian Peninsula and the predecessor of modern Portugal. It was in existence from 1139 until 1910. After 1415, it was also known as the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarves, and between 1815 and 1822, it was known as the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. The name is also often applied to the Portuguese Empire, the realm's extensive overseas colonies.
The nucleus of the Portuguese state was the County of Portugal, established in the 9th century as part of the Reconquista, by Vímara Peres, a vassal of the King of Asturias. The county became part of the Kingdom of León in 1097, and the Counts of Portugal established themselves as rulers of an independent kingdom in the 12th century, following the battle of São Mamede. The kingdom was ruled by the Alfonsine Dynasty until the 1383–85 Crisis, after which the monarchy passed to the House of Aviz.
During the 15th and 16th century, Portuguese exploration established a vast colonial empire. From 1580 to 1640, the Kingdom of Portugal was in personal union with Habsburg Spain.
After the Portuguese Restoration War of 1640–1668, the kingdom passed to the House of Braganza and thereafter to the House of Braganza-Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. From this time, the influence of Portugal declined, but it remained a major power due to its most valuable colony, Brazil. After the independence of Brazil, Portugal sought to establish itself in Africa, but was ultimately forced to yield to the British interests, leading to the collapse of the monarchy in the 5 October 1910 revolution and the establishment of the First Portuguese Republic.
Portugal was a decisive absolute monarchy before 1822. It rotated between absolute and constitutional monarchy from 1822 until 1834, and was a decisive constitutional monarchy after 1834.List of countries by system of government
This is a list of countries by system of government. There is also a political mapping of the world that shows what form of government each country has, as well as a brief description of what each form of government entails. The list is colour-coded according to the type of government, for example: blue represents a republic with an executive head of state, and pink is a constitutional monarchy with a ceremonial head of state. The colour-coding also appears on the following map, representing the same government categories. The legend of what the different colours represent is found just below the map.Monarchism in Iran
Iranian monarchism is the advocacy of restoring the constitutional monarchy in Iran, which was abolished after the 1979 Revolution.Monarchy in Alberta
By the arrangements of the Canadian federation, Canada's monarchy operates in Alberta as the core of the province's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. As such, the Crown within Alberta's jurisdiction is referred to as the Crown in Right of Alberta, Her Majesty in Right of Alberta, or The Queen in Right of Alberta. The Constitution Act, 1867, however, leaves many royal duties in Alberta specifically assigned to the sovereign's viceroy, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, whose direct participation in governance is limited by the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy.Monarchy in British Columbia
By the arrangements of the Canadian federation, Canada's monarchy operates in British Columbia as the core of the province's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. As such, the Crown within British Columbia's jurisdiction is referred to as the Crown in Right of British Columbia, Her Majesty in Right of British Columbia, or the Queen in Right of British Columbia. The Constitution Act, 1867, however, leaves many royal duties in British Columbia specifically assigned to the sovereign's viceroy, the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, whose direct participation in governance is limited by the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy.Monarchy in Manitoba
By the arrangements of the Canadian federation, Canada's monarchy operates in Manitoba as the core of the province's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. As such, the Crown within Manitoba's jurisdiction is referred to as the Crown in Right of Manitoba, Her Majesty in Right of Manitoba, or the Queen in Right of Manitoba. The Constitution Act, 1867, however, leaves many royal duties in Manitoba specifically assigned to the sovereign's viceroy, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, whose direct participation in governance is limited by the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy.Monarchy in Newfoundland and Labrador
By the arrangements of the Canadian federation, the Canadian monarchy operates in Newfoundland and Labrador as the core of the province's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. As such, the Crown within Newfoundland and Labrador's jurisdiction is referred to as the Crown in Right of Newfoundland and Labrador, Her Majesty in Right of Newfoundland and Labrador, or the Queen in Right of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Constitution Act, 1867, however, leaves many royal duties in Newfoundland and Labrador specifically assigned to the sovereign's viceroy, the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, whose direct participation in governance is limited by the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy.Monarchy in Ontario
By the arrangements of the Canadian federation, Canada's monarchy operates in Ontario as the core of the province's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. As such, the Crown within Ontario's jurisdiction may be referred to as the Crown in Right of Ontario, Her Majesty in Right of Ontario, the Queen in Right of Ontario, or Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario. The Constitution Act, 1867, however, leaves many functions in Ontario specifically assigned to the sovereign's viceroy, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, whose direct participation in governance is limited by the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy.Monarchy in Saskatchewan
By the arrangements of the Canadian federation, the Canadian monarchy operates in Saskatchewan as the core of the province's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy; As such, the Crown within Saskatchewan's jurisdiction is referred to as the Crown in Right of Saskatchewan, her Majesty in Right of Saskatchewan, or The Queen in Right of Saskatchewan. The Constitution Act, 1867, however, leaves many royal duties in Saskatchewan specifically assigned to the sovereign's viceroy, the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, whose direct participation in governance is limited by the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy.Parliamentary republic
A parliamentary republic is a republic that operates under a parliamentary system of government where the executive branch (the government) derives its legitimacy from and is accountable to the legislature (the parliament). There are a number of variations of parliamentary republics. Most have a clear differentiation between the head of government and the head of state, with the head of government holding real power, much like constitutional monarchies (however in some countries the head of state, regardless of whether the country's system is a parliamentary republic or a constitutional monarchy, has 'reserve powers' given to use at their discretion in order to act as a non-partisan 'referee' of the political process and ensure the nation's constitution is upheld). Some have combined the roles of head of state and head of government, much like presidential systems, but with a dependency upon parliamentary power.
For the first case mentioned above, the form of executive-branch arrangement is distinct from most other government and semi-presidential republics that separate the head of state (usually designated as the "president") from the head of government (usually designated as "prime minister", "premier" or "chancellor") and subject the latter to the confidence of parliament and a lenient tenure in office while the head of state lacks dependency and investing either office with the majority of executive power.Patriotic Society of 1789
The Society of 1789 (French: Club de 1789), or the Patriotic Society of 1789 (French: Société patriotique de 1789), was a political club of the French Revolution inaugurated during a festive banquet held at Palais-Royal in May 1790 by more moderate elements of the Club Breton. At their height of influence, it was the second most important club after the Jacobin Club.
Among its members were Jean Sylvain Bailly, Mayor of Paris; Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, commander-in-chief of the National Guard; François Alexandre Frédéric, duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, Isaac René Guy le Chapelier, Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Nicolas de Condorcet.
The club kept an apartment in Palais-Royal where banquets were held. Its members were considered moderate and preferred for France to remain a constitutional monarchy in opposition to the republicans.
The popularity of the club eventually decreased the same year as it was founded and the remaining audience went to form the Club des Feuillants, founded June 18, 1791.Qinding Xianfa Dagang
The Qinding Xianfa Dagang of 1908 (Chinese: 欽定憲法大綱; pinyin: Qīndìng Xiànfǎ Dàgāng; literally: 'Outline of Constitution by Imperial Order" or "Outline of Imperial Constitution', also translated as the Principles of the Constitution) is the late Qing dynasty attempt to establish a constitutional monarchy country at the beginning of the 20th century. It was modeled on the Japanese Meiji Constitution.