Hereditary monarchy

Hereditary monarchy is a form of government and succession of power in which the throne passes from one member of a royal family to another member of the same family. It represents an institutionalised form of nepotism.[1]

It is historically the most common type of monarchy and remains the dominant form in extant monarchies. It has the advantages of continuity of the concentration of power and wealth and predictability of who one can expect to control the means of governance and patronage. Provided that a monarch is competent, not oppressive, and maintains an appropriate royal dignity, it might also offer the stabilizing factors of popular affection for and loyalty to a royal family.[2] The adjudication of what constitutes oppressive, dignified and popular tends to remain in the purview of the monarch.[2] A major disadvantage of hereditary monarchy arises when the heir apparent may be physically or temperamentally unfit to rule.[3] Other disadvantages include the inability of a people to choose their head of state, the ossified distribution of wealth and power across a broad spectrum of society, and the continuation of outmoded religious and social-economic structures mainly for the benefit of monarchs, their families, and supporters.[4]

In most extant hereditary monarchies, the typical order of succession uses some form of primogeniture, but there exist other methods such as seniority and tanistry (in which an heir-apparent is nominated from among qualified candidates).


Emperor Akihito (2016)
Emperor Akihito is the hereditary monarch of Japan.The Japanese monarchy is the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world.[5]

Theoretically, when the king or queen of a hereditary monarchy dies or abdicates, the crown typically passes to the next generation of the family. If no qualified child exists, the crown may pass to a brother, sister, nephew, niece, cousin, or other relative, in accordance with a predefined order of succession, often enshrined in legislation. Such a process establishes who will be the next monarch beforehand and avoids disputes among members of the royal family. Usurpers may resort to inventing semi-mythical genealogies to bolster their respectability.[6]

Historically, there have been differences in systems of succession, mainly revolving around the question of whether succession is limited to males, or whether females are also eligible (historically, the crown often devolved on the eldest male child, as ability to lead an army in battle was a requisite of kingship). Agnatic succession refers to systems where females are neither allowed to succeed nor to transmit succession rights to their male descendants (see Salic Law). An agnate is a kinsman with whom one has a common ancestor by descent in an unbroken male line. Cognatic succession once referred to any succession which allowed both males and females to be heirs, although in modern usage it specifically refers to succession by seniority regardless of sex (absolute primogeniture as in Sweden since 1980). Another factor which may be taken into account is the religious affiliation of the candidate or the candidate's spouse, specifically where the monarch also has a religious title or role; for example the British monarch has the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and may not profess Roman Catholicism.

Elective hereditary monarchy

Elective monarchy can function as de facto hereditary monarchy. A specific type of elective monarchy known as tanistry limits eligibility to members of the ruling house. But hereditary succession can also occur in practice despite any such legal limitations. For example, if the majority of electors belong to the same house, then they may elect only family members. Or a reigning monarch might have sole power to elect a relative. Many late-medieval countries of Europe were officially elective monarchies, but in fact pseudo-elective; most transitioned into officially hereditary systems in the early modern age. Exceptions such as the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth prove the rule.


  1. ^ Bellow, Adam (2004). In Praise of Nepotism: a history of family enterprise from King David to George W. Bush. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 12. ISBN 9781400079025. Retrieved 2017-12-11. In politics, nepotism has appeared in various forms: that of hereditary family rule under a monarchy, the domination of a landed or commercial oligarchy, and (in democratic societies) as a species of corruption linked to patronage.
  2. ^ a b Sharma, Urmila Sharma & S. K. (2000). Principles and Theory of Political Science. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 412. ISBN 9788171569380. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  3. ^ Flesch, Carl F. (2006). Who's Not Who and Other Matters. Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Pu. p. 69. ISBN 9781843862444.
  4. ^ Robertson, Geoffrey (25 September 2008). "A hereditary head of state and a system based on sexism and religious discrimination have no place in the 21st century". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  5. ^ D.M. (2 June 2017). "Why is the Japanese monarchy under threat?". The Economist. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  6. ^ For example: Mitchell, Brian (2001). Finding Your Irish Ancestors: Unique Aspects of Irish Genealogy. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 12. ISBN 9780806351001. Retrieved 11 December 2017. To legitimise the rise to power of new tribal or dynastic groups Gaelic genealogists often forged a link between the usurper and the dynasty they had overthrown.

See also

1544 in Sweden

Events from the year 1544 in Sweden

1660 state of emergency in Denmark

A state of emergency was declared by the King of Denmark in 1660. Its purpose was to put pressure on the first estate, which were reluctant to a proposal from the second and third estates to replace the elective monarchy with hereditary monarchy.

Conrad I, Duke of Bohemia

Conrad I of Brno (Czech: Konrád I. Brněnský) (died 6 September 1092) was the duke of Bohemia for eight months in 1092. He was the brother and successor of Vratislaus II (died 14 January 1092) as the third son of Bretislaus I and Judith of Schweinfurt. He did not succeed as king, because his brother had only been elevated to the royal dignity for life by the Emperor Henry IV without the establishment of a hereditary monarchy.

Before he became duke of Bohemia, he had long ruled over Moravia, as junior sons typically did in this period of Bohemia, as duke of Brno and Znojmo from 1054.

By his marriage to Wirpirk of Tengling, he had two children:

Oldřich (or Ulrich), prince of Brno from 1092 to 1097 and from 1100 to his death on 11 November 1113

Luitpold, prince of Znojmo from 1092 to 1097 and from 1100 to his death on 15 March 1112He was succeeded as duke by his nephew Bretislaus.

Domenico Flabanico

Domenico Flabanico (died 1043) was the 29th Doge of Venice. His reign lasted from the abdication of Pietro Barbolano in 1032 until his death.

Before Domenico Flabanico took office, there was a significant chaos in Venice. His predecessor had abdicated the position of Doge following extensive public pressure to reinstate Otto Orseolo, but when it was found out that Otto Orseolo was dying, Domenico Orseolo, Otto's less popular relative, attempted to seize the dogeship. There was great public outcry in Venice regarding the apparent onset of a nepotistic hereditary monarchy. Flabanico, a successful merchant and popular individual, but less than noble, was elected to spite the notion of royal blood.

Under Flabanico, new laws were instilled to limit the powers of the Doge against creating a hereditary monarchy and passing many new acts. In this time, Venice went through a period of infighting and decline. Flabanico was hardly capable of maintaining the diplomatic relationships that were necessary for adequate foreign policy and he let the economy of the Republic of Venice slip due to a general decline in confidence of the Republic. It was only thanks to his successor, Domenico Contarini, that the Republic was restored to a new era of prosperity. He died in 1043, marking the end of more than a decade of rule.

Duchy of Florence

The Duchy of Florence (Italian: Ducato di Firenze) was an Italian principality that was centred on the city of Florence, in Tuscany, Italy. The duchy was founded after Emperor Charles V restored Medici rule to Florence in 1530. Pope Clement VII, himself a Medici, appointed his relative Alessandro de' Medici as Duke of the Florentine Republic, thereby transforming the Republic of Florence into a hereditary monarchy.The second Duke, Cosimo I, established a strong Florentine navy and expanded his territory, purchasing Elba and conquering Siena. In 1569, the Pope declared Cosimo Grand Duke of Tuscany. The Medici ruled the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until 1737.

Elective monarchy

An elective monarchy is a monarchy ruled by an elected monarch, in contrast to a hereditary monarchy in which the office is automatically passed down as a family inheritance. The manner of election, the nature of candidate qualifications, and the electors vary from case to case. Historically it is not uncommon for elective monarchies to transform into hereditary ones over time, or for hereditary ones to acquire at least occasional elective aspects.

Enthronement of the Japanese Emperor

The Enthronement of the Emperor of Japan (即位の礼, Sokui no rei) is an ancient ceremony that marks the accession of a new ruler to the Chrysanthemum Throne, in the world's oldest continuous hereditary monarchy. Various ancient imperial regalia are given to the new sovereign during the course of the rite.


The Erbreichsplan (German for Plan for a Hereditary Empire) was a plan formed by the Emperor Henry VI to change the Holy Roman Empire from an elective to a hereditary monarchy. Such a move would have drastically changed the character of the Empire, but Henry was unable to garner sufficient support for the plan and it was ultimately forgotten.

Jakub Sienieński

Jakub Sienieński (died 1639) was a Polish nobleman, representative in the Sejm, who in 1602 founded the Racovian Academy.

His father Jan Sienieński (d. 1599) founded the town of Raków, Kielce County in 1569. The family name, also written "z Sienny", is not of Italian descent (from Siena) but from Oleśnica.

In 1606-1609 Jakub supported the Zebrzydowski Rebellion against King Sigismund III Vasa who was attempting to weaken the Sejm and introduce a hereditary monarchy.

John Parricida

John Parricida (German: Johann Parricida) or John the Parricide, also called John of Swabia (Johann von Schwaben), (ca. 1290 – 13 December 1312/13) was the son of the Habsburg duke Rudolf II of Austria. By killing his uncle, King Albert I of Germany, he foiled the first attempt of the Habsburg dynasty to install a hereditary monarchy in the Holy Roman Empire.

Kingdom of Sikkim

The Kingdom of Sikkim (Classical Tibetan and Sikkimese: འབྲས་ལྗོངས། Drenjong), earlier known as Dremoshong (Classical Tibetan and Sikkimese: འབྲས་མོ་གཤོངས།, official name until 1800s), was a hereditary monarchy from 1642 to 16 May 1975 in the Eastern Himalayas. It was ruled by Chogyals of the Namgyal dynasty.

List of hereditary monarchies

A hereditary monarchy is the most common style of monarchy and is the form that is used by almost all of the world's existing monarchies.

Under a hereditary monarchy, all the monarchs come from the same family, and the crown is passed down from one member to another member of the family. The hereditary system has the advantages of stability, continuity and predictability, as well as the internal stabilizing factors of family affection and loyalty.

The following list is a list of hereditary monarchies and their current (as of 2019) monarchs.

NOTE: The table comprises some sovereign monarchs of the world today, but is incomplete.

List of princesses of Denmark

This is a list of Danish princesses from the establishment of hereditary monarchy by Frederick III in 1648. Individuals holding the title of princess would usually also be styled "Her Royal Highness" (HRH) or "Her Highness" (HH).

List of princesses of Denmark by marriage

This is a list of Danish princesses by marriage from the establishment of hereditary monarchy by Frederick III in 1648. Individuals holding the title of princess would usually also be styled "Her Royal Highness" (HRH) or "Her Highness" (HH).

List of titles and honours of the Swedish Crown

This List of titles and honours of the Swedish Crown sets out the many titles of the monarch of Sweden since the creation of hereditary monarchy of the Kingdom of Sweden in 1544.

Polish–Lithuanian union

The term Polish–Lithuanian Union refers to a series of acts and alliances between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that lasted for prolonged periods of time and led to the creation of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth—the "Republic of the Two Nations"—in 1569 and eventually to the creation of a short-lived unitary state in 1791.Important events in the process of union included:

1385 – Union of Krewo – a personal union that brought the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Jogaila, to the Polish throne

1401 – Union of Vilnius and Radom – strengthened the Polish–Lithuanian union

1413 – Union of Horodło – heraldic union which granted many szlachta rights to Lithuanian nobility

1432 (1432–34) – Union of Grodno, a declarative attempt to renew closer union

1499 – Union of Kraków and Vilnius, in which the personal union became a dynastic union, recognising the sovereignty of Lithuania and describing interaction between the two states

1501 – Union of Mielnik – a renewal of the personal union

July 1, 1569 – Union of Lublin – a real union that resulted in creation of the semi-federal, semi-confederal Republic of the Two Nations (Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth)

May 3, 1791 – Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791: abolished the Elective monarchy and turned it into a hereditary monarchy, and established a common state, the Rzeczpospolita Polska (the Polish Commonwealth) in their place. The Reciprocal Guarantee of Two Nations modified these changes, stressing the continuity of bi-national status of the state. The changes were reversed completely in 1792 under pressure from forces of the Russian Empire.

Principality of Elba

The Principality of Elba (Italian: Principato d'Elba) was a non-hereditary monarchy established by the Treaty of Fontainebleau of 11 April 1814. It lasted less than a year, and its only head was Napoleon.

Sovereignty Act

The Sovereignty Act or the Absolute and Hereditary Monarchy Act (Danish: Suverænitetsakten or Enevoldsarveregeringsakten; Norwegian: Enevoldsarveregjeringsakten or sometimes even Suverenitetsakten) refers to two similar constitutional acts that introduced absolute and hereditary monarchy in the Kingdom of Denmark and absolute monarchy in the Kingdom of Norway, which was already a hereditary monarchy.

The Danish version was signed on 10 January 1661 by the representatives of the estates of the realm, i.e. nobility, clergy, and burghers. In Norway, which included the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland, the act was signed on 7 August 1661 by nobility, clergy, burghers, and farmers.

The acts gave the King absolute sovereignty (hence the name) and were signed following a coup d'etat by Frederick III of Denmark and Norway in October 1660, which abolished the Danish Council of the Realm, the electoral capitulation. and the elective monarchy, ending the political influence of the nobility and clergy. This was made possible partly because the Council of the Realm, and thus the nobility, had lost control over the Army during the Second Northern War in the years before, and the King could now use the army with its German officers and enlisted troops to intimidate the Danish nobility into accepting the constitutional changes.The Sovereignty Act was replaced by the King's Law or Lex Regia (Danish and Norwegian: Kongeloven) in both kingdoms in 1665, which formed the constitution of Denmark and Norway until 1848 and 1814 , respectively. It was unprecedented in giving the King unlimited power. Essentially, it stated that the King was to 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, [...] except God alone'.

Zebrzydowski rebellion

Zebrzydowski's rebellion (Polish: rokosz Zebrzydowskiego), or the Sandomierz rebellion (Polish: rokosz sandomierski), was a rokosz (semi-legal rebellion) in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth against King Sigismund III Vasa. The rokosz, formed on 5 August 1606 by Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, Jan Szczęsny Herburt, Stanisław Stadnicki, Aleksander Józef Lisowski and Janusz Radziwiłł in Stężyca and Lublin, was caused by the growing dissatisfaction with the King among the nobility (the szlachta). In particular, the rebels disapproved of the King's efforts to limit the power of the nobles, his attempts to weaken the Sejm (the Polish parliament) and to introduce a hereditary monarchy in place of the elective one. The rebellion (1606–1608) ended in the defeat of the rebels. Despite the failure to overthrow the King, the rebellion firmly established the dominance of the szlachta over the monarch in the Polish–Lithuanian political system.

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