Monarchy is a form of government that is headed and run by a king, queen, emperor or empress. At times, monarchies have been run by appointed ministers or members of the royal family when the prince or princess was being groomed or in the absence of the king or queen. It is largely agreed that monarchy is the oldest form of government. There is evidence that in some civilizations, there were no monarchs or any central rule but ever since nations have formed or kingdoms have been established, which pretty much begins the evolution of society, there have been monarchies.
Types of Monarchy
There are two types of monarchy. One is known as absolute monarchy and the other is called constitutional monarchy. The traditional form of monarchy is the former, wherein the monarch has absolute powers. Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the present king of Saudi Arabia which has an absolute monarchy.
In absolute monarchy, the king or queen will be able to make or amend any law, establish any institution or practice and even do away with any institution, custom or law. The absolute monarch is the head of the state, politically and culturally. In some countries, the monarch is also the symbolic religious head of the nation. The armed forces in an absolute monarchy are under direct control of the king or queen and they are usually not answerable to any individual, institution or the people of the country.
Although most countries have done away with absolute monarchy, there are a few that still have such a form of government, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Vatican City, Oman and Brunei.
Constitutional Monarchy Explained
Constitutional monarchy is a combination of democracy and monarchy but it does away with autocracy or authoritarian elements in governance. A country having constitutional monarchy will have a constitution governing the land and its people, guiding legislation or lawmaking and also ensuring liberty, equality and fraternity, assuring the fundamental rights and laying out the duties of every citizen. The country will also have a king or queen, mostly both. The royal family will act as the figurehead of the country, more as a symbol in a ceremonial role. The royal family doesn’t have any constitutional powers. The king or queen cannot make laws. They cannot change laws. They don’t have any power to rule the people or the land. They are regarded as heads of state and are more like symbolic representation of the land, the people, culture and the society as one. In some cases, they also represent the faith or religion of the people of the country.
The United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Japan and Thailand have constitutional monarchy. Australia and New Zealand also have constitutional monarchy but they consider the queen of England as their monarch. There are no kings or queens or any royal family in New Zealand and Australia. Once colonies, Australia and New Zealand were a part of the erstwhile commonwealth and have chosen to continue regarding the legacy of the British monarchy.
All constitutional monarchies are not the same. Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch of England and the United Kingdom as well as the nations within the commonwealth that still regard her as the figurative head. Not all former colonies have done that. There is substantial difference in different constitutional monarchies in the world. While it is typical of heads of states to have no power over the people, lawmaking, armed forces or even matters of the state, they may or may not have veto and they may be subjected to different laws.
The United Kingdom has special laws for the royal family. They are treated differently but would be subjected to the same civil and criminal laws if they are found guilty of a crime. The royal families are just treated different in ceremonies, they tour the world and represent the country and its people, they act as the true representative without taking any political sides and they don’t influence the will of the people in elections. In some cases, the king or queen becomes active in politics. In most cases, they don’t. They don’t even vote, although they can.
Some constitutional monarchies allow more freedom to the royal family while some tend to curb them. In the Netherlands, there are laws dictating who the princes or princesses would marry. They also need to seek permission of the lawmakers, the elected representatives of people in the parliament before marrying. While you would find the lawmakers, armed forces and general citizens taking oath in the name of the monarch, king or queen, they don’t owe any legal or statutory allegiance in reality. All powers rest in the parliamentarians and ministers or the executive elected by the people of the country.
Constitutional monarchy has been debated by some and deemed futile as the state or the country spends a lot of money on the royal family, from security to their wellbeing and prosperity. Some consider it necessary to recognize the history and the legacy of a royal family. For ordinary citizens, the royal family just represents the culture, the history and the evolution of their society.