Monarchs, as such, bear a variety of titles – king
(e.g., Sovereign Prince of Monaco
(e.g., Emperor of China
, Emperor of Ethiopia
, Emperor of Japan
, Emperor of India
or grand duke
(e.g., Grand Duke of Luxembourg
(e.g., Emir of Qatar
(e.g., Sultan of Oman
), or pharaoh
is political or sociocultural in nature, and is generally (but not always) associated with hereditary rule
. Most monarchs, both historically and in the present day, have been born and brought up within a royal family
(whose rule over a period of time is referred to as a dynasty
) and trained for future duties. Different systems of succession
have been used, such as proximity of blood
(male preference or absolute), primogeniture
, agnatic seniority
, Salic law
, etc. While traditionally most monarchs have been male, female monarchs have also ruled, and the term queen regnant
refers to a ruling monarch, as distinct from a queen consort
, the wife of a reigning king.
In recent centuries, many states have abolished the monarchy and become republics
(but see, e.g., United Arab Emirates
). Advocacy of government by a republic is called republicanism
, while advocacy of monarchy is called monarchism
. A principal advantage of hereditary monarchy is the immediate continuity of national leadership,
as illustrated in the classic phrase "The [old] King is dead. Long live the [new] King!
". In cases where the monarch serves mostly as a ceremonial figure (e.g. most modern constitutional monarchies), real leadership does not depend on the monarch.
A form of government may, in fact, be hereditary without being considered a monarchy, such as a family dictatorship
Postcard from 1908 showing nineteen of the world's reigning monarchs: (left to right) King Rama V/Chulalongkorn of Siam
, King George I of Greece
, King Peter I of Serbia
, King Carol I of Romania
, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary
, Tzar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria
, Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire
, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
, Emperor Nicholas II of the Russia
, King Edward VII of Britain
, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany
, King Gustav V of Sweden
, King Haakon VII of Norway
, King Frederick VIII of Denmark
, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands
, Guangxu Emperor of China
, Meiji Emperor of Japan
, King Manuel II of Portugal
and King Alfonso XIII of Spain
Hereditary succession within one patrilineal
family has been most common (but see the Rain Queen
), with a preference for children over siblings, and sons over daughters. In Europe, some peoples practiced equal division of land and regalian rights among sons or brothers, as in the Germanic states of the Holy Roman Empire, until after the medieval era
and sometimes (e.g., Ernestine duchies
) into the 19th century. Other European realms practiced one or another form of primogeniture
, in which a lord
was succeeded by his eldest son or, if he had none, by his brother, his daughters or sons of daughters.
The system of tanistry
practiced among Celtic tribes was semi-elective and gave weight also to ability and merit.
The Salic law
, practiced in France and in the Italian territories of the House of Savoy
, stipulated that only men could inherit the crown. In most fiefs
, in the event of the demise of all legitimate male members of the patrilineage
, a female of the family could succeed (semi-Salic law). In most realms, daughters and sisters were eligible to succeed a ruling kinsman before more distant male relatives (male-preference primogeniture), but sometimes the husband of the heiress became the ruler, and most often also received the title, jure uxoris
. Spain today continues this model of succession law, in the form of cognatic primogeniture
. In more complex medieval cases, the sometimes conflicting principles of proximity
battled, and outcomes were often idiosyncratic.
As the average life span increased, the eldest son was more likely to reach majority age before the death of his father, and primogeniture became increasingly favored over proximity, tanistry, seniority, and election.
In 1980, Sweden
became the first monarchy to declare equal primogeniture
, absolute primogeniture
or full cognatic primogeniture
, meaning that the eldest child of the monarch, whether female or male, ascends to the throne.
Other nations have since adopted this practice: Netherlands
in 1983, Norway
in 1990, Belgium
in 1991, Denmark
in 2009, and Luxembourg
The United Kingdom
adopted absolute (equal) primogeniture on April 25, 2013, following agreement by the prime ministers of the sixteen Commonwealth Realms
at the 22nd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
In some monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia
, succession to the throne usually first passes to the monarch's next eldest brother and so on through his other brothers, and only after them to the monarch's children (agnatic seniority
). In some other monarchies (e.g. Jordan
), the monarch chooses who will be his successor within the royal family, who need not necessarily be his eldest son.
Whatever the rules of succession, there have been many cases of a monarch being overthrown and replaced by a usurper who would often install his own family on the throne.
In the Horn of Africa
, the Kingdom of Aksum
and later the Zagwe Dynasty
, Ethiopian Empire
(1270–1974), and Aussa Sultanate
were ruled by a series of monarchs. Haile Selassie
, the last Emperor of Ethiopia, was deposed in a communist coup
. Various Somali Sultanates
also existed, including the Adal Sultanate
(led by the Walashma dynasty
of the Ifat Sultanate
), Sultanate of Mogadishu
, Ajuran Sultanate
, Warsangali Sultanate, Geledi Sultanate
, Majeerteen Sultanate
and Sultanate of Hobyo
The Zulu people
formed a powerful Zulu Kingdom
in 1816, one that was subsequently absorbed into the Colony of Natal
in 1897. The Zulu king
continues to hold a hereditary title and an influential cultural position in contemporary South Africa, although he has no direct political power. Other tribes in the country, such as the Xhosa
and the Tswana
, have also had and continue to have a series of kings and chiefs (namely the Inkosis
and the Kgosis
) whose local precedence is recognised, but who exercise no legal authority.
Monarchs in Europe
A map of Europe exhibiting the continent's monarchies (red) and republics (blue)
has been monarch of independent countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas.
Within the Holy Roman Empire
different titles were used by nobles exercising various degrees of sovereignty within their borders (see below). Such titles were granted or recognised by the Emperor or Pope. Adoption of a new title to indicate sovereign or semi-sovereign status was not always recognized by other governments or nations, sometimes causing diplomatic
During the nineteenth century many small monarchies in Europe merged with other territories to form larger entities, and following World War I
and World War II
, many monarchies were abolished
, but of those remaining all except Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Vatican City, and Monaco were headed by a king or queen.
Monarchs in Asia
In China, before the abolition of the monarchy in 1912, the Emperor of China
was traditionally regarded as the ruler of "All under heaven
". "King" is the usual translation for the term wang
王, the sovereign before the Qin dynasty
and during the Ten Kingdoms
period. During the early Han dynasty
, China had a number of kingdoms, each about the size of a province
and subordinate to the Emperor. In Korea, Daewang
(great king), or Wang
(king), was a Chinese royal style used in many states rising from the dissolution of Gojoseon
. The legendary Dangun
Wanggeom founded the first kingdom, Gojoseon. Some scholars maintain that the term Dangun
also refers to a title used by all rulers of Gojoseon and that Wanggeom
is the proper name of the founder. Gyuwon Sahwa
(1675) describes The Annals of the Danguns as a collection of nationalistic legends. The monarchs of Goguryeo and some monarchs of Silla used the title "Taewang
", meaning "Greatest King". The early monarchs of Silla have used the title of "Geoseogan", "Chachaung", "Isageum", and finally "Maripgan" until 503. The title "Gun" (prince) can refer to the dethroned rulers of the Joseon dynasty as well. Under the Korean Empire
(1897–1910), the rulers of Korea were given the title of "Hwangje", meaning the "Emperor". Today, Members of the Korean Imperial Family continue to participate in numerous traditional ceremonies, and groups exist to preserve Korea's imperial heritage.
and Bhutan are like the United Kingdom in that they are constitutional monarchies ruled by a King. Jordan
and many other Middle Eastern monarchies are ruled by a Malik
and parts of the United Arab Emirates
, such as Dubai
, are still ruled by monarchs.
is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area and the second-largest in the Arab world (after Algeria). It was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud
in 1932, although the conquests which eventually led to the creation of the Kingdom began in 1902 when he captured Riyadh
, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud
; succession to the throne was limited to sons of Ibn Saud until 2015, when a grandson
was elevated to Crown Prince. The Saudi Arabian government has been an absolute monarchy since its inception, and designates itself as Islamic
. The King bears the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to the two holiest places in Islam: Masjid al-Haram
, and Masjid al-Nabawi
is led by Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said
. The Kingdom of Jordan
is one of the Middle East
's more modern monarchies is also ruled by a Malik
. In Arab and Arabized countries, Malik
(absolute King) is the absolute word to render a monarch and is superior to all other titles. Nepal
abolished their monarchy in 2008. Sri Lanka
had a complex system of monarchies from 543BC to 1815. Between 47BC-42BC Anula of Sri Lanka became the country's first female head of state as well as Asia's first head of state.[dubious – discuss]
's constitutional monarchy, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
(The Supreme Lord of the Federation) is de facto
rotated every five years among the nine Rulers of the Malay states of Malaysia (those nine of the thirteen states of Malaysia that have hereditary royal rulers), elected by Majlis Raja-Raja
(Conference of Rulers
's 1959 constitution, the Sultan of Brunei
is the head of state with full executive authority, including emergency powers, since 1962. The Prime Minister of Brunei is a title held by the Sultan. As the prime minister, the Sultan presides over the cabinet.
has been a kingdom since the 1st century. The power of the absolute monarchy was reduced when it became the French Protectorate of Cambodia
from 1863 to 1953. It returned to an absolute monarchy from 1953 until the establishment of a republic following the 1970 coup
. The monarchy was restored as a constitutional monarchy in 1993 with the king as a largely symbolic figurehead.
has been an independent kingdom since 1907. The first Druk Gyalpo
) was elected and thereafter became a hereditary absolute monarchy. It became a constitutional monarchy in 2008.
was a monarchy for most of its history until becoming a federal republic in 2008.
Monarchs in the Americas
Francisco Pizarro meets with the Inca emperor Atahualpa
The concept of monarchy existed in the Americas long before the arrival of European colonialists.
When the Europeans arrived they referred to these tracts of land within territories of different aboriginal groups to be kingdoms, and the leaders of these groups were often referred to by the Europeans as Kings, particularly hereditary leaders.
Pre-colonial titles that were used included:
Between 1931 and 1983 nine other previous British colonies attained independence as kingdoms. All, including Canada, are in a personal union
relationship under a shared monarch. Therefore, though today there are legally ten American monarchs, one person occupies each distinct position.
In addition to these sovereign states, there are also a number of sub-national ones. In Bolivia
, for example, the Afro-Bolivian king
claims descent from an African dynasty that was taken from its homeland and sold into slavery. Though largely a ceremonial title today, the position of king of the Afro-Bolivians
is officially recognized by the government of Bolivia.
Monarchs in Oceania
societies were ruled by an ariki
from ancient times. The title is variously translated as "supreme chief", "paramount chief" or "king".
is the only remaining sovereign kingdom in Oceania. It has had a monarch since the 10th century and became a constitutional monarchy in 1875. In 2008, King George Tupou V
relinquished most of the powers of the monarchy and the position is now largely ceremonial.
In New Zealand
the position of Māori King
was established in 1858. The role is largely cultural and ceremonial and has no legal power.
Titles and precedence in Europe
The usage and meaning of a monarch's specific title have historically been defined by tradition, law and diplomatic considerations.
Note that some titles borne by monarchs have several meanings and may not exclusively designate a monarch. A Prince
may be a person of royal blood
(some languages uphold this distinction, see Fürst
). A Duke
may belong to a peerage
and hold a dukedom (title) but no duchy (territory). In Imperial Russia
, a Grand Duke
was a son or patrilineal grandson of the Tsar
. Holders of titles in these alternative meanings did not enjoy the same status as monarchs of the same title.
Within the Holy Roman Empire
, there were numerous titles used by noblemen whose authority within their territory sometimes approached sovereignty
, even though they acknowledged the Holy Roman Emperor as suzerain
, Grand Duke
and Count Palatine
, as well as secular princes like kings, dukes, princes and "princely counts" (Gefürstete Grafen
), and ecclesiastical princes like Prince-Archbishops, Prince-Bishops
and Prince-Abbots. A ruler with a title below emperor or king might still be regarded as a monarch, outranking a nobleman of the same ostensible title (e.g., Antoine, Duke of Lorraine
, a reigning sovereign, and his younger brother, Claude, Duke of Guise
, a nobleman in the peerage of France
The table below lists titles in approximate order of precedence
. According to protocol
any holder of a title indicating sovereignty took precedence over any non-sovereign titleholder.
Titles outside modern Europe
Titles by region
When a difference exists below, male titles are placed to the left and female titles are placed to the right of the slash.
Use of titles by non-sovereigns
It is not uncommon that people who are not generally seen as monarchs nevertheless use monarchical titles. There are at least five cases of this:
- Claiming an existing title, challenging the current holder. This has been very common historically. For centuries, the British monarch used, among his other titles, the title King of France, despite the fact that he had had no authority over mainland French territory since the sixteenth century. Other cases include the numerous antipopes who have claimed the Holy See.
- Retaining the title of an extinct monarchy. This can be coupled with a claim that the monarchy was in fact never, or should never have been, extinct. An example of the first case is the Prince of Seborga. Examples of the second case are several deposed monarchs or otherwise pretenders to thrones of abolished monarchies, e.g., Leka, Crown Prince of Albania who is styled by some as the "King of The Albanians". Retaining the title of an extinct monarchy can, however, be totally free of claims of sovereignty, for example it was customary in numerous European monarchies to include "King of Jerusalem" in their full titles. When it comes to deposed monarchs, it is customary to continue the usage of their monarchical title (e.g., Constantine II, King of the Hellenes) as a courtesy title, not a constitutional position, for the duration of their lifetime. However the title then dies with them and is not used by subsequent heirs or claimants unless the crown is restored constitutionally. Monarchs who have freelyabdicated are sometimes addressed by a lesser style (although, see Juan Carlos I of Spain and Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg. However, where a monarch abdicated under duress (e.g., Michael I of Romania), it is usual (especially outside their former realm) to continue to use their monarchical style for their lifetime as a traditional courtesy.
- Inventing a new title. This is common among founders of micronations, and also may or may not come with a claim of sovereignty, not usually recognised abroad. A notable example is Paddy Roy Bates, styling himself the "Prince of Sealand", but not recognized as such by any national government, thus failing at least the constitutive condition for statehood (see Sealand for a fuller discussion of his claims). Another known example is that of Norton I, who invented the title "Emperor of the United States of America" and later declared himself "Protector of Mexico".
- Usage of a monarchical title by a fictional character. This is common in fairy tales and other works geared to children, as well as works of fantasy. Examples include Princess Leia and Princess Summerfall Winterspring.
- Honorific nicknames in popular music and other aspects of popular culture, such as "King of Rock and Roll", Count Basie or Emperor Norton.
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Last edited on 3 May 2021, at 05:55
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