Philosophy 205 - 11.2.1 Monarchy

Monarchy is a system of rule in which authority resides in one individual, who is head of state. Generally, monarchical rule is passed down through a line of succession. Monarchies have existed at least since 3000 BCE and have been a common form of government around the globe. Some examples are the Germanic Franks and Visigoths of the third and fourth centuries, the kingdoms of Spain and France, and the African countries of Morocco and Eswatini, which are still in existence today (Kostiner 2020).

Absolute Monarchies

A monarchy can be either absolute or constitutional. In an absolute monarchy, the ruler retains complete control and is not beholden to any other state authority. In the Zoroastrian tradition, following the idea of the divine right of kings, rulers were chosen by the gods and bestowed with khvarenah, or royal glory, which gave them wisdom, marked them as “supreme among the people, and indicated that they had been divinely endowed with kingship” (Choksky n.d.).

Constitutional Monarchies

A constitutional monarch, on the other hand, works within the framework of a constitution and with other political figures of the state. In a constitutional monarchy, the monarch acts as head of state and has some executive powers but does not personally make policy. The British monarchy is an example of a constitutional monarchy, although prior to the mid-1600s, it was an absolute monarchy. As a result of agricultural and industrial revolutions and religious conflict, a middle class arose in England that demanded political power through Parliament. Today, the United Kingdom is ceremonially headed by the royal family, but the right to create policy and develop legislation belongs to the democratically elected Parliament, which acts under the leadership of a prime minister. For this reason, the British system is also considered a parliamentary democracy. While the power they exercise is limited, the royal family is still considered by many in the UK to represent tradition and serve as the physical embodiment of the nation (Royal Household at Buckingham Palace 2021).

Watch the video for a discussion on the types of monarchies still governing today.


Types of Monarchies

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The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax