Monarchy | Definition, Features, Merits & Demerits

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Monarchy: Definition, Types, Advantages and Disadvantages

Monarchy Form of Government: A political system headed by a King or Queen.


What is a Monarchy Form of Government

Monarchy is a system of government in which political system is based on heredity. In a monarchy, power is acquired on the basis of inheritance and concentrated in one individual who is usually called a king or queen and whose power may or may not be subject to legal limitation.

In other words, monarchy is a rule by a king or queen whose authority is said to be divine.

The monarchical system was the dominant form of government in different part of the world before the civilization era. Even though many of these traditional institutions have been divested of most of their powers in modern State, they still wield a lot of influence in the political system in many countries.

The countries which operate this system of government include Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Swaziland.

This system of government was put forward by Aristotle. He contended that the right to rule is bestowed by God only on those of noble birth who have the finest qualities of leadership. He hated a situation in which just anybody gets into power. To Aristotle, such a society is doomed to destruction.

Types of Monarchy

British Monarch

There are two forms of monarchy, namely, absolute monarchy and constitutional monarchy.

1. Absolute Monarchy

Absolute monarchy is a form of government in which the monarch rules and reigns. That is, the king or queen is both the executive and ceremonial head of state. It is a rule by someone who insists on his own way with little or no regard to others.

The Russian Tsar, Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov, who ruled the country before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was a typical example of an absolute and ruthless monarchy.

Most of the kings in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Jordans, Morocco, etc) are absolute monarchies. Ethiopia (Africa), under Emperor Haile Sellasie, before he was dethroned by the revolutionary government of Colonel Mengitsu Haile Marian in 1974 was also an absolute monarch.

2. Constitutional Monarchy

Constitutional monarchy is sometimes called limited monarchy. Under this form of government, the monarchy is unelected, but he performs functions laid down by the constitution. He is the ceremonial head of state. On the other hand, the Prime Minister who is usually the leader of the party with the largest majority in Parliament carries out the executive functions of government.

All government policies and programmes are formulated and carried out by the government in the name of the king. Countries like England and the Netherlands operate this form of government.

Features of Monarchy System of Government

The main characteristics of monarchy may be outlined as follows:

  • It is a rule by one man or woman.
  • The authority of the monarch is both traditional and informal. Traditional in the sense that he derives his powers from customs and tradition. It is informal because the king or queen is only a de-facto leader.
  • A political leader who acquires has power by force and is not removed over a period of time may transform himself into a monarchy. For example, the late Emperor Jean Bokassa of the Central African Republic transmitted into a monarchy in the 1980s after previously seizing power in a military coupe. But it was a short-lived experiment.
  • The monarchical system of government is usually practiced in small homogeneous states e.g. Britain, the Netherlands, Swaziland, etc.
  • The monarchy is usually a permanent institution unaffected changes in government.
  • The monarch is purportedly neutral in all political matters. To maintain the neutrality of the Queen of England, for example, the state bears all her personal and household expenses.
  • There is divine rights or divine mandate of the king or queen.
  • The palace of the monarch is popularly recognised as an important centre of power. In spite of social change, traditional institutions in Nigeria, for example, still exert a lot of influence in the Nigerian state notwithstanding its claim to be democratic. It is unimaginable that a major policy thrust will be adopted by the federal and state governments without consultation with first-class traditional rulers.
  • people generally show a great deal of loyalty to the monarchy.
  • A state is either a republic or a monarchy.
  • The ruler achieves his position by hereditary succession. That is, when the king dies, his son or a close election succeeds him. For example, when King Fahd of Saudi Arabia died in July 2005, he was immediately succeeded by his brother, King Abdullahi. Similarly, the English Settlement ACT of 1701 provides that successions lie in heirs of Princess Sophiaes. Queen Elizabeth became the Queen of England in 1952 through hereditary succession when her father, King George VI died.

Monarchical System of Government: Pros and Cons

Advantages of Monarchy

The monarchical system of government has the following advantages.

  • The monarchy is a symbol of national unity and dignity.
  • Because of the sacredness of the institution, it is revered and respected by a large section of the population.
  • In spite of recent changes in this form of government in the modern state, it has been retained primarily because it is sweet the conservative temperament of the people and the cost of maintaining the institution is relatively small.
  • The monarchy gives continuity to the policy of government, as it is not subject to frequent changes.

Disadvantages of Monarchy

The monarchy system has been criticized for the following reasons:

  • It is obsolete, anachronistic and out of time with the requirements of modern states. in many cases, the rulers hold onto antiquated cultures and practice, which do not encourage development.
  • The system is undemocratic, as the ruler is not elected by the people.
  • The unelected king or queen sometimes supervises the elected representatives of the people such as the Prime Minister or parliament and this incongruent political arrangement further calls to question the democratic status of monarchy.
  • The power of the ruler is not subject to any regularised check within society.
  • The pomp, pageantry and affluence often associated with the institution sometimes gives the erroneous impression that all is well with the system, and that the political system is efficient and the performance of its functions.
  • The monarch, especially in a constitutional monarchy performs only ceremonial roles which may have no bearing on the lives of the people and it may therefore be difficult to justify the huge cost of maintaining the royal family.
  • The institution may become an obstacle to the will of the people. For example, Swaziland which is the last remaining absolute monarchy in sub-saharan Africa has a king, King Mswati III, who was 37 years old in 2006. He is often criticized for having 11 wives for his lavish spending while most citizens of Swaziland live in poverty and more than 30% are Human Immuno Virus (HIV) positive.
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