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Types of government

A monarchy is a form of government in which a nation's sovereignty is legally vested in a single person, known as the monarch. Monarchy has traditionally been characterized in macronations by hereditary rule for life. A wide variety of forms of monarchy have evolved macronationally and micronationally, with differences including degree of power, limits on tenure, and the determination of who the monarch is.


The term 'monarch' stems from the Greek word 'μονάρχης' ('μόνος', meaning "one" or "being on one's own", and 'ἄρχων', meaning "ruler").


No single definition exists of a monarchy. One standard definition in political science is a government in which sovereignty is vested in an individual. This definition has led to confusion regarding the distinction between a dictatorship and an absolute monarchy. Another definition is a government in which the head of state holds their position for life, and is often hereditary. This definition does not apply to elective monarchies, however, such as the Holy See and the medieval Holy Roman Empire.

Types of monarchy

By degree of power

A monarchy in which the crown's power is not legally restrained is called an absolute monarchy. An absolute monarch is head of both state and government. Absolute power is impossible to hold in actuality due to the political influence of churches, the aristocracy, and the commons, but the monarch is considered the fount of all law. Practiced by some historical macronational and current micronational leaders, enlightened absolutism is benevolent rule based on the values of the Enlightenment, such as religious toleration and personal liberty.

Constrasted with absolute monarchy is constitutional monarchy, in which the monarch's powers are legally restrained in some amount. A constitutional monarch may have so little power as to simply be a ceremonial figurehead, as in the United Kingdom, or may have an active political role. The term "semi-constitutional monarchy" is sometimes used when the monarch possesses a large amount of power, but in actuality, any legal limit on authority renders a sovereign a constitutional monarch.

By type of succession

Most monarchies are hereditary, with the throne passing through family lines. Male primogeniture is a system in which males have precedence in the line of succession; female primogeniture gives precedence to females. Equal primogeniture gives equal precedence to male and female members of a royal family in determining succession. Some micronational monarchies create their own systems of hereditary succession.

In elective monarchies, the monarch is elected. This may be by the people as a whole, as in Juclandia, or by a set of aristocratic electors, as in the Holy Roman Empire. Some monarchies have been known to make provisions for a combination of hereditary and elective monarchy, in which the monarch is elected from among a particular family group.


Hereditary monarchy

In a hereditary monarchy, the position of monarch is inherited according to a statutory or customary order of succession, usually within one royal family tracing its origin through a historical dynasty or bloodline. This usually means that the heir to the throne is known well in advance of becoming monarch to ensure a smooth succession.

Elective monarchy

In an elective monarchy, monarchs are elected or appointed by somebody (an electoral college) for life or a defined period, but then reign like any other monarch.

Royal house

A royal house or royal dynasty is a familial designation, or family name of sorts, used by royalty. It generally represents the members of a family in various senior and junior or cadet branches, who are loosely related but not necessarily of the same immediate kin. Unlike most westerners, many of the world's Royal Families do not have family names, and those that have adopted them rarely use them. They are referred to instead by their titles, often related to an area ruled or once ruled by that family. The name of a Royal House is not a surname; it is just a convenient way of dynastic identification of individuals.

See also