The Info List - Absolute Monarchy

Absolute monarchy, or despotic monarchy,[1][2] is a form of monarchy in which one ruler has supreme authority and where that authority is not restricted by any written laws, legislature, or customs.[3] These are often, but not always, hereditary monarchies. In contrast, in constitutional monarchies, the head of state's authority derives from and is legally bounded or restricted by a constitution or legislature.[4] Some monarchies have weak or symbolic legislatures and other governmental bodies the monarch can alter or dissolve at will. Countries where monarchs still maintain absolute power are: Brunei,[5] Oman,[6] Saudi Arabia,[7] Swaziland,[8] Vatican City[9] and the individual emirates composing the United Arab Emirates, which itself is a free association of such monarchies – a federal monarchy.[10]


1 Historical examples

1.1 Outside Europe 1.2 Europe

1.2.1 France 1.2.2 Denmark–Norway 1.2.3 Prussia 1.2.4 Russia 1.2.5 Sweden

2 Contemporary monarchies

2.1 Current absolute monarchies

2.1.1 Saudi Arabia

3 Scholarship 4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading

Historical examples[edit] Outside Europe[edit] In Ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh
wielded absolute power over the country and was considered a living god by his people. In ancient Mesopotamia, many rulers of Assyria, Babylonia
and Sumer
were absolute monarchs as well. In ancient and medieval India, rulers of the Maurya, Satahavana, Gupta and Chalukya
Empires, as well as other major and minor empires, were considered absolute monarchs. In the Khmer Empire, the kings were called "Devaraja" and "Chakravartin" (King of the world), and exercised absolute power over the empire and people. Throughout Chinese history, many emperors and one empress wielded absolute power through the Mandate of Heaven. In pre-Columbian America, the Inca Empire
was ruled by a Sapa Inca, who was considered the son of Inti, the sun god and absolute ruler over the people and nation. Korea under the Joseon
dynasty was also an absolute monarchy.[11] Europe[edit] Throughout much of European history, the divine right of kings was the theological justification for absolute monarchy. Many European monarchs, such as those of Russia, claimed supreme autocratic power by divine right, and that their subjects had no rights to limit their power. James VI of Scotland
(later also James I of England) and his son Charles I of Scotland
and England
tried to import this principle. Charles I's attempt to enforce episcopal polity on the Church of Scotland
led to rebellion by the Covenanters and the Bishops' Wars, then fears that Charles I was attempting to establish absolutist government along European lines was a major cause of the English Civil War, despite the fact that he did rule this way for 11 years starting in 1629, after dissolving the Parliament of England
for a time. By the 19th century, the Divine Right was regarded as an obsolete theory in most countries in the Western world, except in Russia
where it was still given credence as the official justification for the Tsar's power until revolution in 1917. There is a considerable variety of opinion by historians on the extent of absolutism among European monarchs. Some, such as Perry Anderson, argue that quite a few monarchs achieved levels of absolutist control over their states, while historians such as Roger Mettam dispute the very concept of absolutism.[12] In general, historians who disagree with the appellation of absolutism argue that most monarchs labeled as absolutist exerted no greater power over their subjects than any other non-absolutist rulers, and these historians tend to emphasize the differences between the absolutist rhetoric of monarchs and the realities of the effective use of power by these absolute monarchs. Renaissance
historian William Bouwsma summed up this contradiction:

Nothing so clearly indicates the limits of royal power as the fact that governments were perennially in financial trouble, unable to tap the wealth of those most able to pay, and likely to stir up a costly revolt whenever they attempted to develop an adequate income.[13] — William Bouwsma

France[edit] Further information: Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
in France

Louis XIV
Louis XIV
of France

A widely held story about Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France
(1638–1715) is that he proclaimed "L'état, c'est moi" ("I am the State!"). What Louis did say was: "The interests of the state come first. When one gives these priority, one labors for one's own good. These advantages to the state redounds to one's glory." Although often criticized for his extravagances, such as the Palace of Versailles, he reigned over France for a long period, and some historians consider him a successful absolute monarch. More recently, revisionist historians have questioned whether Louis' reign should be considered 'absolute', given the reality of the balance of power between the monarch and the nobility.[14] The King of France concentrated in his person legislative, executive, and judicial powers. He was the supreme judicial authority. He could condemn men to death without the right of appeal. It was both his duty to punish offenses and stop them from being committed. From his judicial authority followed his power both to make laws and to annul them.[15] One of his steps in creating an absolute monarchy in France was to build the Palace of Versailles, where he lived with many of his nobles and other important people, in order to control and watch over them.[16] Denmark–Norway[edit] Absolutism was underpinned by a written constitution for the first time in Europe
in the 1665 Kongeloven ("King's Law") of Denmark-Norway, which ordered that the Monarch
"shall from this day forth be revered and considered the most perfect and supreme person on the Earth by all his subjects, standing above all human laws and having no judge above his person, neither in spiritual nor temporal matters, except God
alone".[17][18] This law consequently authorized the king to abolish all other centers of power. Most important was the abolition of the Council of the Realm. Prussia[edit] In Brandenburg-Prussia, the concept of absolute monarch took a notable turn from the above with its emphasis on the monarch as the "first servant of the state", but it also echoed many of the important characteristics of Absolutism. Frederick William (r. 1640–1688), known as the Great Elector, used the uncertainties of the final stages of the Thirty Years' War[citation needed] to consolidate his territories into the dominant kingdom in northern Germany, whilst increasing his power over his subjects. His actions largely originated the militaristic streak of the Hohenzollern. In 1653 the Diet of Brandenburg met for the last time and gave Frederick William the power to raise taxes without its consent, a strong indicator of absolutism. Frederick William enjoyed support from the nobles, who enabled the Great Elector to undermine the Diet and other representative assemblies. The leading families saw their future in cooperation with the central government and worked to establish absolutist power. The most significant indicator of the nobles' success was the establishment of two tax rates – one for the cities and the other for the countryside – to the great advantage of the latter, which the nobles ruled. The nobles served in the upper levels of the elector's army and bureaucracy, but they also won new prosperity for themselves. The support of the Elector enabled the imposition of serfdom and the consolidation of land holdings into vast estates which provided for their wealth. They became known as Junkers (from the German for young lord, junger Herr). Frederick William faced resistance from representative assemblies and long-independent cities in his realm. City leaders often revolted at the imposition of Electorate authority. The last notable effort was the uprising of the city of Königsberg
which allied with the Estates General of Prussia to refuse to pay taxes. Frederick William crushed this revolt in 1662, by marching into the city with thousands of troops. A similar approach was used with the towns of Cleves.[19] Russia[edit] Until 1905 the Tsars of Russia
governed as absolute monarchs. Peter I the Great reduced the power of the Russian nobility and strengthened the central power of the Tsars, establishing a bureaucracy and a police state. This tradition of absolutism, known as Tsarist autocracy, was expanded by Catherine II the Great and her descendants. Although Alexander II made some reforms and established an independent judicial system, Russia
did not have a representative assembly or a constitution until the 1905 Revolution. However, the concept of absolutism was so ingrained in Russia
that the Russian Constitution
of 1906 still described the Tsar
as an autocrat. Russia
became the last European country (excluding Vatican City) to abolish absolutism, and it was the only one to do so as late as the 20th century (the Ottoman Empire
drafted its first constitution in 1877). Sweden[edit] The form of government instituted in Sweden under King Charles XI and passed on to his son, Charles XII is commonly referred to as absolute monarchy; however, the Swedish monarch was never absolute in the sense that he wielded arbitrary power. The monarch still ruled under the law and could only legislate in agreement with the Riksdag of the Estates; rather, the absolutism introduced was the monarch's ability to run the government unfettered by the privy council, contrary to earlier practice. The absolute rule of Charles XI was instituted by the crown and the Riksdag in order to carry out the Great Reduction which would have been made impossible by the privy council which comprised the high nobility. After the death of Charles XII in 1718, the system of absolute rule was largely blamed for the ruination of the realm in the Great Northern War, and the reaction tipped the balance of power to the other extreme end of the spectrum, ushering in the Age of Liberty. After half a century of largely unrestricted parliamentary rule proved just as ruinous, King Gustav III seized back royal power in the coup d'état of 1772, and later once again abolished the privy council under the Union and Security Act in 1789, which, in turn, was rendered void in 1809 when Gustav IV Adolf was deposed in a coup and the constitution of 1809 was put in its place. The years between 1789 and 1809, then, are also referred to as a period of absolute monarchy. Contemporary monarchies[edit]

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The popularity of the notion of absolute monarchy declined substantially after the American Revolution
American Revolution
and the French Revolution, which promoted theories of government based on popular sovereignty. Many nations formerly with absolute monarchies, such as Jordan, Kuwait and Morocco, have moved towards constitutional monarchy, although in some cases the monarch retains tremendous power, to the point that the parliament's influence on political life is negligible. In Bhutan, the government moved from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy following planned parliamentary elections to the Tshogdu
in 2003, and the election of a National Assembly in 2008. Nepal
had several swings between constitutional rule and direct rule related to the Nepalese Civil War, the Maoist insurgency, and the 2001 Nepalese royal massacre, with the Nepalese monarchy being abolished on May 28, 2008. In Tonga, the King had majority control of the Legislative Assembly until 2010. On the other hand, Liechtenstein
has moved towards expanding the power of the monarch: the Prince of Liechtenstein
was given expanded powers after a referendum amending the Constitution
of Liechtenstein
in 2003, which led the BBC to describe the prince as an "absolute monarch again".[20] The ruling Kim family of North Korea
North Korea
(Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il
and Kim Jong-un) has been described as a de facto absolute monarchy[21][22][23] or "hereditary dictatorship".[24] In 2013, Clause 2 of Article 10 of the new edited Ten Fundamental Principles of the Korean Workers' Party states that the party and revolution must be carried "eternally" by the "Baekdu (Kim's) bloodline".[25] Current absolute monarchies[edit]

Realm Image Monarch Since Length Succession Ref(s)


HM Hassanal Bolkiah
Hassanal Bolkiah
!Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah 000000001967-10-04-00004 October 1967 7004184440000000000♠50 years, 181 days Hereditary [26]

 Sultanate of Oman

HM Qaboos bin Said !Sultan Qaboos bin Said 000000001970-07-23-000023 July 1970 7004174210000000000♠47 years, 254 days Hereditary [27][28]

 State of Qatar

HH Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
!Emir Tamim bin Hamad 000000002013-06-25-000025 June 2013 7003174300000000000♠4 years, 282 days Hereditary Whether Qatar
should be regarded as a constitutional monarchy[29][30] is disputed.


 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

CTHM Salman bin Abdul‘aziz !King Salman bin Abdul‘aziz 000000002015-01-23-000023 January 2015 7003116600000000000♠3 years, 70 days Hereditary and elective [32]

 Kingdom of Swaziland

HM Mswati III
Mswati III
!King Mswati III 000000001986-04-25-000025 April 1986 7004116660000000000♠31 years, 343 days Hereditary and elective [33]

   Vatican City
Vatican City

HH Francis !Pope Francis 000000002013-03-13-000013 March 2013 7003184700000000000♠5 years, 21 days Elective [34]

 United Arab Emirates

HH Khalifa bin Zayed !President Emir Khalifa bin Zayed 000000002004-11-03-00003 November 2004 7003489900000000000♠13 years, 151 days Hereditary and elective [35]

Saudi Arabia[edit]

Salman, King of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

Main article: Politics of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
is an absolute monarchy,[7] although, according to the Basic Law of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
adopted by royal decree in 1992, the king must comply with Shari'a
(Islamic law) and the Qur'an. The Qur'an
and the corpus of Sunnah
(traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) are declared to be the Kingdom's constitution, but no written modern constitution has ever been written for Saudi Arabia, which remains one of two Arab nations where no national elections have ever taken place since its founding,[36] the other being Qatar. No political parties or national elections are permitted[7] and according to The Economist's 2010 Democracy
Index, the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated.[37] Scholarship[edit] Anthropology, sociology, and ethology as well as various other disciplines such as political science attempt to explain the rise of absolute monarchy ranging from extrapolation generally, to certain Marxist explanations in terms of the class struggle as the underlying dynamic of human historical development generally and absolute monarchy in particular. In the 17th century, French legal theorist Jean Domat
Jean Domat
defended the concept of absolute monarchy in works such as "On Social Order and Absolute Monarchy", citing absolute monarchy as preserving natural order as God
intended.[38] According to Norbert Elias's The Civilizing Process (1939), monarchs such as Louis XIV
Louis XIV
could enjoy such great power because of the structure of the societies at that time: more precisely, they could play off against each other two rival classes, namely the rising bourgeoisie, who grew wealthy from commerce and industrial production, and the nobility, who lived off the land and administrative functions. See also[edit]

Constitutional monarchy Criticism of monarchy Democracy Dictatorship Enlightened absolutism Jacques Bossuet Monarchomachs Thomas Hobbes Totalitarianism


^ Goldie, Mark; Wokler, Robert. "Philosophical kingship and enlightened despotism". The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought. Cambridge University Press. p. 523. ISBN 9780521374224. Retrieved 13 January 2016.  ^ Leopardi, Giacomo (2013) [original 1898]. Zibaldone. Farrar Straus Giroux. p. 1438. ISBN 978-0374296827.  ^ Nathanial Harris (2009). Systems of Government Monarchy. Evans Brothers. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-237-53932-0.  ^ Jerome Blum et al., The European World (1970) 1:267-68 ^ "Qatar: regional backwater to global player". BBC News.  ^ "Q&A: Elections to Oman's Consultative Council". BBC News.  ^ a b c Cavendish, Marshall (2007). World and Its Peoples: the Arabian Peninsula. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-7614-7571-2.  ^ " Swaziland
profile". BBC News.  ^ "State Departments". Vaticanstate.va. Retrieved 2014-01-25.  ^ "Vatican to Emirates, monarchs keep the reins in modern world". Times Of India.  ^ Choi, Sang-hun (27 October 2017). "Interior Space and Furniture of Joseon
Upper-class Houses". Ewha Womans University Press. p. 16 – via Google Books. Joseon
was an absolute monarchy  ^ Mettam, Roger. Power and Faction in Louis XIV's France, 1991. ^ Bouwsma, William J., in Kimmel, Michael S. Absolutism and Its Discontents: State and Society in Seventeenth-Century France and England. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1988, 15 ^ Mettam, R. Power and Faction in Louis XIV's France, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988. ^ Mousnier, R. The Institutions of France under the Absolute Monarchy, 1598-2012 V1. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979. ^ Holt World History. France in the Age of Absolutism Austin: Rinehart and Winston, 2003. ^ "Kongeloven af 1665" (in Danish). Danske konger. Archived from the original on 2012-03-30.  ^ A partial English translation of the law can be found in Ernst Ekman, "The Danish Royal Law of 1665" pp. 102-107 in: The Journal of Modern History, 1957, vol. 2. ^ The Western Experience, Seventh Edition, Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1999. ^ " Liechtenstein
prince wins powers". BBC News. 2003-03-16. Retrieved 2015-10-26.  ^ Young W. Kihl, Hong Nack Kim. North Korea: The Politics of Regime Survival. Armonk, New York, USA: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 2006. Pp 56. ^ Robert A. Scalapino, Chong-Sik Lee. The Society. University of California Press, 1972. Pp. 689. ^ Bong Youn Choy. A history of the Korean reunification movement: its issues and prospects. Research Committee on Korean Reunification, Institute of International Studies, Bradley University, 1984. Pp. 117. ^ Sheridan, Michael (16 September 2007). "A tale of two dictatorships: The links between North Korea
North Korea
and Syria". The Times. London. Retrieved 9 April 2010.  ^ The Twisted Logic of the N.Korean Regime, Chosun Ilbo, 2013-08-13, Accessed date: 2017-01-11 ^ Government of Brunei. "Prime Minister". The Royal Ark. Office of the Prime Minister. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011.  ^ Sultan Qaboos Centre for Islamic Culture. "About H.M the Sultan". Government of Oman, Diwan of the Royal Court. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2011.  ^ Nyrop, Richard F (2008). Area Handbook for the Persian Gulf States. Wildside Press LLC. p. 341. ISBN 978-1-4344-6210-7.  ^ BBC News, How democratic is the Middle East?, 9 September 2005. ^ United States Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011: Qatar, 2011. ^ Government of Qatar. "H.H. The Amir's Biography". Diwan of the Amiri Court. Archived from the original on 2 December 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011.  ^ "Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies". BBC News. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2015.  ^ Simelane, H.S. (2005), "Swaziland: Mswati III, Reign of", in Shillington, Kevin, Encyclopedia of African history, 3, Fitzroy Dearborn, pp. 1528–30, 9781579584559  ^ "Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio elected Pope". BBC News. Retrieved 13 March 2013.  ^ Rosenthal, Laurie (12 June 2006). "Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan". The Nation. Katrina vanden Heuvel.  ^ Robbers, Gerhard (2007). Encyclopedia of world constitutions, Volume 1. p. 791. ISBN 0-8160-6078-9.  ^ The Economist
The Economist
Intelligence Unit. " The Economist
The Economist
Index 2010" (PDF). The Economist. Retrieved 6 June 2011.  ^ "Jean Domat: On Defense of Absolute Monarchy
- Cornell College Student Symposium". 18 April 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

Anderson, Perry. Lineages of the Absolutist State. London: Verso, 1974. Beloff, Max. The Age of Absolutism From 1660 to 1815 (1961) Blum, Jerome et al. The European World (vol 1 1970) pp 267–466 Kimmel, Michael S. Absolutism and Its Discontents: State and Society in Seventeenth-Century France and England. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1988. Méttam, Roger. Power and Faction in Louis XIV's France. New York: Blackwell Publishers, 1988. Miller, John (ed.). Absolutism in Seventeenth Century Europe. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1990. Wilson, Peter H. Absolutism in Central Europe. New York: Routledge, 2000. Zmohra, Hillay. Monarchy, Aristocracy, and the State in Europe
- 1300-1800. New York: Routledge, 2001

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