A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state until death or abdication. The legitimation and governing power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic (crowned republic), to restricted (constitutional monarchy), to fully autocratic (absolute monarchy), combining executive, legislative and judicial power.
In most cases, the succession of monarchies is hereditary, but there are also elective and self-proclaimed monarchies, often building dynastic periods. Aristocrats, though not inherent to monarchies, often serve as the pool of persons to draw the monarch from and fill the constituting institutions (e.g. diet and court), giving many monarchies oligarchic elements.
A monarchy can be a polity through unity, personal union, vassalage or federation. Its authorities are proclaimed and recognized through the different seats, insignia and titles that a monarch can occupy and be invested with. For example, monarchs can carry titles such as king, queen, emperor, khan, caliph, tsar, or sultan, and can be bound to territories (e.g., the Emperor of Japan) and peoples (e.g., the King of the Belgians).
The republican form of government has been established as the opposing and main alternative to monarchy. Republics though have seen infringements through lifelong or even hereditary heads of state. Republics’ heads of state are often styled "President" or a variant thereof.
Monarchy was the most common form of government until the 20th century. Forty-five sovereign nations in the world have a monarch as head of state, including sixteen Commonwealth realms that each have Queen Elizabeth II (in separate capacities). Most modern monarchs are constitutional monarchs, who retains a unique legal and ceremonial role but exercise limited or no political power under the nation's constitution. In some nations, however, such as Brunei, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Eswatini and Thailand, the hereditary monarch has more political influence than any other single source of authority in the nation, either by tradition or by a constitutional mandate.
Historically, monarchies pre-dated such polities as nation states and even territorial states. A nation or constitution is not necessary in a monarchy since a person, the monarch, binds the separate territories and political legitimacy (e.g. in personal union) together.
Catherine de' Medici
(1519–1589) was queen consort
of King Henry II of France
from 1547 to 1559. Throughout Henry II's reign, he excluded Catherine from influence and instead showered favours on his mistress, Diane de Poitiers
. Henry's death in 1559 thrust Catherine into the political arena as mother of the frail fifteen-year-old King Francis II
. When he died in 1560, she became regent
on behalf of her ten-year-old son King Charles IX
and was granted sweeping powers. After Charles died in 1574, Catherine played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henry III
. He dispensed with her advice only in the last months of her life. Catherine's three sons reigned in an age of almost constant civil and religious war in France. The problems facing the monarchy were complex and daunting. At first, Catherine compromised and made concessions to the rebelling Protestants, or Huguenots
, as they became known. Later, she resorted in frustration and anger to hard-line policies against them. Her policies may be seen as desperate measures to keep the Valois monarchy
on the throne at all costs, and her spectacular patronage of the arts as an attempt to glorify a monarchy whose prestige was in steep decline. Without Catherine, it is unlikely that her sons would have remained in power. The years in which they reigned have been called "the age of Catherine de' Medici".
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The monarchy of the United Kingdom
is the constitutional monarchy
of the United Kingdom
, its dependencies
and its overseas territories
. The current monarch and head of state
, Queen Elizabeth II
, ascended the throne on the death of her father, King George VI
, on 6 February 1952. The monarch and his or her immediate family
undertake various official, ceremonial, diplomatic and representational duties. As the monarchy is constitutional, the monarch is limited to non-partisan functions such as bestowing honours
and appointing the Prime Minister
. The monarch is commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces
. Though the ultimate formal executive authority over the government of the United Kingdom is still by and through the monarch's royal prerogative
, these powers may only be used according to laws enacted in Parliament and, in practice, within the constraints of convention and precedent
.The British monarchy traces its origins from the petty kingdoms
of early medieval Scotland
and Anglo-Saxon England
, which consolidated into the kingdoms of England
by the 10th century AD. In 1066, the last crowned Anglo-Saxon
monarch, Harold Godwinson
, was defeated and killed
during the Norman conquest of England
and the English monarchy passed to the Normans' victorious leader, William the Conqueror
, and his descendants.