What are the features of limited monarchy?


According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, constitutional monarchy is a system of government in which a monarch does not hold absolute power (as in absolute monarchy) but shares it with a constitutionally organized government.


A monarchy as a form of government has been known since ancient times. It implies that the head of a state is the monarch, a single person who rules the country until his/her death or abdication. There are various titles that a sovereign may carry, such as king, queen, khan, tsar, emperor, etc. Monarchy was the most popular form of government until the 20th century. Although the world changed much after the two world wars, some forms of monarchy are still present nowadays.

There are several types of monarchies: it can be limited (also referred to as constitutional monarchy) or autocratic (absolute monarchy). Absolute monarchy means that all the power belongs to one person, but constitutional monarchy is rather different: as said before, a monarch shares the power with the government. A very accurate definition of a constitutional monarchy was given by a political scientist Vernon Bogdanor who characterized it as a monarchy where a monarch reigns but does not rule.

However, limited monarchies can also be different, depending on the number of restrictions. These monarchies range from such countries as Morocco, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, where a monarch is granted discretionary power by a constitution, to countries where a monarch has no authority, and his/her role is purely ceremonial. Prime examples of such constitutional monarchies are the United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, Spain, Belgium. Some of the countries are more or less limited in terms of a monarch’s power. The most populous constitutional monarchies are Thailand and Japan, as they can also be referred to as crowned monarchies. For example, in Japan, the monarch is not even a nominal chief executive, whereas, in most of the other constitutional monarchies, a sovereign still retains a nominal power.

Among other characteristics of a constitutional monarchy, it is necessary to add that it can be elective. Whereas, in most cases, a monarchy is a hereditary form of government (both constitutional or absolute), there are two elective constitutional monarchies of Malaysia and Cambodia. In these countries, a monarch is elected by an electoral college.

As far as the advantages of a constitutional monarchy are concerned, it is possible to note that it helps to retain cultural identity. In the world of total globalization, it is not so easy to support cultural diversity. Still, a monarchy is a symbol of national traditions. Another advantage is that this form of government provides a higher level of neutrality. A monarch has to remain apolitical in all matters and usually works for building up a country’s reputation. Moreover, a constitutional monarchy can also function as an element of uniting the whole nation. While there might be intense political polarization, the monarch can help the government lead the country to the common goals despite the opposite political views of people.

Although there are significant pros, it is crucial to list the cons. A constitutional monarchy can lead to the existence of the class system of the society. Monarchy is usually associated with titles and wealth, leading to excessive importance of a family status, which, in turn, is obtained through wealth. Another significant disadvantage is that monarchy is expensive. The needs of the royal family are usually supported through taxes. Moreover, some constitutional monarchies contain signs of authoritarianism or patriarchy, thus leading to the oppression of people. For example, in the Middle East, women’s rights are not respected at all, and any changes take too much time.

Even though absolute monarchies are not present nowadays, constitutional monarchies still have the right to remain as a symbol of national traditions. There are still many examples of countries where royal families successfully coexist with the actual governments. A constitutional monarchy is a good compromise and, in some ways, helps to govern the country better.

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