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Portal:Monarchy

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The Monarchy Portal

Richard I of England being anointed during his coronation in Westminster Abbey, from a 13th-century chronicle.

A monarchy is a form of government in which a natural person, the monarch, is head of state until death or abdication. The 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 forming dynastic periods and association, which is sometimes challenged by diverging lineage and legitimism. 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) or 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.

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ortrait of Catherine de' Medici attributed to François Clouet
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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Albert Memorial
Credit: David Iliff

The Albert Memorial, a monument to Prince Albert found in Kensington Gardens, London, England, as seen from the south side. Directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Gothic revival style. Opened in 1872, the memorial is 176 feet (54 m) tall, took over ten years to complete, and cost £120,000.

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Mary of Teck
Credit: Bain News Service

Mary of Teck was the queen consort of King George V as well as the Empress of India. Before her accession, she was successively Duchess of York, Duchess of Cornwall and Princess of Wales. By birth, she was a princess of Teck, in the Kingdom of Württemberg, with the style Her Serene Highness. To her family, she was informally known as May, after her birth month. Queen Mary was known for setting the tone of the British Royal Family, as a model of regal formality and propriety, especially during state occasions. She was the first Queen Consort to attend the coronation of her successors. Noted for superbly bejewelling herself for formal events, Queen Mary left a collection of jewels now considered priceless.

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King Kalākaua
The 1881 world tour of King Kalākaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii was his attempt to save the Hawaiian culture and population from extinction by importing a labor force from Asia-Pacific nations. His efforts brought the small island nation to the attention of world leaders, but sparked rumors that the kingdom was for sale. Critics in Hawaii believed the labor negotiations were just an excuse to see the world. The 281-day trip gave Kalākaua the distinction of being the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe; his 1874 travels had made him the first reigning monarch to visit America and the first honoree of a state dinner at the White House.Kalākaua met with heads of state in Asia, the Mideast and Europe, to encourage an influx of sugar plantation labor in family groups, as well as unmarried women as potential brides for Hawaii's existing contract laborers. While in Asia, he tried to forestall American ambitions by offering a plan to Emperor Meiji for putting Hawaii under the protection of the Empire of Japan with an arranged marriage between his niece Kaʻiulani and a Japanese prince. On his visit to Portugal, he negotiated a treaty of friendship and commerce with Hawaii that would provide a legal framework for the emigration of Portuguese laborers to Hawaii. The King had an audience in Rome with Pope Leo XIII and met with many of the crowned heads of Europe. Britain's Queen Victoria and the splendor of her royal life impressed him more than any other monarchy; having been greatly affected by the ornate trappings of European sovereigns, he would soon have Hawaii's monarchy mirror that grandeur.


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Diana, Princess of Wales
I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts, in people's hearts, but I don't see myself being Queen of this country. I don't think many people will want me to be Queen.
Diana, Princess of Wales, Interview with Martin Bashir on BBC Panorama, November 20, 1995.

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Featured lists: List of French monarchs · List of Portuguese monarchs · List of Sultans of Zanzibar

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