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Pros and Cons of Monarchy

Updated on November 22, 2016
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Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Statue of Queen Victoria.  One of the world's most famous monarchs, Victoria ruled over the British Empire for most of the 19th Century.  As well as being queen, she also used the title of additional title of Empress of India
Statue of Queen Victoria. One of the world's most famous monarchs, Victoria ruled over the British Empire for most of the 19th Century. As well as being queen, she also used the title of additional title of Empress of India | Source

Monarchy is an ancient form for government, still alive today in many countries, where a country has a member of a royal family, usually a king or a queen, for its ruler and/or head of state.

When the monarch dies, the role is usually handed on to another family member, traditionally the eldest son in most cultures.

The system where the king or queen rules directly with total power is known as absolute monarchy. This system was the norm for many centuries. This type of ruler has few restrictions on them, and doesn't have to answer to democratically elected politicians.

In the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, however, absolute monarchy systems of rulership were replaced by republican systems, or their power was considerably reduced in most countries of the world.

Most modern countries with a monarchy now have a constitutional monarchy, where the king or queen has much less political power than the elected politicians. Instead, the monarch's role tends to be more ceremonial and less to do with political decision-making.

The British monarchy has the political and constitutional task of subtracting from the government and governors of Britain the papal and kingly airs that in America, because we have no such institution, unfortunately adhere to the president.

— Mark Helprin

Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

— John Adams
King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands.  Most modern monarchs do not have absolute power, rather their power is severely restricted or non-existent, and their role is largely ceremonial.
King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands. Most modern monarchs do not have absolute power, rather their power is severely restricted or non-existent, and their role is largely ceremonial. | Source

What royal families are very good at doing is surviving and reinventing themselves. That's true whether it's a constitutional monarchy in Britain or an authoritarian monarchy.

— Robert Lacey

Pros of Monarchy

  • With a single authority figure, decisions can be made quickly and effectively. Collective governments can get bogged down with argument and indecision.
  • Monarchs are often unifying figures who bring countries together, healing divisions.
  • A royal family provides a sense of continuity and stability that ordinary politicians, who come and go, cannot provide.
  • Children in royal families are raised to rule, so are fully prepared for rule when it happens.
  • Kings and queens are non-partisan, unlike politicians who represent specific groups and need to please these people in order to get elected.
  • The expense and uncertainty that elections create is avoided.
  • As monarchs rule until they die, rather than just for short, fixed periods, they take a long term view regarding what is best for the country.
  • Monarchy is an ancient system of government which has been very successful over the centuries. The Roman Empire, for instance, achieved more under an emperor, than they did when they were ruled by politicians.

Something as curious as the monarchy won't survive unless you take account of people's attitudes. After all, if people don't want it, they won't have it.

— Prince Charles
Mecca.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute monarch and royal family.  This type of government system is less common in the modern world than it used to be, and there can be problems of legitimacy when rulers are not elected.
Mecca. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ruled by an absolute monarch and royal family. This type of government system is less common in the modern world than it used to be, and there can be problems of legitimacy when rulers are not elected. | Source

Cons of Monarchy

  • Democratic accountability is often the biggest problem with monarchs, especially in the modern age. Unlike politicians, they are not elected by the people. This means that they can lack legitimacy in the eyes of the people, because they are not elected, plus they do not have to take into account the needs of the broader masses.
  • There are not usually fixed terms of office, or votes of confidence for monarchs - so regardless of whether people agree with the way that a king or queen rules, they are usually stuck with them until the monarch dies.
  • Collective governments bring together the views, ideas, thoughts, of many people. Although they have advisors, kings and queens make all the decisions ultimately and reliant on the thoughts and experiences of just one person.
  • Historically, without elections to change leadership, monarchies are troubled by internal power struggles and even violent civil wars. Instability can also occur when a ruler is incapacitated by mental or physical illness.

A monarchy is the most expensive of all forms of government, the regal state requiring a costly parade, and he who depends on his own power to rule, must strengthen that power by bribing the active and enterprising whom he cannot intimidate.

— James F. Cooper

A monarchy conducted with infinite wisdom and infinite benevolence is the most perfect of all possible governments.

— Ezra Stiles
The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei.  Brunei has an absolute monarchy with the Sultan as head of state and head of government.  The Sultan is advised by and presides over five councils, which he appoints.
The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque in Brunei. Brunei has an absolute monarchy with the Sultan as head of state and head of government. The Sultan is advised by and presides over five councils, which he appoints. | Source

I am a vigilant monarchist. I want to see things evolve. The direction the monarchy seems to be moving in - towards a more mainland-European model - is one I would feel sympathetic about.

— Andrew Motion

Some Countries Ruled by an Absolute Monarch

The countries below are ruled by a monarch who rules directly over his or her people. This type of monarch are not elected and have very few, or no restrictions on what they can do.

Brunei

Oman

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

Swaziland

United Arab Emirates

Vatican City

Canada is a constitutional monarchy.  That means that although they have Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state, pretty much all political decisions are taken by elected representatives of the people, who form the government.
Canada is a constitutional monarchy. That means that although they have Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state, pretty much all political decisions are taken by elected representatives of the people, who form the government. | Source

We got our revolution out of the way long before the French and the Americans. The monarchy was restored, but the sovereignty of our parliament, made up of and elected by a slowly widening constituency of the people, has never been seriously challenged since then.

— Robert Webb

Some Countries With a Constitutional Monarchy

Constitutional monarchs have little or no real political power. Their role is usually to serve as a ceremonial head of state. Many countries around the world have this form of government.

Australia

Denmark

Japan

New Zealand

Kuwait

United Kingdom

Spain

Netherlands

Sweden

Nepal

Thailand

Malaysia

Norway

Samoa

Tonga

Belgium

Morocco

Canada

The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government. The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.

— Walter Bagehot

© 2015 Paul Goodman

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