World: can monarchy survive?

As the world shrinks, and the Arab uprisings gather pace, is there a place for this ancient tradition?

There are Absolute monarchs ruling by edict, and Constitutional monarchs operating usually as figureheads. Some are reigning through a Mixed system with advisory councils or appointed prime ministers.

Here's a list of those still on a throne:

Bahrain: King Hamad ibn Isa (House of the Al Khalifa, founded 1766) – Mixed 

Belgium: King Albert II (House of Saxe Coburg & Gotha, Kings of the Belgians since 1831) – Constitutional 

Bhutan: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel (House of Wangchuck, founded 1907) – Constitutional

Brunei: Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (House of Bolkiah, founded 1485 by the fifth Sultan of Brunei) – Absolute 

Cambodia: King Norodom Sihamoni (House of Norodom, founded 1860) – Constitutional

Denmark: Queen Margrethe II (House of Glücksburg, founded 1825) – Constitutional 

Japan: Emperor Akihito (House of Yamoto, founded 660 BC) – Constitutional 

Jordan: King Abdullah II (House of Hashim, founded 1916) – Constitutional 

Kuwait: Emir Sabah al-Ahmad (House of Sabah, rulers of Kuwait since 1752) – Mixed 

Lesotho: King Letsie III (House of Moshesh) – Constitutional 

Liechtenstein: Prince Hans Adam II (House of Leichtenstein, founded 1608) – Constitutional 

Luxembourg: Grand Duke Henri (House of Nassau-Weilburg, founded 1344) – Constitutional 

Malaysia: King Mizan Zainal Abidin (Sultan of Terengganu – elected on rotation amongst the sultans of Malaysia) – Constitutional 

Monaco: Prince Albert II (House of Grimaldi, founded 1160) – Constitutional 

Morocco: King Mohammed VI (House of Alawi, founded 1631 – Constitutional 

Netherlands: Queen Beatrix (House of Orange-Nassau, founded 1544) – Constitutional 

Norway: King Harald V (House of Glücksburg, since 1905) – Constitutional 

Oman: Sultan Qaboos bin Said (House of Al Bu Sa'id, founded 1744) – Absolute 

Qatar: Emir Hamad bin Khalifa (House of Al Thani, founded 1825) – Absolute 

Saudi Arabia: King King Abdullah bin Abdul'aziz (House of Al Saud, 1744) – Absolute 

Spain: Juan Carlos I (House of Bourbon, rulers of Spain since 1700) – Constitutional 

Swaziland: King Mswati III (House of Dlamini) – Absolute 

Sweden: King Carl XVI Gustaf (House of Bernadotte, rulers of Sweden since 1818) – Constitutional 

Thailand: King Bhumipol Adulyadej (House of Chakri, founded 1782) – Constitutional 

Tonga: King Siaosi Toupou V (House of Toupou, founded 1875) – Constitutional 

United Arab Emirates: President Khalifa bin Zayed (House Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi) – Mixed 

United Kingdom: Queen Elizabeth II* (House of Windsor) – Constitutional


Technically, the Pope (at present Benedict XVI) is King of The Vatican and an Absolute monarch.

Andorra is a Constitutional monarchy with Co-Princes as joint Heads of State. These days the Co-Princes are the incumbent French President (right now Nicolas Sarkozy) and Bishop of Urgell (currently Archbishop Joan Enric Vives Sicília of Barcelona).

I placed an asterisk beside Queen Elizabeth II of the UK as she is also Head of State of a full fifteen other independent sovereign nations, being:

Antigua & Barbuda
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts & Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent & The Grenadines
Solomon Islands

Typically, the Queen's represented in these countries by a Governor-General, appointed by her on the recommendation of that nation's prime minister.

So that's the current situation, but monarchies abolished since 1900 include:

Afghanistan, 1973
Albania, 1939
Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1918
Bohemia, 1910
Bulgaria, 1946
Egypt, 1953
Finland, 1918
Germany, 1918
Greece, 1974
Iraq, 1958
Italy, 1946
Laos, 1975
Libya, 1969
Montenegro, 1918
Nepal, 2008
Portugal, 1910
Romania, 1947
Russia, 1917
Samoa, 2007
Serbia, 1918 (when absorbed into Yugoslavia)
Sikkim, 1975
South Africa, 1961
Tunisia, 1957
Vietnam, 1945 (when Bảo Đại became Head of State of South Vietnam until 1955)
Yugoslavia, 1941


The first thing that strikes me is just how many still reign.

The second is that some of them are from the same family, like the Glücksburgs of Denmark and Norway, for example. That family were also sovereigns of Greece, of course. The Belgian and British royals are also of the same blood line.  Obviously, many more of these families are related as royal intermarriage was fashionable if not essential in class-structured societies. That trend appears to be dying out now:  In the UK and Monaco Royals married commoners in 2011.

The Windsors of Britain have sported that surname since mid-WWI. In 1917, King George V decided that his German surname Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was inappropriate and embarrassing given the UK was then engaged in bloody conflict with Germany in which hundreds of thousands of British and Imperial men were perishing in trenches and at sea. Still, all English Kings must trace their ancestry to King Alfred the Great of Wessex who ruled from 871 to 899 and who initiated English unification.

Then, there is the plethora of titles they choose, seemingly with no rhyme or reason. At first sight it appears strange that the Japanese monarch is an Emperor, when his territory amounts to less than 20% of that of Saudi Arabia, who's head of state is a King. There are sovereign Princes, Emirs, Grand Dukes, Kings, etc. A confusing reference to historical precedent or reasoning.

Finally, there's the question of whether new people should declare themselves monarchs. There are Pretenders who could ascend thrones, like London-based Libyan Crown Prince Muhammad as-Senussi for example. There are dozens of others, mostly living in Europe or Asia. There are those who chose not to re-assert their claims when they had the opportunity, like the late, great Otto von Hapsburg of Austria and Hungary who died on July 4 this year. Like the Shah of Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah, who preferred a quieter life living under President Hamid Karzai (whether he achieved one is questionable). After returning from exile in Rome in 2004, Mohamed Zahir attended Karzai's swearing in ceremony.

Some existing monarchies are incredibly ancient, Japan most notably, founded 600 years before Christ. As mentioned, the British tradition stems from King Alfred twelve hundred years ago. Numerous are more modern, like the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, established less then a hundred years ago.

But, brand new monarchies in this meritocratic, digital age? President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia intends to hold a constitutional referendum on whether he should be crowned. It does seem absurd. Africa has had poor experience of monarchy, exemplified by the reportedly cannibal Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic renamed Empire, and Africa's last absolute monarch the allegedly profligate and anti-democratic King Mswati III of Swaziland.

Founding a monarchical dynasty in the modern era seems out of place in the age of celebrity culture. Upholding existing tradition and your nation's culture being one thing; supporting a cloak for despotism quite another, it seems to me. 

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