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A federal monarchy is a federation of states with a single monarch as over-all head of the federation, but retaining different monarchs, or a non-monarchical system of government, in the various states joined to the federation.
As a term in political science
The term was introduced into English political and historical discourse by Edward Augustus Freeman, in his History of Federal Government (1863). Freeman himself thought a federal monarchy only possible in the abstract.
Historically an important example of a federal monarchy is the German Empire of 1871–1919. The head of state of the federation was a monarch, the emperor, who was also head of state of some constituent parts to the federation as king of Prussia, while other constituent kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Bavaria, Kingdom of Saxony or Kingdom of Württemberg, retained their own monarchs and armies. Besides the altogether 23 monarchies federated to the empire there were three republican city-states, namely Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck, and Alsace-Lorraine, a semi-autonomous republic since 1912.
The concept played a role in political debates in Italy and Austria-Hungary in the nineteenth century and in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the twentieth century, without ever being put into effect in any of these cases.
In recent years the Kingdom of Belgium and the Kingdom of Spain have been referred to as federal monarchies, although neither are officially styled as such. Canada and Australia are also federal monarchies, and both share the same individual as their respective sovereign. (In both cases a Governor-General exercises the powers of the monarch at the national level, while a Lieutenant-Governor (for the Canadian provinces) or Governor (for the Australian states) exercises the power of the monarch in each Province/State.) In those countries, the monarch can function as separate legal persons at each level of government; for example it is possible for the Queen in Right of Canada to sue the Queen in Right of Ontario even though both Queens are the Queen of Canada. This applies internationally, as well; the Queen in Right of British Columbia may sue the Queen in Right of Australia or Victoria or the United Kingdom, provided that the forum is appropriate, even though the actual monarch is the same person in each of these potential suits.
Currently the term can be applied in the fullest sense to the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, in both of which the head of state of the federation is selected from among the heads, Sheikh or Sultan, respectively, who rule the constituent states of the federation.
List of federal monarchies
|Nation||Official Name||Subdivisions||Head of state|
|Australia||Commonwealth of Australia||States||Queen or king|
|Belgium||Kingdom of Belgium||Communities and Regions||King or queen|
|Canada||Canada||Provinces||Queen or king|
|Malaysia||Malaysia||States||Yang di-Pertuan Agong|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis||Parish||Queen or king|
|United Arab Emirates||United Arab Emirates||Emirates||President|
- E.A. Freeman, History of Federal Government, pp. 96-100. Available on google books.
- Ronald L. Watts, Comparing Federal Systems. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-88911-835-3
- Victoria (29 March 1867), Constitution Act, 1867, Preamble, Westminster: Queen's Printer, retrieved 21 May 2009
- Victoria (9 July 1900), Commonwealth Of Australia Constitution Act, Preamble, Westminster: Queen's Printer, retrieved 21 May 2009
- Tommy Thomas, "Is Malaysia an Islamic State?" 2005.