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Monarchism is the advocacy of a monarch or monarchical rule. A monarchist is an individual who supports this form of government, independent from any specific monarch; one who espouses a particular monarch is a royalist. Conversely, the opposition to monarchical rule is sometimes referred to as republicanism.
Depending on the county, a monarchist may advocate for the rule of the person who sits on the throne, a pretender, or someone who would otherwise occupy the throne but has been deposed.
Monarchical rule is among the oldest political institutions, dating to at least 2900 BC and was a step up from a chiefdom for ruling a state. The rule of the monarchy tended to be absolute. It was traditionally justified by the view that monarchs were bestowed legitimacy from a higher power, known in Europe as the divine right of kings and in China as the Mandate of Heaven.
In the United Kingdom, there was a gradual process of royalty ceding power. In 1215, a group of nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, which guaranteed citizens certain liberties and established that the king's powers were not absolute. In 1687-88, the Glorious Revolution and the overthrow of King James II established the principles of constitutional monarchy, which would later be worked out by Montesquieu and other thinkers. However, absolute monarchy, theorized by Hobbes in the Leviathan (1651), remained a dominant principle. In the 18th century, Voltaire and others encouraged "enlightened absolutism", which was embraced by the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II and Catherine II of Russia.
In the late 1700s, the American Revolution and the French Revolution were both additional steps in the weakening of power of European monarchies. Though the former was much more successful than the latter in meeting the goal of creating a more equitable form of government, they both helped to establish the concept of popular sovereignty upheld by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
The Spring of Nations in 1848 then set the signal for a new wave of revolutions against the European monarchies.
The rise of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919 saw an increase in support for monarchism; however, efforts by Hungarian monarchists failed to bring back a royal head of state, and the monarchists settled for a regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, to represent the monarchy until it could be restored. Horthy was regent from 1920 to 1944. In Germany a number of monarchists gathered around the German National People's Party which demanded the return of the Hohenzollern monarchy and an end to the Weimar Republic. The party retained a large base of support until the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.
With the arrival of Communism in Eastern Europe by 1945, the remaining Eastern European monarchies such as the Kingdom of Romania, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Kingdom of Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia were all abolished and replaced by socialist republics.
The aftermath of World War II also saw the return of monarchist and republican rivalry in Italy, in which a referendum was held on whether Italy should remain a monarchy or become a republic. The republican side won the referendum (by a narrow margin) and the modern Republic of Italy was created.
Monarchism as a political force internationally has substantially diminished since the end of the Second World War, though it had an important role in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and also played a role in the modern political affairs of Nepal. Nepal was one of the last states to have had an absolute monarch, which continued until King Gyanendra of Nepal was peacefully deposed in May 2008 and Nepal became a federal republic. One of the world's oldest monarchies was abolished in Ethiopia in 1974 with the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie.
The majority of current monarchies are constitutional monarchies. In most of these, the monarch wields only symbolic power, although in some, the monarch does play a role in political affairs. In Thailand, for instance, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned since 1946, has played a critical role in the nation's political agenda and in various military coups.
There remain a handful of countries in which the monarch is the true ruler. The majority of these countries are oil-producing Arab islamic monarchies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Other strong monarchies include Brunei and Swaziland. Some countries, despite being constitutional monarchies, still have very powerful monarchs that hold effective sway over elected legislatures. An example of this arrangement is Morocco. Liechtenstein is a democratic principality whose citizens have voluntarily given more power to their monarch in recent years.
Justifications for monarchism
Otto von Habsburg advocated a form of constitutional monarchy based on the primacy of the supreme judicial function, with hereditary succession, mediation by a tribunal is warranted if suitability is problematic.
Nonpartisan head of state
A monarchy has been justified on the grounds that it provides for a nonpartisan head of state, separate from the head of government, and thus ensures that the highest representative of the country, at home and internationally, does not also represent a particular political party.
Safeguard for liberty
The International Monarchist League, founded in 1943, which has been very influential in Canada and Australia, has always sought to promote monarchy on the grounds that it strengthens popular liberty, both in a democracy and in a dictatorship, because by definition the monarch is not beholden to politicians.
British-American libertarian writer Matthew Feeney, on the occasion of the birth of Prince George of Cambridge, the potential future king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northen Ireland, in 2013, wrote:
|“||In the last hundred years many European nations have experienced fascism, communism, and military dictatorships. However, countries with constitutional monarchies have managed for the most part to avoid extreme politics in part because monarchies provide a check on the wills of populist politicians. European monarchies--such as the Danish, Belgian, Swedish, Dutch, Norwegian, and British--have ruled over countries that are among the most stable, prosperous, and free in the world. Constitutional monarchs make it difficult for dramatic political changes to occur, oftentimes by representing traditions and customs that politicians cannot replace and few citizens would like to see overthrown.||”|
Connection to the past
Since the middle of the 19th century, some monarchists have stopped defending monarchy on the basis of abstract, universal principles applicable to all nations or even on the grounds that a monarchy would be the best or most practical government for the nation in question but prefer invoking local symbolic grounds that they would be a particular nation's link to the past.
Hence, post-19th century debates on whether to preserve a monarchy or to adopt a republican form of government have often been debates over national identity, with the monarch generally serving as a symbol for other issues.
For example, in countries like Belgium and the Netherlands anti-monarchist talk is often centered around the perceived symbolism of a monarch contrasting with those nation's political culture of egalitarianism. In Belgium, another factor are the anti-Belgian sentiments of the separatist Flemish movement. The latter see the monarchy as a predominantly francophone institution of which the historical roots lie in the French-speaking elite that ruled Belgium until circa 1950s. Belgian monarchists often call themselves 'Leopoldists' after the first king of Belgium, Leopold I.
In Canada and Australia, by contrast, debates over monarchy represent or represented debates whose driving force concerned each nation's relationship with the United Kingdom and the cultural heritage that this relationship represents.
Human desire for hierarchy
In a 1943 essay in The Spectator, "Equality", British author C.S. Lewis criticized egalitarianism, and its corresponding call for the abolition of monarchy, as contrary to human nature, writing, "Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison."
- Georg Johannes von Trapp (1880-1947)
- Manfred Reyes Villa (b. 1954)
- Sir Ian Botham (b. 1955)
- Dame Judi Dench (b. 1934)
- Boris Johnson (b. 1964)
- Michael Heseltine (b. 1933)
- Sir Elton John (b. 1947)
- Sir Tom Jones (b. 1940)
- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
- C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
- Sir Paul McCartney (b. 1942)
- Harold Wilson (1916-1995)
- Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
- David Cameron (b. 1966)
- Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg (1907-1944)
- Ioannis Metaxas (1871-1941)
- Yoshiko Sakurai (b. 1945)
- Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, 1989 edition, p. 924.
- "Sumerian King List". Retrieved 7 April 2012.
- http://home1.gte.net/eskandar/ottohabsburg.html[dead link]
- Bogdanor, Vernon (6 December 2000). "The Guardian has got it wrong". The Guardian.
- Feeney, Matthew (July 25, 2013). "The Benefits of Monarchy". Reason magazine.
- C.S. Lewis (26 August 1943). "Equality". The Spectator.
- Patron of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy
- "Ten things you didn't know about Tony Abbott". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 19 Nov 2013.
- "The monarchy stands for everything that I love and I feel proud to be British. Yes, I am a royalist." (2007)
- Expressed support for the British monarchy in the TV series Royalty A-Z (2002). Narrator of The Royal Story.
- Letters, no. 52, to Christopher Tolkien, 29 November 1943
- "I am a monarchist and I think Queen Elizabeth has done a wonderful job for our beloved country. The Royal Family deserve more respect." (2003) "When you talk about our beloved Queen Elizabeth, I don’t think there is a more gracious world leader.” Princes Charles and Andrew are “intelligent, wise and kind men.” (2010)
- The Monarchist League
- IMC, official site of the International Monarchist Conference.
- SYLM, Support Your Local Monarch, the independent monarchist community.