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A regent, from the Latin regens, "[one] reigning", or regency council is a person or group of persons selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. The period of rule of a regent or regents is referred to as a regency.
In a monarchy, a regent usually governs due to one of these reasons, but may also be elected to rule during the interregnum when the royal line has died out. This was the case in the Kingdom of Finland and the Kingdom of Hungary, where the royal line was considered extinct in the aftermath of World War I. In Iceland, the regent represented the King of Denmark as sovereign of Iceland until the country became a republic in 1944. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795), kings were elective, which often led to a fairly long interregnum. In the interim, it was the Roman Catholic Primate (the Archbishop of Gniezno) who served as the regent, termed the "interrex" (Latin: ruler "between kings" as in ancient Rome). In the small republic of San Marino, the two Captains Regent, or Capitani Reggenti, are elected semi-annually (they serve a six-month term) as joint heads of state and of government.
Occasionally, the term regent refers to positions lower than the ruler of a country. In the Republic of the United Provinces, the members of the ruling class, not formally hereditary but de facto patricians, were known collectively as regenten (the Dutch plural for regent). In the Dutch East Indies, a regent was a native prince allowed to rule de facto colonized 'state' as a regentschap (see that term). Consequently, in the successor state of Indonesia, the term regent is used in English to mean a bupati (local government official).
The term may be used in the governance of organisations. Some university managers in North America are called regents and a management board for a college or university may be titled the "Board of Regents". The term "regent" is also used for members of governing bodies of institutions, such as the national banks, in France and Belgium. Again in Belgium and France, (Régent in French, or in Dutch) Regent is the official title of a teacher in a lower secondary school (junior high school), who does not require a college degree but is trained in a specialized école normale (normal school). In the Philippines, specifically, the University of Santo Tomas, the Father Regent, who must be a Dominican priest and is often also a teacher, serves as the institution's spiritual head. They also form the Council of Regents that serves as the highest administrative council of the university.
- The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as "A person appointed to administer a State because the Monarch is a minor, is absent or is incapacitated."