Monarchies in Europe
Monarchy was the prevalent form of government in the history of Europe throughout the Middle Ages, only occasionally competing with communalism, notably in the case of the Maritime republics and the Swiss Confederacy).
Republicanism became more prevalent in the Early Modern period, but monarchy remained predominant in Europe during the 19th century. Since the end of World War I, however, most European monarchies have been abolished. There remain, as of 2015, twelve (12) sovereign monarchies in Europe. Of these, seven are kingdoms: Denmark, Norway and Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are of pre-modern origin; the kingdoms of the Netherlands and of Belgium were established in 1815 and 1830, respectively, and the Kingdom of Spain was restored in 1978. The principalities of Andorra, Liechtenstein, and Monaco and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg were restored as sovereign states in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. The State of the Vatican City was recognized as a sovereign state administered by the Holy See in 1929.
Ten of these monarchies are hereditary, and two are elective: Vatican City (the Pope, elected at the papal conclave), the Military Order of Malta and Andorra (technically a semi-elective diarchy, the joint heads of state being the elected President of France and the Bishop of Urgell, appointed by the Pope).
Most of the monarchies in Europe are constitutional monarchies, which means that the monarch does not influence the politics of the state: either the monarch is legally prohibited from doing so, or the monarch does not utilize the political powers vested in the office by convention. The exceptions are Liechtenstein, which is usually considered a semi-constitutional monarchy due to the large influence the prince still has on politics, and the Vatican City, which is a theocratic absolute elective monarchy. There is currently no major campaign to abolish the monarchy (see monarchism and republicanism) in any of the twelve states, although there is a significant minority of republicans in many of them (e.g. the political organisation Republic in the United Kingdom). Currently seven of the twelve monarchies are members of the European Union: Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
At the start of the 20th century, France, Switzerland and San Marino were the only European nations to have a republican form of government. The ascent of republicanism to the political mainstream started only at the beginning of the 20th century, facilitated by the toppling of various European monarchies through war or revolution; as at the beginning of the 21st century, most of the states in Europe are republics with either a directly or indirectly elected head of state.
- 1 History
- 2 Current monarchies
- 2.1 Incumbent monarchs
- 2.2 Table of monarchies in Europe
- 2.3 Descriptions
- 2.4 Succession laws
- 2.5 Calls for abolition
- 2.6 Calls for restoration
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
The notion of kingship in Europe ultimately originates in systems of tribal kingship in prehistoric Europe. Since antiquity, monarchy has contrasted with forms of democracy, where executive power is wielded by assemblies of free citizens. In antiquity, monarchies were abolished in favour of such assemblies in Rome (Roman Republic, 509 BC), and Athens (Athenian democracy, 500 BC).
The Roman Empire recognised various client kingdoms under imperial suzerainty; most of these were in Asia, but tribal client kings were also recognized by the Roman authorities in Britannia. Most of the barbarian kingdoms established in the 5th century (the kingdoms of the Suebi, Burgundi, Vandals, Franks, Visigoths, Ostrogoths) recognized the Roman Emperor at least nominally, and Germanic kingdoms would continue to mint coins depicting the Roman emperor well into the 6th century. It was this derivation of the authority of kingship from the Christian Roman Empire that would be at the core of the medieval institution of kingship in Europe and its notion of the divine right of kings, as well as the position of the Pope in Latin Christendom, the restoration of the Roman Empire under Charlemagne and the derived concept of the Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe.
The monarchies of Europe in the Christian Middle Ages derived their claim from Christianisation and the divine right of kings, partly influenced by the notion of sacral kingship inherited from Germanic antiquity. The great powers of Europe in the Early Modern period were the result of a gradual process of centralization of power taking place over the course of the Middle Ages.
The Early Middle Ages begin with a fragmentation of the former Western Roman Empire into "barbarian kingdoms". In Western Europe, the kingdom of the Franks developed into the Carolingian Empire by the 8th century, and the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England were unified into the kingdom of England by the 10th century. With the breakup of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, the system of feudalism places kings at the head of a pyramid of relationships between liege lords and vassals, dependent on the regional rule of barons, and the intermediate positions of counts (or earls) and dukes. The core of European feudal manorialism in the High Middle Ages were the territories of the kingdom of France, the Holy Roman Empire (centered on the nominal kingdoms of Germany and Italy) and the kingdoms of England and Scotland. On the fringes of Catholic Europe, additional kingdoms developed with the progress of Christianisation:
- In the Iberian Peninsula, the remnants of the Visigothic Kingdom, the petty kingdoms of Asturias and Pamplona, expanded into the kingdom_of_Portugal, the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon with the ongoing Reconquista.
- In southern Europe, the kingdom of Sicily was established following the Norman conquest of southern Italy. The Kingdom of Sardinia was claimed as a separate title held by the Crown of Aragon in 1324. In the Balkans, the Kingdom of Serbia was established in 1217.
- In eastern-central Europe, the Kingdom of Hungary was established in AD 1000 following the Christianisation of the Magyars. The kingdoms of Poland and Bohemia were established within the Holy Roman Empire in 1025 and 1198, respectively. In Eastern Europe, the Kievan Rus' consolidated into the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which did not technically claim the status of kingdom until the early modern Tsardom of Russia.
- In northern Europe, the tribal kingdoms of the Viking Age by the 11th century expanded into the North Sea Empire under Cnut the Great, king of Denmark, England and Norway. The Christianization of Scandinavia resulted in "consolidated" kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, and by the end of the medieval period the pan-Scandinavian Kalmar Union.
Early Modern Europe
With the rise of nation-states and the Protestant Reformation, the theory of divine right justified the king's absolute authority in both political and spiritual matters. The theory came to the fore in England under the reign of James I of England (1603–1625, also known as James VI of Scotland 1567–1625). Louis XIV of France (1643–1715) strongly promoted the theory as well. Early modern Europe was dominated by the Wars of Religion, notably the Thirty Years' War, during which the major European monarchies developed into centralised great powers sustained by their colonial empires. The main European powers in the early modern period were:
- the Kingdom of France with its colonial empire
- the Portuguese Empire of the Kingdom of Portugal (personal union with Spain 1580–1640)
- the Spanish Empire of Habsburg Spain (after 1700 Bourbon Spain)
- the British Empire of the English and Scottish Union of the Crowns (after 1707 the Kingdom of Great Britain)
- the Holy Roman Empire was increasingly dominated by the Habsburg Monarchy and by Prussia
- the Tsardom of Russia
- the kingdom of Poland as the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
- the kingdom of Sweden rose to the status of great power as the comparatively short-lived Swedish Empire due to the Thirty Years' War
The modern resurgence of parliamentarism and anti-monarchism began with the temporary overthrow of the English monarchy by the Parliament of England in 1649, followed by the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1792.
The Kingdom of France was abolished in 1791/2, but monarchy was restored under the First French Empire of Napoleon during 1804–1814/5, and the restored kingdom was again abolished in 1848. The kingdoms of Sicily and Naples ("Two Sicilies") were absorbed into the kingdom of Sardinia to form the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Much of 19th century politics was characterised by the division between anti-monarchist Radicalism and monarchist Conservativism. The Kingdom of Spain was briefly abolished in 1873, restored 1874–1931 and again in 1978. The Kingdom of Portugal was abolished in 1910. The Russian Empire ended in 1917, the Kingdom of Prussia in 1918. The Kingdom of Hungary fell under Habsburg rule in 1867 and was dissolved in 1918 (restored 1920–1946). Likewise, the Kingdom of Bohemia under Habsburg rule was dissolved in 1918.
- the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary (1804–1918)
- the Kingdom of Württemberg (1805–1918)
- the Kingdom of Bavaria (1805–1918)
- the Kingdom of the Netherlands (1805 to present)
- the Kingdom of Saxony (1806–1918)
- the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1808–1861)
- the Kingdom of France (1814–1848)
- the Kingdom of Hanover (1814–1866)
- the Kingdom of Poland (1815–1867/1918)
- the Kingdom of Belgium (1830 to present)
- the Kingdom of Greece (1832–1973)
- the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
- the German Empire (1871–1918)
- the Kingdom of Romania (1882–1947)
- the Kingdom of Serbia (1882–1918)
- the Kingdom of Bulgaria (1908–1946)
Monarchies established during the interbellum period were:
- the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918–1945)
- the Kingdom of Hungary (1920–1946)
- the Kingdom of Albania (1928–1944)
|European states in 1815
|European states in 1930.
|European states in 2015.
Table of monarchies in Europe
Andorra has been a co-principality since the signing of a paréage in 1278, when the count of Foix and the bishop of La Seu d'Urgell agreed to share sovereignty over the landlocked country. After the title of the count of Foix had been passed to the kings of Navarre, and after Henry of Navarre had become Henry IV of France, an edict was issued in 1607 which established the French head of state as the legal successor to the count of Foix in regard to the paréage. Andorra was annexed by the First French Empire together with Catalonia in 1812–1813. After the Empire's demise, Andorra became independent again. The current joint monarchs are Bishop Joan Enric Vives Sicília and President François Hollande of France.
Belgium has been a kingdom since 21 July 1831 without interruption, after it became independent from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands with Léopold I as its first king. Belgium is the only remaining popular monarchy in the world: The monarch is formally known as the "King of the Belgians", not the "King of Belgium". While in a referendum held on 12 March 1950, 57.68 per cent of the Belgians voted in favor of allowing Léopold III, whose conduct during World War II had been considered questionable and who had been accused of treason, to return to the throne; due to civil unrest, he opted to abdicate in favor of his son Baudouin I on 16 July 1951. The current monarch is Philippe.
In Denmark, the monarchy goes back to the prehistoric times of the legendary kings, before the 10th century. Currently, about 80 per cent support keeping the monarchy. The current monarch is Margrethe II. The Danish monarchy also includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland which are parts of the Kingdom of Denmark with internal home rule. Due to this status, the monarch has no separate title for these regions.
Liechtenstein formally came into existence on 23 January 1719, when Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor decreed the lordship of Schellenberg and the countship of Vaduz united and raised to the dignity of a principality. Liechtenstein was a part of the Holy Roman Empire until the Treaty of Pressburg was signed on 26 December 1805; this marked Liechtenstein's formal independence, though it was a member of the Confederation of the Rhine and the German Confederation afterwards. While Liechtenstein was still closely aligned with Austria-Hungary until World War I, it realigned its politics and its customs and monetary institutions with Switzerland instead. Having been a constitutional monarchy since 1921, Hans-Adam II demanded more influence in Liechtenstein's politics in the early 21st century, which he was granted in a referendum held on 16 March 2003, effectively making Liechtenstein a semi-constitutional monarchy again. However, the constitutional changes also provide for the possibility of a referendum to abolish the monarchy entirely. The current monarch is Hans-Adam II, who turned over the day-to-day governing decisions to his son and heir Alois, Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein on 15 August 2004.
Luxembourg has been an independent grand duchy since 9 June 1815. Originally, Luxembourg was in personal union with the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 16 March 1815 until 23 November 1890. While Wilhelmina succeeded Willem III in the Netherlands, this was not possible in Luxembourg due to the order of succession being based on Salic law at that time; he was succeeded instead by Adolphe. In a referendum held on 28 September 1919, 80.34 per cent voted in favor of keeping the monarchy. The current monarch is Henri.
Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297. From 1793 until 1814, Monaco was under French control; the Congress of Vienna designated Monaco as being a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1815 until 1860, when the Treaty of Turin ceded the surrounding counties of Nice and Savoy to France. Menton and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, part of Monaco until the mid-19th century before seceding in hopes of being annexed by Sardinia, were ceded to France in exchange for 4,000,000 French francs with the Franco-Monegasque Treaty in 1861, which also formally guaranteed Monaco its independence. Until 2002, Monaco would have become part of France had the house of Grimaldi ever died out; in a treaty signed that year, the two nations agreed that Monaco would remain independent even in such a case. The current monarch is Albert II.
The Netherlands originally became independent as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, which lasted from 26 July 1581 until 18 January 1795, when the Netherlands became a French puppet state as the Batavian Republic. The Batavian Republic existed from 19 January 1795 until 4 June 1806. It was transformed into the Kingdom of Holland on 5 June 1806; since then, the Netherlands have been a kingdom. They were subsequently annexed to the French Empire in 1810. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands was established on 16 March 1815. With the independence of Belgium on 21 July 1831, the Netherlands again took a new form, as the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Nowadays, about 70 to 80 per cent of the Dutch are in favor of keeping the monarchy. The current monarch is Willem-Alexander.
Norway was united and independent for the first time in 872, as a kingdom. It is thus one of the oldest monarchies in the world, along with the Swedish and Danish ones. Norway was part of the Kalmar Union from 1397 until 1524, then part of Denmark–Norway from 1536 until 1814, and finally part of the Union between Sweden and Norway from 1814 until 1905. Norway became completely independent again on 7 June 1905. Support for establishing a republic lies around 20 per cent. The current monarch is Harald V.
Spain came into existence as a single, united kingdom under Charles I of Spain on 23 January 1516. The monarchy was briefly abolished by the First Spanish Republic from 11 February 1873 until 29 December 1874. The monarchy was abolished again on 14 April 1931, first by the Second Spanish Republic – which lasted until 1 April 1939 – and subsequently by the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who ruled until his death on 20 November 1975. Monarchy was restored on 22 November 1975 under Juan Carlos I, who was also the monarch until is abdication in 2014. His son Felipe VI is the current monarch. The 1978 constitution confirms the title of the monarch is the King of Spain, but that he may also use other titles historically associated with the Crown, including the kingdoms of Castile and León, Aragon, the Two Sicilies, Jerusalem, Navarre, Granada, Seville, Toledo, Valencia, Galicia, Sardinia, Córdoba, Corsica, etc.
Today, there is a large number of organisations campaigning in favor of establishing a Third Spanish Republic; Data from 2006 suggest that only 25 per cent of Spaniards are in favor of establishing a republic, however, the numbers have increased since Juan Carlos I abdicated.
Sweden’s monarchy goes back as far as the Danish one, to the semi–legendary kings before the 10th century, since then it has not been interrupted. However, the unification of the rivalling kingdoms Svealand and Götaland (consolidation of Sweden) did not occur until some time later, possibly in the early 11th century. The current royal family, the House of Bernadotte, has reigned since 1818. The current monarch is Carl XVI Gustaf.
The monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can be defined to have started either with the Kingdoms of England (871) or Scotland (843), with the Union of the Crowns on 24 March 1603, or with the Acts of Union of 1 May 1707. It was briefly interrupted by the English Interregnum, with the Commonwealth of England existing in its stead from 30 January 1649 until 15 December 1653 and from 26 May 1659 until 25 May 1660 and The Protectorate taking its place from 16 December 1653 until 25 May 1659. The current monarch is Elizabeth II.
Support for establishing a republic instead of a monarchy was around 18 per cent in the United Kingdom in 2006, while a majority thinks that there will still be a monarchy in the United Kingdom in ten years' time, public opinion is rather uncertain about a monarchy still existing in fifty years and a clear majority believes that the monarchy will no longer exist a century after the poll. Public opinion is, however, certain that the monarchy will still exist in thirty years. About 30 per cent are in favour of discontinuing the monarchy after Elizabeth's death.
The monarch of the United Kingdom is also the monarch of the fifteen other Commonwealth realms, none of which are in Europe. Some of these realms have significant levels of support for republicanism.
Differently from the Holy See, in existence for almost two thousand years, the Vatican City was not a sovereign state until the 20th century. In the 19th century the annexation of the Papal States by the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the subsequent establishment of the Kingdom of Italy, was not recognized by the Vatican. However, by the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the Kingdom of Italy recognized Vatican City as an independent city state, and vice versa. Since then, the elected monarch of the Vatican City state has been the current pope. The pope still officially carries the title "King of the Ecclesiastical State" (in Latin: Rex Status Ecclesiæ).
The succession order is determined by primogeniture in most European monarchies. Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom now adhere to absolute primogeniture, whereby the eldest child inherits the throne, regardless of gender; Monaco and Spain have the older system of male-preference primogeniture, while Liechtenstein uses agnatic primogeniture. In 1990, Norway granted absolute primogeniture to the Norwegian throne, meaning that the eldest child, regardless of gender, takes precedence in the line of succession. This was not, however, done retroactively (as, for example, Sweden had done in 1980), meaning that Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway continues to take precedence over his older sister.
There are plans to change to absolute primogeniture in Spain through a rather complicated process, as the change entails a constitutional amendment. Two successive parliaments will have to pass the law by a two-thirds majority and then put it to a referendum. As parliament has to be dissolved and new elections have to be called after the constitutional amendment is passed for the first time, the previous Presidente del Gobierno José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero indicated he would wait until the end of his first term in 2008 before passing the law, although this deadline passed without the referendum being called. The amendment enjoys strong public support.
To change the order of succession in the United Kingdom, as the Queen of the United Kingdom is also the queen of the fifteen other Commonwealth realms, a change had to be agreed and made by all of the Commonwealth realms together. In the United Kingdom, the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 was enacted, and after completion of the legislative alterations required in some other realms, the changes came into effect across the Commonwealth realms on 26 March 2015.
Liechtenstein uses agnatic primogeniture (aka Salic law), which completely excludes women from the order of succession unless there are no male heirs of any kind present, and was criticised for this by a United Nations committee for this perceived gender equality issue in November 2007.
Luxembourg also used agnatic primogeniture until 20 June 2011, when absolute primogeniture was introduced.
Calls for abolition
Calls for the abolition of Europe's monarchies have been widespread since the development of republicanism in the 17th to 18th centuries. The Revolutions of 1848 were largely inspired by republicanism. Most of Europe's monarchies were abolished either following World War I or World War II, and the remaining monarchies were transformed into constitutional monarchies.
There remain active republicanist movements in Europe. Organisations which actively campaign to eliminate one or more of Europe's ten remaining hereditary constitutional monarchies and/or to liquidate assets reserved for reigning families, include Alliance of European Republican Movements, Republic in the United Kingdom and Hetis2013. Also, some political parties (e.g. Podemos in Spain) have stepped up and called for national referenda to abolish monarchies. In the context of the ongoing economic crisis in Europe of 2008, there were some reports of European monarchies coming under increased pressure.
Calls for restoration
The political influence of monarchism in former European monarchies is very limited. The most influential such movement was Carlism in Spain, calling for the restoration of the Bourbon (rather than the Habsburg) dynasty. Carlism playing a significant role in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The Bourbon dynasty was eventually restored, in a constitutional monarchy, in 1978.
There are several monarchist parties in France, most notably the Action Française (established 1899). Monarchist parties also exist in the Czech Republic (1991), in Greece (2010), in Italy (1972) and in Russia (2012).
Otto von Habsburg renounced all pretense to the Habsburg titles in 1958, and monarchism in Austria has next to no political influence; a German monarchist organisation called Tradition und Leben has been in existence since 1959. Monarchism in Bavaria has had more significant support, including Franz Josef Strauss, minister-president of Bavaria from 1978–1988.
- List of European Union member states by political system
- Monarchies in the Americas
- Monarchies in Oceania
- Monarchies in Africa
- Monarchies in Asia
- The Sovereign Military Order of Malta may be included as an elective monarchy, although it has no territory (except for being granted extraterritoriality by Italy in two buildings) and does not claim statehood.
- Henri Pirenne, Mohammed and Charlemagne (1937), 46–48.
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- Podemos calling upon referendum, ref 1
- Podemos calling upon referendum, ref 2
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