Constitutional monarchy

Differences between constitutional and absolute monarchies

Absolute monarchy

Constitutional monarchy

Constitutional monarchies today

Previous monarchies

  • The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, formed after the Union of Lublin in 1569 and lasting till the final partition of the state in 1795 operated much like many modern European constitutional monarchies. The legislators of the unified state truly did not see it as a monarchy at all, but as a republic under the presidency of the King. Poland-Lithuania also followed the principle of “Rex regnat et non gubernat,” had a bicameral parliament, and a collection of entrenched legal documents amounting to a constitution along the lines of the modern United Kingdom of Great Britain. The King was elected, and had the duty of maintaining the people’s rights.
  • France functioned briefly as a constitutional monarchy during the post-Napoleonic age, under the reign of Louis XVIII and Charles X, but the latter’s attempt at reinstating absolute monarchy led to his fall. Louis-Philippe of France was also a constitutional monarch.
  • Napoléon Bonaparte, as Emperor of the French, was a constitutional monarch, though he was ousted from France before his line could continue.
  • The German Empire from 1871 to 1918, (as well as earlier confederations, and the monarchies it consisted of) was also a constitutional monarchy, see Constitution of the German Empire.
  • Prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran was a constitutional monarchy (briefly) under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, which had been originally established during the Persian Constitutional Revolution in 1906.
  • Portugal until 1910 was a constitutional monarchy and the last king was Manuel II of Portugal.
  • Hawaii was a constitutional monarchy from the unification of the of the smaller independent chiefdoms of Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and the Hawaiʻi (or the “Big Island”) in 1810 until the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1893.
  • The Grand Duchy of Finland was a constitutional monarchy though its ruler, the Tsar of Russia was an autocrat and absolute ruler in his home country.
  • In all historical sources as well as modern literature on systems of government the United Kingdom is given as a first constitutional monarchy, as well as an example of constitutional monarchy. These distinctions show that a constitutional monarchy does not require that the constitution be codified (written).
  • Japan is the only country with a reigning emperor.
  • Luxembourg is the only country with a reigning Grand Duke.

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