Constitutional monarchy

From Academic Kids

A constitutional monarchy is a form of government established under a constitutional system which acknowledges a hereditary or elected monarch as head of state. Modern constitutional monarchies usually implement the concept of trias politica, and have the monarch as the head of the executive branch. Where a monarch holds absolute power, it is known as an absolute monarchy.

Today, constitutional monarchy is almost always combined with representative democracy, and represents theories of sovereignty which place sovereignty in the hands of the people, and those that see a role for tradition in the theory of government. Though the king or queen may be regarded as the head of state, it is the Prime Minister, whose power derives directly or indirectly from elections, who actually governs the country.

Although current constitutional monarchies are mostly representative democracies, this has not always historically been the case. There have been monarchies which have coexisted with constitutions which were fascist (or quasi-fascist), as was the case in Italy, Japan and Spain, or those in which the government is run as a military dictatorship, as was the case in Thailand.

Some constitutional monarchies are hereditary; others, such as that of Malaysia are elective monarchies.

Present constitutional monarchies

Some constitutional monarchies are:

Differences between constitutional and absolute monarchies

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries several European countries experimented with new forms of government. Two of these were absolutism and constitutional monarchies.

Absolutism is a government in which a king or queen rules with total power. The initiation of absolutism was made possible because countries were experiencing turmoil under existing governments. Religious wars, the decline of the church, and a growing middle class created a situation that demanded a leader to rule with complete power so as to restore order. Under absolutism the monarchs that ruled a country had total control because they believed they had a divine right. They believed that right was given them by God and bestowed upon them the power to control the county totally. They often defended their abuse of power by saying that it was Gods will for them rule. Also in an absolute monarchy the monarch makes all economic decisions. For example, Louis XIV of France abused his control of money by spending it on his Palace of Versailles. According to Early Modern France 1560-1715, at the end of Louis XIV reign, the French Royal Family was in debt 2 billion livres or about 21 billion dollars. This type of carelessness has the power to destroy countries, and it almost did so to France. Although having a monarch in total control over the economy can be dangerous, it also can be advantageous if the monarch is responsible and knowledgeable on the subject of economics. When one monarch has total control, their personal values may overrule core ethics. This can cause a reduction of personal freedoms when the monarch favors one group over another. King Louis XIV demonstrated this when he kicked the Huguenots out of France by canceling the Edict of Nantes. Many People supported absolutism, including Thomas Hobbes. He wrote a book a book called Leviathan arguing that an absolute monarchy is the best form of government. Hobbes said that all humans were naturally selfish and wicked and a powerful leader was needed to control them. He also said there needs to be a conservative social contract among people. Absolutism is an exceedingly risky form of government but could present the best outcome in certain situations.

A constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a king or queen rules with limits to their power along with a governing body (i.e. Parliament). A constitutional monarchy was able to form in England because there was a lack of strong leadership. Abuse of power by the king caused the English to question the divine right of the king. Also strong nobles and members of Parliament started to oppose the kings authority. Parliament subsequently took several steps to limit the power of the king. First, they forced Charles I to sign the Petition of Right that says the king must go through Parliament to enact new laws, taxes, etc. After signing the Petition of Right, Charles I immediately ignored it. This caused much anger from Parliament, so they had him beheaded for treason. This sent a message to future monarchs of England that they did not have absolute power. During Charles II reign Parliament passed the Habeas Corpus. The Habeas Corpus said that any prisoner taken by the king would be given a trial. This prevented the king from simply removing his enemies by sending them to jail. When James II took the throne many people did not appreciate it when he flaunted his Catholicism. Therefore Parliament flexed its muscles once again by asking William of Orange to overthrow the king. William and his wife Mary came from the Netherlands and overthrew James II without bloodshed. This was called the Glorious Revolution. Once William and Mary had gained control of the throne, they completely supported the constitutional monarchy. Together they signed the Bill of Rights, which severely limited the power of the king, and gave more freedom to his subjects. One supporter of constitutional monarchy was John Locke. He wrote in his Treatises on Government that a direct democracy is the best form of government. He wrote that people are able to improve and rule themselves, and that people have three main rights. These rights are life, liberty, and property, and it is the governments job to protect these rights. He also wrote that if the government is unjust the people have the right to overthrow it.

Absolute and Constitutional monarchies are radically different forms of government, each with its own positives and negatives. In a constitutional monarchy, power is shared between the monarch and Parliament. This is a positive because the greed and desire for power of a monarch will be offset by the Parliament. In an absolute monarchy this is quite different. A monarch in this form of government is able to use his position for personal gain to the detriment of his countrymen. This can have a negative affect on the countrys status. Also citizens in countries with a constitutional monarchy have more rights and freedoms, whereas citizens in countries with absolute monarchies often have restricted personal freedoms like religious intolerance, which can cause internal instability. The best argument for supporting an absolute monarchy is the alacrity of legislative processes. It is requires much more time to finish legislative processes within a constitutional monarchy because a meeting of Parliament must be held to settle the issue. A Constitutional monarchy is most often the best form of government because the added security from taking the power out of one mans hands is worth the delay in any lawmaking processes.

These governments have left lasting affects. Absolutism has drained national treasuries and started religious hostilities, and the Constitutional monarchy of England laid the groundwork for the current government of the United States of America.

Previous monarchies

France functioned briefly as a constitutional monarchy during the French Revolution. It also was a constitutional monarchy 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.

Napolon Bonaparte, as Emperor of the French, was a constitutional monarch, though he had wide powers and also occasionally abused powers that he did not have.

Prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran was technically a constitutional monarchy under HIM Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, though his unconstitutional actions and use of secret police in the later part of his reign qualify him as far more of an absolute monarch.

Portugal until 1910 was a constitutional monarchy and the last king was Manuel II of Portugal. The last monarchic constitution, promulgated in 1838, excluded from the succession one of the actual pretender head of the Royal House of Portugal, Duarte Pio ofКонституционна монархия ca:Monarquia constitucional da:Konstitutionelt monarki de:Konstitutionelle Monarchie es:Monarqua constitucional fr:Monarchie constitutionnelle id:Monarki konstitusional is:Stjrnarskrrbundin konungsstjrn he:מונרכיה חוקתית lt:Konstitucinė monarchija ms:Raja berperlembagaan zh-min-nan:Ū hiàn-hoat ê ông-kok nl:Constitutionele monarchie ja:立憲君主制 pt:Monarquia Constitucional sv:Konstitutionell monarki zh:君主立宪制


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