Many monarchs are distinguished by titles and styles. They often take part in certain ceremonies, such as a coronation.
Monarchy is political or sociocultural in nature and is generally (but not always) associated with hereditary rule. Most monarchs, both historically and in the modern day, have been born and brought up within a royal family (whose rule over a period of time is referred to as a dynasty) and trained for future duties. Different systems of succession have been used, such as proximity of blood, primogeniture, and agnatic seniority (Salic law). While traditionally most monarchs have been male, female monarchs have also ruled, and the term queen regnant refers to a ruling monarch, as distinct from a queen consort, the wife of a reigning king.
Monarchies have existed throughout the world, although in recent centuries many states have abolished the monarchy and become republics. Advocacy of republics is called republicanism, while advocacy of monarchies is called monarchism. The principal advantage of hereditary monarchy is the immediate continuity of leadership, with a usually short interregnum (as illustrated in the classic phrase "The [old] King is dead. Long live the [new] King!"). However, this only applies in the case of autocratic rule. In cases where the monarch serves mostly as a ceremonial figure (e.g. most modern constitutional monarchies) real leadership does not depend on the monarch.
A form of government may in fact be hereditary without being considered monarchy, such as a family dictatorship.
A particular case is the two co-prince of Andorra, a position held simultaneously by the Bishop of Urgel (Spain) and the elected President of France. Nonetheless, he is still generally considered a monarch because of the traditional use of a monarchical title (even though Andorra is, strictly speaking, a diarchy.) Similarly, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia is considered a monarch despite only holding the position for five years at a time. On the other hand, several life-time dictators around the world have not been formally classified as monarchs, even if succeeded by their children, but that may be more to do with international political sensitivities than with semantics.
Hereditary succession within one family has been most common. The usual hereditary succession is based on some cognatic principles and on seniority, though sometimes merit has played a part. Thus, the most common hereditary system in feudal Europe was based on cognatic primogeniture where a lord was succeeded by his eldest son or, if he had no son, by either his brother, his daughters or sons of daughters. The system of tanistry was semi-elective and gave weight also to merits and capability.
The Quasi-Salic succession provided firstly for male members of the family to succeed, and secondarily males descended from female lines. In most feudal fiefs, females (such as daughters and sisters) were allowed to succeed, should the male line fail, but usually the husband of the heiress became the real lord and most often also received the title, jure uxoris. Spain today continue this model of succession law, in the form of cognatic primogeniture. In more complex medieval cases, the sometimes conflicting principles of proximity and primogeniture battled, and outcomes were often idiosyncratic.
As the average life span increased, an eldest son was more likely to reach majority age before the death of his father, and primogeniture became increasingly favoured over proximity, tanistry, seniority and election.
Later, when lands were strictly divided among noble families and tended to remain fixed, agnatic primogeniture (practically the same as Salic Law) became more usual: the succession would go to the eldest son of the monarch, or, if the monarch had no sons, the throne would pass to the nearest male relative through the male line, to the total exclusion of females.
In some countries however, inheritance through the female line was never wholly abandoned, so that if the monarch had no sons, the throne would pass to the eldest daughter and her children, a system known as cognatic primogeniture.
In 1980, Sweden became the first monarchy to declare equal primogeniture, absolute primogeniture or full cognatic primogeniture, meaning that the eldest child of the monarch, whether female or male, ascends to the throne. Other nations have since adopted this practice: Netherlands in 1983, Norway in 1990, Belgium in 1991, and Denmark in 2009. The United Kingdom intends to adopt absolute primogeniture for individuals born after the Perth Agreement in October 2011.
In some monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia, succession to the throne usually first passes to the monarch's next eldest brother, and only after that to the monarch's children (agnatic seniority). In some other monarchies (e.g. Jordan), the monarch chooses who will be his successor, who need not necessarily be his eldest son.
Whatever the rules of succession, there have been many cases of a monarch being overthrown and replaced by a usurper who would often install his own family as the ruling monarchy.
The Zulu people formed a powerful Zulu Kingdom in 1816, one that was subsequently absorbed into the Colony of Natal in 1897. The Zulu king continues to hold a hereditary title and an influential position in contemporary South Africa, although he has no direct political power. Other tribes in the country, such as the Xhosa and the Tswana, have also had and continue to have a series of kings and chiefs.
As part of the Scramble for Africa, Europeans conquered, bought, or established African kingdoms and styled themselves as monarchs due to them.
Prince was a common title within the Holy Roman Empire, along with a number of higher titles listed below. Such titles were granted by the Emperor, while the titulation of rulers of sovereign states was generally left to their own discretion, most often choosing King or Queen. Such titulations could cause diplomatic problems, and especially the elevation to Emperor or Empress was seen as an offensive action.
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries most small monarchies in Europe disappeared, merging to form larger entities, and so King is the most common title for male rulers and Queen has become the most common title today for female rulers.
In China, before the abolition of the monarchy in 1912, the Emperor of China was traditionally regarded as the ruler of "All under heaven". "King" is the usual translation for the term wang 王, the sovereign before the Qin dynasty and during the Ten Kingdoms period. During the early Han dynasty, China had a number of small kingdoms, each about the size of a county and subordinate to the Empress or Emperor of China.
The Japanese monarchy is now the only monarchy to still use the title of Emperor.
Thailand and Bhutan are like the United Kingdom in that they are constitutional monarchies ruled by a King. Jordan and many other Middle Eastern monarchies are ruled by a Malik and parts of the United Arab Emirates, such as Dubai, are still ruled by monarchs.
Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area and the second-largest in the Arab world (after Algeria). It was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud in 1932, although the conquests which eventually led to the creation of the Kingdom began in 1902 when he captured Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud; succession to the throne is currently limited to sons of Ibn Saud. The Saudi Arabian government has been an absolute monarchy since its inception, and it describes itself as being Islamic as the religion began in the country. The King bears the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to the two holiest places in Islam: Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, and Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina.
Oman is led by Monarch Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said. The Kingdom of Jordan is one of the Middle East's more modern monarchies is also ruled by a Malik. In Arab and arabized countries, Malik (absolute King) is absolute word to render a monarch and is superior to all other titles. Nepal abolished their monarchy in 2008. Sri Lanka had a complex system of monarchies from 543BC to 1815. Between 47BC-42BC Anula of Sri Lanka became the country's first female head of state as well as Asia's first head of state.[dubious – discuss]
In Malaysia's constitutional monarchy, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (The Supreme Lord of the Federation) is de facto rotated every five years among the nine Rulers of the Malay states of Malaysia (those nine of the thirteen states of Malaysia that have hereditary royal rulers), elected by Majlis Raja-Raja (Conference of Rulers).
Under Brunei's 1959 constitution, the Sultan of Brunei is the head of state with full executive authority, including emergency powers, since 1962. The Prime Minister of Brunei is a title held by the Sultan. As the prime minister, the Sultan presides over the cabinet.
Cambodia has been a kingdom since the 1st century. The power of the absolute monarchy was reduced when it became the French Protectorate of Cambodia from 1863 to 1953. It returned to an absolute monarchy from 1953 until the establishment of a republic following the 1970 coup. The monarchy was restored as a constitutional monarchy in 1993 with the king as a largely symbolic figurehead.
The concept of monarchy existed in the Americas long before the arrival of European colonialists. When the Europeans arrived they referred to these tracts of land within territories of different aboriginal groups to be kingdoms, and the leaders of these groups were often referred to by the Europeans as Kings, particularly hereditary leaders.
Sha-quan – King of the world used in some Native American tribes
The first local monarch to emerge in North America after colonization was Augustin I, who declared himself Emperor of Mexico in 1822. Mexico again had an emperor, Maximilian I from 1863 to 1867. In South America, Brazil had a royal house ruling as emperor between 1822 and 1889, under Emperors Pedro I and Pedro II.
Between 1931 and 1983 nine other previous British colonies attained independence as kingdoms, all, including Canada, in a personal union relationship under a shared monarch. Therefore, though today there are legally ten American monarchs, one person occupies each distinct position.
Tonga is the only remaining sovereign kingdom in Oceania. It has had a monarch since the 10th century and became a constitutional monarchy in 1875. In 2008, King George Tupou V relinquished most of the powers of the monarchy and the position is now largely ceremonial.
The position of King of Māori people in New Zealand was established in 1858, although is largely cultural and ceremonial and has no legal power.
The normal monarch title in Europe — i.e., the one used if the monarch has no higher title — is prince or princess, by convention. As an absolute ruler, a monarch can choose a title. However, titles are usually defined by tradition and diplomatic considerations.
Note that some of these titles have several meanings and do not necessarily designate a monarch. A Prince may be a person of royal blood (some languages uphold this distinction, see Fürst). A Duke may be a Britishpeer. In Imperial Russia, a Grand Duke was a son or grandson of the Tsar or Tsarina. Holders of titles in these alternative meanings did not enjoy the same status as the monarchs of the same title.
The German title Kaiser and the Bulgarian/Serbian title Tsar were both derived from the Latin word Caesar, intended to mean Emperor. One of the titles of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire was Kaysar-i-Rûm (Emperor of Rome), Kaysar being a rough transliteration of Caesar (Emperor) into Ottoman Turkish. Kaisar-i-Hind, derived from the German word Kaiser, was the Urdu translation of "Emperor of India".
Etymological equivalent male/female/territory titles include Comte/Comtesse/Comté in French, Conte/Contessa/Contea in Italian, Conde/Condessa/Condado in Spanish, Graf/Gräfin/Grafschaft in German, Graaf/Gravin/Graafschap in Dutch, Greve/Grevinna/Grevskap in Swedish.
Literally a vice or deputy count, from visconte in Old French. Vicomte is the equivalent in modern French. Vizconde is the equivalent in Spanish. The German Burggraf and Dutch Burggraaf (translated into French and English as Burgrave), a rank above Baron but below Graf/Graaf (i.e., Count), are equivalent and may rule a Burggrafschaft (or Burgraviate). There are no remaining viscountcies but Viscount remains a rank in the British peerage. Historical examples: Viscountcy of Béarn, Burgraviate of Nuremberg (Burggrafschaft Nürnberg).
Monarch of the Papal States and later Sovereign of the State of Vatican City. The pope is the Bishop of Rome (a celibate office always forbidden to women), in English however, reports of female popes such as (Pope Joan) refer to them as pope and Popess is used, among other things, for the second trump in the Tarot deck; some European languages also have a feminine form of the word pope, such as the Italian papessa, the French papesse, and the German Päpstin.
King of CambodiaKhmer, the title literally means "The feet of the Greatest Lord who is on the heads (of his subjects)" (This royal title does not refer directly to the king himself but to his feet, according to traditions).
King of Thailand (Siam), the title literally means "The feet of the Greatest Lord who is on the heads (of his subjects)" (This royal title does not refer directly to the king himself but to his feet, according to traditions.)
Honorific title given throughout the Islamic regions. Title given to males accepted as descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Syed/Sharifah in Perlis if suffixed by the royal clan name, is roughly equivalent to Prince or Princess.
Welsh for king and queen; used in Wales by the petty kinglets during the Early Middle Ages. During the High Middle Ages, the kinglets mediatised into principalities and employed the title 'prince/princess' (tywysog/tywysoges). Brenhines is the title used in Welsh for Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
It is not uncommon that people who are not generally seen as monarchs nevertheless use monarchical titles. There are at least five cases of this:
Claiming an existing title, challenging the current holder. This has been very common historically. For centuries, the British monarch used, among his other titles, the title King of France, despite the fact that he had had no authority over mainland French territory since the sixteenth century. Other cases include the numerous antipopes who have claimed the Holy See.
Retaining the title of an extinct monarchy. This can be coupled with a claim that the monarchy was in fact never, or should never have been, extinct. An example of the first case is the Prince of Seborga. Examples of the second case are several deposed monarchs or otherwise pretenders to thrones of abolished monarchies, e.g., Leka, Crown Prince of Albania who is styled by some as the "King of The Albanians". Retaining the title of an extinct monarchy can, however, be totally free of claims of sovereignty, for example it was customary of numerous European Monarchies to include "King of Jerusalem" in their full titles. When it comes to deposed monarchs, it is customary to continue the usage of their monarchical title (e.g., Constantine II, King of the Hellenes) as a courtesy title, not a constitutional position, for the duration of their lifetime. However the title then dies with them and cannot be used by anyone else unless the crown is restored constitutionally. Monarchs who have freelyabdicated lose their right to use their former title. However, where a monarch abdicated under duress (e.g., Michael I of Romania), it is customary to see the abdication as invalid and to treat them as deposed monarchs entitled to use their monarchical style for their lifetime.
Inventing a new title. This is common by founders of micronations, and also may or may not come with a claim of sovereignty. When it does, it is disregarded by state leaders. A notable example is Paddy Roy Bates, styling himself the "Prince of Sealand", but not recognized as such by any national government, thus failing at least the constitutive condition for statehood (see Sealand for a fuller discussion of his claims). Another known example is that of Norton I, who invented the title "Emperor of the United States of America" and later declared himself "Protector of Mexico".