Constitutional monarchies go by a few different names, absolute monarchy, kingship, limited monarchy, monarchical government, and also as queenships (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Constitutional monarchies do vary from one country to another, but there are a few characteristics that make them similar. The differences are mainly attributable to differing culture and circumstances. Legitimation, levels of authority, exercise of power, role, and responsibilities, and succession were determined mainly through historical age and native culture rather than by desires and preference of the ruler (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
As time went on and civilization advanced, noblemen, elected officials, foreign influences, and the satisfaction of the ruled subjects had a great deal of influence over the shape and character of the institution (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Even when this transition the reigning monarchs were still considered absolute authorities (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Monarchs were considered the civil counterpart to religious leaders, such as priests, shamans, sorcerers, and prophets (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
This separation and division of authority between these two spheres sometimes created tension and conflict (New World Encyclopedia 2009). When there wasn’t any tension or conflict though, the unity between the two created a strong base for the populace, and the state was generally prosperous under these conditions (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Constitutional monarchies’ most distinct feature is that they are ruled by a monarch who is limited by a constitution, whether it be written, uncodified, or a blended constitution (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
Even in the case of uncodified or blended constitutions, there is still a similar level of constraint placed on the monarch as formal constitutional rules (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The monarch acts as the Head of State, and is otherwise known as the Sovereign (New World Encyclopedia 2009). These monarchs are can obtain office through either elections or through heredity (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The monarchs can also have many different titles, including king or queen, prince or princess, emperor and empress, duke or grand duke, duchess, and semi-uniformly as the Sovereign (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
These titles can take on the style of culture and circumstances, and can give other titles such as “Royal Highness,” and “By the Grace of God (New World Encyclopedia 2009). ” They also are known in some circumstances as “Defender of the Faith (New World Encyclopedia 2009). ” There is a distinction between male and female monarchs, and the female monarchs typically have the title of “queen regnant,” but they can also be known as “queen consort” when they are the wives of the reigning king (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
A regent may rule in the absence of the monarch, or if they are a minor, or when the monarch is debilitated (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The monarch or Sovereign must remain politically neutral. One of the best features of a constitutional monarchy is that the monarchy provides stability, a unifying force for the population to focus on and unite behind, and as the Head of State, they remain in office even as the government may be going through transitional change (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
Constitutional monarchies differ from absolute monarchies in that the monarch is limited by some form of law or declaration, whereas in an absolute monarchy, the monarch isn’t limited by anything, including laws or constitutions and serves as the sole source of political power in the state (New World Encyclopedia 2009). An absolute monarch rules as an autocrat, with absolute power over the state and government, with the right to rule by decree, make laws, and impose punishments (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
These absolute monarchies have been linked to religious aspects, and were typically getting their power from the divine will of a deity, or having a special connection to a deity, or in some cases, even were considered to be the incarnations of deities themselves (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Around the seventeenth century, absolute monarchies were the only form that was around, but around the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was a gradual transition to there being more constitutional monarchies (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
Constitutional monarchies have had different systems of succession, such as proximity of blood, primogeniture, and agnatic seniority (New World Encyclopedia 2009). There has been an occurrence of there being a self-proclaimed monarchy, with Napoleon I establishing himself as Emperor of the French being an example of this. Hereditary monarchies typically have the monarch ruling for life, and having most typically, the children or other family taking over the role upon the death of the monarch (New World Encyclopedia 2009). There are also cases of an elective monarchy historically (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
Elective monarchies are elected or appointed by some body such as an electoral college for life (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Constitutional monarchies have some of their power shared with other parts of government (New World Encyclopedia 2009). At one point in time, all monarchies were absolute and whatever the king or queen said was the law (New World Encyclopedia 2009). There was eventually a point in time when the people became uncomfortable with this arrangement, and whether through peaceful means, or through violent revolution, there was a switchover for many countries (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
This has happened generally over long periods of time (New World Encyclopedia 2009). When this occurred, the monarch lost their right to make and pass legislation (New World Encyclopedia 2009). This eventually led to their powers being limited both by laws enacted by Parliament, and by changing political practices and customs (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Monarchs have typically been dependent on their noblemen, who in exchange for their loyalties and cooperation, were given honors and privileges (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
Monarchs have typically ruled independently, but there have been cases of their being a diarchy in some countries, such as in the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta, and there have been examples of joint sovereignty of spouses or relatives, like that of William and Mary in the United Kingdoms of England and Scotland. In these personal unions, the same person serves as monarch of separate independent states (New World Encyclopedia 2009). There is also another distinction between differing types of monarchies and how the monarchs operate. In some countries, the monarch is more of a figurehead or ceremonial monarch.
The ceremonial monarch typically holds very little actual power or direct political influence (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Ceremonial monarchs may also have reserve powers along with their ceremonial duties (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The monarch is sometimes directly elected, or can also be indirectly elected (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The other type of monarchy is an executive monarchy, in which the monarch has significant power, and under this system the government is a powerful political and social institution (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
There tends to be more ceremonial monarchies than there are executive monarchies (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The purpose of the ceremonial monarch and all the pomp and circumstance that closely follows is done to show that the Parliament gets its authority from the Head of State, but that the elected government is really the one in charge (New World Encyclopedia 2009). There are some exceptions to this where the monarch still holds most of the power, and these typically can be found in monarchies of the Middle East (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
In many constitutional monarchies, the Head of State shares much of their power with the elected parliament (New World Encyclopedia 2009). These parliaments are typically the supreme legislative body of the government, and hold the power to pass laws and legislation (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The monarchs do retain some privileges such as inviolability, sovereign immunity, and an official residence (New World Encyclopedia 2009). They also hold powers to grant pardons, and to appoint titles of nobility (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
There are some instances where the monarch has the ability to dismiss the Prime Minister, refuse to dissolve parliament, or withhold Royal Assent legislation, which has the same result as vetoing it (New World Encyclopedia 2009). These powers and processes do not occur very often though. The monarchs tend to be restricted by tradition, precedent, popular opinion, or by legal codes and statutes (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The parliaments can either be directly or indirectly elected (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The Parliaments are typically bicameral, having two houses, an upper and a lower house (New World Encyclopedia 2009).
The Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers are also elected members of the Parliament (New World Encyclopedia 2009). The Prime Minister chooses the Cabinet typically, which are usually from his or her own party (New World Encyclopedia 2009). Monarchs typically reign, but not rule, while remaining neutral on political issues (New World Encyclopedia 2009). They also typically make their decisions based off of the advice from their ministers (New World Encyclopedia 2009). This is something that has changed since the original inception of monarchies, and their absolutist rule.
Previously many monarchies have co-existed with fascist and quasi-fascist constitutions and with military dictatorships (Princeton 2013). There are several contemporary constitutional monarchies, including, Australia, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Grenada, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Morocco, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom (Princeton 2013).
Constitutional monarchies could be considered stable and in flux, in that they have certain characteristics that really do not change, giving the topic stability, while at the same time every country has their own characteristics, and the quantity of them is in flux, along with how the different country’s governments change over time. The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a good example of a constitutional monarchy for multiple reasons. Most of these reasons relate to the monarch of the government and their legitimization, role, responsibilities, succession, how they obtained power, and title.
First, is how the government came into existence. This came after the military overthrow of the French, with what became to be known as the Belgium (The Hague 2013). The second characteristics is who the Head of State is. In the Netherlands, there is a monarch who is the Head of State (Amalia 2013). The current Head of State is Queen Beatrix, who is generally known as Queen Beatrix of Orange (Government. nl 2013). The crown in the Netherlands is hereditary in the House of Orange-Nassau (Government. nl 2013).
An interesting fact about the Netherlands is that they have had females as the Head of State since 1890, which is a record, if not close to one (Government. nl 2013). The throne is inherited to the eldest child of the King or Queen, whether that be male or female, unless they decide to relinquish that right (Amalia 2013). If the child were to relinquish this right, it is most commonly done so by marrying without parliamentary approval (Amalia 2013). The Queen generally holds little power, and the amount of power that she holds is not known (Amalia 2013).
This is one of the few remaining palace secrets, and those who do know are not allowed to publish those facts (Amalia 2013). The only time that the Queen actively participates in politics only just after the elections when a new government is being formed (Amalia 2013). In this case, she will appoint the politicians who will take the lead in this process, and if need be, she can and will replace them if it becomes necessary (Amalia 2013). The politicians generally are able to complete this process, but if in the case that they cannot, the Queen will see it through (Amalia 2013).
Another interesting aspect is that the Queen is able to creatively bend the rules of government formation if it becomes necessary (Amalia 2013). The Queen is also seen as being a capable ruler by both the government and the populace, and therefore there is little anti-monarchical sentiment, even from the Socialist Party, who is to the extreme left (Amalia 2013). The Socialist Party actually has even gone as far as abandoning their republican stance since 2006. This all allows for the State to be prosperous under these conditions (Amalia 2013).
The Dutch voters elect only their legislative assemblies, all of the executive office holders are appointed by the Queen theoretically (Amalia 2013). The Queen does this in practice by complicated negotiations between the larger parties (Amalia 2013). The parliament of the Netherlands is known as the States-General (Amalia 2013). They have a bicameral system, with two houses (Amalia 2013). The first house is known as the Senate and has 75 seats, who are elected by the provincial states (Amalia 2013). The second chamber has 150 seats and are elected directly by the people (Amalia 2013).
The second chamber is by far the most important out of the two (Amalia 2013). The Dutch employ a dual system that pits the government against the parliament (Amalia 2013). Ministers and secretaries of state are not members of parliament (Amalia 2013). The members of parliament usually follow the government and therefore the leaders of the parties tend to opt for a seat in the ministry instead of a seat in parliament (Amalia 2013). In the Netherlands, the Queen appoints the prime minister and other cabinet ministers.
These ministers generally come from the current coalition parties, which have a majority in parliament and have agreed to cooperate during government formation (Amalia 2013). The usual term of parliament and thus government is four years (Holland 2013). There is also the possibility that when the government fails, that there will be new elections (Amalia 2013). The prime minister always comes from the largest party in the coalition (Amalia 2013). The other parties may nominate its party leaders, and gives them what is primarily an honorary title, vice prime minister (Amalia 2013).
There is a certain occasions where the vice prime minister may take decisions instead of the prime minister (Amalia 2013). The prime minister has no formal powers, and he or she cannot fire other ministers or force them to something against their will (Amalia 2013). The prime minister rules by grace of his or her authority, and this is important that they do have his authority, as it lends stability to the government (Amalia 2013). There are other ministers that are in charge of specific departments, and then there are secretaries of state that act almost as assistant-ministers (Amalia 2013).
The assistant ministers are often delegated some of the minister’s responsibilities (Amalia 2013). These ministers and assistant ministers help to round out the government, and help to facilitate its success. There are no real signs of further development of the Netherlands. The system that they are using has seemed to hold up well over time, and there is a general consensus of the government by the populace, along with what was once rival political parties, that the government is doing what it should be, and has done in the past, what is the best interest of the country and its population (Reid 2008).
If there was a need for any change to the current system, then it may happen, but at the present time they have been doing what seems to work, and therefore there is no need. Constitutional monarchies have many similar characteristics that make them such, and The Netherlands possesses many of these characteristics that makes it one. The government was created through military means. There is a monarch who is Head of State.
The monarch is limited by its blended constitution, it has a title of those present in constitutional monarchies, they take office through heredity, and that succession is done through primogeniture primarily, they share power with parliament, they are limited by laws made by parliament, tradition, precedent, popular opinion, and legal codes and statutes. The monarchy is also largely ceremonial. The parliament of the Netherlands gets its authority from the Head of State.
Their monarch can dismiss the prime minister, refuse to dissolve parliament, or withhold Royal Assent legislation, although some of these powers are unknown to most except a few key members of parliament. The Netherlands also has the common bicameral legislature, who are, both directly and indirectly elected for certain positions, and the monarch remains neutral on political issues primarily. From all of this, it is fairly easy to say that the Dutch Monarchy is a constitutional monarchy due to these characteristics. Works Cited Amalia. “Dutch politics I – The rules of the game. ” QuirksMode – for all your browser quirks.
(2012) “Constitutional monarchy. ” Princeton University – Welcome. (2013) “Constitutional monarchy | Constitution and democracy | Government. nl. ” Government. nl | Information from the Government of The Netherlands. (2013) “Monarchy – New World Encyclopedia. ” Info: Main Page – New World Encyclopedia. (2013) “Most Dutch Content with Monarchy | Angus Reid Public Opinion. ” Angus Reid Public Opinion | What the world is thinking. (2008) “The Constitutional Monarchy. ” Holland. The Official Site of Holland. (2013) “The Hague – History of the Dutch Royal Family. ” Den Haag – Home. (2013).