Constitutional monarchy

A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises their authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in decision making.[1] Constitutional monarchies differ from absolute monarchies (in which a monarch whether limited by a constitution or not is the only one to decide) in that they are bound to exercise powers and authorities within limits prescribed by an established legal framework. Constitutional monarchies range from countries such as Liechtenstein, Monaco, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, and Bahrain, where the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign, to countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Japan, where the monarch retains significantly less personal discretion in the exercise of their authority.

World's states colored by form of government1
The three constitutional monarchs of the Scandinavian kingdoms of Sweden, Norway & Denmark gathered in November 1917 in Oslo.
From left to right: Gustaf V, Haakon VII & Christian X.
A meeting in the Japanese privy council in 1946 led by emperor Hirohito.

Constitutional monarchy may refer to a system in which the monarch acts as a non-party political head of state under the constitution, whether codified or uncodified.[2] While most monarchs may hold formal authority and the government may legally operate in the monarch's name, in the form typical in Europe the monarch no longer personally sets public policy or chooses political leaders. Political scientist Vernon Bogdanor, paraphrasing Thomas Macaulay, has defined a constitutional monarch as "A sovereign who reigns but does not rule".[3]

In addition to acting as a visible symbol of national unity, a constitutional monarch may hold formal powers such as dissolving parliament or giving royal assent to legislation. However, such powers generally may only be exercised strictly in accordance with either written constitutional principles or unwritten constitutional conventions, rather than any personal political preferences of the sovereign. In The English Constitution, British political theorist Walter Bagehot identified three main political rights which a constitutional monarch may freely exercise: the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn. Many constitutional monarchies still retain significant authorities or political influence, however, such as through certain reserve powers and who may also play an important political role.

The United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms are all constitutional monarchies in the Westminster system of constitutional governance. Two constitutional monarchies Malaysia and Cambodia – are elective monarchies, wherein the ruler is periodically selected by a small electoral college.

Strongly limited constitutional monarchies, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, have been referred to as crowned republics by writers H. G. Wells and Glenn Patmore.[4][5]

The concept of semi-constitutional monarch identifies constitutional monarchies where the monarch retains substantial powers, on a par with a president in a presidential or semi-presidential system.[6] As a result, constitutional monarchies where the monarch has a largely ceremonial role may also be referred to as 'parliamentary monarchies' to differentiate them from semi-constitutional monarchies.[7]


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