Personal union

A personal union is the combination of two or more states that have the same monarch while their boundaries, laws, and interests remain distinct.[1] A real union, by contrast, would involve the constituent states being to some extent interlinked, such as by sharing some limited governmental institutions. Unlike the personal union, in a federation and a unitary state, a central (federal) government spanning all member states exists, with the degree of self-governance distinguishing the two. The ruler in a personal union does not need to be a hereditary monarch.[note 1]

The term was coined by German jurist Johann Stephan Pütter, introducing it into Elementa iuris publici germanici (Elements of German Public Law) of 1760.[2]

Personal unions can arise for several reasons, such as:

They can also be codified (i.e., the constitutions of the states clearly express that they shall share the same person as head of state) or non-codified, in which case they can easily be broken (e.g., by the death of the monarch when the two states have different succession laws).

The concept of personal union has almost never crossed over from monarchies into republics, but there have been exceptions.


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