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:
Antigua and Barbuda (Queen Elizabeth II)
Australia (Queen Elizabeth II)
The Bahamas (Queen Elizabeth II)
Barbados (Queen Elizabeth II)
Belgium (King Albert II)
Belize (Queen Elizabeth II)
Bhutan (King Jigme Singye Wangchuk)
Cambodia (King Norodom Sihamoni)
Canada (Queen Elizabeth II)
Denmark (Queen Margrethe II)
Grenada (Queen Elizabeth II)
Jamaica (Queen Elizabeth II)
Japan (Emperor Akihito)
Liechtenstein (Prince Hans-Adam II)
Luxembourg (Grand Duke Henri)
Malaysia (Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin)
Monaco (Prince Albert)
The Netherlands (Queen Beatrix)
New Zealand (Queen Elizabeth II)
Norway (King Harald V)
Nepal (King Gyanendra Shaha)
Papua New Guinea (Queen Elizabeth II)
Saint Kitts and Nevis (Queen Elizabeth II)
Saint Lucia (Queen Elizabeth II)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (Queen Elizabeth II)
The Solomon Islands (Queen Elizabeth II)
Spain (King Juan Carlos)
Sweden (King Carl XVI Gustaf)
Thailand (King Bhumibol Adulyadej)
Tuvalu (Queen Elizabeth II)
The United Kingdom (Queen Elizabeth II)
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 king’s 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 during the ensuing Civil War. 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 government’s job to protect these rights. He also wrote that if the government is unjust the people have the right to overthrow it.
A Constitutional monarchy is most often the best form of government because the added security from taking the power out of one man’s 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.