A monarchy is a governmental system that has one person as the permanent head of state until he or she dies or gives up his or her position. Typically, the position of monarch is hereditary, as is the case with famous monarchies like that of the United Kingdom. The term is often used to refer to a system of government in which the monarch — such as a king or queen — has absolute authority, but many monarchies are limited or constitutional monarchies in which the monarch has restricted power and might even be mostly a figurehead rather than a ruler.
In an absolute monarchy, the monarch has total authority over the government and his or her people. A cabinet of advisers might be assembled to assist the monarch, but members of the cabinet do not make the major decisions. This type of monarchy has become increasingly rare, because many countries are wary of giving one person unchecked power. The levels of the citizens' happiness under absolute monarchies can vary widely, and such governments usually are closely scrutinized by other nations.
The monarch's power in a constitutional or limited monarchy is restricted by the country's constitution or other laws, and more political power might actually be wielded by a chamber of elected representatives and a prime minister. The monarch usually participates in running the nation, but he or she might have mostly ceremonial powers or might be able to act only with the approval of the prime minister and other government officials. In a constitutional democracy, the monarch is often able to veto legislation that he or she feels is contrary to the best interests of the country. The monarch might also be able to dissolve the chamber of representatives under certain circumstances.
Can Promote Unity
One aspect of a monarchy that is considered to be an advantage is that it can reduce or eliminate the struggle for ultimate power within the government. When the head of state must be elected, members of different political parties or factions will compete for the position. This often creates division and conflict within the government. If the head of state serves for life and his or her successor is already known, it might increase the unity within the government.
In many places, even after the actual operation of the government has changed to a different system, a monarchy will be retained because it is an important aspect of the cultural and political history of the nation. The monarchs in these cases are living representatives of generations of rulers. They often are treated as figures of reverence.
Some well-known constitutional monarchies include the United Kingdom, Belgium, Cambodia, Spain and Thailand. Famous absolute monarchies include the Sultanates of Brunei and Oman, the Kingdom of Bhutan and Saudi Arabia. The Vatican also is technically a monarchy, ruled by the Pope. Unlike many monarchies, however, this position is not hereditary.