The Monarchy Portal

Richard I of England being anointed during his coronation in Westminster Abbey, from a 13th-century chronicle.

A monarchy is a form of government in which a natural person, the monarch, is head of state until death or abdication. The governing power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic (crowned republic), to restricted (constitutional monarchy), to fully autocratic (absolute monarchy), combining executive, legislative and judicial power.

In most cases, monarchies are hereditary, but there are also elective and self-proclaimed monarchies. Aristocracy, though not inherent to monarchies, often serves as the pool of persons to draw the monarch from and fill the constituting institutions (e.g. diet and court), giving many monarchies oligarchic elements.

A monarchy can be a polity that is a federation, a unitary state, in personal union or in vassalage. Its authorities are proclaimed and recognized through the different seats, insignia and titles that a monarch can occupy and be invested with. For example, monarchs can carry titles such as king, queen, emperor, khan, caliph, tsar, or sultan, and can be bound to territories (e.g., the Emperor of Japan) or peoples (e.g., the King of the Belgians).

The main alternative to monarchical form of government in modern times is republican, though there have been infringements of this core principle of republics with lifetime or even hereditary presidents. Republics’ heads of state are often styled "President" or a variant thereof.

Monarchy was the most common form of government until the 20th century. Forty-five sovereign nations in the world have a monarch as head of state, including sixteen Commonwealth realms that each have Queen Elizabeth II (in separate capacities). Most modern monarchs are constitutional monarchs, who retain a unique legal and ceremonial role but exercise limited or no political power under the nation's constitution. In some nations, however, such as Brunei, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Kingdom, the hereditary monarch has more political influence than any other single source of authority in the nation, either by tradition or by a constitutional mandate.

Historically, monarchies pre-dated such polities as nation states and even territorial states. A nation or constitution is not necessary in a monarchy since a person, the monarch, binds the separate territories and political legitimacy (e.g. in personal union) together.

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Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia (18 June 1901 – 17 July 1918) was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. She was murdered with her family by members of the Cheka, the Bolshevik secret police. The location of her burial was unknown during the decades of Communist rule, and rumors that she had escaped circulated after her death. A mass grave near Yekaterinburg which held the remains of the Tsar, his wife, and three of their daughters was revealed in 1991, and the bodies of the remaining daughter and the Tsarevitch Alexei were discovered in 2007. Forensic analysis and DNA testing have confirmed that the remains are those of the imperial family, showing that Anastasia and the other grand duchesses were killed in 1918. Several women have claimed to be Anastasia, including Anna Anderson, who died in 1984, but DNA testing in 1994 showed that she was not related to the Romanov family.


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Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles
Credit: Myrabella

The Hall of Mirrors is the central gallery of the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France. As the principal and most remarkable feature of King Louis XIV of France's third building campaign of the Palace of Versailles (1678–1684), construction of the Hall of Mirrors began in 1678. To provide for the Hall of Mirrors as well as the salon de la guerre and the salon de la paix, which connect the grand appartement du roi with the grand appartement de la reine, architect Jules Hardouin Mansart appropriated three rooms from each apartment as well as the terrace that separated the two apartments.

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Jane Loftus, Marchioness of Ely

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William I of the Netherlands
Credit: Joseph Paelinck

William I (1772–1843) was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg. William implemented controversial language policies, founded many trade institutions and universities, and adopted a new constitution. However, the southern Netherlands became increasingly marginalized, and in 1830 the Belgian Revolution broke out. The war against the newly-declared Belgium caused considerable economic distress for the Netherlands, and in 1839 William signed the Treaty of London, which recognized Belgium. William abdicated the following year.

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Queen Elizabeth II (centre, in blue) and Prince Philip hold nosegays as they leave Wakefield Cathedral after the 2005 Royal Maundy
Royal Maundy is a religious service in the Church of England held on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. At the service, the British Monarch or a royal official ceremoniously distributes small silver coins known as "Maundy money" as symbolic alms to elderly recipients. The name "Maundy" and the ceremony itself derive from an instruction, or mandatum, of Jesus at the Last Supper that his followers should love one another. In the Middle Ages, English monarchs washed the feet of beggars in imitation of Jesus, and presented gifts and money to the poor. Over time, additional money was substituted for the clothing and other items that had once been distributed; the custom of washing the feet did not survive the 18th century. Today, Queen Elizabeth II (pictured at the 2005 service) almost always attends, and the service is held in a different church (usually a cathedral) every year. Maundy money is struck in denominations of one penny, two pence, three pence, and four pence. In most years there are fewer than 2,000 complete sets; they are highly sought after by collectors.


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Marie Antoinette, Queen of France
Courage! I have shown it for years; think you I shall lose it at the moment when my sufferings are to end?
Marie Antoinette, Responding to the priest who had accompanied her to the foot of the guillotine, who had whispered, "This is the moment, Madame, to arm yourself with courage."

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Featured articles: Áedán mac Gabráin · · Æthelbald of Mercia · Æthelberht of Kent · Æthelred of Mercia · Aldfrith of Northumbria · Bhumibol Adulyadej · Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia · · Anne of Denmark · Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom · · · · Augustus · · · Cædwalla of Wessex · Ceawlin of Wessex · (...more)

Featured lists: List of French monarchs · List of Portuguese monarchs · List of Sultans of Zanzibar

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