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A constitutional monarchy, or a limited monarchy, is a form of constitutional government, wherein either an elected or hereditary monarch is the head of state, unlike in an absolute monarchy, wherein the king or the queen is the sole source of political power, as he or she is not legally bound by the national constitution. The constitutional monarchy's government and its law are the government and the law of a limited monarchy. Most constitutional monarchies have a parliamentary system in which the monarch is the head of state, but a directly- or indirectly-elected prime minister is head of government. Although contemporary constitutional monarchies are usually representative, "constitutional democratic monarchies", have in the past co-existed with fascist and quasi-fascist constitutions (Italy, Japan, Spain) and with military dictatorships (Thailand).
Constitutional monarchies and absolute monarchies
Constitutional monarchy in the European tradition
Constitutional monarchy first occurred in modern continental Europe after the French Revolution. General Napoleon Bonaparte is considered the first monarch proclaiming himself as embodiment of the nation, rather than as a divinely-appointed ruler; this interpretation of monarchy is basic to continental constitutional monarchies. G.W.F. Hegel, in Philosophy of Right (1820), forecast a constitutional monarch of limited powers, whose function is embodying the national character and constitutional continuity in emergencies.
Modern constitutional monarchy
As originally conceived, a constitutional monarch was quite a powerful figure, head of the executive branch of government even though their power was limited by a constitution and an elected parliament. Some of the framers of the US Constitution may have conceived of the president as being an elected constitutional monarch, as the term was understood in their time, following Montesquieu's somewhat dated account of the separation of powers in the United Kingdom; although the term "president" at that time implied someone with the powers of the chairman of a committee of equals, like the rotating "president" of the congress under the Articles of Confederation.
By the mid 20th century, the political culture in Europe had shifted to the point where most constitutional monarchs had been reduced to the status of figureheads, with no effective power at all. Instead, it was the democratically elected parliaments, and their leader, the prime minister, who had become those who exercised power.
In present terms, the difference between a parliamentary democracy that is a constitutional monarchy, and one that is a republic, is considered more a difference of detail than of substance, particularly in the common case in which the head of state serves the traditional role of embodying and representing the nation. This is reflected, for example, in all but the most die-hard Spanish Republicans accepting their country's returning to constitutional monarchy after the death of Francisco Franco.
Executive monarchies are monarchies in which the monarch has influence over the state almost to the degree of an absolute monarch, but is limited in a minor or even nominal respect by a constitution (which would in this situation be pro-monarchist).
An example of a executive constitutional monarchy amongst UN member states is Liechtenstein, where in 2003 Prince Hans-Adams II won a referendum to change its constitution to give him more powers than any other European monarch of a "macronation" at that time. The new constitution gave the prince the right to dismiss governments and approve judicial nominees and allowed him to veto laws simply by refusing to sign them within a six-month period. As well as this, the Prince may in the case of a national emergency "take the necessary measures for the security and welfare of the State". While these are powers in theory held by many constitutional monarchs, e.g. the British monarch, in practice they are never expected to use them without the consent of their elected government.
An example of a ceremonial constitutional monarchy developing into an executive constitutional monarchy amongst micronations is that of the Empire of Austenasia. Under the Empire's first Constitution, enacted in 2008, the Austenasian Monarchy was intended to be mostly ceremonial, with few actual powers and with various prerogatives to be exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister. Under the reign of Emperor Esmond III, it started to become acceptable for the Monarch to wield more and more personal power. In September 2011, a new Constitution was enacted which gave the Monarch a huge range of powers, to the degree that the current Monarch, Emperor Jonathan I is seen as holding more political power over Austenasia than the Prime Minister.
Constitutional monarchies with ceremonial monarchs
- Kingdom of Florenia
- Empire of Holcetaea
- Hutt River Province Principality
- Imperial Government of Norton II in Exile
- Democratic Environmental Society of Senya
- Democratic Monarchy of Whovania
- Republic of Ráshöanire
- Kingdom of Catan
- Great Empire of Kangcho
- Imperial State of Shinmyo
Constitutional monarchies with executive monarchs
- Empire of Austenasia
- Kingdom of Juclandia
- Archland Empire
- Kingdom of Lutherania
- Kingdom of Coleraine
- Kingdom of Edan
- Grand Duchy of Flandrensis
- Empire of New Europe
- Norse Kingdom of Vestrland
- Orinto Empire
- Federation of Zealandia
- Principality of Imvrassia
- United Kingdom of Bysalia
- Duchy of Súilnua
- Kingdom of Athonia