Absolute monarchy

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Absolute monarch

Absolute monarchy[1][2] is a form of monarchy in which the monarch rules in their own right or power. In an absolute monarchy, the king or queen is by no means limited and has absolute power, though a limited constitution may exist in some countries.[3] These are often hereditary monarchies. On the other hand, in constitutional monarchies, in which the authority of the head of state is also bound or restricted by the constitution, a legislature, or unwritten customs, the king or queen is not the only one to decide, and their entourage also exercises power, mainly the prime minister.[3]

Absolute monarchy originally emerged in Europe after the social upheaval of the

English Civil Wars (1642–51) and his execution. Absolutism declined substantially, first following the French Revolution, and later after World War I, both of which led to the popularization of theories of government based on the notion of popular sovereignty. It did however provide a foundation for the newer political theories and movements that emerged to oppose liberal-democracy, such as Legitimism and Carlism in the early 19th Century, or "integral nationalism
" in the early 20th century.

Absolute monarchies include Brunei, Eswatini,[4] Oman,[5] Saudi Arabia,[6] Vatican City,[7] and the individual emirates composing the United Arab Emirates, which itself is a federation of such monarchies – a federal monarchy.[8][9]

Historical examples of absolute monarchies

V-Dem Democracy indices.

Outside Europe

In the

were absolute monarchs as well.


Joseon dynasty[10] and short-lived empire
was also an absolute monarchy.


Throughout much of European history, the divine right of kings was the theological justification for absolute monarchy. Many European monarchs claimed supreme autocratic power by divine right, and that their subjects had no rights to limit their power.

Throughout the Age of Enlightenment, the concept of the divine right to power and democratic ideals were given serious merit.


European history. By the 19th century, divine right was regarded as an obsolete theory in most countries in the Western world, except in Russia where it was still given credence as the official justification for the Tsar's power until February Revolution in 1917 and in the Vatican City
where it remains today.

Kingdoms of England and Scotland

Covenanters and the Bishops' Wars, then fears that Charles I was attempting to establish absolutist government along European lines was a major cause of the English Civil War, despite the fact that he did rule this way for 11 years starting in 1629, after dissolving the Parliament of England for a time.[12]


Absolutism was underpinned by a written constitution for the first time in Europe in 1665 Kongeloven, '

Council of the Realm in Denmark. Absolute monarchy lasted until 1814 in Norway, and 1848 in Denmark




Louis XIV of France (1638–1715) is often said to have proclaimed L'état, c'est moi!, 'I am the State!'.[15] Although often criticized for his extravagances, such as the Palace of Versailles, he reigned over France for a long period, some historians consider him an absolute monarch, while some other historians[who?] have questioned whether Louis' reign should be considered 'absolute', given the reality of the balance of power between the monarch and the nobility, as well as parliaments.[16][need quotation to verify

The king of France concentrated legislative, executive, and judicial powers in his person. He was the supreme judicial authority. He could condemn people to death without the right of appeal. It was both his duty to punish offenses and stop them from being committed. From his judicial authority followed his power both to make laws and to annul them.[17]




Frederick William enjoyed support from the nobles, who enabled the Great Elector to undermine the Diet of Brandenburg and other representative assemblies. The leading families saw their future in cooperation with the central government and worked to establish absolutist power.

The most significant indicator of the nobles' success was the establishment of two tax rates – one for the cities and the other for the countryside – to the great advantage of the latter, which the nobles ruled. The nobles served in the upper levels of the elector's army and bureaucracy, but they also won new prosperity for themselves. The support of the Elector enabled the imposition of serfdom and the consolidation of land holdings into vast estates which provided for their wealth.

They became known as Junkers (from the German for young lord, junger Herr). Frederick William faced resistance from representative assemblies and long-independent cities in his realm. City leaders often revolted at the imposition of Electorate authority. The last notable effort was the uprising of the city of Königsberg which allied with the Estates General of Prussia to refuse to pay taxes. Frederick William crushed this revolt in 1662, by marching into the city with thousands of troops. A similar approach was used with the towns of Cleves.[18]


Until 1905, the

its first constitution
in 1876).


The form of government instituted in

Great Reduction
which would have been made impossible by the privy council which comprised the high nobility.

After the death of Charles XII in 1718, the system of absolute rule was largely blamed for the ruination of the realm in the

Gustav IV Adolf was deposed in a coup and the constitution of 1809
was put in its place. The years between 1789 and 1809, then, are also referred to as a period of absolute monarchy.

Contemporary trends

Many nations formerly with absolute monarchies, such as Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco, have moved towards constitutional monarchy. However, in these cases the monarch still retains tremendous power, even to the extent that by some measures, parliament's influence on political life is viewed as negligible.[a][20][21]

In Bhutan, the government moved from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy following planned parliamentary elections to the Tshogdu in 2003, and the election of a National Assembly in 2008.

Nepal had several swings between constitutional rule and direct rule related to the Nepalese Civil War, the Maoist insurgency, and the 2001 Nepalese royal massacre, with the Nepalese monarchy being abolished on 28 May 2008.[22]


king had majority control of the Legislative Assembly until 2010.[23]

Prince of Liechtenstein was given expanded powers after a referendum amending the Constitution of Liechtenstein in 2003, which led the BBC to describe the prince as an "absolute monarch again".[24]

Current absolute monarchies

  Denotes subnational monarchy
Realm Image Monarch Born Age Reign Since Reign Length Succession Ref(s)
 Nation of Brunei, Abode of Peace
Hassanal Bolkiah, October 2021.jpg
(1946-07-15)15 July 1946 76 years, 323 days 4 October 1967 55 years, 242 days Hereditary [25]
 Emirate of Sharjah
London Book Fair Simon Master Chairman's Award - son Altesse Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, winner 2017 - London Book Fair 2017 (cropped).jpg
Ruler Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi (1939-07-02)2 July 1939 83 years, 336 days 25 January 1972 51 years, 129 days Hereditary [26]
 Emirate of Fujairah Ruler Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi (1949-02-22)22 February 1949 74 years, 101 days 18 September 1974 47–48 years Hereditary [26]
 Emirate of Ajman Ruler Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi III 1931 (1931) 91–92 years 6 September 1981 41 years, 270 days Hereditary [26]
 Kingdom of Eswatini
King Mswati III 2014.jpg
Ngwenyama Mswati III (1968-04-19)19 April 1968 55 years, 45 days 25 April 1986 37 years, 39 days Hereditary and elective [27]
 Emirate of Dubai
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (15-02-2021).jpg
Ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (1949-07-15)15 July 1949 73 years, 323 days 4 January 2006 17 years, 150 days Hereditary [26]
 Emirate of Umm al-Quwain Ruler Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla (1952-10-01)1 October 1952 70 years, 245 days 2 January 2009 14 years, 152 days Hereditary [26]
 Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah
Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi.jpg
Ruler Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi (1956-02-10)10 February 1956 67 years, 113 days 27 October 2010 12 years, 219 days Hereditary [26]
  Vatican City State
Pope Francis Korea Haemi Castle 19.jpg
Supreme Pontiff Francis (1936-12-17)17 December 1936 86 years, 168 days 13 March 2013 10 years, 82 days Elective [28]
 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Salman of Saudi Arabia - 2020 (49563590728) (cropped).jpg
King Salman bin Abdul‘aziz (1935-12-31)31 December 1935 87 years, 154 days 23 January 2015 8 years, 131 days Hereditary and elective [29]
 Sultanate of Oman
Secretary Pompeo Meets with the Sultan of Oman Haitham bin Tariq Al Said (49565463757) (cropped).jpg
Haitham bin Tariq Al Said
(1954-10-11)11 October 1954 68 years, 235 days 11 January 2020 3 years, 143 days Hereditary [30][31]
 Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan 2022.jpg
Ruler Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (1961-03-11)11 March 1961 62 years, 84 days 13 May 2022 1 year, 21 days Hereditary [26]

Saudi Arabia