Press "Enter" to skip to content

Fast Fact: Monarchies

A monarchy is a system of government where a monarch (a king or queen) is the “head of state” – the leader of the country. The monarch may not actually have much power, even though they are the head of state. Only in an “absolute monarchy” can the leader make the laws.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
(Source: Ricardo Stuckert/PR (Agência Brasil), via Wikimedia Commons.)

In a monarchy, the position of leader is usually passed down in a family. A son or daughter might become the monarch when the person who is king or queen dies. Sometimes a monarch can be elected.

Monarchs usually have special names, called titles. Some well known titles for monarchs are: King, Queen, Emperor, Empress, Czar, Kaiser, Shah, Emir and Sultan. In a few cases, the monarch is actually a Prince.

Netherland's King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, and their daughters.
Netherland’s King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, and their daughters.
The Netherlands has a constitutional monarchy.
(Soure: Floris Looijesteijn/Surtsicna , via Wikimedia Commons.)

Most monarchs today do not have much power. Many countries have a “constitutional monarchy”, where the monarch has a few special powers, but the job of making laws is left to the government. Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are examples of this system. Sometimes monarchs have no special powers, but they are an important part of the country’s history and culture. Japan is an example of a monarchy like this.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia, 2017
King Salman of Saudi Arabia, 2017
Saudi Arabia has an absolute monarchy.
(Source: Robinson Niñal, via Wikimedia Commons.)

When a monarch has the power to make laws, it is called an “absolute monarchy”. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and eSwatini (Swaziland) have absolute monarchies.



Most news on is appropriate for all ages. When there is news that may not be suitable for all ages, we try to tag it. You can use the setting below to control whether content tagged in this manner is shown.