Monarchies in the European Union

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Politics and government

The crown of Christian IV, part of the Danish Crown Regalia.
The crown of Christian IV, part of the Danish Crown Regalia.

While most of the states in the world, and in Europe, are republics (have a directly or indirectly elected head of state), there are still seven monarchies in the European Union, whose head of state (a monarch) inherits his or her office, and usually keeps it for life or until they abdicate.

At the dawn of the 20th century, France was the only republic among the future member states of the European Union; the ascent of republicanism to the political mainstream only started at the beginning of the 20th century.

The European Union's monarchies are:

All seven monarchies in the European Union are constitutional monarchies, which means that the monarch does not influence the politics of the state: either the monarch is legally prohibited from doing so, or the monarch does not utilise the political powers vested in the office by convention. There is currently no major campaign to abolish the monarchy (see monarchism and republicanism) in any of the remaining seven states, although there is a significant minority of republicans in all of them.

Current monarchies

 ██ monarchy ██ republic
██ monarchy ██  republic

Belgium has been a kingdom since 21 July 1831 without interruption, after it became independent from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands with Léopold I as its first king. Belgium is the only remaining popular monarchy in the European Union: The monarch is formally known as the "King of the Belgians", not the "King of Belgium". While in a referendum held on 12 March 1950, 57.68 per cent of the Belgians voted in favour of allowing Léopold III, whose conduct during World War II had been considered questionable and who had been accused of treason, to return to the throne; due to civil unrest, however, he opted to abdicate in favour of his son Baudouin I on 16 July 1951. The current monarch is Albert II.

In Denmark, the monarchy goes back to the prehistoric times of the legendary kings, before the 10th century. Currently, about 80 per cent support keeping the monarchy. The current monarch is Margrethe II. The Danish monarchy also includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland which are parts of the Kingdom of Denmark with internal home rule. Due to this status, the monarch has no separate title for these regions.

Luxembourg has been an independent grand duchy since 9 June 1815. Originally, Luxembourg was in personal union with the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 16 March 1815 until 23 November 1890. While Wilhelmina succeeded Willem III in the Netherlands, this was not possible in Luxembourg due to the order of succession being based on Salic law at that time; he was succeeded instead by Adolphe. In a referendum held on 28 September 1919, 79.83 per cent voted in favour of keeping the monarchy. The current monarch is Henri.

The Netherlands originally became independent as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, which lasted from 26 July 1581 until 18 January 1795, when the Netherlands became a French puppet state as the Batavian Republic. The Batavian Republic existed from 19 January 1795 until 4 June 1806. It was transformed into the Kingdom of Holland on 5 June 1806; since then, the Netherlands have been a kingdom. They were subsequently annexed to the French Empire in 1810. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands was established on 16 March 1815. With the independence of Belgium on 21 July 1831, the Netherlands again took a new form, as the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Nowadays, about 80 per cent of the Dutch are in favour of keeping the monarchy. The current monarch is Beatrix.

Spain came into existence as a single, united kingdom under Carlos Ⅰ on 23 January 1516. The monarchy was briefly interrupted by the First Spanish Republic from 11 February 1873 until 29 December 1874. The monarchy was abolished again on 14 April 1931, first by the Second Spanish Republic — which lasted until 1 April 1939 — and subsequently by the dictatorship of Generalísimo Francisco Franco, who reigned until his death on 20 November 1975. Monarchy was restored on 22 November 1975 under Juan Carlos I, who is also the current monarch. Today, there is a large number of organisations campaigning in favour of establishing a Third Spanish Republic; however, only 25 per cent of Spaniards are in favour of establishing a republic.

The monarchy of Sweden goes back as far as the Danish one, to the semi–legendary kings before the 10th century, since when it has not been interrupted up to today. Nonetheless, it is not considered impossible that monarchy could be abolished in Sweden. The current monarch is Carl XVI Gustaf.

The Queen's Royal Standard in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Queen's Royal Standard in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Monarchy can be defined to have started in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland either with the Kingdoms of England (871) or Scotland (843), with the Union of the Crowns on 24 March 1603, or with the Acts of Union of 1 May 1707. It was briefly interrupted by the English Interregnum, with the Commonwealth of England existing in its stead from 30 January 1649 until 15 December 1653 and from 26 May 1659 until 25 May 1660 and The Protectorate taking its place from 16 December 1653 until 25 May 1659. The current monarch is Elizabeth II.

Support for establishing a republic instead of a monarchy is around 20 per cent in the United Kingdom. While a majority thinks that there will still be monarchy in the United Kingdom ten years from now, public opinion is rather uncertain about a monarchy still existing in fifty years' time, and a clear majority believes that there won't be a monarchy in a hundred years. The monarch of the United Kingdom is also the monarch of the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms, all of which have varying levels of support for republicanism, most notably in:

  • Australia: A referendum was held on the issue on 6 November 1999, which mostly failed due to the way the president would have been chosen under the provisions proposed. While current Prime Minister John Howard is a monarchist, both Treasurer Peter Costello (who is likely to succeed Howard as leader of the Liberal Party) and Kim Beazley (the leader of the opposition Labor Party) are republicans, so it is likely that another attempt at establishing a republic will be made once Howard is replaced as prime minister.
  • Barbados: Prime Minister Owen Arthur called for a referendum on the issue to be held in 2005; the referendum has since been pushed back to 2006 in order to speed up Barbados' integration into the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
  • Jamaica: (Now former) Prime Minister P. J. Patterson in 2003 called for Jamaica to become a republic by the end of his term in 2007; he has since been replaced by Portia Simpson–Miller.
  • Tuvalu: Then– Prime Minister Saufatu Sopoanga (who is now deputy prime minister) had stated in 2004 that he was in favour of replacing the Queen as Tuvalu's head of state; he also stated that public opinion would be evaluated first before taking any further moves, however, no action has been taken since then.
  • Canada and New Zealand, where the debate on republicanism is currently a secondary issue.

Succession laws

 ██ equal primogeniture ██ male primogeniture, to be changed to equal primogeniture ██ male primogeniture ██ agnatic primogeniture
██  equal primogeniture ██  male primogeniture, to be changed to equal primogeniture ██ male primogeniture ██  agnatic primogeniture

The succession order is determined by primogeniture in the European Union's monarchies. Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden adhere to equal primogeniture, whereby the eldest child inherits the throne, regardless of gender; Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom still have the older system of male primogeniture, whereby sons have precedence over daughters in the order of succession. There are plans to change this in Denmark and Spain through rather complicated processes, as the change entails constitutional amendments.

In Denmark, the parliament elected in 2005 has already passed the law. After the next election, which has to take place by 2009, the next parliament will have to pass the law again, whereafter it has to be confirmed in a referendum in which at least 40 per cent of all potential voters will have to support the change for it to take place. Likewise, in Spain two successive parliaments will have to pass the law by a two-thirds majority and then put it to a referendum. As parliament has to be dissolved and new elections have to be called after the constitutional amendment is passed for the first time, the current Presidente del Gobierno José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has indicated he will wait until the end of his current term in 2008 before passing the law. The amendment enjoys strong public support.

There have also been suggestions to change the order of succession in the United Kingdom; however, as the Queen of the United Kingdom is also the Queen of the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms who have independent regulations regarding the order of succession, a change would have to be made simultaneously in all of the Commonwealth Realms to continue the current personal union, and since the need for change is not imminent yet (as Charles will succeed his mother Elizabeth II, and Charles' oldest son William will succeed him in turn, with no older sisters who would be skipped under the current male primogeniture laws), the change has been postponed to a later time.

Luxembourg has an even older system of succession (agnatic primogeniture), which completely excludes women from the order of succession unless there are no male heirs of any kind present.

Table of monarchies in Europe

State Type Succession Incumbent Born Age Reigns since Successor
Flag of Andorra Andorra co-principality special case:
two co-princes
J. E. Vives i Sicília
( Bishop of Urgell)
24 Jul  1949 57 y. 12 May  2003 to be appointed by the pope
Jacques Chirac
( President of France)
29 Nov  1932 73 y. 17 May  1995 to be elected in 2007
Flag of Belgium Belgium kingdom equal primogeniture Albert II 6 Jun  1934 72 y. 9 Aug  1993 Philippe (I)
Flag of Denmark Denmark kingdom male primogeniture
(equal primog. planned)
Margrethe II 16 Apr  1940 66 y. 14 Jan  1972 Frederik (X)
Flag of Liechtenstein Liechtenstein principality agnatic primogeniture Hans-Adam II 14 Feb  1945 61 y. 13 Nov  1989 Alois (III)
Flag of Luxembourg Luxembourg grand duchy agnatic primogeniture Henri I 16 Apr  1955 51 y. 7 Oct  2000 Guillaume (V)
Flag of Monaco Monaco principality male primogeniture Albert II 14 Mar  1958 48 y. 6 Apr  2005 Caroline (I) (sister)
Flag of Netherlands Netherlands kingdom equal primogeniture Beatrix I 31 Jan  1938 68 y. 30 Apr  1980 Willem-Alexander (I)
Flag of Norway Norway kingdom equal primogeniture Harald V 21 Feb  1937 69 y. 17 Jan  1991 Haakon (VIII)
Flag of Spain Spain kingdom male primogeniture
(equal primog. planned)
Juan Carlos I 5 Jan  1938 68 y. 22 Nov  1975 Felipe (VI)
Flag of Sweden Sweden kingdom equal primogeniture Carl XVI Gustaf 30 Apr  1946 60 y. 15 Sep  1973 Victoria (I)
Flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom kingdom male primogeniture
(equal primog. considered)
Elizabeth II 21 Apr  1926 80 y. 6 Feb  1952 Charles (III)
Flag of Vatican City Vatican City theocracy elective monarchy Benedictus XVI 16 Apr  1927 79 y. 19 Apr  2005 to be elected in Papal conclave
I  Caroline is, as the ruling prince's eldest sister, the current Heiress Presumptive and therefore, following Monegasque tradition, also Heiress Apparent; should Albert II father legitimate children, however, they would be first in line to succeed him instead of Caroline.

II  The monarch of the United Kingdom is also the sovereign of the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms: Flag of Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda, Flag of The Bahamas The Bahamas, Flag of Barbados Barbados, Flag of Grenada Grenada, Flag of Jamaica Jamaica, Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis, Flag of Saint Lucia Saint Lucia and Flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean; Flag of Belize Belize in Central America; Flag of Canada Canada in North America; and Flag of Australia Australia, Flag of New Zealand New Zealand, Flag of Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea, Flag of Solomon Islands Solomon Islands and Flag of Tuvalu Tuvalu in Oceania.

III  While Charles would be the third kind of his name to sit on the British throne, it has also been suggested that he will choose George VII as his regnal name instead in light of the unpopularity of Charles I and Charles II.

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