What Are Characteristics of a Monarchy?

Monarchy is a historical form of government that places most or all of the ruling power in the hands of a single individual. Monarchies such as those in medieval Europe operated on the principle of divine right, which posits that kings and queens derive their right to rule from a deity.

Two main types of monarchies exist: absolute monarchies and constitutional monarchies. Historical absolute monarchies focused more on divine right, which was passed down through inheritance, typically to the eldest son. Absolute monarchies often existed in countries that operated under the feudal system. This system placed the monarch above a group of landed barons who were expected to show fealty and provide the monarch with any and all resources requested from their respective provinces.

Constitutional monarchies, on the other hand, do not grant the monarch full power. Instead, the monarch must share power with a legislative body and operate within previously established parameters of law. The royal family of England is a modern-day example of a constitutional monarchy, although the royal family of the United Kingdom holds little to no political power. Decisions are made by Parliament’s House of Lords and House of Commons. Many monarchies as of 2015 are mostly ceremonial and cultural in nature.