When we think of monarchy, we usually imagine a lavish medieval castle inside which a pretentious king and queen resting on a throne and barking out orders all day reside. Nevertheless, this portrayal of royal life and duties is quite different from the present-day reality of a monarch’s life.
Today, only a few monarchies survive, and most of them are constitutional or parliamentary monarchies. What does this mean? In short, that the king reigns but does not rule. His prerogatives are limited, and he must abide by law and parliament. The king is both a symbol and an advisor. His duties are confined to diplomatic missions and executive counselling.
But why do these monarchies still survive? What are the pros and cons of monarchy?
The monarch is the best advisor an administration can get
This is obviously an advantage of the monarchy. Nobody knows the country as well as its king does. While administrations come and go, a king will occupy his function for at least a few decades. The current queen of Great Britain, Elizabeth the Second has been ruling since 1952 and has been the trusty advisor of many prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.
She has lived through the Second World War, has watched her country go through a recession, the Cold War and the loss of a few colonies. She has witnessed great shifts in mentality and public opinion. Thus, it comes as no surprise that she can not only pinpoint a cause to most developing crises, but is also wont to find a solution.
Foreign policy is easier with a monarch around
The reign of a monarch is longer and steadier than the rule of a president or prime-minister. This facilitates maintaining long-term diplomatic relations with other states. A monarch’s policy is constant and, as their reign advances, they learn to negotiate terms and sway the odds in their favor. Additionally, most monarchs are also related to royalty from other states so, naturally, diplomatic ties between their countries will thrive in the long-term and will be easier to maintain.
Monarchy can turn autocratic if not held in check
This is a big con of monarchy. During dark times, policies can escalate very quickly and growing political turmoil can open the door to an autocratic rule. This is precisely what happened in many European countries in the wake of the Second World War. The recession sent a lot of newborn democracies into political instability. Many monarchs saw the growing breaches in the struggling administration as opportunities to expand their own rule, thus slowly taking over and becoming the sole administrative body in the country.
The human factor
Many people forget that the sovereign is also human and that he is thus prone to illness, susceptible to heartbreaks, scandals and human emotions. He is bound to make mistakes and set his foot in from time to time. The problem is that he is not expected to do so. People rely on the monarch, and rightfully so, to be an example, a superhuman figure to stir them in the right direction.
This is why, when a royal scandal surfaces, people lose faith in their sovereign. The face of propriety and strong morals can fall from grace in a matter of hours, and earning back their people’s trust can prove a big challenge, sometimes an impossible one.
Want to learn more about monarchy? Check out this article!