The word Monarchy is derived from a Greek word ‘Monarchic’ meaning the Rule of one. It is a form of government in which a single person, for example, a king or a queen is the supreme or titular head of State. In this type of government, the office of the Head of State is hereditary. Succession to the office of King or Queen is hereditary, that is, passing from the King or Queen to the Prince or Princess.
In early history, as among primitive people, the monarchical form of government was virtually the only one known and practiced. A close look at the kingdoms of Benin, Oyo, Ashanti, etc., before the coming of Europeans will show that there was nothing like the election of a King or Queen.
Today, Monarchy exists in Western Nations where it has allied itself with democracy and liberalism, as in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In Liberal societies, Monarchy serves as a symbol of National unity and continuity. For instance, in Britain, monarchy represents the continuity of British tradition and serves as a focal point for the loyalties of British citizens.
In this type of Monarchy, the Monarch combines in his person, the supreme authority and power in legislation as well as in administration and adjudication. This type of Monarchy does not tolerate opposition. Among the most powerful and absolute monarchs of Europe were Henry VII and Henry VIII, Kings of England and Louis XIV of France who equated himself with the State.
In this type of Monarchy, the power of monarch is regulated by the will of the people, as contained in the constitution. He can promulgate only those laws which are agreed to by the elected parliament. In administration, the constitutional king is bound to accept the advice of Ministers who are chosen, and are responsible to the parliament. The monarch in this type of monarchy is only a ceremonial Head of State, and not Head of government.
For instance, the British Monarch is a constitutional Head of State and her primary functions are symbolic. The Government is conducted in the Queen’s name, but she does not take any decision. She simply reigns, but does not rule.
Advantages of Monarchy
Supporters of Monarchical system of government, even in contemporary times, argue that monarchy is by far the best or the most efficient form of government for the following reason:
1. Monarchy helps to harmonise different interests in the society. The greater the unity within the government itself, the greater the livelihood of achieving unity among the people.
2. Decisions of the government are taken without unnecessary delay.
3. Monarchy is a natural institutional obedience to a King. It is as natural as the obedience of a child to the parents.
4. Monarchy provides the most satisfactory government for those who cannot govern themselves and those who have not yet developed a high political consciousness for participating actively in the management of public affairs.
5. Monarchy is best adopted to deal with emergencies. For instance, the monarch need not consult others before deciding on the necessary actions.
6. The monarch cannot disagree with himself out of envy or interest, but an assembly may disagree to such an extent that they may produce a civil war.
Disadvantages of Monarchy
1. The demerits of monarchy primarily arise from the fact that ability, industry and good intentions are not hereditary.
2. It is the tragedy of all monarchies that they tend to degenerate so quickly to tyranny. Tyrannical system of government is the worst form of government.
3. A monarch may dislike opposition of fair criticism which is necessary for good government.
4. A monarchical government cannot work well in a country of diverse ethnic groups and different cultural traditions.