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A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected. These exceptions make it difficult to define "monarchy" precisely; the most objective and comprehensive (albeit circular) definition would seem to be that a monarchy is a government that calls itself a monarchy. The monarch often bears the title king or queen. However, emperors/empresses, grand dukes/grand duchesses, princes/princesses and other ranks, are or have been used to designate monarchs. As explained below, the word monarch means 'single ruler', but cultural and historical considerations would appear to exclude presidents and other heads of state. Historically, the notion of monarchy may emerge under different circumstances

It may grow out of tribal kingship, and royal priesthood and the office of monarch (kings) becoming typically hereditary, resulting in successive dynasties or "houses", especially when the leader is wise and able enough to lead. It may also be a consequent emergence after an act of violence is committed upon local communities by an invading group, which usurps the communities' rights over traditions. The leader of the usurping group often establishes himself as a monarch. A state of monarchy is said to result that reveals the relationships between resources, communities, monarch and his office. Even in antiquity, the strict hereditary succession could be tempered by systems of elective monarchy, where an assembly elects a new monarch out of a pool of eligible candidates. This concept has also been modernized, and constitutional monarchies where the title of monarch remains mostly ceremonial, without, or with very limited political power.

Currently, 44 sovereign nations in the world have monarchs acting as heads of state, 16 of which are Commonwealth realms that recognize Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state. The historical form of absolute monarchy is retained only in Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, and Vatican City.
Commonwealth realms. These are: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The sixteen Commonwealth realms all share Queen Elizabeth II as monarch in a personal union arrangement. They all share a common British inheritance and have evolved out of the British Empire into membership of the Commonwealth of Nations as fully independent states where they retain Queen Elizabeth as head of state, unlike other members of the Commonwealth, which are either dependencies, republics, or have a different royal house. All sixteen realms are constitutional monarchies and full democracies where the queen has limited powers or a largely ceremonial role. The queen is head of the established Protestant Christian Church of England and Church of Scotland in the United Kingdom, but the other monarchies do not have an established church.  


European Constitutional Monarchies. These are: Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. These are all constitutional monarchies and fully democratic states, where the monarch has a limited or largely ceremonial role. There is generally a Christian religion established as the official church in each of these countries. This would be a form of Protestantism in Norway, Sweden, Denmark , UK and the Netherlands, while Belgium, Luxembourg, Andorra, Spain, Liechtenstein and Monaco are Roman Catholic countries. The monarch of the United Kingdom is also the head of state in all the Commonwealth Realms. 

Carl XVI Gustaf - King of Sweden
Queen Elizabeth II of England

European Constitutional/Absolute. Monarchies These are: Liechtenstein and Monaco, in both of these counties the Prince retains close to the powers of an absolute monarch but still is a constitutional monarch. For example the 2003 Constitution referendum which gives the Prince of Liechtenstein the power to veto any law that the Landtag proposes and the Landtag can veto any law that the Prince tries to pass. The Prince can hire or dismiss any elective member or government employee from his or her post. However what makes him not an absolute monarchy is that the people can call for a referendum to end the monarchy's reign. The Prince of Monaco has simpler powers but can not hire or dismiss any elective member or government employee from his or her post, but he can elect the minister of state, government council and judges. Both Albert II and Hans-Adam II have quite a bit of political power, but they also own huge tracts of land and are shareholders in many companies.

Prince Hans-Adam of Liechtenstein

Prince Albert of Monaco

Islamic Monarchies. These are: Bahrain, Brunei, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates. Islamic monarchs generally retain far more powers than their European or Commonwealth counterparts. Brunei, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia remain absolute monarchies. Bahrain, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates are classified as mixed, meaning there are representative bodies of some kind, but the monarch retains most of his powers. Jordan, Malaysia and Morocco are constitutional monarchies, but their monarchs still retain more substantial powers than European equivalents. For convenience, Malaysia is grouped here with the Islamic monarchies, even though it could also qualify as an East Asian constitutional monarchy.
King Abdullah of Jordan
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Ruler of Dubai

East Asian Constitutional Monarchies. These are Bhutan, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand. These are constitutional monarchies where the monarch has a limited or ceremonial role. Bhutan, Japan, and Thailand are countries that were never colonized by European powers, but have changed from traditional absolute monarchies into constitutional ones during the twentieth century. Cambodia had its own monarchy after independence from France, which was deposed after the Khmer Rouge came into power and the subsequent invasion by Vietnam. The monarchy was subsequently restored in the peace agreement of 1993. Shintoism is the established religion in Japan, while Bhutan, Cambodia and Thailand are all Buddhist countries. However, most Japanese people practice Buddhism and Shinto simultaneously.

Akihito - Emperor of Japan
King Adulyajed of Thailand
Other monarchies. These are Tonga in the Pacific; Swaziland and Lesotho in Africa, and the Vatican City in Europe. Lesotho and Tonga are constitutional monarchies. Swaziland and Vatican City are absolute monarchies. They are all Christian countries, and the Pope, who is the monarch of the Vatican is also the head of the Roman Catholic religion
Pope Benedict XVI 

King Mswati of Swaziland

King Letslie of Lesotho

King of Tonga