New challenges for European Monarchies

Europe, the old continent, has traditionally been the cradle of Kings and Queens. Monarchic regimes have taken place in democratic political systems, which are the ones that survive today, in opposition to the absolute monarchic regimes, generally supported by an army and big businesses, that are now abolished in the european region. The debate of the legitimacy of monarchies is back on track in these days due to the recent abdication of the King of Spain in his son, Felipe de Borbón and Prince of Asturias

Since the authoritarian Kingdoms of the Middle Ages, monarchies have suffered big changes until nowadays. We could say that, over the years, Kings and Queens have been progressively losing power in favor of other institutions, such as the Church in the past or in the present, to the Parliaments. We could say that the figure of a Monarch in our times is better related to a neutral figure whose main aim is to represent the country outside its frontiers and that must help to create and improve political dialogue.


European Current Monarchies


Nowadays, there are only 10 monarchies left in Europe, as shown in the map in the   left.

Countries in red are the ones in which monarchies still exist. The blue ones represent countries in which a republic is the established regime.

Spain, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Low Lands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco and Liechtenstein are the only monarchies that have survived the many changes that have taken place over time. The Vatican is an elective and theocratic monarchy; Andorra is a Principality with two Co-Princes elected by two independent ways: one is the President of the French Republic and the other is the Bishop of Seo d’Urgel.

As we can see, Europe is far from what it used to be long time ago, when tens and tens of monarchies were spread through the whole continent and even the world (the case of the Kingdom of Castile and Aragon), which have been progressively disappearing whether in a pacific or violent way, mainly since the XIX century when the French Republic lived a period of peak that caused that other states changed from a monarchy to a republic following its example.

These changes have been normally caused by social movements that questioned the legitimacy of the Royal Families and their stay in the throne. This is exactly what is happening now in Spain where a big debate is open about the continuation of the Monarchy in the country. Although the King, Juan Carlos I and his son, Felipe de Borbón, are quite loved in Spain, many people express their opponency that the Prince become the new King of Spain, Felipe VI.

Many critics have been spilled over the figure of Juan Carlos I and in general, over the whole Royal Family of Spain, due to different recent facts that have damaged the public opinion of the Crown. Also, many experts defend that what is being seen now in Spain is not an isolated case but something that could challenge other monarchies in Europe in the next years. The main reason is the wealthy image of the Royal Families in a time of Austerity, which really contrasts the image of the majority of the citizens during the crisis.

The fact of giving or passing the throne to a younger heir, is the reason why not only the Spanish King, but also other Monarchs have recently abdicated, willing to get support and improve the image of the Monarchy. Some examples of this are: the Queen Beatrix of the Netherlads, who in 2013 abdicated in favor of his son, Willem-Alexander; Albert II of Belgium, who gave the Crown to his son Phillipe. Sweden could become the next country to live an abdication due to the recent unpopular image of the King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Though incentivating the image through integrating a new generation may be only a temporary solution, monarchies must try to do must more to recover the confidence and the support of the people.

An issue that have been debated a lot in relation to one regime or another (Monarchy or Republic) are the differences between them in terms of costs, constitutionality and some others.The main differences between them are summarized in the next chart:





It’s been shown that the costs of a Republic are considerably higher that those of the Monarchy

Though a Republic is a constitutionally legitimated figure, in Spain is not reflected in the national Constitution so it is not possible if a modification does not occur
Democratic election

Monarchies are not democratically elected, but is a matter of heritage, in opposition to a Republic where the Chief of State is democratically elected.

In the case of a Monarchy the reign is for life; in the case of a Republic the President must be re-elected every few years.

As you can see, advantages and disadvantages are even for Monarchy or Republic, is just a matter of tastes, choices or, better said, of the situation of the country in general.


It is true that Monarchies respond to tradition and stability over the changes of political parties in the government, the question is if the people should be asked due to the fact that all these monarchies are democratic, or the legitimacy resides only in law? It is difficult to know or to predict what would be the results in case of a popular Referendum but the truth is that if the law shows a contradiction between what the people say and what must be done, what way should the country follow? Does the continuation of a Monarchy jeopardize democracy? What has been proved is that a Monarch is a figure that unifies the country and that represents a neutral institution that must work in favor of the people of the country. That is what Monarchies should take into account and never forget as well as Republics, because many scandals have also taken place in countries with a Republican Regime, so at the end, what is the difference between them? In our opinion both regimes are possible, there is no difference, but what is true is that there must be only one way for both, work for the country and the people.



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