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In political science, a crowned republic is an informal term with two distinct meanings.


Historical use

Historically the term crowned republic refers to a nation that was nominally a republic, but whose head of state was de facto hereditary, or otherwise assumed the trappings of a monarchy. Examples include:

Although not usually thought of as a crowned republic, the Roman Empire, which succeeded the Roman Republic around 27 BC, was likewise nominally a republic—the res publica—and the Roman Emperor's status was merely that of primus inter pares, or first among equals. This legal fiction became increasingly meaningless as the emperors consolidated their power; however, it was maintained at least to a ceremonial degree until the very end of the Roman Empire; 476 in the Western Roman Empire. In the East the Emperor became known as King over Kings, Ruling over Rulers,[1] so it is not known how this fitted in.

The Byzantine Empire, centered on Constantinople, adopted or imitated most Roman institutions, including that of the Senate; however, though the Emperors were nominally raised to the purple by "the Senate, the Army, and the People of Constantinople", the Byzantine Senate was never a true partner in governance, and lost all of its effective power in the reign of Leo VI, though it continued as an institution to the end of the Empire.

Some meaningful traces of its republican origins remained to the Empire, however; the autocratic power was never imagined to be vested in a single family or bloodline, and even when the transmission of power occurred between members of a single family, it was not strictly hereditary. Byzantine dynasties thus tended to be short-lived, and violent transfers of power were not uncommon; legitimacy of rule came not from descent, but from the fact of possessing power.

Greece was declared a Crowned republic, according to the 1864 Constitution established by the Second National Assembly. This form of government lasted from 1864 to 1924 and from 1935 to 1973, when the military Junta abolished the monarchy. This abolishment was made permanent by the 1974 referendum and the 1975 Constitution.

In 1782, George Washington was offered the "American Crown", at a time in which other potential contenders were Charles Edward Stuart and also the Duke of York, or possibly a Prussian, given the Founding Fathers' interest in Friedrich the Great's soldier Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. Concurrently, the early coat of arms design which became the Great Seal of the United States, featured England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Holland and Germany and was to depict on the other side, the story of Hengist and Horsa landing in Britain.

Also, the Grand Union Flag continued to uphold British loyalist symbolism, but the crosses in the canton were replaced with stars, to increase the capacity for each one of the colonies-become-states to be visible, rather than representing England and Scotland, as that government did not believe in representation for the Americans. Needless to say, Washington outright refused to have anything to do with monarchy and even George III was impressed.[2]

There are few nations today that meet the criteria as historical crowned republics. Examples, however, may be those nominal republics where children succeed parents as presidents.

In North Korea, an isolationist socialist republic, Kim Il Sung was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il, effectively making this the only hereditary succession in the remnants of the Communist Bloc. Reportedly, Kim Jong-un, son of Kim Jon Il, is the designated successor.[3] It has also been suggested that Nikolai Lukashenko is being promoted as a potential successor to Alexander Lukashenko, the autocratic president of Belarus.[4] Many other nominal republics, such as Syria and Azerbaijan, have developed de-facto hereditary succession (i.e, the current ruler is the son of the previous ruler-see family dictatorship). Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak is widely believed to be positioning his son Gamal as heir apparent, although both officially deny it.

Modern use

In the modern era however, the term crowned republic sometimes refers to the opposite: rather than a nominal republic whose head of state takes on monarchical airs, it can refer to a nation that is a nominal monarchy but in which the people by their citizenship may be seen as ultimately holding power over the nation's affairs. This may apply to a constitutional monarchy where the sovereign personally exercises little political influence, whether vested with executive authority or not.

The term crowned republic is most often used in this context by supporters of the monarchy within the Commonwealth realms. The Commonwealth of Australia, for example, has been referred to as a crowned republic.[5][6] The novelist and essayist H.G.Wells used the term to describe the United Kingdom,[7] as did Alfred, Lord Tennyson in his poem Idylls of the King.[8]

See also




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