The term monarchy refers to the institution of having a monarch in a country such as a king or queen who operates separately from the government or alongside them. Monarchs are those people who have inherited a form of power through their blood line rather than being elected, and who hold this position of importance until they choose to abdicate. However in most cases today they do not wield any real power and are rather ‘constitutional’ monarchs serving a different purpose. European monarchies are of course such institutions in European countries, where the tradition is still relatively popular.
There are twelve monarchies in Europe at the time of writing. These are situated in: Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the Vatican City. The amount of power wielded by these European monarchies however varies greatly between these countries along with the way they operate.
For instance in the UK which is one of the most famous examples of European monarchies the King or Queen has relatively little power and is often seen more as a tradition or as a tourist attraction. However this was not always the case and in the past these European monarchies held absolute power. A trip to somewhere like Westminster Abbey where you can see the tombs of many old monarchs and learn there stories tells you just what a rich history many of them have.
This kind of monarch who does not influence the politics of that country is called an ‘institutional monarch’. However in many cases these European monarchies maintain the power to dissolve parliament in a crisis. In this way they are seen as a tool for democracy as it can prevent theoretically a totalitarian situation such as Nazi Germany.
Meanwhile in the Vatican City the Pope is the monarch in this instance. Unlike many other European monarchies however their influence on politics is great and on top of this that power extends beyond their own country and to Catholics all across the world. Meanwhile the Pope is unique from European monarchies in that he is elected (by the papal conclave) rather than inheriting the position through their bloodline. This is called a ‘theocratic absolute monarchy’.
In Liechtenstein there are also differences from conventional European monarchies and the Prince has a far more active role in the local politics. There he is considered a ‘semi’ constitutional monarch.
European monarchies are a point of controversy in some countries as they are not elected officials and so can be considered less democratic than a republican state. Likewise the presence of the European monarchies costs the local citizens in taxes, and whether this is recouped through tourism and their actions as ambassadors for their countries is uncertain.