Hereditary monarchy

Hereditary monarchy

A hereditary monarchy is the most common style of monarchy and is the form that is used by almost all of the world's existing monarchies.

Under a hereditary monarchy, all the monarchs come from the same family, and the crown is passed down from one member to another member of the family. The hereditary system has the advantages of stability, continuity and predictability, as well as the internal stabilizing factors of family affection and loyalty.

For example, when the king or queen of a hereditary monarchy dies or abdicates, the crown is usually passed to the next generation, i.e, his or her child, typically in some order of seniority. When that child dies, the crown is in turn passed to his or her child, or, if no child exists, a sister, brother, niece, nephew, cousin, or other relative. Hereditary monarchies most usually arrange succession by a legislated, definite order of succession so that it is well-known beforehand who will be the next monarch. Nowadays, the typical order of succession in hereditary monarchies is based on some form of primogeniture, but there exist other methods such as seniority, tanistry and rotation, which were much more common in the past.

Historically, there have been differences in systems of succession, mainly revolving around the question of whether succession is limited only to males, or if females are also eligible to succeed. Agnatic succession refers to systems where females are neither allowed to succeed nor to transmit the succession rights to their male descendants (see Salic Law). An "agnate" is a kinsman with whom one has a common ancestor by descent in unbroken male line. Cognatic succession previously referred to any succession to the throne or other inheritance which allows both males and females to be heirs, although in modern usage it specifically refers to equal succession by seniority regardless of gender.

Elective monarchy can practically function as a hereditary monarchy, for example in case of eligibility being limited to members of one family (or even further, if allowed by the rules of precedence in the election). This has happened historically, usually slowly, in many past elective monarchies. One method was for the incumbent monarch to have his chosen heir (son, daughter, brother, sister, or other relative) elected during the lifetime of the incumbent, while he was still able to wield his influence to direct the election to the desired result.

Many late-medieval countries of Europe were officially elective monarchies, but the same family had held the throne already even centuries, and that hybrid situation should be described as pseudo-elective, virtually hereditary monarchies, the succession system being in slow transition. Most of those hybrid monarchies became officially hereditary in early modern age.

ee also

* List of hereditary monarchies
* Absolute monarchy
* Elective monarchy
* Heir apparent
* Heir presumptive
* Order of succession
* Royal family
* Inheritance
* Posthumous birth

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