Elective monarchy
An elective monarchy is a monarchy
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...

 ruled by an elected
An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...

 rather than hereditary monarch. The manner of election, the nature of the candidacy and the electors vary from case to case. Historically it is not uncommon, however, for elective monarchies to transform into hereditary ones after some centuries.

Evolution of elective monarchies

Arguably the world's oldest method to determine succession was for a military leader to ascend to power through some sort of election. As the kingdoms grew larger and the societies became less egalitarian, the right to vote was restricted to an ever smaller portion of the population (for example local chieftains and/or the nobility).

Many, if not most, kingdoms were officially elective historically, though the candidates were typically only from the family of the deceased monarch. Eventually, however, most elected monarchies introduced hereditary succession, guaranteeing that the title and office stayed within the royal family and specifying, more or less precisely, the order of succession. Hereditary systems probably came into being in order to ensure greater stability and continuity, since the election and the period of interregnum
An interregnum is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order...

 associated with it had often been an opportunity for several ambitious and powerful candidates to "try their chances" in the struggle for the throne, frequently resorting to violent means. In fact, the problem of interregna is typical for monarchy in general, and has only been ameliorated (with a varying degree of success) by the new principle of succession.

Today, almost all monarchies are hereditary monarchies in which the monarchs come from one royal family with the office of sovereign
A sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority within its jurisdiction.Sovereign may also refer to:*Monarch, the sovereign of a monarchy*Sovereign Bank, banking institution in the United States*Sovereign...

 being passed from one family member to another upon the death or abdication
Abdication occurs when a monarch, such as a king or emperor, renounces his office.-Terminology:The word abdication comes derives from the Latin abdicatio. meaning to disown or renounce...

 of the incumbent.

Female rulers have almost never succeeded in an elective monarchy, while hereditary monarchy seems to have given females more opportunities.

Historical examples

In the ancient Kingdom of Rome, the kings were elected by the Assemblies
Roman assemblies
The Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Republic were political institutions in the ancient Roman Republic. According to the contemporary historian Polybius, it was the people who had the final say regarding the election of magistrates, the enactment of new statutes, the carrying out of capital...

. Once the Roman kings were overthrown, there remained an absolute prohibition for royal establishment in the Roman constitution, a prohibition which formally remained in place during imperial times, both Roman and Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...

, although in practice the empire was an absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

. Therefore the office of Roman and Byzantine emperor remained vaguely elective (albeit with the election procedure never strictly defined, but generally understood to be a matter for the Senate) and heredity never was, and could never be, formally established in law. In order to bypass this prohibition and ensure dynastic continuity, many reigning Byzantine emperors had their heirs crowned co-emperor so that the throne could not be considered vacant at their own death and thus the need for succession by election would not arise.

The ancient Korean kingdom of Silla
Silla was one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and one of the longest sustained dynasties in...

 elected its first king by a conference of tribal and village elders in 57 BC; later, the monarchy of Silla became hereditary in nature.

The Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 is perhaps the best-known example of a elective monarchy (although it eventually became unofficially hereditary); after the 15th century, the emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 was elected by a small council of nobles called prince-elector
The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire were the members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire, having the function of electing the Roman king or, from the middle of the 16th century onwards, directly the Holy Roman Emperor.The heir-apparent to a prince-elector was known as an...

s from within the Hapsburg family. Most of the electoral seats were hereditary (some were held by clerics, so-called archbishop-electors). Archbishop-electors and other prince-(arch)bishops were bishops, who were usually elected by the cathedral chapters as religious leaders, but simultaneously ruled as monarch (prince) a territory of imperial immediacy, which usually comprised a part of their diocesan territory. Thus the prince-bishoprics were elective monarchies too. The same holds true for prince-abbeys, whose prince-abbesses or prince-abbot
A Prince-Abbot is a title for a cleric who is a Prince of the Church , in the sense of an ex officio temporal lord of a feudal entity, notably a State of the Holy Roman Empire. The secular territory ruled by the head of an abbey is known as Prince-Abbacy or Abbey-principality...

s were elected by a college
College (canon law)
A college, in the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, is a collection of persons united together for a common object so as to form one body. The members are consequently said to be incorporated, or to form a corporation.-History:...

s of clerics and imperially appointed as princely rulers in a pertaining territory.

A system of elective monarchy existed in Anglo-Saxon England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 (see Witenagemot
The Witenagemot , also known as the Witan was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century.The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was...

), the Kingdom of Hawaii
Kingdom of Hawaii
The Kingdom of Hawaii was established during the years 1795 to 1810 with the subjugation of the smaller independent chiefdoms of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lānai, Kauai and Niihau by the chiefdom of Hawaii into one unified government...

, Visigothic Spain, and medieval Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 and in the Principality of Transylvania. Medieval France was an elective monarchy at the time of the first Capet
House of Capet
The House of Capet, or The Direct Capetian Dynasty, , also called The House of France , or simply the Capets, which ruled the Kingdom of France from 987 to 1328, was the most senior line of the Capetian dynasty – itself a derivative dynasty from the Robertians. As rulers of France, the dynasty...

ian kings; the kings however took the habit of, during their reign, having their son elected as successor. The election soon became a mere formality and vanished after the reign of Philip II of France
Philip II of France
Philip II Augustus was the King of France from 1180 until his death. A member of the House of Capet, Philip Augustus was born at Gonesse in the Val-d'Oise, the son of Louis VII and his third wife, Adela of Champagne...


In Africa, the Mali Empire
Mali Empire
The Mali Empire or Mandingo Empire or Manden Kurufa was a West African empire of the Mandinka from c. 1230 to c. 1600. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I...

 functioned as both a constitutional and elective monarchy. The mansa
Mansa is a Mandinka word meaning "king of kings". It is particularly associated with the Keita Dynasty of the Mali Empire, which dominated West Africa from the thirteenth to the fifthteenth century...

 (emperor) had to be approved by the Gbara or Great Assembly despite hereditary claims. The Kingdom of Kongo
Kingdom of Kongo
The Kingdom of Kongo was an African kingdom located in west central Africa in what are now northern Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo, and the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo...

 was a purer example of an elective monarchy, where blood claims had even less pull. Nobles elected a king's successor, and it was common for the successor to be of a different family as his predecessor. This form of elective monarchy existed in the kingdom from its inception in around 1400 until its complete disintegration in the early 20th century.

In the Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

, the Great Khan was chosen by the Kurultai
Kurultai is a political and military council of ancient Mongol and Turkic chiefs and khans. The root of the word "Khural" means political "meeting" or "assembly" in the Mongolian language, it is also a verb for "to be established"...


In medieval Serbia
History of Serbia
The history of Serbia, as a country, begins with the Slavic settlements in the Balkans, established in the 6th century in territories governed by the Byzantine Empire. Through centuries, the Serbian realm evolved into a Kingdom , then an Empire , before the Ottomans annexed it in 1540...

 a strong level of collective parliamentarism was being evolved, which elected the Prince. The rulers often in respect to tradition remained a member of the dynasty, even more so with the recognition as a Kingdom in 1077 and the title's restoration after loss in 1217 which strengthened the Monarch's authority, however they were elected all the way until even the Imperial period
Serbian Empire
The Serbian Empire was a short-lived medieval empire in the Balkans that emerged from the Serbian Kingdom. Stephen Uroš IV Dušan was crowned Emperor of Serbs and Greeks on 16 April, 1346, a title signifying a successorship to the Eastern Roman Empire...

. It was only in the Byzantine-modelled later Serbian Despotate
Serbian Despotate
The Serbian Despotate was a Serbian state, the last to be conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Although the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 is generally considered the end of the medieval Serbian state, the Despotate, a successor of the Serbian Empire and Moravian Serbia survived for 70 more years,...

 that the monarchy was de facto transferred into a hereditary monarchy.

In Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, after the death of the last Piast in 1370, Polish kings were initially elected by a small council; gradually, this privilege was granted to all members of the szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

(Polish nobility). Kings of Poland and Grand Princes of Lithuania during the times of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 (1569–1795) were elected by gatherings of crowds of nobles at a field in Wola
Wola is a district in western Warsaw, Poland, formerly the village of Wielka Wola, incorporated into Warsaw in 1916. An industrial area with traditions reaching back to the early 19th century, it is slowly changing into an office and residential district...

, today a neighbourhood of Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

. Since in Poland all sons of a noble were nobles, and not only the eldest, every one of an estimated 500,000 nobles could potentially have participated in such elections in person - by far the widest franchise of any European country at the time. During the election period, the function of the king was performed by an interrex
The Interrex was literally a ruler "between kings" during the Roman Kingdom and the Roman Republic. He was in effect a short-term regent....

 (usually in person of the primate of Poland). This unique Polish election was termed the free election (wolna elekcja).

In the Islamic World Caliphs, successors to Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

, were originally elected by consensus of the community. The first four Caliphs were elected in this fashion as Sunni Muslims believed Muhammad had originally intended before Muawiyah, the fifth caliph, turned the Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 into what is known as the Umayyad Dynasty, a hereditary monarchy. In Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam
Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims are referred to in Arabic as ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah wa āl-Ǧamāʿah or ʾAhl ūs-Sunnah for short; in English, they are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis or Sunnites....

, the first four elected caliphs were remembered as the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs. They were elected by a process known as Shura
Shura is an Arabic word for "consultation". The Quran and Muhammad encourage Muslims to decide their affairs in consultation with those who will be affected by that decision....


In 1800, leaders in Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 drafted a Declaration of Rights which was presented to the British Admiral Sir Alexander Ball
Alexander Ball
Sir Alexander John Ball, 1st Baronet was a British Admiral and the first British governor of Malta. He was born in Ebworth Park, Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire. He was the fourth son of Robert and Mary Ball....

, stating that they agreed to come "under the protection and sovereignty of the King of the free people, His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" - regarding the rule of the British King preferable to that of Napoleon's France and of the Knights of Malta, the two other choices available to them at the time. The Declaration further stated that "his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power...if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control.".

In 1858, the central tribes of North Island
North Island
The North Island is one of the two main islands of New Zealand, separated from the much less populous South Island by Cook Strait. The island is in area, making it the world's 14th-largest island...

 elected Potatau te Wherowhero
Potatau Te Wherowhero
Pōtatau I, Māori King was a Māori warrior, leader of the Waikato tribes, the first Māori King and founder of the Te Wherowhero royal dynasty. He was first known as simply Te Wherowhero and took the name Pōtatau after he became king...

 as their monarch. The Tainui
Tainui is a tribal waka confederation of New Zealand Māori iwi. The Tainui confederation comprises four principal related Māori iwi of the central North Island of New Zealand: Hauraki, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa and Waikato...

 tribal elders have continued this tradition and the New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 Maori Kingitanga movement alive to the present.

At the start of the 20th century, the first monarchs of several newly independent nations were elected by parliaments: Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 is the prime example. Previously, following precedent set in newly independent Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, new nations without a well-established hereditary royal family
Royal family
A royal family is the extended family of a king or queen regnant. The term imperial family appropriately describes the extended family of an emperor or empress, while the terms "ducal family", "grand ducal family" or "princely family" are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning...

, often chose their own monarchs from among the established royal families of Europe rather than elevate a member of the local power establishment, in the hope that a stable hereditary monarchy
Hereditary monarchy
A hereditary monarchy is the most common type 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...

 would eventually emerge from the process. The now-deposed royal families of Greece, Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

, Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 (unsuccessfully) and Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 were originally appointed in this manner.

A short-lived autonomous monarchy during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia
Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia
The Principality of the Pindus was an attempt to establish an autonomous puppet state set up under fascist Italian and later German control in northwest Greece in the regions of Epirus, Thessaly and West Macedonia during World War II...

 also was an elective monarchy.

Other monarchs, such as the Shah of Iran
Pahlavi dynasty
The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi (reg. 1925–1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty ...

, have been required to undergo a parliamentary vote of approval before being allowed to ascend to the throne.

An attempt to create an elective monarchy in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 failed. Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 argued in a long speech before the Constitutional Convention of 1787
Philadelphia Convention
The Constitutional Convention took place from May 14 to September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address problems in governing the United States of America, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from...

 that the President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 should be an elective monarch, ruling for "good behavior" (i.e., for life, unless impeached
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

) and with extensive powers. Hamilton believed that elective monarchs has sufficient power domestically to resist foreign corruption, yet there was enough domestic control over their behavior to prevent tyranny at home. His proposal was resoundingly voted down in favor of a four-year term with the possibility of reelection. In his later defense of the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 in the Federalist Papers
Federalist Papers
The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles or essays promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven of the essays were published serially in The Independent Journal and The New York Packet between October 1787 and August 1788...

, he often hints that a lifetime executive might be better, even as he praises the system with the four-year term.

The Empire of Haiti established in 1804 was also elective.

Election in hereditary monarchies

In a hereditary monarchy, election may occasionally be used to fill a vacant throne. For example, the royal family may become extinct; depending on how precisely the succession to the throne is defined in law, several candidates with equally, or almost equally, strong claims could emerge, with an election being held to choose between them. This differs from a formally elective monarchy in that it is an extraordinary measure, and with the new monarch the succession again becomes hereditary.

Alternatively, the monarch may be deposed, as in a revolution
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...

. While sometimes a monarch may be forced to abdicate in favour of his or her heir, on other occasions the royal family as a whole has been rejected, the throne going to an elected candidate. Examples include:
  • John of England
    John of England
    John , also known as John Lackland , was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death...

    , chosen by a council of nobles and royal advisors at the death of his brother, Richard I because the heir by strict primogeniture, Arthur of Brittany was a child at that time.
  • Henry IV of England
    Henry IV of England
    Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

    , chosen by Parliament to replace Richard II
    Richard II of England
    Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

    . Richard was childless, and the Earl of March, the next in line to the throne, was a young child at the time, so Parliament bypassed him in favour of Henry, who had led the revolt against Richard.
  • Michael of Russia
    Michael of Russia
    Mikhail I Fyodorovich Romanov Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov was the first Russian Tsar of the house of Romanov. He was the son of Feodor Nikitich Romanov and Xenia...

    , chosen by a Zemsky Sobor
    Zemsky Sobor
    The zemsky sobor was the first Russian parliament of the feudal Estates type, in the 16th and 17th centuries. The term roughly means assembly of the land. It could be summoned either by tsar, or patriarch, or the Boyar Duma...

     (national assembly) after the extinction of the Rurikid dynasty and the end of the Time of Troubles
    Time of Troubles
    The Time of Troubles was a period of Russian history comprising the years of interregnum between the death of the last Russian Tsar of the Rurik Dynasty, Feodor Ivanovich, in 1598, and the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613. In 1601-1603, Russia suffered a famine that killed one-third...

    . The resulting Romanov dynasty was an old boyar
    A boyar, or bolyar , was a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian, Kievan Rus'ian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Moldavian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes , from the 10th century through the 17th century....

     house with the close ties to the former royalty, and Michael's father, Feodor Romanov, was at the time a Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia under the monastic name of Filaret, in effect holding a position of interrex
    The Interrex was literally a ruler "between kings" during the Roman Kingdom and the Roman Republic. He was in effect a short-term regent....

    . Later, Patriarch Filaret, a skilled politician in his own right, became effectively a co-ruler and sometimes a regent for his weak and not very healthy son.
  • William III
    William III of England
    William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

     and Mary II of England
    Mary II of England
    Mary II was joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland with her husband and first cousin, William III and II, from 1689 until her death. William and Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen regnant, respectively, following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of...

    , chosen by Parliament to replace James II
    James II of England
    James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

    . While Mary was James' daughter, and William and Mary were succeeded by Mary's younger sister Anne, the male descendants of James II were explicitly bypassed in the orders of succession of the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
  • Louis-Philippe of France
    Louis-Philippe of France
    Louis Philippe I was King of the French from 1830 to 1848 in what was known as the July Monarchy. His father was a duke who supported the French Revolution but was nevertheless guillotined. Louis Philippe fled France as a young man and spent 21 years in exile, including considerable time in the...

    , elected King during the July Revolution
    July Revolution
    The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown...


Current uses

Currently, the world's only true elective monarchies are:
  • Malaysia, where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
    Yang di-Pertuan Agong
    The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the head of state of Malaysia. The office was established in 1957 when the Federation of Malaya gained independence....

    (Supreme Head of State) is elected to a five-year term. Nine hereditary rulers from the Malay States form a Council of Rulers who will determine the next Agong via a secret ballot. The position has to date, been de facto rotated through the State rulers, originally based on seniority.
    • Additionally, the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan
      Negeri Sembilan
      Negeri Sembilan, one of the 13 states that constitutes Malaysia, lies on the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia, just south of Kuala Lumpur and borders Selangor on the north, Pahang in the east, and Malacca and Johor to the south....

       is itself an elective monarchy, where the Yang di-Pertuan Besar
      Yamtuan Besar
      Yamtuan Besar, also known as Yang di-Pertuan Besar, is the royal title of the ruler of the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan. The ruler of Negeri Sembilan is selected by a council of ruling chiefs in the state, or the datuk-datuk undang. This royal practice has been followed since 1773...

      ruler of Negeri Sembilan is selected by a council of ruling chiefs.
  • The Kingdom of Cambodia
    Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

    , in which kings are chosen for a life term by The Royal Council of the Throne from candidates of royal blood.
  • The Holy See, where the Pope
    The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

     is elected by the College of Cardinals
    College of Cardinals
    The College of Cardinals is the body of all cardinals of the Catholic Church.A function of the college is to advise the pope about church matters when he summons them to an ordinary consistory. It also convenes on the death or abdication of a pope as a papal conclave to elect a successor...


In addition, Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

 could be considered a semi-elective principality
A principality is a monarchical feudatory or sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title of prince or princess, or by a monarch with another title within the generic use of the term prince....

. Andorra's two heads of state are Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

's Bishop of La Seu d'Urgell and, since 1589, the king of France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. As the French monarchy has long since been eliminated, the position of co-prince of Andorra falls to the democratically elected President of France. However, the Andorran authorities or people have no say in the election of the President of France, leaving Andorra in the unique position of having a monarch who is democratically elected by the citizenry of another state.

Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland , and sometimes called Ngwane or Swatini, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique...

 also has a form of quasi-elective monarchy. In Swaziland, no king can appoint his successor. Instead, the royal family decides which of his wives shall be "Great wife" and "Indovukazi" (She-Elephant / Queen Mother). The son of this "Great Wife" will automatically become the next king. The eldest son is never appointed successor as he has other ceremonial roles.

In Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

, traditional rulers
Nigerian traditional rulers
Nigerian traditional rulers often derive their titles from the rulers of independent states or communities that existed before the formation of modern Nigeria...

 (or "royal fathers", e.g., the Adebonojo
The Dagburewe of Idowa is one of the major royal titles which has survived within Southern Nigeria for over 300 years.- History :Structurally the Ijebu Native Administration was divided into six districts under district heads...

, Eze
Eze is an Igbo word which means King; with further implied meaning of chieftain of the tribe or kingdom. Such words as Igwe and Obi plus others are used by Igbo people as titles of respect and homage to the Eze...

) are usually chosen by a council of kingmakers.

The succession to the throne of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, while hereditary, is not determined by a succession law but rather by consensus of the House of Saud
House of Saud
The House of Saud , also called the Al Saud, is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia and one of the wealthiest and most powerful dynasties in the world. The family holds thousands of members...

 as to who will be Crown Prince
Crown Prince
A crown prince or crown princess is the heir or heiress apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. The wife of a crown prince is also titled crown princess....

 of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

; consensus may change depending on the Crown Prince's actions. In effect, this makes the Saudi monarchy elective within the House of Saud, as the king's eldest son has not become Crown Prince since the death of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in 1953.

The President
President of the United Arab Emirates
The President is the Head of State of the United Arab Emirates. Because the current ruler of Abu Dhabi customarily also holds the presidency of the UAE, the office is de facto hereditary. The President is also Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Supreme Council and...

 of the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

, is nominally the head of the Al Nahyan clan and Emir of Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi , literally Father of Gazelle, is the capital and the second largest city of the United Arab Emirates in terms of population and the largest of the seven member emirates of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western...

, and is a de facto hereditary position. Similarly, the elected Prime Minister has always been the head of the Al Maktoum clan and Emir of Dubai
Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates . The emirate is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the second-largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi...

. Thus, although elected by the Supreme Council, the president and prime minister are essentially hereditary - the emir of Abu Dhabi holds the presidency, and the emir of Dubai is prime minister.

In New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, the Maori monarch, head of the Maori King Movement
Maori King Movement
The Māori King Movement or Kīngitanga is a movement that arose among some of the Māori tribes of New Zealand in the central North Island ,in the 1850s, to establish a role similar in status to that of the monarch of the colonising people, the British, as a way of halting the alienation of Māori land...

, is elected by the kaumatua
Kaumātua are respected tribal elders of either gender in a Māori community who have been involved with their whānau for a number of years. They are appointed by their people who believe the chosen elders have the capacity to teach and guide both current and future generations...

 of various New Zealand iwi
In New Zealand society, iwi form the largest everyday social units in Māori culture. The word iwi means "'peoples' or 'nations'. In "the work of European writers which treat iwi and hapū as parts of a hierarchical structure", it has been used to mean "tribe" , or confederation of tribes,...

 (tribes). However, every Maori monarch to date had been succeeded by a son or daughter, making the position hereditary in effect. The traditional heads of the three regions of Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna
Wallis and Futuna, officially the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands , is a Polynesian French island territory in the South Pacific between Tuvalu to the northwest, Rotuma of Fiji to the west, the main part of Fiji to the southwest, Tonga to the southeast,...

 are similarly elected.

Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

 was an elective monarchy from the first day of independence in 1962. From 1963 on, Samoa had two heads of state, Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole
Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole
Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole, CBE was the Tupua Tamasese from 1929 to 1963, a Samoan paramount chief. He held the post O le Ao o le Malo jointly with Malietoa Tanumafili II from 1962 until his death in the next year....

 and Malietoa Tanumafili II. Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole died in 1963, and Malietoa Tanumafili II was the sole head of state (O le Ao o le Malo
O le Ao o le Malo
O le Ao o le Malo is the Samoan head of state, which is the title's rough translation....

) of Samoa until his death in 2007. The Samoan Constitution stipulates the successor to the two original heads of state are to be elected for five-year terms by the Fono
The Legislative Assembly is the Parliament of Samoa based in the capital Apia where the country's central administration is situated.In the Samoan language, the Legislative Assembly of Samoa is sometimes referred to as the Samoan Fono while the government of the country is referred to as the...

, the parliament of Samoa. The elected successor was one of Samoa's four paramount chiefs, Tufuga Efi. However, articles 18 and 45 of the Samoan Constitution "Every Samoan citizen can be elected to parliament; every parliament member can be elected to the office of the head of state", and Samoa is now considered a parliamentary republic
Parliamentary republic
A parliamentary republic or parliamentary constitutional republic is a type of republic which operates under a parliamentary system of government - meaning a system with no clear-cut separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. There are a number of variations of...


In fiction

In the prequel trilogy of Star Wars
Star Wars
Star Wars is an American epic space opera film series created by George Lucas. The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year...

films, the planet Naboo
Naboo is a fictitious planet in the fictional Star Wars universe with a mostly green terrain and which is the homeworld of two societies: the Gungans who dwell in underwater cities and the humans who live in colonies on the surface...

 is governed by an elected monarchy. Padmé Amidala
Padmé Amidala
Padmé Amidala is a fictional character in the Star Wars science fiction franchise. She first appeared on film in the 1999 feature film, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, as the young queen of the planet Naboo. In subsequent prequel trilogy films, Padmé represents Naboo in the Galactic Senate...

, one of the series' main characters, was elected queen at the age of fourteen but was not the youngest ever to reign. She then went on to serve in the senate of the Galactic Republic. A system of elective monarchy was also present in the Galactic Empire
Galactic Empire (Star Wars)
The Galactic Empire is one of the main factions in the fictional universe of Star Wars. It is a galaxy-spanning regime established by the series' lead villain, Palpatine, to replace the Galactic Republic in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The Galactic Empire is introduced in Star Wars...

. The next Galactic Emperor was, in theory, to be chosen by the Imperial Senate whenever the throne became vacant. However, the dissolution of the Senate by Palpatine
Palpatine is a fictional character and the main antagonist of the Star Wars saga, portrayed by Ian McDiarmid in the feature films.Palpatine first appeared as the unnamed Emperor of the Galactic Empire in the 1980 film Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back...

 prevented it from ever occurring. In the Star Wars Expanded Universe
Star Wars Expanded Universe
The Star Wars Expanded Universe encompasses all of the officially licensed, fictional background of the Star Wars universe, outside of the six feature films produced by George Lucas. The expanded universe includes books, comic books, video games, spin-off films like Star Wars: The Clone Wars,...

, the remnants of the Empire had no Emperor for decades after Palpatine's death, until Jagged Fel obtained the throne. Afterward the Galactic Empire became a hereditary monarchy.

In Games Workshop's
Games Workshop
Games Workshop Group plc is a British game production and retailing company. Games Workshop has published the tabletop wargames Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000...

 Warhammer Fantasy
Warhammer Fantasy (setting)
Warhammer Fantasy is a fantasy setting, created by Games Workshop, which is used by many of the company's games. Some of the best-known games set in this world are: the table top wargame Warhammer Fantasy Battle, the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay pen-and-paper role-playing game, and the MMORPG...

fictional universe
Fictional universe
A fictional universe is a self-consistent fictional setting with elements that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed or fictional realm ....

, The Empire
The Empire (Warhammer)
In Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy fictional universe, The Empire is one of the human political factions and armies, and is featured in many games and novels. In terms of location, language, culture, and society, it bears a strong resemblance to the Holy Roman Empire...

 is ruled by an Emperor who is chosen by majority voting of the various electors.

In the Lord Darcy
Lord Darcy (fiction)
Lord Darcy is a detective in an alternate history, created by Randall Garrett. The first stories were asserted to take place in the same year as they were published, but in a world very different from our own.-Title character:...

 universe, set out in a series of works by Randall Garrett
Randall Garrett
Randall Garrett was an American science fiction and fantasy author. He was a prolific contributor to Astounding and other science fiction magazines of the 1950s and 1960s...

, the Kings of the Anglo-French Empire are elected by Parliament from a small group of eligible members of the Royal Plantagenet
House of Plantagenet
The House of Plantagenet , a branch of the Angevins, was a royal house founded by Geoffrey V of Anjou, father of Henry II of England. Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Their paternal ancestors originated in the French province of Gâtinais and gained the...

 family. See Michael Kurland
Michael Kurland
Michael Joseph Kurland is an American author, best known for his works of science fiction and detective fiction....

's additions to the canon.

Shakespeare's Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

is often staged with the assumption that Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 is or was an elective monarchy (which technically was true of Denmark at the time Hamlet was written). A similar system can be read into Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

to explain why the title character ascended to the throne.

In Hiroyuki Morioka
Hiroyuki Morioka
is a Japanese science fiction novelist.- Biography :In 1992, his first novel Yume no ki ga tsugeta nara appeared in Hayakawa Shobo 's SF Magazine...

's Crest of the Stars
Crest of the Stars
is a three-volume space opera science fiction novel written by Hiroyuki Morioka with cover illustrations by Toshihiro Ono. Beginning in 1999, the novels were adapted into anime series, the first of which ran for 13 episodes on WOWOW...

 series of science fiction novels, the Abh Empire (Frybarec Gloerh gor Bari) is an elective monarchy. While the ruling monarch (speunaigh) is absolute, he or she is elected by the Dynasty Council from eight eligible royal families and usually does not rule for life.

In the Inheritance Cycle
Inheritance Cycle
The Inheritance Cycle is a series of fantasy novels by Christopher Paolini. It was previously titled the Inheritance Trilogy until Paolini's announcement on October 30, 2007 that there would be a fourth book...

 of fantasy novels, the monarch of the Dwarves is elected by the Clan Chiefs from within their number, holding the position from then until their death (although they must also receive divine approval).

Similarly, in Bioware
BioWare is a Canadian video game developer founded in February 1995 by newly graduated medical doctors Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuk, and Augustine Yip. BioWare is currently owned by American company Electronic Arts...

's game Dragon Age: Origins, the Dwarves of Orzammar features an elective monarchy in which the monarch is elected by the Assembly of Nobles of the city, and then rules for life. He may choose an heir to the throne, but to the Assembly, this is little more than a recommendation on whom to vote on. The player character takes part in choosing a monarch during the original campaign.

See also

  • Royal elections in Poland
  • Papal election
  • Papal conclave, 2005
    Papal conclave, 2005
    The Papal conclave of 2005 was convened as a result of the death of Pope John Paul II on 2 April 2005. After his death, the cardinals who were in Rome met and set a date for the beginning of the conclave to elect John Paul's successor. The conclave began on 18 April 2005 and ended on the following...

  • President for life
    President for Life
    President for Life is a title assumed by some dictators to remove their term limit, in the hope that their authority, legitimacy, and term will never be disputed....

  • Tanistry
    Tanistry was a Gaelic system for passing on titles and lands. In this system the Tanist was the office of heir-apparent, or second-in-command, among the Gaelic patrilineal dynasties of Ireland, Scotland and Man, to succeed to the chieftainship or to the kingship.-Origins:The Tanist was chosen from...

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