Characteristics and Role
Monarchies are associated with political or sociocultural hereditary rule, in which monarchs rule for life (although some monarchs do not hold lifetime positions, such as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, who serves a five-year term) and pass the responsibilities and power of the position to their children or family when they die. Most monarchs, both historically and in the modern day, have been born and brought up within a royal family, the center of the royal household and court. Growing up in a royal family (when present for several generations it may be called a dynasty), and future monarchs were often trained for the responsibilities of expected future rule.
Different systems of succession have been used, such as proximity of blood, primogeniture, and agnatic seniority (Salic law). While traditionally most modern monarchs have been male, many female monarchs also have ruled in history; the term queen regnant may refer to a ruling monarch, while a queen consort may refer to the wife of a reigning king. Form of governments may be hereditary without being considered monarchies, such as that of family dictatorships or political families in many democracies.
The principal advantage of hereditary monarchy is the immediate continuity of leadership, usually with a short interregnum (as seen in the classic phrase "The King is dead. Long live the King!").
Some monarchies are non-hereditary. In an elective monarchy, monarchs are elected, or appointed by some body (an electoral college) for life or a defined period, but otherwise serve as any other monarch. Three elective monarchies exist today, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are twentieth-century creations, while one (the papacy) is ancient.
A self-proclaimed monarchy is established when a person claims the monarchy without any historical ties to a previous dynasty. Napoleon I of France declared himself Emperor of the French and ruled the First French Empire after previously calling himself First Consul following his seizure of power in the coup of 18 Brumaire. Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic declared himself "Emperor" of the Central African Empire. Yuan Shikai crowned himself Emperor of the short-lived "Empire of China" a few years after the Republic of China was founded.
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