Criticism of monarchy has occurred since ancient times. It can be targeted against the general form of governmentmonarchy—or more specifically, to particular monarchical governments as controlled by hereditary royal families. In some cases, this criticism can be curtailed by legal restrictions and be considered criminal speech, as in lèse-majesté.

Monarchies in Europe and their underlying concepts, such as the Divine Right of Kings, became increasingly criticized during the Age of Enlightenment, which notably paved the way to the French Revolution and the proclamation of the abolition of the monarchy in France. Earlier, the American Revolution had seen the Patriots suppress the Loyalists and expel all royal officials.

In contemporary times, monarchies are present in the world in many forms with different degrees of royal power and involvement in civil affairs:

The twentieth century, beginning with the 1917 February Revolution in Russia and accelerated by two world wars, saw many European countries replace their monarchies with republics, while others replaced their absolute monarchies with constitutional monarchies. Reverse movements have also occurred, with brief returns of the monarchy in France under the Bourbon Restoration, the July Monarchy, and the Second French Empire, the Stuarts after the English Civil War and the Bourbons in Spain after the Franco dictatorship.

Historical Criticism

Aristotle published a critique of monarchy in the 4th-century BC as part of the Politics.
Baruch Spinoza was an early critic of monarchy during the Enlightenment
Jeremy Bentham viewed monarchy as an absurdity that had established itself through force of custom.

Aristotle taught that monarchy was only suitable for populations that lacked the ability to govern themselves, and believed that power ought to be shared within populations generally made up of equals. [1] He also felt that it was easier to corrupt one individual than a multitude. [2] Aristotle further criticized monarchies for tending to become hereditary, which to him carried the undue risk of conferring power on someone incapable and bringing ruin to the nation. [3]

During the Middle Ages, the Dominican Bartholomew of Lucca, "presented republican government as the only suitable alternative for a virtuous people and identified monarchy with tyranny or despotism."[4] Another medieval republican thinker was Marsilius of Padua who, influenced by Aristotle, advocated rule by the majority, and argued that "a ruler who is elected is greatly to be preferred to rulers who are hereditary." [5]

During the Italian Renaissance, Niccolò Machiavelli espoused views on monarchy largely in agreement with those of Aristotle.[6] Machiavelli considered republics to be more flexible and adaptable than monarchies to varying circumstances and necessities, providing as an example the different characters of the men who rose to power in the Roman Republic during different stages of the Punic Wars. [7]

The establishment of a republican government under the Commonwealth of England inspired a number of English works attacking the institution of monarchy.

James Harrington espoused his republican ideals through The Commonwealth of Oceana in 1656. Harrington argued that the sovereignty must naturally follow economic influence, and that monarchy was the result of one man dominating ownership of land. He advocated the redistribution of property and an establishment of an assembly of landowners to be periodically replaced by elections. He warned that a failure to redistribute property would lead to a restoration of an oligarchic monarchy. [8]

John Milton also published a republican essay during this time characterizing monarchy as "a government burdensome, expensive, useless and dangerous." [9]

Algernon Sidney argued that monarchy was "founded upon human depravity." He attacked the French monarchy as corrupt and unpopular and held up republican Switzerland as one of the most peaceful and successful nations in Europe. [10]

The Dutch-Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza held a preference for democratic over monarchical institutions.[11] He believed all monarchies amounted to legal fictions because no single human being was capable in reality of holding and exercising all of the power implied by sovereignty.[11]

During the French Revolution there were public supporters of republicanism as early as 1790, but public opinion and the vast majority of the French deputies were still at that point in favor of monarchy. [12] There was fear of uncertainty regarding abolishing the monarchy, and it was widely believed that getting rid of the king would produce political disorders such as anarchy or invasion. [13] The subsequent temporary assumption of the executive by the Assembly in the wake of the Flight to Varennes did much to dissipate such fears. [14][15] Condorcet began to publicly espouse republican views, and yet the majority of France and the deputies were still monarchist, [14] until the perception that Louis XVI was aiding the enemies of France during the War of the First Coalition led to the abolition of the monarchy in September 1792, and the establishment of the First French Republic.

In the early nineteenth century, the English utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued that "the only good act which a monarch was capable of accomplishing was to abolish his own office.".[16] Bentham viewed monarchy as an absurd institution which had established itself through force of custom, noting that "almost all men are born under it, all men are used to it, few men are used to anything else; till of late years nobody ever dispraised it." [17]

The leading nineteenth century Italian statesman Giuseppe Mazzini who was also a prominent republican. Against Italian monarchists, he argued that a republic was more in line with Italian tradition. [18]

In the early twentieth century, the British Liberal academic and statesman James Bryce contested the notion that monarchy tended to produce stable and capable rulers, arguing from historical example that most hereditary European monarchs for the previous five centuries had been mediocre. [19]

Criticism of existing monarchies

The selection of sovereigns generally does not involve democratic principles, such as in elective monarchy in states they head. For hereditary monarchies, royal power transmission is carried from generation to generation, with the title and associated power passing down to an heir. Several royal families are criticized in the world and their legitimacy challenged for example:


Main article: Bahraini uprising of 2011

The Bahraini protests were initially aimed at achieving greater political freedom and equality for the majority Shia population,[20] and expanded to a call to end the monarchy of Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa following a deadly night raid on 17 February 2011 against protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama,[21] known locally as Bloody Thursday.[22]


A Belgian association, the Republican Circle, launched the petition "Abolition of Monarchy in Europe" to the attention of the European Parliament in March 2008, highlighting what they perceive as the incompatibility of the monarchy with several international declarations: Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.


Main articles: Republicanism in Canada and Debate on the monarchy in Canada

Debate between monarchists and republicans in Canada has been taking place since before the country's Confederation in 1867. Republican action has taken the form of protests on Victoria Day, the former Canadian sovereign's official birthday, lobbying of the federal and provincial governments to eliminate Canadian royal symbols,[23] and legal action against the Crown, specifically in relation to the Oath of Citizenship and the Act of Settlement 1701.[24][25] The debate has historically been stronger in the French-speaking province of Québec, in which a substantial sovereignty movement exists against both the federation of Canada and its Crown.


Main articles: Anti-monarchism in Japan and Controversies regarding the role of the Emperor of Japan


Main articles: Republicanism in Morocco and 2011–2012 Moroccan protests

The legitimacy of King Mohammed VI was contested by some in the February 20 Movement of 2011 that attempted to challenge the monarchic system for the first time in the modern history of this country.


Main article: Republicanism in the Netherlands

Criticism of the Netherlands monarchy has been on the rise in recent years, with notable shifts in public opinion and legal challenges aimed at reducing the king's powers. According to a survey, support for the monarchy as an institution has decreased, with a notable decline in the percentage of people in favor of the royal family. In 2020, 75% of respondents supported the monarchy, but this number dropped to 58% in the following year. There has also been a noticeable increase in the number of people expressing a desire for the Netherlands to transition into a republic, with almost a quarter of respondents favoring this change. In a significant legal development, Dutch activists have taken the king to court, aiming to demonstrate that his role in the legal system violates European human rights conventions. This legal action reflects a broader sentiment of criticism and a push for reduced royal powers. In addition, historical context shows that criticism of the monarchy and royalty has been present in Dutch society for decades, with notable debates and legal regulations surrounding the act of insulting the king.[26][27][28]


Main article: Republicanism in Norway

Saudi Arabia

Main article: 2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests

In August 2012, the Swedish Defense Minister Karin Enström said that Saudi Arabia could be called a dictatorship.[29][30] There have been protests against the royal dictatorship of the Al Saud family and calls for prisoners held without charge or trial to be released. In early 2012, protestors chanted slogans against the House of Saud and Minister of Interior Nayef, calling Nayef a "terrorist", "criminal" and "butcher".


Main article: Republicanism in Spain

The Spanish monarchy has faced significant criticism and scrutiny in recent years, with concerns spanning various aspects of its role and impact on Spanish society and politics. Issues such as the role of the monarchy in modern Spain, the conduct of past monarchs, and the relevance of a hereditary leadership system have been sources of debate and critique. A particular point of contention has been the conduct of former King Juan Carlos I, leading to public disillusionment and calls for reform. Additionally, the suitability of the monarchy in a modern, democratic society has been questioned, with discussions on the potential transition to a republic gaining traction. These criticisms have led to a deeper examination of the monarchy's place in Spanish governance and society, reflecting broader discussions on the country's political future.[31][32][33]


Main article: Republicanism in Sweden

The debate over the monarchy's relevance in modern Sweden has been a recurring topic, with discussions on the role of the monarchy in a modern, egalitarian society. The question of whether Sweden should remain a monarchy was a central issue in a constitutional reform project that began in 1954, with the Social Democratic Party advocating for a republic and conservative parties supporting the monarchy. While the monarchy enjoys significant popular support, there are still calls for its abolition, reflecting a divide in public opinion. In addition, the monarchy's survival ultimately depends on the continuing support of the people, as it may seem contrary to democratic principles.[34][35][36]


Main articles: Communist insurgency in Thailand, South Thailand insurgency, and 2020 Thai protests

United Kingdom

Main article: Republicanism in the United Kingdom

The issue of the monarchy has been contentious within the United Kingdom and the countries that make up the union for hundreds of years.[citation needed] Arguments against the UK monarchy include the institution’s unaccountability, that appointing a head of state using the hereditary principle is undemocratic, unfair and elitist and should instead be decided by democratic elections, the monarchy's expense, the fact that the UK monarchy still holds royal prerogative which grants the Prime Minister powers such as the ability to declare war or sign treaties without a vote in Parliament, the Privy Council (a body of advisors to the monarch) being able to enact legislation without a vote in Parliament etc.[unbalanced opinion?]

See also


  1. ^ Costelloe & Muirhead 1897, p. 252.
  2. ^ Costelloe & Muirhead 1897, p. 254.
  3. ^ Costelloe & Muirhead 1897, p. 255.
  4. ^ Blythe 2019.
  5. ^ Durant 1957, p. 254.
  6. ^ Dunning 1921a, p. 307.
  7. ^ Dunning 1921a, p. 308.
  8. ^ Durant 1963, p. 565.
  9. ^ Fisher 1911, p. 46.
  10. ^ Fisher 1911, p. 49-50.
  11. ^ a b Dunning 1921b, p. 316.
  12. ^ Fisher 1911, p. 64.
  13. ^ Fisher 1911, p. 68.
  14. ^ a b Fisher 1911, p. 69.
  15. ^ Hazen 1919, p. 99.
  16. ^ Fisher 1911, p. 161-162.
  17. ^ Fisher 1911, p. 162.
  18. ^ Fisher 1911, p. 199.
  19. ^ Bryce 1921, p. 536-537.
  20. ^ "Bahrain Shia Leaders Visit Iraq". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  21. ^ "Bahrain Protests: Police Break Up Pearl Square Crowd". BBC News. 17 February 2011. Archived from the original on 5 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  22. ^ "Bahrain Activists in 'Day of Rage". Al Jazeera. 14 February 2011. Archived from the original on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  23. ^ "Time to Promote Canada not Queen on Holiday" (Press release). Citizens for a Canadian Republic. 20 May 2004. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  24. ^ "Canada's Republican Movement Presents Legal Case Against the Monarchy" (Press release). Citizens for a Canadian Republic. 24 September 2002. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  25. ^ "Oath to Queen Costs Canada Citizens, Says Republican Movement" (Press release). Citizens for a Canadian Republic. 5 November 2002. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  26. ^ Sanou, Hanneke (2021-04-27). "Dutch royal family less popular, monarchy under pressure: survey". Retrieved 2024-02-08.
  27. ^ "Dutch activists sue the king and ask for his powers to be reduced". euronews. 2022-12-15. Retrieved 2024-02-08.
  28. ^ Schuetze, Christopher F. (2018-04-10). "How Is Dutch King Like a Cop? Insulting Them Is to Be Treated Equally". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-02-08.
  29. ^ Swedish defence Minister backs off and call the Saudi regime a Dictatorship, 13 August 2012
  30. ^ the Swedish Defense Minister Karin Enström said that Saudi Arabia could be called dictatorship. Le 13 August 2012
  31. ^ "Juan Carlos, a troubled monarchy and the crisis of modern Spain". Retrieved 2024-02-08.
  32. ^ Eason, Oriana (2016-04-01). "Changing Opinions of the Spanish Monarchy in a Modern Spain". Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) Student Presentations.
  33. ^ "The monarchy, a journalistic taboo in Spain. The royal crisis and the circumstantial crisis".
  34. ^ "Sweden - Politics, Economy, Welfare | Britannica". Retrieved 2024-02-08.
  35. ^ Nergelius, Joakim (2020), Cremades, Javier; Hermida, Cristina (eds.), "Monarchy in Sweden", Encyclopedia of Contemporary Constitutionalism, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 1–3, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-31739-7_30-1, ISBN 978-3-319-31739-7, retrieved 2024-02-08
  36. ^ Times, The Brussels. "What do Europeans think about their monarchies?". Retrieved 2024-02-08.