Monarchy, a form of governance rooted in tradition and historical continuity, may evoke images of eras long past. However, in the modern world, many monarchies continue to exist and play significant roles within their respective nations. This blog aims to shed light on how modern monarchies operate, exploring their structures, functions, and relevance in today’s societies. The prospect of King Charles’ coronation marks a significant milestone in the history of the British monarchy. As the heir to the throne, Prince Charles is set to ascend to the position of the monarch, succeeding his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
CORONATION AND SYMBOLISM
The coronation of King Charles represents a ceremonial event that officially marks the transition of power and the beginning of a new reign. It symbolizes the continuity and stability of the monarchy, as well as the adherence to long-standing traditions. The coronation offers an opportunity for the nation to come together, celebrate the monarchy’s heritage, and reaffirm the importance of the institution within the fabric of society. The King’s Procession, accompanied by the sovereign’s escort of the household cavalry, departed Buckingham Palace and covered 1.42 miles, flanking the procession were over 1,000 armed forces route liners from all three services and standard bearers of the Royal British Legion, uniformed civilian services, and community organizations. Some critic also argues that it is a symbol of colonial atrocities and should not be glorified and celebrated. The coronation of King Charles III was attended by members of the British royal family, prime ministers, presidents, foreign royals, global luminaries—and plenty of celebrities including Katy Perry, Emma Thompson, and Lionel Richie.
CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHIES: THE BALANCE OF POWER
One prevalent form of modern monarchy is the constitutional monarchy. In this system, the monarch’s powers are constrained by a constitution, which outlines the rights and responsibilities of the ruler, as well as the role of other governmental institutions. Constitutional monarchies are characterized by a separation of powers, wherein the monarch serves as the ceremonial head of state while political authority rests primarily with an elected government. The role of the modern monarch varies from country to country, but it often involves performing ceremonial duties such as representing the nation on state visits, attending official events, and acting as a unifying figurehead. Monarchs can also engage in diplomatic activities, promoting international relations and fostering goodwill between nations. In the UK the king‘s powers are symbolic and ceremonial, and he remains politically neutral, he receives daily dispatches from the government in a red leather box, including briefings ahead of important meetings, or documents needing his signature. The prime minister normally meets the King on a Wednesday at Buckingham Palace, to keep him informed on government matters. These meetings are completely private and there is no official record of what is said. Moreover, constitutional monarchies often serve as symbols of national identity and continuity, embodying the collective history and traditions of the country. The monarchy can provide stability and a sense of unity, particularly during times of political change or uncertainty.
THE INFLUENCE OF PARLIAMENT AND DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE
In constitutional monarchies, power is typically shared with the parliament and other democratic institutions. While the monarch may not have direct involvement in day-to-day governance, their consent is often required for certain legislative processes, such as royal assent, which grants legal validity to proposed laws. This ceremonial function underscores the monarch’s role as a constitutional safeguard and ensures a degree of accountability in the legislative process. Additionally, constitutional monarchies can provide a neutral and apolitical voice within the government. The monarch, free from partisan biases, can act as a unifying force and a mediator during times of political discord. Their position above party politics allows them to serve as a symbol of national unity and stability. In the UK, the monarch’s powers are largely ceremonial and symbolic. While the monarch retains certain constitutional responsibilities, the actual exercise of power lies with elected officials and democratic institutions. The monarch’s role includes granting royal assent to legislation, representing the nation abroad, and serving as the head of the armed forces. However, these powers are generally exercised per the advice of the elected government.
EVOLUTION AND ADAPTATION
Modern monarchies have adapted to the changing demands and expectations of society. Many monarchs actively engage with the public through various means, such as charitable work, supporting social causes, and engaging in public discourse. This helps them connect with their subjects and maintain relevance in a rapidly changing world. Monarchies have also embraced transparency and accountability. In several countries, royal households are subject to public scrutiny, and financial audits, and adhere to codes of conduct. This ensures that public funds allocated to the monarchy are used appropriately and in the best interest of the nation. In the United Kingdom succession laws were amended to achieve gender equality. The relevance and future of monarchy will continue to be shaped by societal shifts and public opinion. As societies become more diverse and inclusive, modern monarchies need to reflect these values and engage with the changing needs and expectations of their citizens. The willingness to evolve and adapt will be crucial in maintaining the support and legitimacy of the monarchy in the long term. Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year, the institution has continued to enjoy broad support. However, a recent survey by the British pollster YouGov shows that support has declined from 62% to 58%.
CONCLUSION: A CONTINUATION OF TRADITION IN THE MODERN ERA
While the concept of monarchy may seem antiquated, modern monarchies have adapted to the realities of the contemporary world. Constitutional monarchies, with their balanced power structures and symbolic roles, offer stability, continuity, and a sense of national identity. By embracing transparency, accountability, and public engagement, modern monarchies strive to maintain relevance and legitimacy. The future of monarchy will depend on the ability to evolve and align with the principles of democratic governance while preserving the cultural heritage and traditions that have shaped nations for centuries. As societies progress, the challenge lies in striking a balance between preserving the institution’s historical significance and adapting to the needs and aspirations
Author(s) Name: Ruchi Baid (Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat)