AskDefine | Define kingship

Dictionary Definition

kingship n : the dignity or rank or position of a king

User Contributed Dictionary



king + -ship


  1. The dignity, rank or office of a king; the state of being a king
  2. A monarchy
  3. The territory or dominion of a king; a kingdom


Extensive Definition

A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy, a form of government in which the country or entity usually ruled or controlled by an individual who usually rules for life or until abdication. Monarchs may be autocrats (absolute monarchy) or may be ceremonial heads of state who exercise little or no power or only reserve power, with actually authority vested in a parliament or other body (constitutional monarchy). Most states only have a single monarch at any given time, although a regent may rule when the monarch is a minor, not present or debilitated. Two monarchs have ruled simultaneously in some countries, as in the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta or the joint sovereignty of spouses or relatives (eg. William and Mary of Kingdom of England and Scotland, Peter and Ivan of Russia, Charles and Joanna of Castile, etc).
Monarchs have various title - king or queen, prince or princess (eg. Sovereign Prince of Monaco), emperor or empress (eg. Emperor of Japan, Emperor of India), or even duke or grand duke (eg. Grand Duke of Luxembourg). Many monarchs are distinguished by titles and styles. They often take part in certain ceremonies, such as a coronation.
Monarchy are associated with political or sociocultural in nature hereditary rule; most monarchs, both historically and in the modern day, have been born and brought up within a royal family (over a period of time called a dynasty) and trained for future duties. Different systems of succession have been used, such as proximity of blood, primogeniture, and agnatic seniority (Salic law). While traditionally most monarch have been male, female monarchs have also ruled in history; the term queen regnant refers to a ruling monarch, while a queen consort refers to the wife of a reigning king.
Some monarchies are non-hereditary. In an elective monarchy, the monarch is elected but otherwise serves as any other monarch. Historical examples of elective monarchy include the Holy Roman Emperors (chosen by prince-electors but often coming from the same dynasty) and the free election of kings of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Modern examples include the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia and the pope of the Roman Catholic Church, who serves as Sovereign of the Vatican City State and is elected to a life term by the College of Cardinals.
Monarchies have existed throughout the world, although in recent centuries many states have abolished the monarchy and becomes republics. Advocacy of republics is called republicanism, while advocacy of monarchies is called monarchism. The principal advantage of hereditary monarchy is the immediate continuity of leadership, with a usually short interregnum (as seen in the classic phrase "The King is dead. Long live the King!").
Form of governments may be hereditary without being considered monarchies, such as that of family dictatorships or political families are present in many democracies.


The word monarch (lang-la monarcha) comes from the Greek μόναρχος (from μόνος, "one"/"singular," and ἀρχός, "leader"/"guide"/"chief") which referred to a single, at least nominally absolute ruler. With time, the word has been succeeded in this meaning by others, such as autocrat or dictator. In modern usage the word monarch is generally used when referring to a traditional system of hereditary rulership, with elective monarchies often considered as exceptions.


A particular case is the French co-prince of Andorra, a position held by the elected President of France. Nonetheless, he is still generally considered a monarch because of the traditional use of a monarchical title (even though Andorra is, strictly speaking, a diarchy.) Similarly, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia is considered a monarch despite only holding the office for five years at a time. On the other hand, several life-time dictators around the world have not been formally classified as monarchs, but that may be more to do with international political sensitivities than with semantics.


Hereditary succession within one family has been most common. The usual hereditary succession is based on some cognatic principles and on seniority, though sometimes merit has played a part. Thus, the most common hereditary system in feudal Europe was based on cognatic primogeniture, where a lord was succeeded by his eldest son, and failing sons, by either daughters or by sons of daughters. The system of tanistry was semi-elective and gave weight also to merits and capability. The Quasi-Salic succession provided firstly for male members of the family to succeed, and secondarily males descended from female lines. In most feudal fiefs, females (such as daughters and sisters) were allowed to succeed, should the male line fail, but usually the husband of the heiress became the real lord and most often also received the title, jure uxoris. Great Britain and Spain today continue this model of succession law, in the form of cognatic primogeniture. In more complex medieval cases, the sometimes conflicting principles of proximity and primogeniture battled, and outcomes were often idiosyncratic.
As the average life span among the nobility increased (thanks to lords limiting their personal participation in dangerous battles, and generally improved sustenance and living conditions among the wealthy), an eldest son was more likely to reach majority age before the death of his father, and primogeniture became increasingly favoured over proximity, tanistry, seniority and election.
Later, when lands were strictly divided among noble families and tended to remain fixed, agnatic primogeniture (practically the same as Salic Law) became more usual: the succession would go to the eldest son of the monarch, or, if the monarch had no sons, the throne would pass to the nearest male relative through the male line, to the total exclusion of females.
In some countries however, inheritance through the female line was never wholly abandoned, so that if the monarch had no sons, the throne would pass to the eldest daughter and to her posterity. (This, cognatic primogeniture, was the rule that let Elizabeth II become Queen.)
In 1980, Sweden became the first monarchy to declare equal primogeniture or full cognatic primogeniture, meaning that the eldest child of the monarch, whether female or male, ascends to the throne. Other kingdoms (the Netherlands in 1983, Norway in 1990, and Belgium in 1991) have since followed suit.
In some monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia, succession to the throne usually first passes to the monarch's next eldest brother, and only after that to the monarch's children (agnatic seniority). In some other monarchies (e.g. Jordan), the monarch chooses who will be his successor, who need not necessarily be his eldest son.


see Monarchy

Monarchs in Africa

see Monarchies in Africa see History of Africa
A series of Pharaohs ruled Ancient Egypt over the course of three millennia (circa 3150 BC to 31 BC) until it was conquered by the Roman Empire. In the same time period, several kingdoms flourished in the nearby Nubia region.
Central Africa hosted the Kanem Empire (700 - 1376).
In East Africa, the Aksumite Empire and later the Ethiopian Empire (1270-1974) were ruled by a series of monarchs. Haile Selassie, the last Emperor of Ethiopia, was deposed in a communist coup.
Southern Africa was isolated from other cultures until the modern era, but did later feature kingdoms like the Kingdom of Kongo (1400 – 1914).
As part of the Scramble for Africa, Europeans conquered, bought, or established African kingdoms and styled themselves as a monarch.

Monarchs in Europe

see European Monarchs see Monarchies in Europe
Prince was a common title within the Holy Roman Empire, along with a number of higher titles listed below. Such titles were granted by the Emperor, while the titulation of rulers of sovereign states was generally left to their own discretion, most often choosing King or Queen. Such titulations could cause diplomatic problems, and especially the elevation to Emperor or Empress was seen as an offensive action. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries most small monarchies in Europe disappeared, merging to form larger entities, and so King the most common title for male rulers and Queen has become the most common title today for female rulers.
Today in Europe, there are seven kingdoms, one grand duchy, one duchy , one papacy, and three principalities (Liechtenstein, Wales and Monaco), excluding the peculiar case of Andorra and one "Lord of Mann" — the title for the monarch of Isle of Man.

Monarchs in Asia

In China, "king" is the usual translation for the term wang 王, the sovereign before the Qin dynasty and during the Ten Kingdoms period. During the early Han dynasty, China had a number of small kingdoms, each about the size of a county and subordinate to the Empress or Emperor of China.
The Japanese monarchy is now the only monarchy to still use the title of Emperor.

Monarchs in the Americas

The concept of monarchy existed in the Americas long before the arrival of European colonialists. When the Europeans arrived they referred to these tracts of land within territories of different aboriginal groups to be kingdoms, and the leaders of these groups were often referred to by the Europeans as Kings, particularly hereditary leaders. Many of the leaders were queens, but this was not understood by the Europeans, who had no knowledge of the indigenous history or languages, much less an understanding of matrilineality
Pre-colonial titles that were used included:
The first local monarch to emerge in North America after colonization was Augustin I, who declared himself Emperor of Mexico in 1822. Mexico again had an emperor, Maximilian I from 1863 to 1867. In South America, Brazil had a European royal house ruling as emperor between 1822 and 1889, under Emperors Pedro I and Pedro II.
These American emperors were deposed due to complex issues, including pressure from the highly republican United States, which had declared itself independent of the British monarch in 1776. The British, worried about U.S. colonial expansion, invasion following the American Civil War, and the fact that the U.S. had aided the Mexican republican rebels in overthrowing Maximilian I, pushed for the union of the Canadian provinces into a country in 1867. With Confederation, Canada became a self-governing nation which was considered a kingdom in its own right, though it remained subordinate to the United Kingdom; thus, Victoria was monarch of Canada, but not sovereign of it. It was not until the passing of the Statute of Westminster that Canada was considered to be under a distinct Canadian Crown, separate to that the British, and not until 1953 that the Canadian monarch, at the time Elizabeth II, was titled by Canadian law as Queen of Canada.
Between 1931 and 1983 nine other previous British colonies attained independence as kingdoms, all, including Canada, in a personal union relationship under a shared monarch. Therefore, though today there are legally ten American monarchs, one person occupies each distinct position.


The normal monarch title in Europe — i.e., the one used if the monarch has no higher title — is prince or princess, by convention. As an absolute ruler, a monarch can choose a title. However, titles are usually defined by tradition and diplomatic considerations.
Note that some of these titles have several meanings and do not necessarily designate a monarch. A Prince may be a person of royal blood (some languages uphold this distinction, see Fürst). A Duke may be a British peer. In Imperial Russia, a Grand Duke was a son or grandson of the Tsar or Tsarina. Holders of titles in these alternative meanings did not enjoy the same status as the monarchs of the same title.
Within the Holy Roman Empire, there were even more titles that were used occasionally for monarchs although they were normally noble; Margrave, Count Palatine, and Landgrave. A monarch with such a low title still was regarded as more important than a noble Duke.
The pope is the Bishop of Rome (a celibate office always forbidden to women), in English however, reports of female popes such as (Pope Joan) refer to them as pope and Popess is used, among other things, for the second trump in the Tarot deck; some European languages also have a feminine form of the word pope, such as the Italian papessa, the French papesse, and the German Päpstin''

Titles by region

When a difference exists below, male titles are placed to the left and female titles are placed to the right of the slash.
  • Oceania
    • Chieftain - Leader of a tribe or clan.
    • Tui or tui - there were/are also kings in Oceania (i.e. Tonga, Wallis and Futuna, Nauru)
    • houeiki, matai, alii, tūlafale, tavana, ariki - usually translated as "chief" in various Polynesian countries.
    • "Mo'i" normally translated as King is a title used by Hawaiian monarchs since unification in 1810. The last person to hold that title was Queen Lili'uokalani.

Current monarchs

seealso List of current monarchs NOTE: The table comprises all sovereign monarchs of the world today, but is severely incomplete with regard to the non-sovereign monarchs.

Use of titles by non-sovereigns

It is not uncommon that people who are not generally seen as monarchs nevertheless use monarchical titles. There are four cases of this:
  • Claiming an existing title, challenging the current holder. This has been very common historically. For centuries, the British monarch used, among his other titles, the title King of France, despite the fact that he had had no authority over French territory since the fifteenth century. Such as any one of the numerous antipopes who have claimed the Holy See.
  • Retaining the title of an extinct monarchy. This can be coupled with a claim that the monarchy was in fact never, or should never have been, extinct. An example of the first case is the Prince of Seborga. Examples of the second case are several deposed monarchs or otherwise pretenders to thrones of abolished monarchies, e.g., Leka, Crown Prince of Albania who is styled by some as the "King of The Albanians." Retaining the title of an extinct monarchy can, however, be totally free of claims of sovereignty, for example it was customary of numerous European Monarchies to include "King of Jerusalem" in their full titles. When it comes to deposed monarchs, it is customary to continue the usage of their monarchical title (e.g., Constantine II, King of the Hellenes) as a courtesy title, not a constitutional office, for the duration of their lifetime. However the title then dies with them and cannot be used by anyone else unless the crown is restored constitutionally. (Some republicans take offense at this custom, in spite of the fact that the same courtesy is often given to former republican heads of state too – a former U.S. president is usually styled "Mr President" for the rest of his life.) Monarchs who have freely abdicated lose their right to use their former title. However where a monarch abdicated under duress (e.g., Michael I of Romania), it is customary to see the abdication as invalid and to treat them as deposed monarchs entitled to use their monarchical style for their lifetime.
  • Inventing a new title. This is common by founders of micronations, and also may or may not come with a claim of sovereignty. When it does, it is disregarded by state leaders. A notable example is Paddy Roy Bates, styling himself the "Prince of Sealand," but not recognized as such by any national government, thus failing at least the constitutive condition for statehood (see Sealand for a fuller discussion of his claims).
kingship in Arabic: الملك
kingship in Min Nan: Ông
kingship in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Кароль
kingship in Bosnian: Monarh (naslov)
kingship in Bulgarian: Монарх
kingship in Catalan: Monarca
kingship in Czech: Panovník
kingship in Danish: Monark
kingship in German: Monarch
kingship in Estonian: Monarh
kingship in Spanish: Monarca
kingship in Esperanto: Monarko
kingship in Basque: Errege
kingship in Persian: شاه
kingship in French: Monarque
kingship in Galician: Monarca
kingship in Korean: 군주
kingship in Croatian: Kralj
kingship in Indonesian: Monarch
kingship in Icelandic: Konungur
kingship in Italian: Monarca
kingship in Hebrew: מונרך
kingship in Georgian: მეფე
kingship in Dutch: Monarch (staatshoofd)
kingship in Japanese: 君主
kingship in Norwegian: Monark
kingship in Polish: Monarcha
kingship in Portuguese: Monarca
kingship in Russian: Монарх
kingship in Simple English: Monarch
kingship in Slovak: Panovník
kingship in Slovenian: Kralj
kingship in Serbian: Краљ
kingship in Serbo-Croatian: Monarh
kingship in Finnish: Monarkki
kingship in Swedish: Monark
kingship in Thai: พระมหากษัตริย์
kingship in Turkish: Hükümdar
kingship in Ukrainian: Монарх
kingship in Chinese: 君主

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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