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A federal monarchy is a federation of states with a single monarch as over-all head of the federation, but retaining different monarchs, or a non-monarchical system of government, in the various states joined to the federation.
As a term in political science
The term was introduced into English political and historical discourse by Edward Augustus Freeman, in his History of Federal Government (1863). Freeman himself thought a federal monarchy only possible in the abstract.
Historically an important example of a federal monarchy is the German Empire of 1871–1918. The head of state of the federation was a monarch, the German Emperor, who was also head of state of the largest constituent part to the federation as King of Prussia, while other constituent kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Bavaria, Kingdom of Saxony or Kingdom of Württemberg, retained their own monarchs and armies. Besides the altogether 23 monarchies federated to the empire there were three republican city-states, namely Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck, and Alsace-Lorraine, a semi-autonomous republic since 1912.
The concept played a role in political debates in Italy and Austria-Hungary in the nineteenth century and in Yugoslavia in the twentieth century, but it was not put into effect in any of the cases. For example, Italy was not a country before 1861, including several small kingdoms, duchies, republics, etc. Austria had historically been one country, but the large number of ethnic groups in the country a federal monarchy was suggested. Yugoslavia was much like Italy, but territory had previously been occupied by Austria and the Ottoman Empire.
In recent years, the Kingdom of Belgium and the Kingdom of Spain have been referred to as federal monarchies, but neither is officially styled as such. Canada and Australia are also federal monarchies, and both share the same individual as their respective sovereign. (In both cases, a governor-general exercises the powers of the monarch at the national level, and a lieutenant-governor (for the Canadian provinces) or governor (for the Australian states) exercises the power of the monarch in each province or state.) In those countries, the monarch can function as separate legal persons at each level of government; for example, it is possible for the Queen in Right of Canada to sue the Queen in Right of Ontario even if both offices are held by the same person. That applies internationally, as well; the Queen in Right of British Columbia may sue the Queen in Right of Australia or Victoria or the United Kingdom if the forum is appropriate, but the actual monarch is the same person in each of the potential suits.
Currently, the term can be applied in the fullest sense to the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, in both of which the head of state of the federation is selected from among the heads, Sheikh, Sultan or Raja, respectively, who rule the constituent states of the federation.
List of federal monarchies
|Nation||Official Name||Subdivisions||Head of state|
|Australia||Commonwealth of Australia||States and territories||Queen or king|
|Belgium||Kingdom of Belgium||Communities and Regions||King or queen|
|Canada||Canada||Provinces and territories||Queen or king|
|Malaysia||Federation of Malaysia||States and federal territories||Yang di-Pertuan Agong|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis||Parish||Queen or king|
|United Arab Emirates||United Arab Emirates||Emirates||President|
- E.A. Freeman, History of Federal Government, pp. 96-100. Available on google books.
- Ronald L. Watts, Comparing Federal Systems. McGill-Queen's University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-88911-835-3
- Victoria (29 March 1867), Constitution Act, 1867, Preamble, Westminster: Queen's Printer, retrieved 21 May 2009
- Victoria (9 July 1900), Commonwealth Of Australia Constitution Act, Preamble, Westminster: Queen's Printer, retrieved 21 May 2009
- Tommy Thomas, "Is Malaysia an Islamic State?" 2005.