A political system in which there is a hereditary sovereign, usually called a king or queen in Europe where monarchy is constitutional and a sheikh in Saudi Arabia and a few other Middle Eastern states where the form may be absolute.
   The monarchy in Britain is the oldest of our national institutions. It is a constitutional monarchy, which means that it has lost its political role. In theory it retains certain powers but these are largely exercised by the Prime Minister. In a constitutional monarchy, the monarch fulfils essentially ceremonial duties. Under normal circumstances, the monarch has no influence over the choice of Prime Minister, the elected leader of the majority party assuming the office. Nor does the king or queen have any real political power during the lifetime of a Government and has not had any for well over a century. The role is largely symbolic, that of a figurehead who receives visiting dignitaries. The Queen and other leading members of her family also visit parts of the country to perform social functions (opening schools and civic centres), as well as touring abroad to represent
   Britain in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. Many people – especially the more elderly – find monarchy attractive, admiring the pomp, colour and splendour associated with royal occasions. For them, it seems to satisfy a popular need and evokes respect. It raises their morale and serves as a focus for their patriotic feeling. Others, members of younger generations often among them, are less enthusiastic. In their view, in our less deferential age, respect and loyalty have to be earned. Heredity is no guarantee of capacity. To them, the monarchy seems outdated, an emblem of privilege, costly to maintain and representing the past, not the future.
   See also: royal prerogative

Glossary of UK Government and Politics . 2013.


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