Monarchies that continue to be vigorous today are those that managed to decentralize power in some way or, on the other hand, that maintain control of the population through dictatorial regimes, in the opinion of analysts consulted by the Sheet.
This political system, apparently anachronistic, persists in the 21st century in at least 43 countries that adopt the monarchy as a form of government, among parliamentarians, absolutists and religious. About 600 million people, or 7% of the world’s population, live in these nations.
Doctor in international relations from the University of Oxford, Faap professor Vinicius Vieira says that the existence of monarchies is due to the absence of a better option in countries that have not gone through republican revolutions. “In the case of the UK, it has always been seen as a symbol of stability. The same thing in the Nordic countries.”
According to Vieira, the British monarchy has made room for some external participation since the 13th century, with the Magna Carta, which prevented the absolute exercise of power. “This adaptation to the new times is fundamental for such an old institution to know how to renew itself, sharing power with actors that were emerging”, he explains.
Another important point is the absence of major failures in wars – which is not usually forgiven by the people. Germany and Italy, in the 20th century, are examples of royalty whose power was contested after succumbing, recalls Vieira.
The reinvention also involves charitable actions. “What can state-supported people do to not be seen as useless? Helping charities was the way the British found it, it’s a model followed by monarchies that have this character that borders on celebrity.”
Political scientist and professor at FGV-EAESP, Guilherme Casarões says that the political system has an anachronistic component — the monarchies known today are a product of the Middle Ages. For him, advances in society broke with the idea of a monarch authorized by God, the divine right of kings. “You get a democracy organized around the electoral process,” he says.
According to Casarões, the survival of parliamentary and democratic monarchies, as in the cases of the United Kingdom, Japan and several European countries such as Belgium, is linked to a component of tradition and a sense of continuity of the nation.
“The monarch embodies the national spirit. In practice, day-to-day politics are handled by the prime minister, by the cabinet,” he says. “The system can only be sustained in a democratic context because the effective power of the head of state is very small, much more symbolic than concrete.”
For Casarões, every monarchy was established at some point in the past —perhaps in a very distant period— through some dictatorial or theocratic logic. Today, however, in many countries, monarchs “reign, but do not rule.”
Vieira says that non-constitutional monarchies are sustained in a context of famine among the population. He cites as an example the African kingdom of Eswatini. “They have a lot of strength in the face of an impoverished population and a poorly diversified economy.”
In the countries of the Persian Gulf, however, the analyst sees another type of movement by the local royals to stay in power. “They have remained authoritarian in poverty and manage to be authoritarian in wealth — not distributing wealth, calling in skilled foreign workers [que ocupam vagas de trabalho]. It is the development model of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.”
Monarchies also exert a certain fascination, even today. “This has to do with a certain fetish for power, for wealth, this idea of a differentiated class”, says Casarões, highlighting the journalistic coverage on the subject. “In the case of the United Kingdom, the monarch is treated with a mixture of reverence and curiosity, which gives a symbolic value and at the same time wants to humanize the person.”
For Vieira, royalty is fascinating because it conveys an air of stability in a world where there are few anchors. “There is an air of detachment, of perfection. A model to be imitated, something that is not in our world”, she says. “The monarchy plays this symbolic role during crises. Without a queen like Elizabeth, perhaps the UK would have succumbed more drastically to times like Brexit and the demise of its colonial empire.”