A monarchy is a form of government in which the ruling power is vested in one person or a group of people (the monarchs) who maintain that power until either death or their own abdication.
Monarchy In Practice
Throughout history there have actually been many different types of monarchies. In some, the monarch has supreme control over everything with little to no accountability (though unlike a democratic leader that is elected and subject to a specific period of time in office, many “unsuccessful” monarchs have seen themselves the subject of execution by their people since they were effectively appointed for life). Still, other forms of monarchies have seen monarchs consult frequently with counsels on certain matters or even some leadership responsibilities redistributed entirely.
The concept of a monarchy traces back to the early days of human society. Tribes would choose leaders (or sometimes those leaders would seize control) who would remain in place indefinitely. Later on, nearly all of the great ancient civilizations had monarchies– from the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt to the Emperors in Asian kingdoms and the sultans and shahs of the Middle East, then to the Caesars of Ancient Rome and the Kings across early Europe.
Monarchies were essentially the most common form of government for centuries, until the success of the American Revolution in the 1700s. This helped spur similar revolutions (such as the French Revolution) that either resulted in independent states being formed free of a ruling monarch or monarchies being overthrown entirely throughout the next century. Many of the monarchies that remained in place eventually underwent significant reform (like that of what is now the United Kingdom).
Many of today’s monarchs are essentially ceremonial figureheads, with the true governing power being vested in elected parliaments (Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom is one example). Pure monarchies or “absolute monarchies” are also now known as “autocracies”, although dictatorships may also fall under this category. These include (but are not limited to) Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Swaziland and Brunei. Vatican City is also considered to be an absolute monarchy, with the Pope as the monarch.