History has seen its share of mentally impaired monarchs. Some examples from the last centuries include King George III of the United Kingdom, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, and Emperor Taishō of Japan. It seems natural (to me, at least) that that insanity is used as an argument against Monarchy, as opposed to a Republican form of government. My question is: was this argument against Monarchy used throughout history? If it was, then when and where it was used?

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    US politics suggests that this is a non argument :-) & :-( Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 12:52
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    @RussellMcMahon : EU politics also show similar trends...
    – vsz
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 15:48
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    One might argue that Ferdinand I abdicated because his family had a vested interest in that outcome. On the other hand, Trump's family has a vested interest in Trump staying in power. Perhaps you have instead an argument FOR monarchy.
    – C Monsour
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 17:07
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    @vsz: Meh, per the video's title he was just drunk there. May's struggles to cope with reality, on the other hand... Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 17:10
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    Just to clarify, George III was almost certainly not mad, but suffering from porphyria, although this was not known at the time.
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


Mental illness wasn't perceived as a medical condition until recent centuries. It became notional that it might be during the Enlightenment, and it only captured the popular imagination that it was with Freud.

There were still hereditary autocratic monarchies around then, but I'd stick my neck out and suggest that the main argument against them until that point and later revolved around their legitimacy and representativity rather than the off chance a monarch might be mentally unfit.

To the best of my knowledge, when past monarchs were mentally ill, some kind of regent or successor would often step in. Or they'd get deposed or killed, and replaced by someone more fit to reign. Or they'd simply be kept out of sight (Taishō of Japan), sidelined (Charles VI of France), or jailed (Joanna of Castile), while others filled the power vacuum.

The example of Ludwig II of Bavaria, for instance, is instructive. He was an eccentric with extravagant spending habits. This led conspirators to get him certified as mentally unfit to rule -- this was very controversial because they did so without even examining him. His heir was his younger brother Otto. He was considered insane and unfit to rule at the time. So his uncle and cousin ended up reigning instead, until the latter deposed him outright.

The commonality here is that a mad king is temporary state of affairs, perhaps even one that can be exploited by opportunists, rather than a problem that prompts observers to question whether there should be a monarchy to begin with.

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    beat me too it. as long as regents exist the argument is a non-starter
    – user31561
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 12:06
  • Pls read some political science! Monarchy was rejected because monarchs could not make things happen: Any change deleteriously affected some nobles' ancient rights and privileges and so were adamantly and often violently opposed. Many kings, including John of Robin Hood and Magna Carta fame, and Charles I, who lost his head over this issue, had good ideas for bringing progress to their realms, but could not implement them due to opposition of the hereditary nobility. Their reliance on the divine right of kings cost them everything.
    – CElliott
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 1:18
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    @CElliott: I fail to see how what you describe doesn't fall under legitimacy and representativity. Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 2:26
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    @CElliott Charles I lost to a parliamentary faction, which while not democratic by modern standards was the direct predecessor to modern democratic government. I've not heard of any of his "progress ideas"?
    – pjc50
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 10:05
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    Perhaps "mental illness" wasn't thought of as a medical condition, but madness was certainly recognized. For instance Roman Emperors Nero and Caligula.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 17:28

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