In the 20th century, many monarchies were either abolished or made "strictly ornamental" and their countries were democratized.

Has there ever been a case of the public opting to re-instate or re-empower an absolute monarchy? Or has an absolute monarchy ever retaken power in a democracy? I'm mostly curious about The West, but would like to read about any such occurrences.

I consider an "ornamental" monarchy one that allows the public to vote on issues such as spending. Absolute monarchy being the complete opposite. I am not concerned with restrained/constitutional monarchy.

  • 3
    You are presupposing that a monarchy isn't democratic which doesn't work in my book. – gktscrk Jul 6 at 20:38
  • 5
    The Commonwealth of England comes to mind, as does the French Republic, or Rome; I seem to recall it happening in the Greek city states. During the Constitutional Convention, it was argued that this was the inevitable fate of democracy. – Mark C. Wallace Jul 6 at 20:45
  • Welcome to History.SE [USERNAME]! Could you edit your question to clarify where you've searched and what you found already, complete with links and references, and context if applicable? In particular, please let us know what you find missing or unclear about the Wikipedia entry on the topic, if one exists. This allows those who might want to answer to do so without needing to redo the work you've already done. You might find it helpful to review the site tour and help center and, in particular, How to Ask. – Mark C. Wallace Jul 6 at 20:45
  • 3
    @JacobIRR Your definitions of a monarchy as a country where the royal family privately owns the country is extremely flawed. Furthermore, the distinctions between monarchy and republic and non democracy and democracy are not indentical. – MAGolding Jul 6 at 20:49
  • 2
    In which case the question should be "Has a democracy reverted to an autocracy?" and the answer would still be "Yes". – gktscrk Jul 7 at 4:50

Short Answer:


Long answer:

JacobIRR's question is badly flawed. They assume that the royal family owns the country as their private property in all monarchies which is highly inaccurate. They assume that the difference between a monarchy and a republic and between a non democracy and a democracy are more or less identical, which is not correct.

There have been many countries which transitioned between monarchies and republics several times. And there have been many changes in the level of democracy of countries without those countries changing their basic forms of government.

Spain was a monarchy until 1868, a republic from 1868-1874, a monarchy from 1874-1931, a republic from 1931 until the Nationalist victory in 1939, a Francoist dictatorship from 1939-1975, and a monarchy since 1975. During that time there have been many changes from more democratic to less democratic and from less democratic to more democratic.

Greece was a republic from 1822 to 1932, a kingdom from 1832 to 1924, a republic from 1924 to 1935, a kingdom from 1935 to 1975, and a republic since 1975. Changes in how democratic Greece was did not always coincide with transitions from one form of government to another.

The most famous example is France, which was a kingdom until 1792, a republic until 1804, an empire until 1814, a kingdom until 1815, an empire again in 1815, a kingdom from 1815 to 1848, a republic from 1848 to 1852, an Empire from 1852 to 1870, and a republic from 1870 to 1940, the Vichy Regime from 1940 to 1945, and a republic since 1945. There have been other changes in government such as the replacement of one dynasty with another in 1830 and the replacement of the Fourth Republic with the Fifth Republic in 1958.

There have also been many changes in democracy levels in France since 1789, some of which did not result from changes in regimes.

At the present time the majority of countries are republics, and many of them have had changes in their levels of democracy since becoming republics.

| improve this answer | |
  • I've edited the question to remove the focus from the grey area and strictly focus on the presence of an autocratic/absolute monarchy. – JacobIRR Jul 6 at 21:57
  • +1, but I think you mean "a republic until 1940". Also for 18148 I think you mean 1848. – AllInOne Jul 7 at 13:44
  • 1
    @AllinOne 13 I have corrected the dates in my answer. – MAGolding Jul 8 at 2:58

Has a democracy ever transitioned (or reverted back) to a monarchy?

Many monarchy's today are like the UK. Constitutional monarchys which are strictly speaking republics with the power of governance in the hands of the legislature or elected governments. The monarchy plays a role, ceremonial, historical head of government. But the actual governance and decision making is done by elected officials. Likewise most self described "democracies" aren't really democracies, but Republics. Some will tell you that democracies and republics are the same, However that's an oversimplification. Republics are actually a form of government which are designed to thwart popular mandate which historically prioritize collective rights over individual rights. Republics have "safeguards" which attempt to offer more protections for individual rights. As Plato who invented the first republic in his book of the same name, protect individuals from the "tyranny of the majority". It was a democracy which killed plato's teacher Socrates.

In the USA there is a semi active century long struggle going on between popular sovereign democracy and republic principles. The founding fathers in the US were in agreement they wanted nothing to do with democracies. Rather they set up a Republic, a constitutional republic where the people elected directly only 1/6th of the government. The House of Representatives. All other offices were appointed or elected by proxy like the US President is elected today with the Electoral College not by popular mandate. Today the Senate, House are both elected, and the electoral college merits are under debate.


France transitioned from Republic back to a Monarchy under Napoleon, May 18, 1804 and then became a Republic again. (second Republic) in 1848.

Spain transitioned from a fascist republic to a constitutional monarchy in 1978. Think about that one.

Most recently one might consider Russia as a country which could make this transition. While it once held free elections, has a constitution; now seems much closer to a monarchy.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    And then back to a monarchy (Napoleon III went off script) and then back to a democracy, again. – Spencer Jul 6 at 23:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.