Wikipedia's page about monarchies states that they might have "predetermined limits on the length of their tenure". However reading the page there is no mention about any current monarchy who does that.

So, do any current monarchy have such a system, either a simple "time limit" or something more complex? Voluntary abdication doesn't count, obviously.

If not, are there any (recent or ancient) notable examples of monarchies with such a rule?

  • 3
    This question (monarchies with built-in rotation) seems related too.
    – Drux
    Feb 5, 2013 at 13:32
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    As phrased, I'm tempted to migrate this question to politics.se.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 5, 2013 at 14:02
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    Related :)
    – DVK
    Feb 5, 2013 at 14:45
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    Visigoths are the closest I can think of , but they didn't have predetermined terms - just deposed kings at the will of a councel.
    – DVK
    Feb 5, 2013 at 14:58
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    Various regents, such as the Empress Dowager Cixi, may (partly) fit the question.
    – Drux
    Feb 5, 2013 at 16:13

4 Answers 4


The only modern day examples of monarchies with limited tenure are Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.

"There are two elective monarchies, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, where the constituent states of each federation are hereditary monarchies but those rulers form an electoral college which assigns the federal position of head of state to one of their number for a term (of five years)."

source: Wiki page on Hereditary Titles

There are some other examples in there as well of some more ancient monarchies.

  • This is more "rotational" than and actual single-ruler limit, but I guess there are none of those, then.
    – o0'.
    Feb 25, 2013 at 13:12

I'll look at non hereditary absolute rulers first, which are similar to monarchies. If you look up Dictator, you'll find examples of absolute rulers who had set terms. Roman Dicatators being the original example as well as Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Many states have or have had emergency power laws that effectively result in a dictator for the duration of an emergency (although sometimes this doesn't go so well, Article 48)

Protectors spring to mind as well. So do puppet rulers, colonial governors, Proconsuls and others who ruled like kings but bowed a knee to an external authority.

As for monarchies, recently with Queen Beatrice's abdication we've been reminded of Dutch tradition, where an aged monarch is expected to abdicate. But did you know it was also expected in Medieval Japan, where it was practice for emperors to step aside so the heir could ascend relatively young. In addition, before Meiji Restoration it was common for empresses (women) to rule for the minimum time until a male descendant was old enough to rule. Women leaders acting as a temporary "stop-gap". None of these aren't hard and fast term limits, but they are clearly informal limits on length of rule.

  • Here are some weird traditions to do with temporary monarchs, bartleby.com/196/64.html haven't verified. (The other side of the dictator coin, temporary ceremonial monarchs, regal yet powerless)
    – Nathan
    Feb 5, 2013 at 16:30
  • +1 for the emperor-monks; the other examples are not quite fitting... Feb 5, 2013 at 18:36
  • @FelixGoldberg, yeah but you can never be sure what people want to get from a question. Also the difference between absolute ruler and monarch isn't huge. Japan is definitely the best example for odd practices, as usual.
    – Nathan
    Feb 5, 2013 at 22:24
  • +1 I appreciate the effort, but @Hendrik's answer is more fitting to what I meant.
    – o0'.
    Feb 25, 2013 at 13:13

Roman king (rex) had a limited term of 8 years, but this was never observed. The kings manipulated the law to extend their term.

Under Diocletian the Dominate system was established in Roman Empire where an emperor's term was limited to 10 years. But only a few emperors followed this limitation, which soon became obsolete. But it is not certain whether Dominate should be considered a monarchy.

  • 2
    Way to go for bringing up the Dominate (although it was actually 20 years: 10 as caesar and then 10 as augustus). However, what is your source for the assertion that the rex was limited to 6 years? Feb 5, 2013 at 18:51
  • @Felix Goldberg thanks, I fixed the term for Dominate.
    – Anixx
    Feb 5, 2013 at 18:53
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    Btw, how is the Dominate not a monarchy? What else can you call rule by one person who gets to designate his successor, wears a crown, and receives proskynesis from everybody? What am I missing? Feb 5, 2013 at 18:55
  • @Felix Goldberg, the Soviet Encyclopedia says it was a (military) dictatorship. The crown was not exclusive to the monarch in Rome: there was a civic crown (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civic_Crown) under the Republic. Also the dominate was not hereditary and the head of state was not single. Basically, not a single sign of a monarchy: no single ruler, no inheritance, limited term.
    – Anixx
    Feb 5, 2013 at 19:12
  • Guys, if you are going to carry on a debate or discussion, then you need to take it to the chat room. You can leave a message there and then the other person can respond at their convenience, just as you have been doing here. The comments section is not intended for this use. All other comments were deleted, and if you start it up again, future comments will also be deleted. Feb 7, 2013 at 12:45

Consider Sparta.

In Sparta the king's (archagestes') term was 8 years. Upon its end, the ephores conducted a fortune-telling rite so to determine whether the gods were in favor of the term extension.

  • 1
    ...which one would imagine stimulated a rather nice enriching of the ephores coffers.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 6, 2013 at 13:45
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    What is the source for this? Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartan_Constitution#Dual_Kingship) talks about kingship for life. So apparently does everything I've ever read so far on Sparta. Please explain where this comes from. Feb 6, 2013 at 13:59

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