Kings And Queens

November 23, 2012 9:00 am
Kings and Queens
Monarchial system of government has been in existence for many centuries now. Rule by a king or queen is a very old form of government. The first kings whose names we know ruled thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Today, many countries in Europe still have kings or queens. These countries include England, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden. But kings and queens today have much less power than such rulers once had.
Rule by a king or queen is known as monarchy. When a monarch (king or queen) comes to power, we say that he or she “takes the throne.” A throne is a special chair used by a monarch on formal occasions.
The ceremony in which the monarch takes the throne is called a coronation. At the coronation, a crown is placed on the monarch’s head. Some countries still hold an elaborate coronation when a new monarch takes the throne. Britain did in 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.
Kings and queens wear crowns for fancy occasions as a sign of their power and rank. This crown was worn by Stephen I, who became the first king of Hungary in 1001. Crowns are usually made of precious metals, like gold, and decorated with jewels.
Castle in Bavaria
Kings and queens live in palaces or castles. King Louis II of Bavaria (now part of Germany) had this fairy-tale castle built in the late 1800s.
Changing of the Guard
Queen Elizabeth II of Britain lives at Buckingham Palace in London. A colorful ceremony takes place daily at the palace, when a new group of palace guards comes on duty. This ceremony, shown here, is called Changing of the Guard.
Prince Charles, Prince Harry, and Prince William
Prince Charles, left,is the oldest son of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. Charles has two sons, Prince William, right, and Prince Harry, middle. Charles will follow his mother and become king. William, Charles’s oldest son, will succeed Charles as king.
Queen Beatrix
Beatrix became queen of The Netherlands in 1980. She has few powers as queen and appoints a prime minister to run the government. Today, most kings and queens have little power to rule.
The word royal is used to describe people who are related to a monarch. The members of a monarch’s immediate family are known as the royal family. The son of a king or queen is called a prince. The daughter is a princess.
A monarch has the right to rule until the end of his or her life. Kings and queens also have the right to pass on the crown to one of their children, usually the oldest son. The son who expects to inherit the throne is called the crown prince.
If a king has no sons, his oldest daughter may take the throne as queen after his death. But most queens have gotten their title by marrying a king.
A ruling family is known as a dynasty when it stays in power long enough and many from that family take the throne. However, sometimes a monarch was not very good. If somebody else gained enough support, that person could overthrow the monarch and take his or her place. The newcomer’s family then became the royal family and started a new dynasty.
A king or queen usually rules a single nation. Throughout history, many monarchs have tried to extend their rule over other lands. A monarch who rules many lands is sometimes called an emperor or empress. The territory of an emperor or empress is their empire.
King and Emperor
A king rules his own country. An emperor rules other lands as well. William I, shown here, was king of a German land called Prussia. In 1871, many German lands came together to form a German empire, and William I became emperor of Germany. Germany hasn’t had an emperor since 1918.
Carl Gustaf of Sweden
Carl XVI Gustaf became king of Sweden in 1973. Since 1975, Sweden’s king has had no power to govern. The job of the king or queen is purely ceremonial.
Louis XIV of France
King Louis XIV ruled France from 1643 to 1715. He believed that his right to rule came from God and that he could do whatever he liked. He had total control over France and the French people.
There have been other names for emperors through history. The rulers of the Roman Empire disliked the title of emperor. They preferred to be known as caesars after the family name of one of their early leaders, Julius Caesar. The word caesar became kaiser in German. Germany’s emperors in the 1800s were known as kaisers. The name tsar(or czar) for the traditional rulers of Russia also comes from caesar.
Kings and queens once ruled with absolute (total) power. Their word was law, and they could do whatever they liked. Some kings developed the idea that they ruled by “divine right.” According to this idea, a king had a special relationship with God. He could therefore rule without interference from anybody else.
Through the years, the absolute power and divine right of kings was reduced. In time, an elected president replaced the monarch in many countries. Other countries kept their monarchs but limited their powers to govern.
The American colonies were ruled by the king of Britain until the American Revolution (1775-1783) ended the king’s rule over them. In France, the French Revolution (1789-1799) got rid of the monarchy. In Russia, the monarchy lasted until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Germany had a monarch until World War I ended in 1918. Today, the duties of kings and queens in Europe are largely ceremonial.
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