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Republic vs. Monarchy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 6, 2023
A republic is a state where power rests with the people and their elected representatives, while a monarchy is governed by a single person, usually a king or queen, who inherits the position.

Key Differences

In a republic, the head of state is typically elected, ensuring representation of the people's will. Conversely, in a monarchy, the head of state is often a hereditary ruler, like a king or queen, holding the position for life or until abdication.
Republics tend to emphasize democratic principles where citizens participate in governance either directly or via representatives. On the other hand, monarchies can vary in the degree of power the monarch wields, ranging from absolute control to merely ceremonial roles.
The transition of power in a republic is generally through elections, ensuring a system of checks and balances. In contrast, monarchy typically sees power passed down through familial lines, often based on birthright or descent.
Citizens in a republic often have a say in the formulation of laws and major decisions through their elected representatives. In many monarchies, particularly absolute ones, the monarch has the final say, with citizens having limited or no input.
While republics have constitutions or charters that outline the rights of citizens and limit the powers of officials, monarchies might operate under unwritten conventions or formal constitutions, depending on the nature of the monarchy.

Comparison Chart

Head of State

Elected, often for a fixed term.
Hereditary ruler, often for life or until abdication.

Power Source

Derived from the people.
Derived from birthright or tradition.

Transition of Power

Through elections or appointments.
Through familial lines or appointment by the current monarch.


Democratic principles, often with a constitution.
Can range from absolute to constitutional to ceremonial roles.

Citizen Participation

Active role, typically through voting or civic engagement.
Varies; may be limited in absolute monarchies.

Republic and Monarchy Definitions


A country without a monarch, emphasizing democratic principles.
France transitioned from a monarchy to a republic after its revolution.


A system of governance where one person rules, often inheriting the position.
The monarchy in Saudi Arabia holds significant governing power.


A state in which power resides in the people and their elected representatives.
The United States is a republic with a president as its head of state.


A historical or current system where a single family provides the line of rulers.
The Tudor dynasty was a notable period in the English monarchy.


A system that prioritizes the rule of law and often operates under a constitution.
The Republic of India operates under the largest written constitution in the world.


A political structure where the monarch might be seen as a unifying symbol for the nation.
Despite changes in governance, the monarchy in Thailand remains a significant cultural symbol.


A political system where laws are determined by a representative assembly.
In the Roman Republic, the Senate played a significant role in governance.


A state or nation in which the head of state is a monarch, usually a king or queen.
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the reigning monarch.


A form of governance distinct from monarchies and other autocratic systems.
After years of royal rule, the country established itself as a republic.


Can be absolute, constitutional, or ceremonial in nature.
Japan's monarchy is largely ceremonial, with the emperor having limited political powers.


A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president.


Government by a monarch.


A nation that has such a political order.


A state ruled or headed by a monarch.


A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.


A government in which sovereignty is embodied within a single, today usually hereditary head of state (whether as a figurehead or as a powerful ruler).
An absolute monarchy is a monarchy where the monarch is legally the ultimate authority in all temporal matters.
A constitutional monarchy is a monarchy in which the monarch's power is legally constrained, ranging from where minor concessions have been made to appease certain factions to where the monarch is a figurehead with all real power in the hands of a legislative body.


Do all republics function identically?

No, republics vary in governance, but all prioritize representation and the rule of law.

Are republics always devoid of royalty?

Typically, yes; but there are exceptions, like the Roman Republic which had ceremonial roles for royalty.

What's a key difference between a republic and a monarchy?

In a republic, leaders are elected; in a monarchy, the leader is usually a hereditary ruler.

Which countries have absolute monarchies?

Examples include Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and Eswatini (Swaziland).

How do monarchies transition power?

Usually through familial lines, based on birthright or descent.

What's a key value of republics?

Republics prioritize representation, ensuring the people's will is reflected in governance.

Do all republics have presidents?

No, some have other titles for their heads of state, like chancellors.

Can republics have unelected leaders?

While rare, there are instances where republics might have unelected leaders during transitional phases or emergencies.

What's the role of citizens in a monarchy?

It varies. In absolute monarchies, citizen input is limited, but in constitutional monarchies, they might have significant democratic rights.

Can a republic have a king or queen?

No, by definition, republics don't have monarchs, though some ancient republics had ceremonial roles for royalty.

Can monarchies be democratic?

Yes, constitutional monarchies can have democratic systems alongside a ceremonial monarch.

Can a country transition from a monarchy to a republic?

Yes, many countries, like France and Nepal, have made such transitions.

Do all monarchs have absolute power?

No, many monarchs have limited, ceremonial, or constitutional roles.

Do monarchs rule for life?

Often, but not always. Some might abdicate or have limited terms.

Which countries are the oldest monarchies?

Countries like Japan and Denmark claim ancient monarchical lineages.

How do republics ensure leaders don't misuse power?

Most republics have checks and balances, often through separate branches of government.

Can a monarchy exist without a reigning monarch?

In rare cases, a monarchy might have an interregnum or period without a monarch, but the system remains.

Are republics generally newer than monarchies?

Not necessarily. While many republics were established recently, some, like the Roman Republic, are ancient.

What's a federal republic?

It's a union of states with a representative democracy, like the U.S.

Can monarchies and republics coexist peacefully?

Yes, many neighboring countries have different governance structures but maintain peaceful relations.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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