After the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’ bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, the institution of the monarchy is called into question worldwide. Around the globe, there are still a dozen countries which are absolute or semi-constitutional monarchies, meaning that monarchs yield considerable powers there. In addition to British Overseas Territories, the Queen of England serves as the head of state of 15 sovereign countries other than her own – making the UK the most prolific among the world’s 17 constitutional monarchies which keep employing monarchs as representative heads of state.
In November, Barbados will be the first country in almost 30 years to remove the queen as its head of state and change its status to a Republic. Governor General Sandra Mason, the Queen’s stand-in in Barbados, said the move was in order to “fully leave our colonial past behind”. Barbados is celebrating its 55th year of independence from Britain this year. Other countries that have discussed dismantling the Queen as their figurehead include Jamaica and Australia, where a 1999 referendum looking to replace Queen Elizabeth with an Australian head of state failed. Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago as well as Dominica have previously dropped the English monarch as their head of state.
Absolute and semi-constitutional monarchies are most common today on the Arabian Peninsula, even though Morocco, Brunei, Eswatini and Liechtenstein also count among them. Semi-constitutionalism – where monarchs and elected representatives share powers – ranges from countries which let monarchs retain some powers next to an elected parliament to so-called elective monarchies, which elect leaders from a group of royals – the governing system of the United Arab Emirates. The Pope is also elected from a group of Cardinals, but he is the singular ruler over the Vatican, therefore considered an absolute monarchy.
Ten countries in Europe and five in Asia as well as Tonga and Lesotho retain their own monarch in a representative function and as head of state. Traditional subnational monarchies are prolific in Indonesia and South Africa, where the king of the Zulu nation, Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, holds considerable informal power in the Eastern region of KwaZulu-Natal.