Say, a country has well-established democratic doctrines and principles. Is it practically possible for that country to directly switch to a monarchy? By practical, I mean the country must last reasonably long, and not just some short-lived monarchy, overthrown by the discontented public.

I'm talking about a direct reform, e.g. a president will reform the government. Countries who had long series of wars before achieving this are not counted.

On a side note, are there real world examples for countries with these types of histories (existing and still living)? I can't seem to find any.

  • Are you asking about monarchy in the broader sense (including parlamentary monarchy) or an absolutist monarchy?
    – SJuan76
    Jun 6, 2016 at 15:48
  • A monarchy in general. Answers about both parliamentary and absolute would be good :)
    – Imaginate
    Jun 6, 2016 at 15:54
  • Montenegro has half-done it, and it is at least a possibility in Serbia.
    – user207421
    Jun 7, 2016 at 0:58
  • 4
    There are countries that at the same time are monarchies and have "well-established democratic doctrines and principles"... Most European monarchies, for example.
    – user5097
    Jun 7, 2016 at 7:22
  • 1
    Would modern Spain count? Went from dictatorship directly back to a constitutional monarchy.
    – matt_black
    Mar 13, 2018 at 15:46

5 Answers 5


Yes, and in fact France did it.

Basically, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected President of France, during the Second Republic. When he was term-limited out of office, he "self-couped" and then held a plebescite. There was at the time and remain questions of the free and fair nature of the plebescite, but he won by a wide margin, and the Second Empire was born.

Another "negative case" is the Brazilian Constitutional Referendum in 1993. When Brazil redemocratized in 1983, one of the conditions was a vote on whether Brazil should be a Monarchy or a Republic, and if it were a democracy should it have a Presidential system or a Parliamentary one. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the status quo, or a Republican Presidential system. However, it is conceivable that a country with a relatively strong democratic tradition could have voted for a monarchy, although it did not.

  • He won by a large margin in the plebiscite? Does that mean that there was some sort of public approval of the new system?
    – Imaginate
    Jun 6, 2016 at 15:57
  • 1
    He claimed so. There weren't independent observers to verify that the vote was fair. Many people contended, with good justification, that his partisans had seriously put a thumb on the scale, but he was a popular monarch at first. What did him in was starting and then losing the Franco-Prussian war. Jun 6, 2016 at 16:01

In theory, this is possible. Most of the states which are generally considered democratic have constitutions which describe a democratic process for changing the constitution itself. This process could in theory be used to convert the constitution from a democratic one into a monarchy.

However, such constitutional amendment clauses usually require a large part of all elected representatives (usually more than just a qualified majority) to agree to it, and there is little incentive for politicians to disenfranchise themselves by handing their powers over to a monarch. Usually the trend goes into the opposite direction: In all the still existing monarchies in Europe the parliaments usurped more and more powers from their monarchs until they became de-facto democracies with monarchs who are technically still heads of the state but are practically politically irrelevant.

In some countries there are even political parties which advocate monarchy and pledge to propose such constitutional changes if elected. The irony of trying to build a monarchy through participation in the democratic system is obvious, but it is the most obvious way for monarchists to achieve their goal without resorting to violence.

  • 1
    This is a bizarre answer. 1/ The other, earlier answer shows a real-world example of it happening, so saying it's only possible in theory and so on is... weird. 2/ You seem to be under the impression that "monarchy" and "democracy" are opposite words. They are not. Most Europeans monarchies are democracies, for example. I don't see what's particularly ironic about trying to build a monarchy through democratic means (not that I agree with it)... PS: Vatican City is still an absolute monarchy, so your statement about all European monarchies becoming democracies is false.
    – user5097
    Jun 6, 2016 at 19:01
  • 2
    @NajibIdrissi Your entire objection seems to boil down to the phrase "in theory" and the word "all" (instead of "nearly all"). These are minor quibbles in an otherwise good answer in my opinion. At the very least, "bizarre" is too strong of a description for this answer. As for your point that the answer treats democracy as being opposite in concept to a monarchy, that point could also be said of the question, and is easily addressed by using the term "absolute monarchy" instead.
    – JBentley
    Jun 6, 2016 at 20:30
  • @JBentley The answer makes it sound like the event is as likely as getting hit by lighting eight times in a row on the tune of Beethoven's 5th symphony... When in fact it's already happened. And yes, the question is flawed too. Does that mean it's okay for the answer to be flawed...?
    – user5097
    Jun 7, 2016 at 7:21
  • @NajibIdrissi Setting aside your exaggerated lightning bolt analogy, it is reasonable to say that it is a very unlikely event, considering the only example mentioned so far happened in a single country out of the entire world, 164 years ago, and did not last longer than a single government. Out of all the democracies that do and have existed in history, the number that have converted to a monarchy are a very tiny fraction.
    – JBentley
    Jun 7, 2016 at 8:38

In actual fact there are more examples that just the Second French Republic becoming the French Second Empire:

  • Napoleon Bonaparte; First Consul of the French Republic (massively surprised nobody's already mentioned this) had himself declared Emperor Napoleon I by plebiscite in 1804,

  • The Italian Republic, formed out of the Cisalpine Republic and in a personal union with France at the time (i.e. Napoleon was also it's President at the same time as being First Consul of France) became the Kingdom of Italy in 1805.

  • The Batavian Republic; a 'sister republic' to the French First Republic; became the Kingdom of Holland in 1806 with Napoleon's brother, Louis, as its King. Incidentally; under the previous constitution to the Batavian republic; the Republic of the United Provinces; the Netherlands was a republic but under the de facto control of the Stadtholders of the House of Orange. On Napoleon's defeat in 1814/5 it was decided to re-establish the Netherlands under the rule of the House of Orange again but as a constitutional monarchy rather than a republic.

  • Jean Bedel Bokassa, President of the Central African Republic, declared the country the Central African Empire in 1976 with himself as Emperor. He was overthrown in 1979 and the republic restored.

  • It happened three times in Haiti: one of the independence leaders, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, had himself declared Emperor Jacques I in emulation of Napoleon. The republic was restored after his assassination; but one of his lieutenants, Henry Christophe; after a brief period as President, declared himself King of Haiti in 1811. He only ruled part of Haiti, however, and was overthrown and killed after a civil war in 1820. Much later; in 1849; President Faustin Soulouque of Haiti declared himself Emperor Faustin I. He ruled until overthrown in 1859 and the republic yet again restored.

  • The First Spanish Republic was replaced in 1873 with a monarchy in 1873.

  • The Republic of Lucca was transformed into the Principality of Lucca and Piombino for his sister, Elisa. It later after Napoleon's defeat became an independent duchy.

  • Cambodia, after being a Kingdom, republic, communist republic and then republic, became a monarchy again in 1993.

  • Hungary; after a brief period as a republic and a communist insurrection after world war two, became a Kingdom after the defeat of the communists; albeit a Kingdom with a vacant throne that was ruled by the 'regent', Miklos Horthy. The Kingdom lasted until 1946.

  • China; after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911/1912, first had President Yuan Shikai attempt to make himself Emperor in 1916, and secondly had a brief restoration of the Qing Dynasty under Pu Yi in July 1917.

  • The Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo was inititially a republic (with Pu Yi as President) until Pu Yi was declared Emperor two years later.

  • The Mexican monarchy (after being overthrown in 1822) was restored in 1863 under the Austrian archduke Maximilian. This led to a civil war and he was eventually overthrown.


  • Former President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia attempted to have himself declared the King of the Gambia towards the end of his rule (incidentally, the Gambia was briefly a commonwealth realm with Elizabeth II as its Queen after independence from Britain). He was not; however, successful.

  • On the restoration of democracy in Fiji in 1997 and its admittance back into the commonwealth, there was talk of restoring Elizabeth II as Queen of Fiji; where the monarchy had been overthrown in 1987. The Queen's head continued to appear on coins and banknotes even after the republic was declared. A restoration did not happen but Elizabeth II was recognised as 'High Chief of Fiji', a position that was later abolished in 2012. Current Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was quoted as saying early in his tenure as PM that he was in favour of restoring the Queen as Queen of Fiji; but he later backtracked from this; for example removing the Queen's portrait from coins and banknotes


To throw my 2 solidii on to the fire, that was basically what happened in:

  • This isn't you best work, but it didn't deserve a downvote IMHO. Jun 8, 2016 at 13:32
  • 3
    Mentioning Roman Republic as an example is the most worthful example IMO. It is widely studied in rights/law related disciplines. Jun 10, 2016 at 17:11

The answer is Yes, however there are a couple of factors that would need to be considered. Firstly, whether or not the country in question already has a family of royal lineage - most European countries definitely do however for countries that don't have one it would be a much difficult process as you would need to moreorless 'create' a royal family and ascribe the powers to this family through statutory instruments effectively creating a parliamentary/Constitutional monarch. Secondly, if the general public are willing to give up their rights to "self-rule" which is in effect what we have with most democracies. This might be a difficult one to swing as there would need to be a more than a vote in parliament - there would need to be a special referendum, special in the sense that a set of unique parameters would need to be defined such as a minimum turn out for the results to be validate (probably something like 80 - 90% of the electorate) - It would be quite messy :) I slightly disagree that Napoleon did this but I think a very historical reference would be Biblical Israel when the people demanded a king and Saul was given the crown! There might also be some examples in Chinese history, but I'm not 100% sure.

  • FYI, China has never, in 4000 years, been a democracy. The only exception to that is Taiwan, and only for the last ca. 30 years. Jun 8, 2016 at 13:34
  • Also you are wrong about democracy being a "self-rule" government system. A republic like in the US currently is a "self-rule" political system. Here is a link to an article that explains a little more. theblindlibertarian.com/2010/05/15/…
    – jmc302005
    Jun 21, 2017 at 11:53

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