Today, in the early twenty-first century, most countries no longer have kings and queens.
However, some countries have remained as monarchies, including England and its
former colonies. However, even in these countries, the monarch is a ceremonial figure
who no longer has any real power over his or her subjects. These countries are called
constitutional monarchies because they are democracies in which the monarch remains
the official head of state.
Many years ago, the kings and queens of England did have real power, but gradually this
power was transferred to the people and their elected officials. It is interesting to
examine how this transition occurred.
Even in very early times, the king of England did not have absolute power. He was the
most powerful man in the country, but he could not entirely force his will upon others. If
he became too demanding, he might face opposition from powerful local land-owners.
These men, called the barons, might resist a king who tried to become too strong.
This is exactly what happened in the year 1215. The king of England had made many
unreasonable demands upon the country, and the barons decided to resist. They forced
the king to agree to a list of rules that would limit his power. These rules were written in a
famous document called the Magna Carta. This document described not only the rights
of the barons, but also of the common people of England.
During the next few hundred years, the kings still had much power. However, some other
people, such as the landowners and the richer men of the towns, also had influence.
Their meetings became known as Parliaments, and the king had to share power with the
parliament. During the 1640s, one king tried to rule without Parliament, and tried to take
away the rights of Parliament. This led to a civil war, and the king was defeated. England
soon became a monarchy again, but it became clear that Parliament would have more
power than the king. Until the twentieth century, the Parliaments of England became
more democratic, as more and more people were allowed to vote.
Today, England still has a constitutional monarchy. But not all English-speaking
countries recognize the English queen. For example, the United States became an
independent country over 200 years ago and has been a republic ever since.
In some countries, there is debate about the future of the monarchy. Canada, Australia,
and New Zealand still recognize the queen of England as their own queen even though
those countries are no longer governed by England. Many people in those countries
want to abolish the monarchy. They believe that their countries should now have their
own head of state. On the other hand, some people in those countries want to keep the
monarchy because it reminds them of their country’s early history. This is an ongoing
topic of debate for Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders.