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Different people, different forms of government (part 16)




Last week, we started our discourse on Feudalism, wherein we saw how the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants (villains or serfs) were obliged to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labour, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.


Today, we shall conclude same and start a new concept, Monarchy. Modern critiques of Feudalism From the time of the French historian, Louis Chantereau Le Febvre (1588–1658), questions were raised concerning the extent to which the feudal construct over simplified and distorted the historical realities it was intended to capture.


Chantereau Le Febvre denounced as futile, the attempts of his contemporaries to deduce general rules from uncertain principles. He stressed the necessity of studying authentic acts and working “historically,” implying thereby that his contemporaries were not working in this fashion. He cautioned against reducing the great variety of fiefs to a single type, because each fief was different from the others.


Despite Chantereau Le Febvre’s reservations, in the end, he succumbed to current fashion and endorsed a simplified picture of feudal institutions. He did, however, edit and publish medieval documents demonstrating the difficulty of attaching precise meanings to such words as feudum and allodium.


Many modern historians have attempted to follow Chantereau Le Febvre’s admonitions and have studied these words and others, such as vassus (“vassal”), homo (“man”), and fidelis (“the faithful”), which figured centrally in the classic definitions of the feudal construct. By examining the contexts in which key words appear in a host of medieval acts and chronicles, they have demonstrated the wide range of meanings these words possessed and the difficulty of formulating simple and precise definitions of any of them.



It is clear that in the Middle Ages those who fought (like those who farmed) were rewarded in different ways and were sometimes paid in money. Land was owned, controlled, and held in a variety of ways.


The extent to which, surrender of property to a lord as a fief limited control and rights over the property has been investigated, as has the importance of such acts in creating ties between family groups that could be repeatedly renewed.


The difficulty and danger of drawing sharp distinctions between the ceremonial practices of the nobility and the peasantry have been recognized, so too the importance of urban and parochial communities and the significance of spiritual and economic links between religious establishments and the laity. In studying the settlement of disputes, historians have emphasized the continuing importance of mediation and of judgments given by free men, especially members of the secular and ecclesiastical elite.


Increased knowledge of the Middle Ages and greater sophistication regarding the constructs (and periods) that scholars have created in attempting to comprehend the past have sparked the search for appropriate terms to describe human institutions and societies.


Although, the feudal labels have lost their validity as terms to designate the realities of medieval society, they provide insight into the thought processes and assumptions of the lawyers and historians, who formulated and utilized them between the 16th and the 20th century.


Monarchy Monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the monarch, is head of state for life or until abdication. The political legitimacy and authority of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic (crowned republic), to restricted (constitutional monarchy), to fully autocratic (absolute monarchy), and can expand across the domains of the executive, legislative and judicial.


A monarchy can be a polity through unity, personal union, vassalage or federation, and monarchs can carry various titles such as king, queen, Emperor, Raja, Khan, Caliph, Tsar, Sultan, or Shah. In most cases, the succession of monarchies is hereditary, often building dynastic periods.

However, elective and self-proclaimed monarchies are possible. Aristocrats, though not inherent to monarchies, often serve as the pool of persons to draw the monarch from and fill the constituting institutions (e.g. diet and court), giving many monarchies oligarchic elements. Monarchies were the most common form of government until the 20th century.


Today, 45 sovereign nations in the world have a monarch, including 16 Commonwealth realms that have Elizabeth II as the head of state. Other than that, there are a range of subnational monarchic entities.


Modern monarchies tend to be constitutional monarchies, retaining under a constitution unique legal and ceremonial roles for the monarch, exercising limited or no political power, similar to heads of state in a parliamentary republic.


The opposing and alternative form of government to monarchy has become the republic. History of Monarchy The similar form of societal hierarchy known as chiefdom or tribal kingship is prehistoric.


The oldest recorded and evidenced monarchies were Narmer, Pharaoh of Egypt c. 3100 BCE, and Enmebaragesi, a Sumerian King of Kish c. 2600 BCE. From earliest historical times, with the Egyptian and Mesopotamian monarchs as well as in reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion, the king held sacral functions directly connected to sacrifice or was considered by their people to have divine ancestry. In Germanic antiquity, kingship was primarily a sacral function.


The king was directly hereditary for some tribes, while for others he was elected from among eligible members of royal families by the thing.


The role of the Roman emperor as the protector of Christianity led eventually to monarchs ruling ‘by the Grace of God’ in the Christian Middle Ages, only later in the Early modern period, there being a conflation of (increased) power with these sacral aspects held by the Germanic kings bringing forth the notion of the “divine  right of kings”.


Polybius identified monarchy as one of three “benign” basic forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy), opposed to the three “malignant” basic forms of government (tyranny, oligarchy, and ochlocracy).


The monarch in classical antiquity is often identified as “king” or “ruler”, or as “queen”.


Polybius originally understood monarchy as a component of republics, but since antiquity monarchy has contrasted with forms of republic, where executive power is wielded by free citizens and their assemblies. In antiquity, some monarchies were abolished in favour of such assemblies in Rome (Roman Republic, 509 BCE), and Athens (Athenian democracy, 500 BCE).


Monarchy has been challenged by evolving parliamentarism e.g. through regional assemblies (such as the Icelandic Commonwealth, the Swiss Landsgemeinde and later Tagsatzung, and the High Medieval communal movement linked to the rise of medieval town privileges) and by modern anti-monarchism e.g. of the temporary overthrow of the English monarchy by the Parliament of England in 1649, the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789.


Since then, advocacy of the abolition of a monarchy or respectively of republics has been called republicanism, while the advocacy of monarchies is called monarchism. As such republics have become the opposing and alternative form of government to monarchy, despite some having seen infringements through lifelong or even hereditary heads of state.


With the rise of republicanism, a diverse division between republicanism developed in the 19th-century politics (such as antimonarchist radicalism) and conservative or even reactionary monarchism. In the following 20th century, many countries abolished monarchy and became republics, especially in the wake of World War I and World War II. Today, 45 sovereign nations in the world have a monarch, including 16 Commonwealth realms that have Elizabeth II as the head of state.

Most modern monarchs are constitutional monarchs, who retain a unique legal and ceremonial role but exercise limited or no political power under a constitution.


Many are so-called crowned republics, surviving particularly in small states. In some nations, however, such as Brunei, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Eswatini and Thailand, the hereditary monarch has more political influence than any other single source of authority in the state, either by convention or by a constitutional mandate.


According to a 2020 study, monarchy arose as a system of governance because of efficiency in governing large populations and


expansive territories during periods when coordinating such populations was difficult. The authors argue that monarchy declined as an efficient regime type with innovations in communications and transportation technology, as the efficiency of monarchy relative to other regime types declined.


Characteristics and role of Monarchies Monarchies are associated with hereditary reign, in which monarchs reign for life and the responsibilities and power of the position pass to their child or another member of their family when they die.


Most monarchs, both historically and in the modern-day, have been born and brought up within a royal family, the centre of the royal household and court. Growing up in a royal family (called a dynasty when it continues for several generations), future monarchs are often trained for their expected future responsibilities as monarchs.


Different systems of hereditary succession have been used, such as proximity of blood, primogeniture, and agnatic seniority (Salic law). While most monarchs in history have been male, many female monarchs also have reigned.


The term “queen regnant” refers to a ruling monarch, while “queen consort” refers to the wife of a reigning king. Rule may be hereditary in practice without being considered a monarchy: there have been some family dictatorships (and also political families) in many democracies.


The principal advantage of hereditary monarchy is the immediate continuity of leadership (as evidenced in the classic phrase

“The King is dead. Long live the King!”). Some monarchies are not hereditary. In an elective monarchy, monarchs are elected or appointed by some body (an electoral college) for life or a defined period. Four elective monarchies exist today: Cambodia,

Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are 20thcentury creations, while one (the papacy) is ancient. A self-proclaimed monarchy is established when a person claims the monarchy without any historical ties to a previous dynasty.


There are examples of republican leaders, who have proclaimed themselves monarchs: Napoleon I of France declared himself Emperor of the French and ruled the First French Empire after having held the title of First Consul of the French Republic for five years from his seizing power in the coup of 18 Brumaire.

President Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic declared himself Emperor of the Central African Empire in 1976. Yuan Shikai, the first formal President of the Republic of China, crowned himself Emperor of the short-lived “Empire of China” a few years after the Republic of China was founded. (To be continued). Thought for the week


“The rule of law is a republic. The rule of one person is a monarchy.” (Lee Zeldin). Last line Fellow Nigerians, synergise with me every week, to put our heads together on how to retool Nigeria. Right here on


“The Nigerian Project”, by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D

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