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I generally agree with your proposition about the merits of constitutional monarchies. Certainly you can see them as symbols of national stabilities in times of crisis in, for example, WWII Denmark or the Netherlands, or post-Franco Spain.

On the other hand, you wonder about the direction of the link between constitutional monarchies and national stability. Do monarchies serve a stabilizing role, or does national instability result in monarchs getting shot, deposed, beheaded, etc., so that monarchies only survive in stable countries. I suppose both could be true, reinforcing one another.

Bob: The potential for reverse causality is a good point. However, how the monarch deals with instability or change is a factor in survival. Think of Imperial Russia. A more flexible and astute Czar Nicholas might have resulted in the transition of Russia into a constitutional monarchy. On the other hand, Russia's problems prior to WWI were large and perhaps beyond the abilities of any one individual.

Point of Order: Juan Carlos was the head of the House of Borbon, the Spanish branch of the House of Bourbon. The Bourbon's still have a very nice throne.

Point well taken. I was referring to the French side of the House of Bourbon which came to be quite distinct from the Spanish side which took the name Borbon. Even Luxembourg I think may be technically ruled by descendants of the Bourbons. I suppose one can consider them one big happy family.

So happy a family that one king of France had IIRC 18 ascendants of the fifth degree (instead of 32) and was married to a woman who was twice his cousin on both his father asnd mother side...

The Hapburgs were worse. ;)

"My great-great-great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress.How about that?" said Camilla to Charles...

"My great-great-great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress.How about that?" said Camilla to Charles...

Yeah, but given how prolific King Eddy was, there probably isn't a woman in Britain who couldn't plausibly make that claim.

By the time I had finished my studies in England I knew that "No sex please, we're british" was just a slogan by brit guys to convince us to leave the girls to them. Didn't work anyway...

The strategy of survival through becoming a hereditary head of state instead of also becoming the head of government has a long history. Possibly the most complex variant occurred in Japan, where the Emperor as head of state lived in Kyoto while the Shogun as head of the government lived in Edo (now Tokyo). It was further complicated by regencies for both the Emperor and Shogun, who abdicated when they grew up, so that the new Emperor and Shogun needed regents.

This system ended in the 1860s, when Tom Cruise went to Japan to teach the Emperor how to govern. ;)

As for stability, having non-governing Emperors may have been good for the Imperial line, but Japan still had civil wars.

"This system ended in the 1860s, when Tom Cruise went to Japan to teach the Emperor how to govern. ;)"

Actually, the system ended in 1949, after the Shogun MacAuthor went to Japan and tought the Emperor how to govern. You laugh, but post-war Japan is largely a product of General MacAuthor (who, as an aside, was an incredible, if deeply flawed, man, who is probably one of the most important, and certainly the most interesting, American in the 20th century).

Japan, and in particular Emperor Hirohito, is an interesting case study of the role of monarchy in enhancing stability.

On the one hand, Hirohito bore considerable responsibility for Japan's military aggression in the 1930s and 40s, playing a none-too-passive role in encouraging Japans wars of aggression in the Far East (this role was largely covered up by American and Japanese authorities after WWII in order to avoid, amongst other things, awkward questions about why Hirohito wasn't given the same treatment as other Axis leaders, namely a hangman's noose and a pauper's grave. It wasn't until after his death, that historians started openly discussing it).

On the other hand, he was single-handedly responsible for Japan's decision to surrender in August 1945, overruling the war party's plan for, essentially, a national fight to the death, and avoiding what would have been an immensely bloody American (and possibly Soviet) invasion, mass famine, and possible post-war Soviet occupation. It is undeniable that without the intense personal loyalty to the Emperor, Japan's military would not have surrendered in August 1945 (that they did so more ore less peacefully is no small feat given that in 1945, Japanese armies continued to occupy vast swaths of the Far East, with no allied armies in sight). Indeed, as it was, hardline soldiers attempted a coup the day before the Emperor's rescript announcing Japan's surrender, which coup only failed due to the unwillingness of senior officers, who otherwise supported the plotter's desire to continue the war to the bloody end, to disobey the Emperor's orders.

Moreover, it was the legimitacy confered by the Emperor which largely gave MacAuthor the freedom to reform Japan' economy and government as radically as he did after the war (which is largely why Hirohito avoided, fairly, the aforementioned pauper's grave). Japan is probably a clear example of a case where the monarch played a key role in preserving his or her country's stability.

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