What happened to the monarchy of Germany

Once the centre of the mighty Holy Roman Empire, contemporary Austria is now a federal republic, with no monarch. The last Emperor was Franz Josef, who was initially crowned Emperor of Austria in 1848 at the age of 18. In 1867 Franz Josef was also crowned King of Hungary in an attempt to calm the situation with the problematic Magyars. This worked and the Dual Monarchy lasted until his death in 1916. But the Empire was eventually disbanded after Austria's defeat in the second world war.

Belgium is a hereditary constitutional monarchy. King Albert II, bears the title King of the Belgians and acceded to the throne in 1993 after the death of his brother, King Baudouin. Belgium is a parliamentary democracy based around a federal model. According to the constitution, the King reigns but does not govern. The King has immunity from prosecution and his ministers take responsibility for all his actions.

Political clout: Officially the King of the Belgians possesses the powers formally assigned to him by the constitution (ie to oversee the federal government), but these powers are rarely exercised except when a government resigns. However, King Albert has been known to take a more partisan role in public life than his British counterparts. In October 1996 he lambasted Belgium's civic institutions for failing to protect the country's children in the wake of a paedophile scandal. A year later he criticised Renault for shutting down a car plant (an act that had already been condoned by the Belgian and French prime ministers and the European Commission president, Jean-Luc Dehaene). The previous king, Albert's brother Baudouin, abdicated in 1990 rather than contravene his Catholic principles by signing an act legalising abortion. Belgium was kingless for only 44 hours, until parliament voted King Baudouin back in. Read King Albert's official CV

Denmark is a constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Queen Margrethe II, second cousin to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Her powers are largely ceremonial: her most significant duty is to appoint the prime minister and the cabinet.

Political clout: Queen Margrethe enjoys one of the lowest profiles and some of the most loyal subjects of all the European monarchs. She never intervenes directly in political matters but meets her ministers once a week and has been known to undertake the odd moral crusade.

Official site
Read Queen Margrethe's official CV

Unofficial site
The Queen and her family

Finland has been an independent republic since its formation in 1919, so has never had had its own monarch (unlike its previous rulers, Sweden and Russia).

The last Bourbon King was Louis-Philippe (1793-1850) who abdicated in 1848 and escaped to Surrey, where he died. He was replaced, after an interim government, by Napoleon III (1808-1873) who crowned himself Emperor in 1852. Napoleon III was deposed after a losing a war with Prussia at the Battle of Sedan (1870). Since then France has been a republic. Like Louis-Philippe, Napoleon III died in exile in England.

Modern Germany has never had a King or Queen, but it did have a series of emperors, starting with William I of Prussia. William managed to form a coalition of German states, which defeated Austria during the Seven Weeks War of 1866. Before that Austria was the dominant Germanic power. William was then able to unite the German state and create an empire. This lasted until the end of the first world war.

Greece abolished its monarchy 1923 and restored it in 1935. The country was ruled by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944; civil war broke out after the end of the second world war and lasted until 1949. After a coup in 1967 a military junta ruled for seven years, deposing King Constantine II. In 1974 democracy was restored under President Konstantinos Karamanlis, and a referendum the same year put an end to the Greek monarchy. Since then, democratically elected civilian governments have succeeded one another.

After the unification of the country in 1870 Italy had a constitutional monarchy until 1946. The last King was Victor Emmanuel III (1869-1947) who ordered the arrest of Mussolini after Italy's disastrous role in the second world war. The move neither took Italy out of the war nor solved the ensuing constitutional crisis. Victor Emmanuel tried to introduce his son, Crown Prince Umberto, as lieutenant-general of the realm and relinquished all his own power, retaining only his title of king. This failed to appease the population and despite the King's subsequent abdication, Italy became a republic in 1946. Victor Emmanuel and Umberto fled into exile.

The Grand Duchy is a constitutional monarchy with hereditary succession. Executive authority lies with the Grand Duke, His Royal Highness Grand Duke Jean (Benoit Guillaume Marie Robert Louis Antoine Adolphe Marc) d'Aviano, who appoints the prime minister. However, the Grand Duke's powers are primarily formal.

Political clout: Although the letter of the law dictates that the Grand Duke is free to appoint ministers of his choice, precedent dictates that he limit his choice to that of democratic principle.

The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch, Queen Beatrix.

Political clout: Queen Beatrix, the original "bicycling monarch", is an accomplished linguist, holds a university degree in politics and international relations and is considered an industrious and knowledgeable head of state. She is widely perceived to have an informal and caring manner and remains somewhat aloof from the Dutch political scene. "Beatrix acts as a sort of binding element in Dutch society, a stable supervisory power above the political parties," said Fred Lammers, author of Queen Beatrix's biography. In April 1996, however, the Queen surprised her adoring public when she strongly opposed the legalisation of gay weddings.

Read Queen Beatrix's official CV

The last High King of Ireland was Rory O'Connor, King of Connaught. King Rory failed to defeat the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland led by Henry II of England. King Rory accepted Henry as his overlord at the treaty of Windsor (1175) and restyled himself King of Connaught, which gave him some power (mainly the collection of taxes) over the other Irish Kings. Rory encountered opposition to this situation, even in his own province, and was ultimately forced to abdicate.

A revolution overthrew the monarchy in 1910 and King Manuel fled into exile. The fledgling republic's early years were marred by 45 changes of government and military uprisings in its first 16 years. Antonio de Oliveria Salazar became prime minister in 1932 and ran Portugal as a police state until 1968. Today, Portugal is a republic with a parliamentary form of government.

Spain is a parliamentary monarchy. The death of General Franco in 1975 and the accession as King of Juan Carlos (grandson of Spain's last ruling monarch, Alfonso XIII) opened a new era: the peaceful transition to democracy. King Juan Carlos helped defeat a military coup in 1981.

Political clout: Although he played an active role in Spain's democratisation, King Juan Carlos has interfered very rarely with the running of the country since the restoration of the monarchy. He has devolved more and more power away from the monarchy and now occupies a strictly symbolic role.

Read King Juan Carlos's official CV (in Spanish)

King Carl XVI Gustav is Sweden's constitutional monarch.

Political clout: Very little. The King's duties are almost entirely of a ceremonial nature; receiving foreign dignitaries, opening the Riksdag (parliament) and chairing special councils. All of which the Swedish government gets for the relatively knockdown price of £2 million per year.

Read King Carl XVI Gustaf's official CV