A constitutional monarchy is a form of government established under a constitutional system which acknowledges an elected or hereditary monarch as head of state.
Constitutional monarchy in essence refers to a system in which the monarch acts as a non-party political head of state under the constitution. Constitutional monarchy in countries such as Japan and Sweden where the monarch retains no formal authorities.
Constitutional monarchy in countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain, the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign. Constitutional monarchy differs from absolute monarchy, in which a monarch holds absolute power. Monarchy is a system of government in which the head of state is an individual usually acquiring the position by hereditary descent.
In earlier times in history, monarchs were often absolute in their effective power and were unconstrained by either legal or political limitations. Constitutional monarchy changed this. The Magna Carta was demanded from the King by England's landowning aristocracy who wanted definite and permanent legal limitations on royal power. Magna Carta was revised many times, guaranteeing greater rights to greater numbers of people, thus setting the stage for English constitutional monarchy.
Over the centuries, England's monarchical system became gradually transformed to the modern constitutional structure where the monarch possesses only formal legal power that must, by political convention, be exercised only with the advice and agreement of the monarch's ministers.
The convention that the monarch will act only with the advice and consent of the Prime Minister and the cabinet makes constitutional monarchy compatible with a system of parliamentary democracy.
The system of constitutional monarchy contrasts with a republic, where the head of state is an individual either directly elected by the people (eg: the United States, France, Mexico) or appointed by an elected state parliament (eg: Germany, Israel, India).