Bit unusual for me to write about something that didn't happen over a thousand years ago, but a recent story on the BBC website got me thinking.
Republics are just as old as monarchies. Athens, in Ancient Greece, was famously a republic. Rome was a republic (after being a kingdom and before becoming an empire). Yet, for some reason, fantasy seems far more interested in monarchies.
A Song of Ice and Fire does not have the Seven Republics at war. The Dothraki do not elect a council of leaders.
Democracies and republics are seen as more modern and, by some, a more legitimate form of governance. After all, the leaders are accountable and elected and can be removed by non-violent means by the people. They have a popular (ahem) mandate.
That all makes sense. But if you asked the average Briton today whether they held Her Majesty the Queen or David Cameron/Ed Miliband/Nick Clegg in higher esteem I'd suggest that HM would win rather convincingly. Similarly, advocates of republicanism do face a rather big obstacle when people raise the prospect of a President Blair/Brown/Cameron.
Having an unelected head of state with reserve powers means that the nation can see the monarch as a symbol of unity, whilst retaining the accountability of those who govern and removing them if necessary. It's win-win.
But what if the Queen had the power to veto a public referendum or the will of Parliament? Technically, she does (she could refuse Royal Assent to a Bill and prevent it becoming an Act) but she has never used it and there's never been any suggestion she would. However, in Liechtenstein,a micro-nation principality, the Crown Prince has precisely that power, and uses it. In fact, his powers were increased in 2003.
There was a referendum held on this recently and 76% of those who voted supported the status quo. Now, Liechtenstein is a very small country that uses the Swiss franc and has a population of about 36,000 so it's perhaps not comparable to more sizeable kingdoms, but it is nevertheless interesting that people in the modern world not only tolerate but actively support such a powerful monarchy.
On an unrelated note, I'm thinking of adding an Interviews page (a page being a tab at the top of the blog, like Book stuff and Lore). Only got two right now, but they've both proven to be popular and I hope to get more in the future.