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In politics, a figurehead is a person who de jure (in name or by law) appears to hold an important and often supremely powerful title or office, yet de facto (in reality) exercises little to no actual power. This usually means that they are head of state, but not head of government. The metaphor derives from the carved figurehead at the prow of a sailing ship.
Monarchs in some constitutional monarchies, and presidents in parliamentary republics are often considered to be figureheads. Commonly cited figureheads include Queen Elizabeth II,   who was queen of 15 Commonwealth realms and head of the Commonwealth, but had no power over the nations in which she was not head of government and did not exercise power in her own realms on her own initiative. Other figureheads include the Emperor of Japan and the King of Sweden, as well as presidents in a majority of parliamentary republics, such as the presidents of India, Israel, Bangladesh, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Pakistan, and Singapore. Some heads of state in one-party communist states also have limited powers, such as President of China when not simultaneously holding the CCP General Secretary and CMC Chairman posts.
During the crisis of the March on Rome in 1922, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, though a figurehead, played a key role in handing power to Benito Mussolini. He also played a key role in the dismissal of Mussolini in 1943.
The word can also have more sinister overtones, and refer to a powerful leader, who should be exercising full authority, who is actually being controlled by a more powerful figure behind the throne.
A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises their authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in decision making. Constitutional monarchies differ from absolute monarchies in that they are bound to exercise powers and authorities within limits prescribed by an established legal framework.
A head of state is the public persona who officially embodies a state in its unity and legitimacy. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government and more.
A monarch is a head of state for life or until abdication, and therefore the head of state of a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority and power in the state, or others may wield that power on behalf of the monarch. Usually a monarch either personally inherits the lawful right to exercise the state's sovereign rights or is selected by an established process from a family or cohort eligible to provide the nation's monarch. Alternatively, an individual may proclaim themself monarch, which may be backed and legitimated through acclamation, right of conquest or a combination of means.
A 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 restricted and largely symbolic, to fully autocratic, and can expand across the domains of the executive, legislative, and judicial.
The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of parliamentary government that incorporates a series of procedures for operating a legislature. This concept was first developed in England.
The state known today as Ireland is the successor state to the Irish Free State, which existed from December 1922 to December 1937. At its foundation, the Irish Free State was, in accordance with its constitution and the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, governed as a constitutional monarchy, in personal union with the monarchy of the United Kingdom and other members of what was then called the British Commonwealth. The monarch as head of state was represented in the Irish Free State by his Governor-General, who performed most of the monarch's duties based on the advice of elected Irish officials.
The King-in-Council or the Queen-in-Council, depending on the sex of the reigning monarch, is a constitutional term in a number of states. In a general sense, it would mean the monarch exercising executive authority, usually in the form of approving orders, in the presence of the country's executive council.
The monarchy of Fiji arose in the nineteenth century, when native ruler Seru Epenisa Cakobau consolidated control of the Fijian Islands in 1871 and declared himself King or paramount chief of Fiji. In 1874, he voluntarily ceded sovereignty of the islands to Britain, which made Fiji a crown colony within the British Empire.
The monarchy of Antigua and Barbuda is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Antigua and Barbuda. The current Antiguan and Barbudan monarch and head of state since 8 September 2022, is King Charles III. As sovereign, he is the personal embodiment of the Crown of Antigua and Barbuda. Although the person of the sovereign is equally shared with 14 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, each country's monarchy is separate and legally distinct. As a result, the current monarch is officially titled King of Antigua and Barbuda and, in this capacity, he and other members of the Royal Family undertake public and private functions domestically and abroad as representatives of Antigua and Barbuda. However, the King is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role.
The monarchy of Australia is Australia's form of government embodied by the Australian sovereign and head of state. The Australian monarchy is a constitutional monarchy, modelled on the Westminster system of parliamentary government, while incorporating features unique to the Constitution of Australia.
The republics in the Commonwealth of Nations are the sovereign states in the organisation with a republican form of government. As of June 2022, 36 out of the 56 member states were republics. Charles III, who is the reigning monarch in the Commonwealth realms, is also still the titular Head of the Commonwealth in a personal capacity. This role does not carry with it any power; instead, it is a symbol of the free association of Commonwealth members.
The Cook Islands are a constitutional monarchy within the Realm of New Zealand. Under the Cook Islands Constitution, the Sovereign in Right of New Zealand has been Head of State of the Cook Islands since 4 August 1965. The Sovereign is represented by the King's Representative; as such, the King is the de jure head of state, holding several powers that are his alone, while the King's Representative is sometimes referred to as the de facto head of state. The viceregal position is currently held by Tom Marsters.
The monarchy of Jamaica is a constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Jamaica. The terms Crown in Right of Jamaica, His Majesty in Right of Jamaica, or The King in Right of Jamaica may also be used to refer to the entire executive of the government of Jamaica. Though the Jamaican Crown has its roots in the British Crown, it has evolved to become a distinctly Jamaican institution, represented by its own unique symbols.
The monarchy of Belize is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Belize. The current Belizean monarch and head of state since 8 September 2022, is King Charles III. As sovereign, he is the personal embodiment of the Belizean Crown. Although the person of the sovereign is shared with 14 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, each country's monarchy is separate and legally distinct. As a result, the current monarch is officially titled Kingof Belize and, in this capacity, he and other members of the royal family undertake public and private functions as representatives of the Belizean state. However, the King is the only member of the royal family with any constitutional role.
The monarchy of the Bahamas is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The current Bahamian monarch and head of state since 8 September 2022, is King Charles III. As sovereign, he is the personal embodiment of the Bahamian Crown. Although the person of the sovereign is equally shared with 14 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, each country's monarchy is separate and legally distinct. As a result, the current monarch is officially titled King of the Bahamas and, in this capacity, he and other members of the royal family undertake public and private functions domestically and abroad as representatives of the Bahamian state. However, the King is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role.
The monarchy of Grenada is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Grenada. The present monarch is King Charles III, who is also Sovereign of a number of the other Commonwealth realms. The King's constitutional roles are mostly delegated to the Governor-General of Grenada. Royal succession is governed by the English Act of Settlement of 1701, which is part of constitutional law.
There are six monarchies in Oceania; that is: self-governing sovereign states in Oceania where supreme power resides with an individual hereditary head, who is recognised as the head of state. Each is a constitutional monarchy, wherein the sovereign inherits his or her office, usually keeps it until death or abdication, and is bound by laws and customs in the exercise of their powers. Five of these independent states share King Charles III as their respective head of state, making them part of a global grouping known as the Commonwealth realms; in addition, all monarchies of Oceania are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The only sovereign monarchy in Oceania that does not share a monarch with another state is Tonga. Australia and New Zealand have dependencies within the region and outside it, although five non-sovereign constituent monarchs are recognized by New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and France.
The Australian head of state dispute is the ongoing debate as to who is considered to be the head of state of Australia—the monarch, the governor-general, or both. Head of state is a description used in official sources for the monarch. The Australian constitution does not mention the term head of state. In discussion it has been used for describing the person who holds the highest rank among the officers of government. A number of writers, most notably Sir David Smith (1933–2022), have argued that the term is better used to describe the governor-general. The difference of opinion has mainly been discussed in the context of Australia becoming a republic, and was prominently debated in the lead-up to the republic referendum in 1999.
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the sovereign and which have become widely vested in the government. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and vested in a monarch with regard to the process of governance of the state, are carried out.