Head of State

Head of State

Overview
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, federation
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

, commonwealth
Commonwealth
Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic."More recently it has been used for fraternal associations of some sovereign nations...

 or other kind of state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of state in the country's constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 and laws. In nation states the head of state is often thought of as the official "leader" of the nation.

Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 described the role he envisaged for the French president when he wrote the modern French constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

, stating the head of state should embody "the spirit of the nation" for the nation itself and the world: une certaine idée de la France (a certain idea about France).
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

, republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, federation
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

, commonwealth
Commonwealth
Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic."More recently it has been used for fraternal associations of some sovereign nations...

 or other kind of state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of state in the country's constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

 and laws. In nation states the head of state is often thought of as the official "leader" of the nation.

Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 described the role he envisaged for the French president when he wrote the modern French constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

, stating the head of state should embody "the spirit of the nation" for the nation itself and the world: une certaine idée de la France (a certain idea about France). Today, many countries expect their head of state to embody national values in a similar fashion.
The same role in a federal constituent and a dependent territory is fulfilled by the corresponding office equivalent to that of a head of state. For example, in each Canadian province
Provinces and territories of Canada
The provinces and territories of Canada combine to make up the world's second-largest country by area. There are ten provinces and three territories...

 the role is fulfilled by the Lieutenant Governor
Lieutenant Governor (Canada)
In Canada, a lieutenant governor is the viceregal representative in a provincial jurisdiction of the Canadian monarch and head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, who resides predominantly in her oldest realm, the United Kingdom...

, whereas in most British Overseas Territories
British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories of the United Kingdom which, although they do not form part of the United Kingdom itself, fall under its jurisdiction. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not acquired independence or have voted to remain British territories...

 the powers and duties are performed by the Governor. The same applies to Australian states
Governors of the Australian states
The Governors of the Australian states are the representatives of the Queen of Australia in each of that country's six states. The Governors perform the same constitutional and ceremonial functions at the state level as does the Governor-General of Australia at the national level...

, Indian states, etc. Hong Kong's constitutional document, the Basic Law
Hong Kong Basic Law
The Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, or simply Hong Kong Basic Law, serves as the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China...

, for example, specifies the Chief Executive as the head of the special administrative region, in addition to his role as the head of government. These non-sovereign-state heads, nevertheless, have limited or no role in diplomatic affairs, depending on the status and the norms and practices of the territories concerned.

Constitutional models


In protocol
Protocol (diplomacy)
In international politics, protocol is the etiquette of diplomacy and affairs of state.A protocol is a rule which guides how an activity should be performed, especially in the field of diplomacy. In diplomatic services and governmental fields of endeavor protocols are often unwritten guidelines...

ary terms, states are distinguished as monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

 or republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 depending on the style (and usually mode of accession, see below) of their head of state, a typical constitutional provision, but as such this is not defining for the actual political system, which often evolves significantly, or can remain unaltered in other respects despite a transition from monarchy to republic (or, rarer, vice versa).

Different state constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

s (fundamental laws) establish different political systems, but four major types of heads of state can be distinguished:
  1. The non-executive head of state system, in which the head of state does not hold any executive power and mainly plays a symbolic role on behalf of the state;
  2. The parliamentary system
    Parliamentary system
    A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

    , in which the head of state possesses executive power but the exercise of this power is done on the advice of a cabinet;
  3. The semi-presidential system
    Semi-presidential system
    The semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a president and a prime minister are both active participants in the day-to-day administration of the state...

    , in which the head of state shares exercise with a head of government; and
  4. The presidential system
    Presidential system
    A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch exists and presides separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss it....

    , in which the head of state is also the head of government
    Head of government
    Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

     and actively exercises executive power.

Non-executive head of state


Its holders are excluded completely from the executive: they do not possess even theoretical executive powers or any role, even formal, within the government. Hence their states' governments are not referred to by the traditional parliamentary model head of state styles
Style (manner of address)
A style of office, or honorific, is a legal, official, or recognized title. A style, by tradition or law, precedes a reference to a person who holds a post or political office, and is sometimes used to refer to the office itself. An honorific can also be awarded to an individual in a personal...

 of "His/Her Majesty's Government" or "His/Her Excellency's Government." Within this general category, variants in terms of powers and functions may exist. The King of Sweden, since the passage of the modern Swedish constitution (the 1974 Instrument of Government), no longer has any of the parliamentary system head of state functions that had previously belonged to Swedish kings, but still receives formal cabinet briefings monthly in the royal palace. In contrast, the only contact the Irish president has with the Irish government is through a formal briefing session given by the Taoiseach
Taoiseach
The Taoiseach is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas , and must, in order to remain in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil.The current Taoiseach is...

 (prime minister) to the President. However, he or she has no access to documentation and all access to ministers goes through the Department of the Taoiseach
Department of the Taoiseach
The Department of the Taoiseach is the government department of the Taoiseach of Ireland. It is based in Government Buildings, the headquarters of the Government of Ireland, on Merrion Street in Dublin....

 (prime minister's office). The President does however hold reserve powers, such as referring a bill to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality, which are used under the president's discretion.

Parliamentary system


In parliamentary system
Parliamentary system
A parliamentary system is a system of government in which the ministers of the executive branch get their democratic legitimacy from the legislature and are accountable to that body, such that the executive and legislative branches are intertwined....

s the head of state may be merely the nominal chief executive officer of the state, possessing executive power (hence the description of the monarch
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

's governments in the UK Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s as His/Her Majesty's Government
Her Majesty's Government (term)
The phrase Her Majesty's Government is a formal term referring to the governments of various jurisdictions within the Commonwealth realms...

; a term indicating that all power belongs to the sovereign and the government acts on Her Majesty's behalf, not parliament's). In reality however, following a process of constitutional evolution, powers are usually only exercised by direction of a cabinet
Cabinet (government)
A Cabinet is a body of high ranking government officials, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee.- Overview :...

, presided over by a prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 who is answerable to the legislature. This accountability requires that someone be chosen from parliament who has parliament's support (or, at least, not parliament's opposition - a subtle but important difference). It also gives parliament the right to vote down the government, forcing it either to resign or seek a parliamentary dissolution. Governments are thus said to be responsible (or answerable) to parliament, with the government in turn accepting constitutional responsibility for offering constitutional advice
Advice (constitutional)
Advice, in constitutional law, is formal, usually binding, instruction given by one constitutional officer of state to another. Especially in parliamentary systems of government, Heads of state often act on the basis of advice issued by prime ministers or other government ministers...

 to the head of state.

In parliamentary constitutional monarchies
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

, the legitimacy of the unelected head of state typically derives from the tacit approval of the people via the elected representatives. Accordingly, at the time of the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

, the English Parliament acted of its own authority to name a new king and queen (joint monarchs Mary II
Mary II of England
Mary II was joint Sovereign of England, Scotland, and Ireland with her husband and first cousin, William III and II, from 1689 until her death. William and Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen regnant, respectively, following the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the deposition of...

 and William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

); likewise, Edward VIII
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

's abdication required the approval of the parliament in each of Edward's six independent realms. In monarchies with a written constitution, the position of monarch is a creature of the constitution and could quite properly be abolished through a democratic procedure of constitutional amendment, although there are often significant procedural hurdles imposed on such a procedure (as in the Constitution of Spain
Constitution of Spain
Spain's first Constitution was passed in 1812. A list of the different Spanish constitutional laws follows:During Franco's dictatorship, there were many attempts to create stable institutions that did not emanate from the dictator as they did in the post-war period...

).

In republics with a parliamentary system (such as Germany, Austria, Italy and Israel) the head of state is usually titled "president" or its equivalent, but the main functions of such a president are ceremonial, as opposed to the president in a presidential or semi-presidential system.

In reality, numerous variants exist to the position of a head of state within a parliamentary system. The older the constitution, the more constitutional leeway tends to exist for a head of state to exercise greater powers over government, as many older parliamentary system constitutions in fact give heads of state powers and functions akin to presidential or semi-presidential systems, in some cases without containing reference to modern democratic principles of accountability to parliament or even to modern governmental offices. Usually, the King had the power of declaring war without previous consent of the Parliament.

For example, under the 1848 constitution of the Kingdom of Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, the "Statuto Albertino", the parliamentary approval to the government appointed by the King was customary, but not required by law. So, Italy had a de facto parliamentarian system, but a de jure "presidential" system.

Some Commonwealth parliamentary systems combine a body of written constitutional law, unwritten constitutional precedent, Orders in Council, letters patent, etc. that may give a head of state or their representative additional powers in unexpected circumstances (such as the dismissal of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n prime minister Gough Whitlam
Gough Whitlam
Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC , known as Gough Whitlam , served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia. Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before being dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the...

 by Governor-General
Governor-General
A Governor-General, is a vice-regal person of a monarch in an independent realm or a major colonial circonscription. Depending on the political arrangement of the territory, a Governor General can be a governor of high rank, or a principal governor ranking above "ordinary" governors.- Current uses...

 Sir John Kerr.)

Other examples of heads of state in parliamentary systems using greater powers than usual, either because of ambiguous constitutions or unprecedented national emergencies, include the decision by King Léopold III of the Belgians
Leopold III of Belgium
Leopold III reigned as King of the Belgians from 1934 until 1951, when he abdicated in favour of the Heir Apparent,...

 to surrender on behalf of his state to the invading German army in 1940, against the will of his government. Judging that his responsibility to the nation by virtue of his coronation oath required him to act, he believed that his government's decision to fight rather than surrender was mistaken and would damage Belgium. (Leopold's decision proved highly controversial. After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Belgium voted in a referendum to allow him back on the throne, but because of the ongoing controversy he ultimately abdicated.)

Semi-presidential systems




Semi-presidential systems combine features of presidential and parliamentary systems, notably a requirement that the government be answerable to both the president and the legislature. The constitution of the Fifth French Republic provides for a prime minister who is chosen by the president, but who nevertheless must be able to gain support in the National Assembly
French National Assembly
The French National Assembly is the lower house of the bicameral Parliament of France under the Fifth Republic. The upper house is the Senate ....

. Should a president be of one side of the political spectrum and the opposition be in control of the legislature, the president is usually obliged to select someone from the opposition to become prime minister, a process known as Cohabitation
Cohabitation (government)
Cohabitation in government occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France's system, when the President is from a different political party than the majority of the members of parliament. It occurs because such a system forces the president to name a premier that will be acceptable to the...

. President François Mitterrand
François Mitterrand
François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand was the 21st President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra, serving from 1981 until 1995. He is the longest-serving President of France and, as leader of the Socialist Party, the only figure from the left so far elected President...

, a Socialist, for example, was forced to cohabit with the neo-Gaullist (right wing) Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac
Jacques René Chirac is a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. He previously served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988 , and as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.After completing his studies of the DEA's degree at the...

, who became his prime minister from 1986 to 1988. In the French system, in the event of cohabitation, the president is often allowed to set the policy agenda in foreign affairs and the prime minister runs the domestic agenda.

Other countries evolve into something akin to a semi-presidential system or indeed a full presidential system. Weimar Germany, for example, in its constitution provided for a popularly elected president with theoretically dominant executive powers that were intended to be exercised only in emergencies, and a cabinet appointed by him from the Reichstag
Reichstag (Weimar Republic)
The Reichstag was the parliament of Weimar Republic .German constitution commentators consider only the Reichstag and now the Bundestag the German parliament. Another organ deals with legislation too: in 1867-1918 the Bundesrat, in 1919–1933 the Reichsrat and from 1949 on the Bundesrat...

, which was expected, in normal circumstances, to be answerable to the Reichstag. Initially, the President was merely a symbolic figure with the Reichstag dominant; however, persistent political instability, in which governments often lasted only a few months, led to a change in the power structure of the republic, with the president's emergency powers called increasingly into use to prop up governments challenged by critical or even hostile Reichstag votes. By 1932, power had shifted to such an extent that the German President, Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

, was able to dismiss a chancellor
Chancellor
Chancellor is the title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice—ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the...

 and select his own person for the job, even though the outgoing chancellor possessed the confidence of the Reichstag while the new chancellor did not. Subsequently President von Hindenburg used his power to appoint Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 as Chancellor without consulting the Reichstag.

Presidential system




Note: The head of state in a "presidential" system may not actually hold the title of "president
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

" - the name of the system refers to any head of state who actually governs and is independent of the legislature.


Some constitutions or fundamental laws provide for a head of state who is not just in theory but in practice chief executive, operating separately from, and independent from, the legislature. This system is known as a "presidential system" and sometimes called the "imperial model", because the executive officials of the government are answerable solely and exclusively to a presiding, acting head of state, and is selected by and on occasion dismissed by the head of state without reference to the legislature. It is notable that some presidential systems, while not providing for collective executive answerability to the legislature, may require legislative approval for individuals prior to their assumption of cabinet office and empower the legislature to remove a president from office (for example, in the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

). In this case the debate centres on the suitability of the individual for office, not a judgement on them when appointed, and does not involve the power to reject or approve proposed cabinet members en bloc, so it is not answerability in the sense understood in a parliamentary system.

Presidential system
Presidential system
A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch exists and presides separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss it....

s are a notable feature of constitutions in the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, including those of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

 and Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

; this is generally attributed to the influence of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, as the United States served as an inspiration and model for the Latin American wars of independence of the early 19th century. Most presidents in such countries are selected by democratic means (popular direct or indirect election); however, like all other systems, the presidential model also encompasses people who become head of state by other means, notably through military dictatorship or coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

, as often seen in Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

n, Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

ern and other presidential regimes. Some of the characteristics of a presidential system (i.e., a strong dominant political figure with an executive answerable to them, not the legislature) can also be found among absolute monarchies
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

, parliamentary monarchies
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 and single party (e.g. Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

) regimes, but in most cases of dictatorship apply their stated constitutional models in name only and not in political theory or practice.

In the 1870s in the United States, in the aftermath of the impeachment
Impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

 of President Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

 and his near-removal from office, it was speculated that the United States, too, would move from a presidential system to a semi-presidential or even parliamentary one, with the Speaker
Speaker (politics)
The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer of a deliberative assembly, especially a legislative body. The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the...

 of the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 becoming the real center of government as a quasi-prime minister. This did not happen and the presidency, having been damaged by three late nineteenth and early twentieth century assassinations (Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

, Garfield
James Garfield
James Abram Garfield served as the 20th President of the United States, after completing nine consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Garfield's accomplishments as President included a controversial resurgence of Presidential authority above Senatorial courtesy in executive...

 and McKinley
William McKinley
William McKinley, Jr. was the 25th President of the United States . He is best known for winning fiercely fought elections, while supporting the gold standard and high tariffs; he succeeded in forging a Republican coalition that for the most part dominated national politics until the 1930s...

) and one impeachment (Johnson), reasserted its political dominance by the early twentieth century through such figures as Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 and Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

.
In a sense, elected monarchies, such as the Holy Roman Empire, can be regarded as 'crowned' presidential systems.

Single-party states



Since real political power belongs to the head of the sole legal party, in certain states under Marxist constitutions of the constitutionally socialist state
Socialist state
A socialist state generally refers to any state constitutionally dedicated to the construction of a socialist society. It is closely related to the political strategy of "state socialism", a set of ideologies and policies that believe a socialist economy can be established through government...

 type inspired by the former USSR and its constitutive Soviet republics
Republics of the Soviet Union
The Republics of the Soviet Union or the Union Republics of the Soviet Union were ethnically-based administrative units that were subordinated directly to the Government of the Soviet Union...

, there was no formal office of head of state, but rather the head of the legislative "soviet" branch of power was considered the head of state. In the Soviet Union this office carried such titles as Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR; Chairman of the Presidium
Presidium
The presidium or praesidium is the name for the heading organ of various legislative and organizational bodies.-Historical usage:...

 of the Supreme Soviet
; and in the case of the Soviet Russia
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

 Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets (pre-1922), and Chairman of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian SFSR (1956–1966). This position may or may not have been held by the de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 Soviet leader at the moment. For example, Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 never headed the Supreme Soviet but ruled as Secretary General of party and prime minister.

This may even lead to an institutional variability, as in North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, where, after the presidency of party leader Kim Il-Sung
Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung was a Korean communist politician who led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death...

, the office was vacant for years, the late president being granted the posthumous title (akin to some ancient Far Eastern traditions to give posthumous names and titles to royalty) of president "in eternity" (while all real power, as party leader, itself not formally created for 4 years, was inherited by his son Kim Jong Il, initially without any formal office) until it was formally replaced on 5 September 1998, for ceremonial purposes, by the office of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, while the party leader's post as Chairman of the National Defense Commission was simultaneously declared "the highest post of the state", not unlike Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping
Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician, statesman, and diplomat. As leader of the Communist Party of China, Deng was a reformer who led China towards a market economy...

 earlier in the People's Republic of China.

Complications with categorisation


While clear categories do exist, it is sometimes difficult to choose which category some individual heads of state belong to. Constitutional change in Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

 in 2003 gave its head of state, the Prince, constitutional powers that included a veto over legislation and power to dismiss the cabinet. It could be argued that the strengthening of the Prince's powers, vis-a-vis the legislature, has moved Liechtenstein into the semi-presidential category. Similarly the original powers given to the Greek President under the 1974 Hellenic Republic constitution moved Greece closer to the French semi-presidential model. In reality, the category to which each head of state belongs is assessed not by theory but by practice.

Another complication exists with South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, in which the President
President of South Africa
The President of the Republic of South Africa is the head of state and head of government under South Africa's Constitution. From 1961 to 1994, the head of state was called the State President....

 is in fact elected by the legislature (similar, in principle, to a prime minister) but also holds the title of President, serves for a fixed term, and is expected to be the nation's head of state. Nauru
Nauru
Nauru , officially the Republic of Nauru and formerly known as Pleasant Island, is an island country in Micronesia in the South Pacific. Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in Kiribati, to the east. Nauru is the world's smallest republic, covering just...

 and Botswana
Botswana
Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana , is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens are referred to as "Batswana" . Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966...

 are similar.

Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

, during the military dictatorships of Omar Torrijos
Omar Torrijos
Omar Efraín Torrijos Herrera was the Commander of the Panamanian and National Guard and the de facto leader of Panama from 1968 to 1981...

 and Manuel Noriega
Manuel Noriega
Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno is a Panamanian politician and soldier. He was military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989.The 1989 invasion of Panama by the United States removed him from power; he was captured, detained as a prisoner of war, and flown to the United States. Noriega was tried on...

, was nominally a presidential republic. However, the elected civilian presidents were effectively figureheads with real political power being exercised by the chief of the military.

Roles of heads of state


Often depending on which constitutional category (above) a head of state belongs to, they may have some or all of the roles listed below, and various other ones.

Symbolic role



One of the most important roles of the modern head of state is being a living national symbol of the state; in monarchies this extends to the sovereign being a symbol of the unbroken continuity of the state. For instance, the Canadian monarch is described by the government as being the personification of the Canadian state and is described by the Department of Canadian Heritage
Department of Canadian Heritage
The Department of Canadian Heritage, or simply Canadian Heritage |department]] of the Government of Canada with responsibility for policies and programs regarding the arts, culture, media, communications networks, official languages , status of women, sports , and multiculturalism...

 as the "personal symbol of allegiance, unity and authority for all Canadians".

In many countries, official portrait
Portrait
thumb|250px|right|Portrait of [[Thomas Jefferson]] by [[Rembrandt Peale]], 1805. [[New-York Historical Society]].A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness,...

s of the head of state can be found in government offices, courts of law, even airports, libraries, and other public buildings. The idea, sometimes regulated by law, is to use these portraits to make the public aware of the symbolic connection to the government, a practice that dates back to mediaeval times. Sometimes this practice is taken to excess, and the head of state begins to believe that he is the only symbol of the nation, resulting in the emergence of a personality cult where the image of the head of state is the only visual representation of the country, surpassing other symbols such as the flag
Flag
A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...

, constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

, founding father(s) etc. Modern champions in this field include Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 and Kim Jong Il, whose tenures as heads of state were or are accompanied by a significant cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

. Other common icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

ic presences, especially of monarchs, are on coins, stamps and banknotes; more discreet variations see them represented by a mention and/or signature. Furthermore, various institutions, monuments and the like, are named for current or previous heads of state, such as streets and squares, schools, charitable and other organizations; in monarchies (e.g. Belgium) there can even be a practice to attribute the adjective 'royal' on demand based on existence for a given number of years. However, such political techniques can also be used by leaders without the formal rank of head of state, even party - and other revolutionary leaders without formal state mandate.

In general, the active duties amount to a ceremonial role. Thus in diplomatic affairs, heads of state are often the first person to greet an important foreign visitor. They may also assume a sort of informal host role during the VIP's visit, inviting the visitor to a state dinner
State dinner
A state dinner is a dinner or banquet paid by a government and hosted by a head of state in his or her official residence in order to renew and celebrate diplomatic ties between the host country and the country of a foreign head of state or head of government who was issued an invitation. In many...

 at his or her mansion or palace, or some other equally hospitable affair.

At home, they are expected to render luster to various occasions by their presence, such as by attending artistic or sports performances or competitions, expositions, celebrations, military parades and remembrances, prominent funerals, visiting parts of the country, enterprises, care facilities (often in a theatrical honour box, on a platform, on the front row, at the honours table etc.), sometimes performing a symbolic act such as cutting a ribbon or pushing a button at an opening, christening something with champagne, laying the first stone, and so on. Some parts of national life receive their regular attention, often on an annual basis, or even in the form of official patronage.

As the potential for such invitations is enormous, such duties are often in part delegated: to such persons as a spouse, other members of the dynasty, a vice-president —for whom this is often the core of their public role— or in other cases (possibly as a message, for instance, to distance themselves without giving protocollary offence) just a military or other aide.

For non-executive heads of state there is often a degree of censorship by the politically responsible government (such as the prime minister), discreetly approving agenda and speeches, especially where the constitution (or customary law) assumes all political responsibility by granting the crown inviolability (in fact also imposing political emasculation) as in the Kingdom of Belgium from its very beginning; in a monarchy this may even be extended to some degree to other members of the dynasty, especially the heir to the throne.

Chief diplomatic officer


The head of state accredits (i.e. formally validates) his or her country's ambassadors, High Commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

s or rarer equivalent diplomatic mission chiefs (such as papal nuncio), through sending formal Letter of Credence
Letter of Credence
A letter of credence is a formal letter usually sent by one head of state to another that formally grants diplomatic accreditation to a named individual to be their ambassador in the country of the head of state receiving the letter...

 to other heads of state and, conversely, receives the letters of their foreign counterparts. Without that accreditation, they cannot take up a role and receive the highest diplomatic status. However, there are provisions in international law to perform the same diplomatic functions, or at least part of them, such as accrediting, with a lower title with the head of government, or functioning within another mission.

The head of state also signs international treaties on behalf of the state, or has them signed in his/her name by ministers (government members or diplomats); subsequent ratification
Ratification
Ratification is a principal's approval of an act of its agent where the agent lacked authority to legally bind the principal. The term applies to private contract law, international treaties, and constitutionals in federations such as the United States and Canada.- Private law :In contract law, the...

, when necessary, usually rests with the legislature
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

.

In Canada, these head of state powers belong to the sovereign as part of the Royal Prerogative
Royal Prerogative
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 alone. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and...

, but the governor general
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

 has been permitted to exercise them since 1947 and has done so since the 1970s. In Australia and New Zealand, they have been assumed by the Governor-General.
Example 1: Article 59 (1) of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany states:
The Federal President shall represent the Federation in its international relations. He shall conclude treaties with foreign states on behalf of the Federation. He shall accredit and receive envoys.
Example 2: Section 2, Article 81 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China
Constitution of the People's Republic of China
The Constitution of the People's Republic of China is the highest law within the People's Republic of China. The current version was adopted by the 5th National People's Congress on December 4, 1982 with further revisions in 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004. Three previous state constitutions—those of...

 states:
The President of the People's Republic of China receives foreign diplomatic representatives on behalf of the People's Republic of China and, in pursuance of decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, appoints and recalls plenipotentiary representatives abroad, and ratifies and abrogates treaties and important agreements concluded with foreign states.

Chief executive officer


In the majority of states, whether republics or monarchies, executive authority is vested, at least notionally, in the head of state. In presidential systems the head of state is the actual, de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 chief executive officer. Under parliamentary systems the executive authority is exercised by the head of state, but in practice is done so on the advice of the cabinet of ministers. This produces such terms as "Her Majesty's Government" and "His Excellency's Government." Examples of parliamentary systems in which the head of state is notional chief executive include Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. The few exceptions include the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 and Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, where executive authority is explicitly vested in the cabinet.
Example 1 (presidential system): Article 2, Section 1 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 states:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

Example 2 (constitutional monarchy): According to Section 12 of the Constitution of Denmark
Constitution of Denmark
The Constitutional Act of Denmark is the Kingdom of Denmark's constitution, or fundamental law. Originally verified in 1849, the last revision was signed on 5 June 1953 as "the existing law, for all to unswerving comply with, the Constitutional Act of Denmark".-Idea and structure:The main...

 1953:
Subject to the limitations laid down in this Constitution Act the King shall have the supreme authority in all the affairs of the Realm, and he shall exercise such supreme authority through the Ministers.

Example 3 (constitutional monarchy): Under Chapter II, Section 61 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900:
The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth.

Example 4 (republican parliamentary system): According to Article 26 (2) of the 1975 Constitution of Greece
Constitution of Greece
The Constitution of Greece , was created by the Fifth Revisional Parliament of the Hellenes and entered into force in 1975. It has been revised three times since, most significantly in 1986, and also in 2001 and in 2008. The Constitutional history of Greece goes back to the Greek War of...

:
The executive power shall be exercised by the President of the Republic and by the government.

Chief appointments officer


The head of state appoints most or all the key officials in the government and civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

, including members of the cabinet, the prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 or equivalent, key judicial figures, and all major office holders. In many parliamentary systems, the head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 (e.g. prime minister) is appointed with the consent (in practice often decisive) of the legislature, and other figures are appointed on the head of government's advice. Some countries have alternative provisions: under Article 4 of the Instrument of Government
Constitution of Sweden
The Swedish Constitution consists of four fundamental laws :* The 1810 Act of Succession * The 1949 Freedom of the Press Act * The 1974 Instrument of Government * The 1991 Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression...

, 1974, the constitution of Sweden grants to the parliamentary speaker the role of formally appointing the prime minister
Prime Minister of Sweden
The Prime Minister is the head of government in the Kingdom of Sweden. Before the creation of the office of a Prime Minister in 1876, Sweden did not have a head of government separate from its head of state, namely the King, in whom the executive authority was vested...

.

In practice, these decisions are often a formality. The last time a British monarch
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 unilaterally selected the UK's prime minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 was in 1963, when Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 appointed Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Alec Douglas-Home
Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, KT, PC , known as The Earl of Home from 1951 to 1963 and as Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1974, was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from October 1963 to October 1964.He is the last...

 on the advice of the outgoing prime minister Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

. In Canada, a similar situation took place in 1925 wherein Governor General
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

 Lord Byng of Vimy
Julian Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy
Field Marshal Julian Hedworth George Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy was a British Army officer who served as Governor General of Canada, the 12th since Canadian Confederation....

 appointed Arthur Meighen
Arthur Meighen
Arthur Meighen, PC, QC was a Canadian lawyer and politician. He served two terms as the ninth Prime Minister of Canada: from July 10, 1920 to December 29, 1921; and from June 29 to September 25, 1926. He was the first Prime Minister born after Confederation, and the only one to represent a riding...

 after William Lyon Mackenzie King
William Lyon Mackenzie King
William Lyon Mackenzie King, PC, OM, CMG was the dominant Canadian political leader from the 1920s through the 1940s. He served as the tenth Prime Minister of Canada from December 29, 1921 to June 28, 1926; from September 25, 1926 to August 7, 1930; and from October 23, 1935 to November 15, 1948...

 refused to resign the premiership (known as the King-Byng Affair
King-Byng Affair
The King–Byng Affair was a Canadian constitutional crisis that occurred in 1926, when the Governor General of Canada, the Lord Byng of Vimy, refused a request by his prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, to dissolve parliament and call a general election....

). Governor-General of Australia
Governor-General of Australia
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative in Australia at federal/national level of the Australian monarch . He or she exercises the supreme executive power of the Commonwealth...

 Sir John Kerr appointed Malcolm Fraser
Malcolm Fraser
John Malcolm Fraser AC, CH, GCL, PC is a former Australian Liberal Party politician who was the 22nd Prime Minister of Australia. He came to power in the 1975 election following the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government, in which he played a key role...

 as caretaker prime minister
Caretaker government
Caretaker government is a type of government that rules temporarily. A caretaker government is often set up following a war until stable democratic rule can be restored, or installed, in which case it is often referred to as a provisional government...

 after dismissing Gough Whitlam
Gough Whitlam
Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC , known as Gough Whitlam , served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia. Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party to power at the 1972 election and retained government at the 1974 election, before being dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the...

.

In presidential systems, such as that of the United States, appointments are nominated by the President's sole discretion, but this nomination is often subject to parliamentary confirmation (in the case of the US, the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 has to approve cabinet nominees and judicial appointments by simple majority).

The head of state may also dismiss office-holders. There are many variants on how this can be done. For example, members of the Irish Cabinet are dismissed by the President
President of Ireland
The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland. The President is usually directly elected by the people for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute...

 on the advice of the Taoiseach (prime minister); in other instances, the head of state may be able to dismiss an office holder unilaterally; other heads of state, or their representatives, have the theoretical power to dismiss any office-holder, while it is exceptionally rarely used. In France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, while the president cannot force the prime minister to tender the resignation of his government, he can, in practice, request it if the prime minister is from his own majority. In presidential systems, the president often has the power to fire ministers at his sole discretion. In the United States, convention calls for cabinet secretaries to resign on their own initiative when called to do so.
Example 1 (semi-presidential system): Chapter 4, Section 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea
Constitution of the Republic of Korea
The Constitution of the Republic of Korea is its basic law. It was promulgated on July 17, 1948, and last revised in 1987.- History :...

 states:
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President with the consent of the National Assembly.
Example 2 (parliamentary system): Article 13.1.1 of the Constitution of Ireland
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

:
The President shall, on the nomination of Dáil Éireann [the lower house], appoint the Taoiseach [prime minister].

Legislative roles



Most countries require that all bill
Bill (proposed law)
A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute....

s passed by the house or houses of the legislature be signed into law by the head of state. In some states, such as the United Kingdom, Belgium and Ireland, the head of state is, in fact, formally considered a tier of parliament. However, in most parliamentary systems, the head of state cannot refuse to sign a bill, and, in granting a bill their assent, indicate that it was passed in accordance with the correct procedures. The signing of a bill into law is formally known as promulgation
Promulgation
Promulgation is the act of formally proclaiming or declaring a new statutory or administrative law after its enactment. In some jurisdictions this additional step is necessary before the law can take effect....

. Some monarchical states call this procedure Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

.
Example 1 (presidential system): Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 states:
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approves he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated...
Example 2 (parliamentary system): Section 11.a.1. of the Basic Laws of Israel
Basic Laws of Israel
The Basic Laws of Israel are a key component of Israel's constitutional law. These laws deal with the formation and role of the principal state's institutions, and the relations between the state's authorities. Some of them also protect civil rights...

 states:
The President of the State shall sign every Law, other than a Law relating to its powers.


In some parliamentary systems, the head of state retains certain powers in relation to bills to be exercised at his or her discretion. They may have authority to veto a bill until the houses of the legislature have reconsidered it, and approved it a second time; reserve a bill to be signed later, or suspend it indefinitely (generally in states with the Royal Prerogative; this power is rarely used); refer a bill to the courts to test its constitutionality; refer a bill to the people in a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

.

If he or she is also chief executive, he or she can thus politically control the necessary executive measures without which a proclaimed law can remain dead letter, sometimes for years or even forever.

Military role



A head of state is generally the literal, or notional, commander-in-chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of a state's armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

, holding the highest office in all military chains of command
Chain of Command
Chain of Command may refer to:* Chain of command, in a military context, the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed* "Chain of Command" , the fifth episode of the first season of Beast Wars...

.
Example 1: Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 states:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.
Example 2: Article III, Section 15 of the Constitution Act, 1867
Constitution Act, 1867
The Constitution Act, 1867 , is a major part of Canada's Constitution. The Act created a federal dominion and defines much of the operation of the Government of Canada, including its federal structure, the House of Commons, the Senate, the justice system, and the taxation system...

, a part of the Constitution of Canada
Constitution of Canada
The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law in Canada; the country's constitution is an amalgamation of codified acts and uncodified traditions and conventions. It outlines Canada's system of government, as well as the civil rights of all Canadian citizens and those in Canada...

, states:
The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue to be vested in the Queen.


In a constitutional monarchy or non-executive presidency the head of state may hold the ultimate authority over the armed forces but will only normally, as per either written or conventional laws, exercise their authority on the advice of their ministers, meaning de facto decision making on military manoeuvers lies with the cabinet. The monarch or president will, however, perform ceremonial duties related to the country's armed forces, and will sometimes appear in military uniform for these purposes; in the case of a female sovereign her consort and other members of the royal family may also appear in military garb. This is generally the only time a head of state of a stable, democratic country will appear dressed in such a manner, as statesmen and public are eager to assert the primacy of (civilian, elected) politics over the armed forces.

In military dictatorship
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

s, or governments which have arisen from coups-d'etat, the position of commander-in-chief is obvious, as all authority in such a government derives from the application of military force; occasionally a power vacuum created by war is filled by a head of state stepping beyond his or her normal constitutional role, as King Albert I of Belgium
Albert I of Belgium
Albert I reigned as King of the Belgians from 1909 until 1934.-Early life:Born Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad in Brussels, he was the fifth child and second son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, and his wife, Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen...

 did during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. In these and in revolutionary regimes, the head of state, and often executive ministers whose offices are legally civilian, will frequently appear in military uniform.

Summoning and dissolving the legislature


A head of state is often empowered to summon and dissolve the country's legislature. In most parliamentary systems, this is done on the advice of the head of government (e.g. Prime Minister) or cabinet. In some parliamentary systems, and in some presidential systems, however, the head of state may do so on their own initiative. Some states have fixed term parliaments, with no option of bringing forward elections (e.g. Article II, Section 3, of the U.S. Constitution). In other systems there are usually fixed terms, but the head of state retains authority to dissolve the legislature in certain circumstances. Where a head of government has lost the confidence of parliament, some heads of state may refuse a parliamentary dissolution, where one is requested, forcing the head of government's resignation.
Example: Article 13.2.2. of the Constitution of Ireland
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

 states:
The President may in absolute discretion refuse to dissolve Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas , which also includes the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann . It is directly elected at least once in every five years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote...

 on the advice of a Taoiseach [Prime Minister] who has ceased to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann

Other prerogatives


  • Right of pardon
    Pardon
    Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves...

  • Granting nobility
    Nobility
    Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

    , knighthood and various titles and other honours

Selection and various types and styles of Heads of State


Various heads of state use a multitude of different styles and titles, often with many variations in content under diverse constitutions, even in a given state. In numerous cases, two or more of the following peculiar types apply, not counting the primary duo monarchy-republic. There are also several methods of head of state succession
Head of state succession
Head of state succession is the process by which nations transfer leadership of their highest office from one person to another. The succession of a head of state can be brought about through various means, the most common of which include:...

 in the event of the removal or death of a sitting head of state.

In a monarchy, the Monarch
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 is the Head of State. This is a relatively recent phenomenon; until the last few decades a sovereign was seen as the personal embodiment of the state ("L'etat c'est moi", so to speak), and therefore could not be head of himself or herself (hence many constitutions from the 19th century and earlier make no mention of a "head of state"). Though some still maintain that calling a Monarch Head of State is incorrect, it has now become a widespread political convention to attach the label to Monarchs, regardless of their political position.
The Emperor of Japan
Emperor of Japan
The Emperor of Japan is, according to the 1947 Constitution of Japan, "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is a ceremonial figurehead under a form of constitutional monarchy and is head of the Japanese Imperial Family with functions as head of state. He is also the highest...

 is defined as a symbol, not head, of state by the post-war constitution (contrasting with the former divine status) but is treated as an imperial head of state under diplomatic protocol (even ranking above kings) and retains Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 mystique.

For the numerous styles in past and present monarchies, in most cases commonly -though often not quite accurately- rendered as King
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 or Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

, but also many other (e.g. Grand duke
Grand Duke
The title grand duke is used in Western Europe and particularly in Germanic countries for provincial sovereigns. Grand duke is of a protocolary rank below a king but higher than a sovereign duke. Grand duke is also the usual and established translation of grand prince in languages which do not...

, Sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

), see Prince
Prince
Prince is a general term for a ruler, monarch or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family, and is a hereditary title in the nobility of some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess...

, princely state
Princely state
A Princely State was a nominally sovereign entitity of British rule in India that was not directly governed by the British, but rather by an Indian ruler under a form of indirect rule such as suzerainty or paramountcy.-British relationship with the Princely States:India under the British Raj ...

 and monarchy
Monarchy
A monarchy is a form of government in which the office of head of state is usually held until death or abdication and is often hereditary and includes a royal house. In some cases, the monarch is elected...

.

In a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

, the head of state is nowadays usually styled President
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

, and usually their permanent constitutions provide for election, but many have or had other titles and even specific constitutional positions (see below), and some have used simply 'head of state' as their only formal title.

Interim


Whenever a head of state is not available for any reason, constitutional provisions may allow the role to fall temporarily to an assigned person or collective body. In a republic, this is - depending on provisions outlined by the constitution or improvised - a vice-president, the chief of government, the legislature or its presiding officer. In a monarchy, this is usually a regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 or collegial regency (council). For example, in the United States the Vice-President acts when the President is incapacitated, and in the United Kingdom the Queen's powers may be delegated to Counsellors of State
Counsellor of State
In the United Kingdom, Counsellors of State are senior members of the British royal family to whom the Monarch, currently Elizabeth II, delegates certain state functions and powers when she is in another Commonwealth realm, abroad or unavailable for other reasons...

 when she is abroad or unavailable.

Delegation


Where one person is head of state of multiple sovereign countries (such as in a personal union
Personal union
A personal union is the combination by which two or more different states have the same monarch while their boundaries, their laws and their interests remain distinct. It should not be confused with a federation which is internationally considered a single state...

), there may be need to appoint a permanent representative in each (or excepting in the head of state's country of primary residence). Examples include Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

s where the individual who acts as their respective monarch resides in the oldest realm, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, and so is represented in the others by an appointed governor-general
Governor-General
A Governor-General, is a vice-regal person of a monarch in an independent realm or a major colonial circonscription. Depending on the political arrangement of the territory, a Governor General can be a governor of high rank, or a principal governor ranking above "ordinary" governors.- Current uses...

 (unhyphenated in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 as governor general) and Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

which is headed by two non-resident co-princes, one of which is also the President of France.

A Commonwealth realm's governor-general may fulfil many of the roles of a head of state, but is typically not, either legally or conventionally, regarded as the head of state, but rather as an appointed representative of the head of state mandated to act in his or her place, even when the monarch is present in the country. Some governors-general are considered de facto heads of state because, though not the de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

 (juridical or legal) head of state, in practice they function like a head of state in most or all jurisdiction
Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

s. In diplomatic situations, governors-general are sometimes accorded a status akin to a head of state, but that is by tradition and on a case by case and person by person basis, not automatic. At state banquets, for example, toasts are made to the head of state, not to a governor-general, except insofar as a personal toast may be proposed subsequently to "Governor-General and Mrs. X" as hosts of, or guests at, the banquet. Similarly, letters of credence
Letter of Credence
A letter of credence is a formal letter usually sent by one head of state to another that formally grants diplomatic accreditation to a named individual to be their ambassador in the country of the head of state receiving the letter...

 may contain the name of the head of state, not the governor-general, even if it is the latter who signs and receives them; in 2005, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 changed their policies and now all letters of credence
Letter of Credence
A letter of credence is a formal letter usually sent by one head of state to another that formally grants diplomatic accreditation to a named individual to be their ambassador in the country of the head of state receiving the letter...

 solely address the governor-general of the relevant nation, not to the sovereign. There has been debate in Australia and Canada as to which person is actually considered head of state.
In the case of Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

, two Co-Princes act as the principality's heads of state; one is also simultaneously the President of France, residing in France, and the other is the Bishop of Urgell
Diocese of Urgell
The Diocese of Urgell is a Roman Catholic diocese in Catalonia, Spain, with origins in the fifth century AD or possibly earlier. It is based in the region of the historical Catalan county of Urgell, though it has different borders...

, residing in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. Each Co-Prince is represented in Andorra by a delegate, though these persons hold no formal title.

As a colony or other dependent state or territory lacks the authority to vest in a true head of state of its own, it either has no comparable office, simply receiving those roles exercised by the paramount powers (in person or, most of the time, through an appointed representative, often styled governor
Governor
A governor is a governing official, usually the executive of a non-sovereign level of government, ranking under the head of state...

 or lieutenant-governor, but also various other titles, on the Cook Islands
Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand...

 even simply King/Queen's Representative) or has one, such as a formerly sovereign dynasty, but under a form of metropolitan guardianship, such as protection, vassal or tributary status.

Extraordinary arrangements


In exceptional situations, such as war, occupation, revolution or a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

, constitutional institutions, including the symbolically crucial head of state, may be reduced to a figurehead or be suspended in favor of an emergency office (such as the original Roman Dictator
Dictator
A dictator is a ruler who assumes sole and absolute power but without hereditary ascension such as an absolute monarch. When other states call the head of state of a particular state a dictator, that state is called a dictatorship...

) or eliminated by a new 'provisionary' regime, such as a collective of the junta
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 type, or removed by an occupying force, such as a military governor (an early example being the Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

n Harmost
Harmost
Harmost in ancient Greece is a Spartan term that means military governor. The Spartan general Lysander instituted several harmosts during the period of Spartan hegemony after the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC...

).

Theocratic, ecclesiocratic and other 'pious' Heads of State



Since Antiquity, various dynasties—or individual rulers—claimed to have received the right to rule by divine authority, such as a mandate of heaven
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings, in that both sought to legitimaze rule from divine approval; however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of...

.

Some monarchs even claimed divine ancestry, e.g. both the Egyptian Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 and the Great Inca claimed descent from their respective sun gods, and often maintained this legitimating bloodline by incest
Incest
Incest is sexual intercourse between close relatives that is usually illegal in the jurisdiction where it takes place and/or is conventionally considered a taboo. The term may apply to sexual activities between: individuals of close "blood relationship"; members of the same household; step...

uous marriages with predecessors' female descandants. In pagan Rome, during the Principate
Principate
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

, the title divus ('divine') was conferred, notably posthumously, on the Princeps (commonly rendered as Emperor after the separate, not reserved title Imperator, but constitutionally a republican office; formally the two eponymous consuls remained the joint heads of state), a symbolically crucial legitimating element in establishing a de facto dynasty.

In Christianity (Roman Catholicism, and in some cases continued by Protestant faiths):
  • The Pope
    Pope
    The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

     as Sovereign Pontiff, first, of the politically important Papal States
    Papal States
    The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

    ; after the Italian unification
    Italian unification
    Italian unification was the political and social movement that agglomerated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of Italy in the 19th century...

     ultimately just over Vatican City
    Vatican City
    Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

    .
  • Various lower clerics (but mainly prelates) qualified as prince of the church
    Prince of the Church
    The term Prince of the Church is nowadays used nearly exclusively for Catholic Cardinals. However the term is historically more important as a generic term for clergymen whose offices hold the secular rank and privilege of a prince or are considered its equivalent...

     (see there, e.g., prince-bishop
    Prince-Bishop
    A Prince-Bishop is a bishop who is a territorial Prince of the Church on account of one or more secular principalities, usually pre-existent titles of nobility held concurrently with their inherent clerical office...

    ); one case of a grand master
    Grand Master (order)
    Grand Master is the typical title of the supreme head of various orders of knighthood, including various military orders, religious orders and civil orders such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Orange Order...

     of a sovereign order remains, but it has been vested ex officio in the pope.
  • In the Church of England
    Church of England
    The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

    , the reigning monarch also holds the title Defender of the Faith
    Defender of the Faith
    Defender of the Faith may refer to:*Fidei defensor , a title of several European Christian monarchs.*Defender of the Faith, a title of the heads of the ruling Solomonic dynasty of the former Ethiopian Empire....

     and acts as Supreme Governor of the Church of England
    Church of England
    The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

    , but that is pure caesaropapism
    Caesaropapism
    Caesaropapism is the idea of combining the power of secular government with, or making it superior to, the spiritual authority of the Church; especially concerning the connection of the Church with government. The term caesaropapism was coined by Max Weber, who defined it as follows: “a secular,...

     (ironically anti-papist in origin): the state commands the church, which has no power over the state.


In Islam:
  • Caliph
    Caliph
    The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

    s were the spiritual and temporal, absolute successors of the Prophet Mohammed, but gradually lost political power. Various political Muslim leaders since styled themselves Caliph and served as dynastic heads of state, sometimes in addition to another title, such as the Ottoman Sultan.
  • Imam of rare theocratic Muslim states known as imamates; notably:
    • the present sultanate of Oman
      Oman
      Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

       ('Uman) was ruled 661 - 1811/1821 by the Ibadi
      Ibadi
      The Ibāḍī movement, Ibadism or Ibāḍiyya is a form of Islam distinct from the Sunni and Shia denominations. It is the dominant form of Islam in Oman and Zanzibar...

       community under a religious leader styled Imam al-Muslimin "Imam of the Muslims"), a member of the Azd clan, with several interruptions under foreign rulers; in 1784 while Imam rule continued, Muscat and Oman became a de facto sovereign state under a secular Al ´Bu Sa'id ruler; 3 October 1868 - January 1871 Imam rule was briefly restored.
    • in Yemen
      Yemen
      The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

      , and with suzerainty over other parts of the Arabian peninsula
    • in (Lower) 'Asir, under the Idris dynasty, the religious style of Imam was combined with the temporal ruler style of Sheikh
      Sheikh
      Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...

       from 1830. Since 1909 the higher style (assumed by the last of four Shaikhs) of Emir
      Emir
      Emir , meaning "commander", "general", or "prince"; also transliterated as Amir, Aamir or Ameer) is a title of high office, used throughout the Muslim world...

       was used until 20 November 1930 when the shaikhdom was incorporated into Hejaz-Nejd (which became modern Saudi Arabia
      Saudi Arabia
      The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

      )
    • in Nejd the Emirs (1744–1817) were, from 15 January 1902, also Imams and Protectors of the Wahhabis (fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam)
    • the Adal
      Adal Sultanate
      The Adal Sultanate or the Kingdom of Adal was a medieval multi-ethnic Muslim state located in the Horn of Africa.-Overview:...

       Imams 1526 - 1548 ruled the later British Somalia and Somaliland
      Somaliland
      Somaliland is an unrecognised self-declared sovereign state that is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia. The government of Somaliland regards itself as the successor state to the British Somaliland protectorate, which was independent for a few days in 1960 as the State of...

       (an interlude between Ottoman and other foreign regimes).
    • In some of the 19th-century Jihad states of the upper Niger
      Niger River
      The Niger River is the principal river of western Africa, extending about . Its drainage basin is in area. Its source is in the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea...

       (Mali
      Mali
      Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

      ), the Massina/Sise Jihad state
      Massina Empire
      The Massina Empire was an early nineteenth-century Fulbe Jihad state centered in the Macina and Inner Niger Delta area of what is now the Mopti and Ségou Regions of Mali...

      , its successor states in Segu and Massina after its conquest, and the Tijaniyya Jihad state
      Toucouleur Empire
      The Toucouleur Empire was founded in the nineteenth century by El Hadj Umar Tall of the Toucouleur people, in part of present-day Mali....

       (though these leaders had a variety of actual powers, and were also often styled Almamy
      Almami
      Almami is a title of West African Muslim rulers, used especially in the conquest states of the 19th century. It is a contraction of Amir al-Mu'minin , usually translated "Commander of the Faithful" or "Prince of the Faithful"...

       or Caliph
      Caliph
      The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

      ; the last fama of the Samori Empire (formerly Wassulu
      Wassoulou Empire
      The Wassoulou Empire, sometimes referred to as the Mandinka Empire, was a short-lived empire of West Africa built from the conquests of Dyula ruler Samori Ture and destroyed by the French colonial army....

      ) till its extinction by French colonization.
    • after the 1813 annexation into tsarist Russia by the Treaty of Gulistan, there was a nationalist 1828 - 1859 Imamate of Daghestan until its 1859 reincorporatation into the Russian Empire.
  • Sheikh
    Sheikh
    Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...

    , e.g., of the Sunni Sanusi order in Cyrenaica (Libya) since 1843, styled Emir since 25 October 1920
  • In the Islamic Republic of Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

     the rahbar (Supreme Leader
    Supreme leader
    A supreme leader typically refers to a figure in the highest leadership position of an entity, group, organization, or state, who exercises strong or all-powerful authority over it. In religion, the supreme leader or supreme leaders is God or Gods...

    , at present Ali Khamenei
    Ali Khamenei
    Ayatollah Seyed Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i is the Supreme Leader of Iran and the figurative head of the Muslim conservative establishment in Iran and Twelver Shi'a marja...

    ) and a council of guardians, all Shiah clerics, hold the highest offices in terms of political power (hence some consider it a theocracy), above the elected (sometimes lay) President, who is formally the constitutional head of government.
  • The Aga Khan
    Aga Khan
    Aga Khan is the hereditary title of the Imam of the largest branch of the Ismā'īlī followers of the Shī‘a faith. They affirm the Imamat of the descendants of Ismail ibn Jafar, eldest son of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, while the larger Twelver branch of Shi`ism follows Ismail's younger brother Musa...

    s, a unique dynasty of temporal/religious leadership, leading an offshoot of Shiite Islam
    Islam
    Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

     in Central and South Asia, once ranking among British India's princely state
    Princely state
    A Princely State was a nominally sovereign entitity of British rule in India that was not directly governed by the British, but rather by an Indian ruler under a form of indirect rule such as suzerainty or paramountcy.-British relationship with the Princely States:India under the British Raj ...

    s, continues to the present day.


In Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, certain dynasties adopted a title expressing their positions as 'servant' of a patron deity of the state, but in the sense of a (prime) minister under a figure head of state, ruling 'in the name of' the patron god(ess), e.g.,
  • Patmanabha Dasa (i.e., servant of Vishnu) in the case of the Maharaja
    Maharaja
    Mahārāja is a Sanskrit title for a "great king" or "high king". The female equivalent title Maharani denotes either the wife of a Maharaja or, in states where that was customary, a woman ruling in her own right. The widow of a Maharaja is known as a Rajamata...

     of Travancore
    Travancore
    Kingdom of Travancore was a former Hindu feudal kingdom and Indian Princely State with its capital at Padmanabhapuram or Trivandrum ruled by the Travancore Royal Family. The Kingdom of Travancore comprised most of modern day southern Kerala, Kanyakumari district, and the southernmost parts of...

    .


In Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

:
  • Some later Dalai Lama
    Dalai Lama
    The Dalai Lama is a high lama in the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The name is a combination of the Mongolian word далай meaning "Ocean" and the Tibetan word bla-ma meaning "teacher"...

    s (reincarnations of the Buddha
    Buddha
    In Buddhism, buddhahood is the state of perfect enlightenment attained by a buddha .In Buddhism, the term buddha usually refers to one who has become enlightened...

    ) were both political and spiritual leader ("god-king") of some parts of Tibet
    Tibet
    Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

     in Late Imperial China
    Late Imperial China
    Late Imperial China refers to the period between the end of Mongol rule in 1368 and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 and includes the Ming and Qing Dynasties...

     to the People's Republic of China, where the powers were gradually reduced until the 14th's
    14th Dalai Lama
    The 14th Dalai Lama is the 14th and current Dalai Lama. Dalai Lamas are the most influential figures in the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, although the 14th has consolidated control over the other lineages in recent years...

     flight into exile in 1959.
  • Outer Mongolia
    Outer Mongolia
    Outer Mongolia was a territory of the Qing Dynasty = the Manchu Empire. Its area was roughly equivalent to that of the modern state of Mongolia, which is sometimes informally called "Outer Mongolia" today...

    , the former homeland of the imperial Genghis Khan-dynasty, was another lamaist theocracy from 1585, using various styles in several languages, see Khutughtu; replaced on 20 May 1924 by a Communist republic of Mongolia (which assigned the Head of State role to chairmanships), later democratised.

City states and crowned republics

  • The polis
    Polis
    Polis , plural poleis , literally means city in Greek. It could also mean citizenship and body of citizens. In modern historiography "polis" is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, so polis is often translated as "city-state."The...

     in Greek Antiquity and the equivalent city states in the feudal era and later, (many in Italy, the Holy Roman Empire
    Holy Roman Empire
    The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

    , the Moorish taifa in Iberia
    Iberian Peninsula
    The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

    , essentially tribal-type but urbanized regions throughout the world in the Maya civilization
    Maya civilization
    The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

    , etc.) offer a wide spectrum of styles, either monarchic (mostly identical to homonyms in larger states) or republican, see Chief magistrate
    Chief Magistrate
    Chief Magistrate is a generic designation for a public official whose office—individual or collegial—is the highest in his or her class, in either of the fundamental meanings of Magistrate : as a major political and administrative office , and/or as a judge Chief Magistrate is a generic designation...

    .
  • Doge
    Doge
    Doge is a dialectal Italian word that descends from the Latin dux , meaning "leader", especially in a military context. The wife of a Doge is styled a Dogaressa....

    s were elected by their Italian aristocratic republics from a patrician nobility, but 'reigned' as sovereign dukes.
  • The paradoxical term crowned republic
    Crowned republic
    A crowned republic is a form of constitutional monarchy where the monarch's role is ceremonial and all the royal prerogatives are prescribed by custom and law in such a way that the monarch has little or no discretion over governmental and constitutional issues.The term has been used to describe...

     refers to various state arrangements that combine 'republican' and 'monarchic' characteristics.
  • The Netherlands
    Netherlands
    The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

     historically had officials called stadholders and stadholders-general, titles meaning 'lieutenant' or 'governor', originally for the Habsburg
    Habsburg
    The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

     monarchs.

Multiple or collective Heads of State



A collective head of state can exist in republics (internal complexity): e.g. nominal triumvirate
Triumvirate
A triumvirate is a political regime dominated by three powerful individuals, each a triumvir . The arrangement can be formal or informal, and though the three are usually equal on paper, in reality this is rarely the case...

s; the Directoire; the seven-member Swiss Federal Council
Swiss Federal Council
The Federal Council is the seven-member executive council which constitutes the federal government of Switzerland and serves as the Swiss collective head of state....

, where each member acts in turn as ceremonial chief of state); Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

 (three member presidium, from three different nations); San Marino
San Marino
San Marino, officially the Republic of San Marino , is a state situated on the Italian Peninsula on the eastern side of the Apennine Mountains. It is an enclave surrounded by Italy. Its size is just over with an estimated population of over 30,000. Its capital is the City of San Marino...

 (two "Captains-regent"), which maintains the tradition of Italian medieval republics, where there always was an even number of consuls.

In condominiums
Condominium (international law)
In international law, a condominium is a political territory in or over which two or more sovereign powers formally agree to share equally dominium and exercise their rights jointly, without dividing it up into 'national' zones.Although a condominium has always been...

, sovereignty is shared between two external powers: e.g. Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

 (president of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and bishop of Urgell
Urgell
The County of Urgell is one of the historical Catalan counties, bordering on the counties of Pallars and Cerdanya.The county was carved by the Franks out of a former section of the Mark of Toulouse when the Alt Urgell area became part of the Carolingian Empire between 785 and 790.The original...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, co-princes), and the former Anglo-French New Hebrides
New Hebrides
New Hebrides was the colonial name for an island group in the South Pacific that now forms the nation of Vanuatu. The New Hebrides were colonized by both the British and French in the 18th century shortly after Captain James Cook visited the islands...

 (each nation's head of state was represented by a high commissioner).

In the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 there were two heads of state, styled Consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

, both of whom alternated months of authority during their year in office, similarly there was an even number of supreme magistrates in the Italic republics of Ancient Age. In the Athenian Republic
History of Athens
Athens is one of the oldest named cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years. Situated in southern Europe, Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece in the first millennium BCE and its cultural achievements during the 5th century BCE laid the foundations...

 there were nine supreme magistrates, styled archons. In Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 there were two supreme magistrates, styled kings or suffetes
Shofet
In Hebrew and several other Semitic languages, shofet literally means "Judge", from the verb "Š-P-T", "to pass judgment". Cognate titles exist in other Semitic cultures, notably Phoenicia.-Hebrew:...

 (judges). In ancient Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 there were two hereditary kings, belonging to two different dynasties.

Such arrangements are not to be confused with supranational entities which are not states and are not defined by a common monarchy but may (or not) have a symbolic, essentially protocollary, titled highest office, e.g. Head of the Commonwealth
Head of the Commonwealth
The Head of the Commonwealth heads the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation which currently comprises 54 sovereign states. The position is currently occupied by the individual who serves as monarch of each of the Commonwealth realms, but has no day-to-day involvement in the...

 (held by the British crown, but not legally reserved for it) or 'Head of the Arab Union' (14 February - 14 July 1958, held by the Hashemite King of Iraq, during its short-lived Federation with Jordan, its Hashemite sister-realm).

Unique cases and titles


Though "president" and various monarchic titles are most commonly used for heads of state, in some nationalistic regimes (usually republics), the leader adopts, formally or de facto, a unique style simply meaning "leader" in the national language, such as Nazi Germany's single party chief and head of state and government, Adolf Hitler Führer
Führer
Führer , alternatively spelled Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also...

 (see that article for equivalents).

In 1959, when former British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 crown colony Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 gained self-government, it adopted the Malay style Yang di-Pertuan Negara
Yang di-Pertuan Negara
Yang di-Pertuan Negara, meaning "Head of State" in Malay, was used as an official title at various times in Sabah, Singapore and Brunei.-Singapore:...

(literally means "head of state" in Malay
Malay language
Malay is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the official language of Malaysia , Indonesia , Brunei and Singapore...

) for its governor (the actual head of state remained the British monarch). The second and last incumbent of the office, Yusof bin Ishak
Yusof bin Ishak
Yusof bin Ishak was an eminent Singaporean politician and the first President of Singapore of Minangkabau descent. His portrait appears on the Singapore Portrait Series currency notes introduced in 1999.-Early life:...

, kept the style at the 31 August 1963 unilateral declaration of independence and after the 16 September 1963 accession to Malaysia as a state (so now as a constitutive part of the federation, a non-sovereign level). After expulsion from Malaysia on 9 August 1965, Singapore became a sovereign Commonwealth republic and installed Yusof bin Ishak as its first President.

There are also a few nations in which the exact title and definition of the office of head of state have been vague. During the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, following the downfall of Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi
Liu Shaoqi was a Chinese revolutionary, statesman, and theorist. He was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, China's head of state, from 27 April 1959 to 31 October 1968, during which he implemented policies of economic reconstruction in China...

, who was Chairman of the People's Republic of China, no successor was named, so the duties of the head of state were transferred collectively to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is a committee of about 150 members of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China , which is convened between plenary sessions of the NPC. It has the constitutional authority to modify legislation within limits set by...

. This situation was later changed: the Head of State of the PRC is now the President of the People's Republic of China
President of the People's Republic of China
The President of the People's Republic of China is a ceremonial office and a part of State organs under the National People's Congress and it is the head of state of the People's Republic of China . The office was created by the 1982 Constitution...

.

In North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung was a Korean communist politician who led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death...

 was named "eternal president" following his death and the presidency was abolished. As a result, the duties of the head of state are constitutionally delegated to the Supreme People's Assembly
Supreme People's Assembly
The Supreme People's Assembly is the unicameral parliament of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea , commonly known as North Korea...

 whose chairman is "Head of State for foreign affairs" and performs some of the roles of a Head of State, such as accrediting foreign ambassadors. However, the symbolic role of a Head of State is generally performed by Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il, also written as Kim Jong Il, birth name Yuri Irsenovich Kim born 16 February 1941 or 16 February 1942 , is the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea...

, who as the leader of the party and military, is the most powerful person in North Korea.

There is debate as to whether Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

 is/was an elective monarchy or an aristocratic republic, given the comparative ambiguity of the title O le Ao o le Malo and the nature of the head of state's office.

In some states the office of head of state is not expressed in a specific title reflecting that role, but constitutionally awarded to a post of another formal nature. Thus in March 1979 Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar al-Gaddafi
Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi or "September 1942" 20 October 2011), commonly known as Muammar Gaddafi or Colonel Gaddafi, was the official ruler of the Libyan Arab Republic from 1969 to 1977 and then the "Brother Leader" of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya from 1977 to 2011.He seized power in a...

, who kept absolute power (until his overthrow in 2011 referred to as "Guide of the Revolution"), after ten years as combined Head of State and Head of government of the Libyan Jamahiriya ("state of the masses"), styled Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, formally transferred both qualities to the General secretaries of the General People's Congress (comparable to a Speaker) respectively to a Prime Minister, in political reality both were his creatures.

Sometimes a head of state assumes office as a state becomes legal and political reality, before a formal title for the highest office is determined; thus in the since 1 January 1960 independent republic Cameroon
Cameroon
Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon , is a country in west Central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon's coastline lies on the...

 (Cameroun, a former French colony), the first President, Ahmadou Babatoura Ahidjo, was at first not styled président but 'merely' known as Chef d'état (literal French for 'Head of State') until 5 May 1960; in Uganda
Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

, military coup leader since 25 January 1971 Idi Amin
Idi Amin
Idi Amin Dada was a military leader and President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin joined the British colonial regiment, the King's African Rifles in 1946. Eventually he held the rank of Major General in the post-colonial Ugandan Army and became its Commander before seizing power in the military...

 was formally styled military head of State till 21 February 1971, only from then on regular (but unconstitutional, not elected) President.

In certain cases a special style is needed to accommodate imperfect statehood, e.g. the title Sardar-i-Riyasat was used in Kashmir after its accession to India, and PLO-leader Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini , popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar , was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization , President of the Palestinian National Authority...

 was styled the first "President of the Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian National Authority
The Palestinian Authority is the administrative organization established to govern parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip...

" in 1994.

Legitimacy and term in office



The position of head of state (within, or as well as, the state) can be established in different ways, and based on different sources of legitimacy.

Force is often the true origin of power, but formal legitimacy must be found, even if by fictitious claim of continuity such as forged descent or legacy from a previous dynasty. There has also been cases of granting sovereignty, such as dynastic splits, not just by laws of succession but also by deliberate acts. This is usually forced, such as self-determination granted after nationalist revolts, or as with the last Attalid king of Hellenistic Pergamon
Pergamon
Pergamon , or Pergamum, was an ancient Greek city in modern-day Turkey, in Mysia, today located from the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus , that became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 281–133 BC...

 by testament leaving his realm to Rome to avoid a disastrous conquest.

Under theocracy
Theocracy
Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

, divine status (as the Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

's, Roman divus and mandate of heaven
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings, in that both sought to legitimaze rule from divine approval; however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of...

 as in imperial China) can render earthly authority under divine law
Divine law
Divine law is any law that in the opinion of believers, comes directly from the will of God . Like natural law it is independent of the will of man, who cannot change it. However it may be revealed or not, so it may change in human perception in time through new revelation...

, which is theoretically unchallengeable. On the other hand, it can take the form of supreme divine authority above the state's, granting a tool for political influence to a priesthood that voices and interprets such authority. A priesthood can gain control or even dominance, for example Pharaoh Echnaton's reforms were reversed by the Amun-priesthood after his death. Often there is no clear model, so over time power can be disputed, as between the Pope and Holy Roman emperor in the Investiture
Investiture
Investiture, from the Latin is a rather general term for the formal installation of an incumbent...

 conflict, as the temporal power seeks to guarantee its legitimacy, including a formal ceremony during the coronation (such as unction; often crucial for popular support), by controlling key nominations in the clergy.

The notion of a social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

 holds that the nation (the whole people, or just the electorate) gives a mandate, as through acclamation or election.

Individual heads of state may acquire their position in a number of constitutional ways.

The position of a monarch is usually hereditary, but often with constitutional restrictions, or even considerable liberty for the incumbent or some body convening after his demise to choose from eligible members of the ruling house, often limited to legal descendants of the state religion or even parliamentary permission.
Election usually is the constitutional way to choose the head of state of a republic, and some monarchies, either directly through popular election, indirectly by members of the legislature or of a special college of electors
Indirect election
Indirect election is a process in which voters in an election don't actually choose between candidates for an office but rather elect persons who will then make the choice. It is one of the oldest form of elections and is still used today for many upper houses and presidents...

, as in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, or as an exclusive prerogative. Exclusive prerogative is where the heads of states of the constitutive monarchies of a federation choose the head of state for the federation as a whole from among themselves, as in the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 and Malaysia. The Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

, head of the Roman Catholic Church (as such the 'Holy See' is diplomatically recognised) and also monarchic head of state of Vatican City
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

, is chosen by cardinals
Cardinal (Catholicism)
A cardinal is a senior ecclesiastical official, usually an ordained bishop, and ecclesiastical prince of the Catholic Church. They are collectively known as the College of Cardinals, which as a body elects a new pope. The duties of the cardinals include attending the meetings of the College and...

 (appointed by previous Popes) under 80 years of age (in practice from among themselves) in a papal conclave
Papal conclave
A papal conclave is a meeting of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a Bishop of Rome, who then becomes the Pope during a period of vacancy in the papal office. The Pope is considered by Roman Catholics to be the apostolic successor of Saint Peter and earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church...

.

Direct popular election can be made a fiction under the formula of popular acclamation
Acclamation
An acclamation, in its most common sense, is a form of election that does not use a ballot. "Acclamation" or "acclamatio" can also signify a kind of ritual greeting and expression of approval in certain social contexts in ancient Rome.-Voting:...

. The electorate can be very selective, such as the patrician families and/or the professional corporations of a city state, or by the warriors in the case of a 'tribal' type war chief or a Roman general proclaimed by his legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

s.

A head of state can be entitled to designate his successor, such as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth Oliver Cromwell who was succeeded by his son Richard.

A head of state may seize power by force or revolution. This is not to be confused with the notion of an authoritarian or other totalitarian ruler, which rather concerns the oppressive nature of power once acquired, and therefore applies only if he is the true chief executive. Dictators often use democratic titles, though some proclaim themselves monarchs. Examples of the latter include Emperor Napoleon III of France
Napoleon III of France
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was the President of the French Second Republic and as Napoleon III, the ruler of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, christened as Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte...

 and King Zog of Albania
Zog of Albania
Zog I, Skanderbeg III of the Albanians , born Ahmet Muhtar Bey Zogolli, was King of the Albanians from 1928 to 1939. He was previously Prime Minister of Albania and President of Albania .-Background and early political career:...

. In Spain, general Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

 adopted the formal title Jefe del Estado, or Chief of State, and established himself as regent
Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 for a vacant monarchy. Uganda's Idi Amin
Idi Amin
Idi Amin Dada was a military leader and President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin joined the British colonial regiment, the King's African Rifles in 1946. Eventually he held the rank of Major General in the post-colonial Ugandan Army and became its Commander before seizing power in the military...

 was one of several who made themselves President for Life
President for Life
President for Life is a title assumed by some dictators to remove their term limit, in the hope that their authority, legitimacy, and term will never be disputed....

, and even later adopted an additional monarchic title.

Another type of extra-constitutional imposition, often also changing the constitution, is by a foreign power (state or alliance) establishing a branch of their own or a friendly dynasty.

Apart from violent ousting, a head of state's position can also be lost in several ways. One is by death, another is by expiration of the term of office under various (nearly always republican and/or elective) constitutions. Abdication
Abdication
Abdication occurs when a monarch, such as a king or emperor, renounces his office.-Terminology:The word abdication comes derives from the Latin abdicatio. meaning to disown or renounce...

 or resignation is legally a voluntary act, although it can be the result of overpowering political or other pressure. In some cases, an abdication cannot occur unilaterally, but comes into effect only when approved by an act of parliament as in the case of British King Edward VIII.

The post can be abolished by constitutional change of the institutions. Occasionally on the contrary, a transitory clause provides that the last incumbent may end his term. Or even the state may cease to exist.

While generally a head of state enjoys the widest form of inviolability
Inviolability
In religion and ethics, inviolability or sanctity of life is a principle of implied protection regarding aspects of sentient life which are said to be holy, sacred, or otherwise of such value that they are not to be violated...

, in some states the exceptions to this includes impeachment
Impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

, or a similar constitutional procedure by which the highest legislative and/or judicial authorities are empowered to revoke his mandate on exceptional grounds. This may be a common crime, a political sin, or an act by which he violates such provisions as the established religion which is mandatory for the monarch. By similar procedure his original mandate may be declared invalid.

A referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 can either provided in the constitution or simply considered the sovereign will of the people.

If the state does not enjoy full and true sovereignty, he may be validly discarded by a protector
Protector (title)
Protector, sometimes spelled protecter, is used as a title or part of various historical titles of heads of state and others in authority...

 or suzerain liege.

Serious violation of certain fundamental treaty obligations is sometimes considered a (disputable) valid reason for the relevant international community to depose a head of state, as the Security Council of the UN or certain alliances may do.

Formal declaration of incapacity to rule, usually on such medical grounds as insanity or coma, may either result in suspension (see below) or termination of the mandate.

All ways of ending a head of state's term may carry a risk for the next incumbent, usually by contesting the validity of the procedure, but sometimes even after death in the case of pretenders.

Former heads of state


A monarch may retain his style and certain prerogatives after abdication, as King Leopold III of Belgium
Leopold III of Belgium
Leopold III reigned as King of the Belgians from 1934 until 1951, when he abdicated in favour of the Heir Apparent,...

 who left the throne to his son after winning (but not in both linguistic communities of the country) a referendum; he retained a full royal household but no constitutional or representative role at all. In the case of Napoleon I Bonaparte
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

, the Italian principality of Elba
Elba
Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, from the coastal town of Piombino. The largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, Elba is also part of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia...

, chosen for his luxurious imprisonment after the remains of his Grande Armée (following the disastrous Russian campaign) had finally been defeated in 1814, was transformed into a miniature version of his First Empire, with most trappings of a sovereign monarchy, until his Cent Jours ('100 days' escape and reseizure of power in France) convinced the allies, reconvening the Vienna Congress in 1815, to revoke those gratuitous privileges and send him to die in exile on barren Saint Helena
Saint Helena
Saint Helena , named after St Helena of Constantinople, is an island of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha which also includes Ascension Island and the islands of Tristan da Cunha...

.

By tradition a deposed monarch who has not freely abdicated, though no longer head of state, is allowed to use their monarchical title as a courtesy title
Courtesy title
A courtesy title is a form of address in systems of nobility used for children, former wives and other close relatives of a peer. These styles are used 'by courtesy' in the sense that the relatives do not themselves hold substantive titles...

 for their lifetime. Hence, though he ceased to be Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 king in 1973 (in a disputed referendum during the Regime of the Colonels), or in 1974 (in a referendum after the reestablishment of democracy), it is still standard to refer to the deposed king as Constantine II of Greece
Constantine II of Greece
|align=right|Constantine II was King of Greece from 1964 until the abolition of the monarchy in 1973, the sixth and last monarch of the Greek Royal Family....

. However none of his descendants will be entitled to be called King of the Hellenes (not King of Greece) after his death. Some states dispute the international acceptance of the right of their deposed monarchs to be referred to by their former title. It remains however the generally accepted formula, with most states declining to get involved in disputes between governments and deposed monarchs and simply stating that they are doing no more than recognising tradition, not supporting claims to a defunct throne. Other states have no problem with deposed monarchs being so referred to by former title, and even allow them to travel internationally on the state's diplomatic passport.

Former Presidents of the United States, while holding no legitimate
Legitimacy
Legitimacy, from the Latin word legitimare , may refer to:* Legitimacy * Legitimacy of standards* Legitimacy * Legitimate expectation* Legitimate peripheral participation* Legitimate theater* Legitimation...

 power as the U.S. adheres to a rational-legal system of government, continue to exert great influence in national and world affairs after they leave their post.

Current


(as in early 2011)
  • World's longest serving current monarchical head of state: King Rama IX of Thailand
    Bhumibol Adulyadej
    Bhumibol Adulyadej is the current King of Thailand. He is known as Rama IX...

     (since 9 June 1946: ()).

History

  • Oldest Head of State (elected by legislature): Sandro Pertini elected President of Italy in 1978. He left office in 1985, aged 88 and 9 months.
  • Oldest Head of State elected in a popular election: Éamon de Valera
    Éamon de Valera
    Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

    , President of Ireland
    President of Ireland
    The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland. The President is usually directly elected by the people for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute...

     until 1973 aged 90 and 8 months.
  • Longest serving Head of State of the 20th century: King Sobhuza II of Swaziland
    Swaziland
    Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland , and sometimes called Ngwane or Swatini, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique...

    , reigned for 82 years and 254 days (1899–1982).

See also

  • Head of government
    Head of government
    Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

  • Official residence
    Official residence
    An official residence is the residence at which heads of state, heads of government, gubernatorial or other senior figures officially reside...



Lists:

Sources, references and external links

  • List of Current Heads of State
  • Pauly-Wissowa
    Pauly-Wissowa
    The Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, commonly called the Pauly–Wissowa or simply RE, is a German encyclopedia of classical scholarship. With its supplements it comprises over eighty volumes....

    in German, on Antiquity
  • Rulers.org List of rulers throughout time and places
  • WorldStatesmen History and incumbents of states and minor polities worldwide
  • Regnal Chronologies King lists worldwide (this link is not working, 9/27/08)
  • RoyalArk quite elaborate on many non-European monarchies
  • Westermann, Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte (in German)