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States without Nations: Kingdoms


At a later stage in European history, some individual feudal territories evolved into something like a modern state. Kingdoms emerged with distinct boundaries within which central authorities claimed exclusive jurisdiction, sophisticated judicial systems with rights of appeal from local courts up to the centre, a taxation system, and, in some cases, representative legislative assemblies.

Part of the attraction of the Protestant Reformation for princes was the opportunity to assert legal control over matters such as family law which had previously been Church matters and to reassign Church property holdings to themselves and their supporters. Henry VIII’s example was accompanied by similar phenomena in countries such as Sweden, as even Catholic monarchs such as Louis XIV began to assert control over religious orders. Similar political institutions to these kingdoms were also found in many other parts of the world. For instance, in what is now Nigeria, kingdoms existed in Benin, Yorubaland (Oyo) and in Hausaland (Kano), much earlier such kingdoms could be found in India and Central America.

By definition, a kingdom is an example of dynastic politics. That is, they are not governments by individuals but governments by families. In the European examples this usually meant that the state was regarded as all the possessions of a single family. Thus the modern United Kingdom includes Scotland, Wales and parts of Ireland, as well as the Channel Isles, because the kings of England inherited these areas from the Duchy of Normandy, succeeded to the separate throne of Scotland, or conquered lands. The kingdom was not united by linguistic, cultural or religious similarities. Other members of the family were frequently expected to take a major role in government – queens ruling in the absence of kings, the eldest son of the Crown of England being designated Prince of Wales. Similarly, Belgium and Holland could be regarded as possessions of the Spanish royal family.

Monarchic political systems shared a ‘court’ style of politics in which the administration of the royal household and its estates were inseparable from the business of the kingdom as a whole. Power in such systems might reside with those who most frequently had the ear of the monarch regardless of official position. This might include the king’s mistress, confessor or hairdresser. The politics of such a system is primarily conducted within a consensus on fundamental values.

The assumption may be made that a monarchic state is ‘despotic’; the monarch’s will is final. This seems to be far from the case in practice. First the monarch’s position is usually a traditional one. The same tradition that places the king in power frequently sets limits upon the exercise of that power.

The king may be seen as divinely sanctioned and protected, but this implies that he respects the religious feelings of his people. These may be expressed by religious authorities – archbishops, high priests or synods – who are regarded as equally legitimate within their spheres as the monarch is in his. A good example of that sort of limit is to consider taxation. Even the strongest English monarchs required the approval of the Houses of Parliament, particularly the House of Commons, to levy taxes. The limits on royal power also include the lack of strongly developed administrative machinery, particularly at local level. Although kingdoms of the type described are now rare, they are not extinct (for instance Kuwait, Nepal and Saudi Arabia).


1 Give Ukrainian equivalents for the following words and expressions.

To evolve, taxation system, prince, to reassign, dynastic, court, confessor, archbishop, synod.


2 Translate words and word combinations from Ukrainian into English and use them in your own sentences.

Судова система, законодавчі збори, успадковувати, податки.

3 Complete the sentences

1. Power in such systems ...

2. Similar political institutions ...

3. Kingdoms emerged ...

4. The limits ...

5. The kingdom was not ...

6. The king may be ...

7. The assumption may be ...



4 Comprehension questions

1. What features made kingdoms different from feudal territories?

2. Why was the Protestant Reformation attractive for kings and rulers?

3. What politics is kingdom based on?

4. Who could become the ruler of the kingdom?

5. What was characteristic of ‘court’ style of politics?

6. Who had the power in ‘court’ style of politics?

7. Was the power of the king absolute?


5 Say if the following statements are true according to the text

1. Kingdoms did not have distinct boundaries.

2. The Protestant Reformation helped kings and princes to get control over family law and Church property.

3. Kingdoms could be found only in Europe.

4. Kingdom is government by family.

5. The people in the kingdom had the same language, culture and religion.

6. Members of king’s family could take a major role in government.

7. Even a hairdresser could influence king’s decisions.

8. Monarchic states were ‘despotic’.

9. Religious authorities limited king’s power.

10. English monarchs could not levy taxes without the approval of the House of Commons.


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Studopedia.info - Студопедия - 2014-2022 год . (0.015 сек.) русская версия | украинская версия