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A monarch is a hereditary ruler, figurehead or head of state, except in certain states like the former Kingdom of Poland and the Kalmar Union which featured an elective monarchy, and current-day Malaysia (see Yang di-Pertuan Agong) which uses a system of rotational selection from regional hereditary rulers.

A nation or state that is ruled by a monarch is called a kingdom. A system of governance involving a monarch is known as a monarchy or a constitutional monarchy.

Table of contents
1 Kings and queens
2 Other monarchical titles
3 Monarchs today
4 Reigning monarchs
5 Alternate meanings

Kings and queens

The term "King" designates a male monarch, unless he uses another title such as emperor (in the case of a male monarch who rules over an empire or imperial realm) or tsar (in the case of a male monarch who rules over Imperial Russia). A female monarch is called "Queen", or in full "reigning queen" or "queen regnant", to distinguish from "queen consort", the wife of a king. In some countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and the Pacific, a "King" is the hereditary head of a nation-state, except when a queen or other head of state fills the role.

In China, "king" is the usual translation for the term wang, which designated the sovereign before the Qin dynasty and during the Ten Kingdoms period. During the early Han dynasty, China had a number of small kingdoms, each about the size of a county and subordinate to the Emperor of China.

Other monarchical titles

When a difference exists, male titles are placed to the left and female titles are placed to the right of the slash.

By region

General monarch titles

Monarchs today

Few monarchs today exercise absolute authority. Although there are a number of hereditary monarchies still existing in the world, many countries with hereditary royalty are de facto ruled by a democratically elected leader such as a Prime Minister, while the monarchy continues to hold a symbolic or ceremonial position (eg. United Kingdom; see also constitutional monarchy).

In a few cases a monarch is associated with a particular group (or nation) within a state, such as Te Arikuini Te Atairangikaahu of the Maori (the Maori Queen) and Osei Tutu II of the Ashanti. Malaysia provides an example of a monarch-rich state.

The system used to determine succession to the throne, also known as the order of succession, varies from monarchy to monarchy. Traditionally, succession going to the eldest son of the monarch has been most common; if the monarch had no sons, the throne would pass either to the eldest daughter, or to the nearest male relative, depending on whether the monarchy accepted female rulers and/or descent in the female line. Some monarchies have abolished this preference for males, and the eldest child of the monarch ascends to the throne, be that child male or female, e.g. some European monarchies such as Sweden. There are also elected monarchs of elected monarchies, and dictators who proclaim themselves rulers of a self-proclaimed monarchy.

In some monarchies, e.g. Saudi Arabia, succession to the throne has passed to the monarch's next eldest brother, and only to the monarch's children after that. In some other monarchies, the monarch chooses who will be his successor, who need not necessarily be his eldest son, e.g. Jordan.

See also: Dauphin, Regent, Queen consort

Reigning monarchs

There are thirty-one reigning sovereign monarchs and thirty monarchies in the world:

Some countries have reigning monarchs who are not head of state, for example the individual emirs of the United Arab Emirates and the kings of the Wallis and Futuna islands.

Alternate meanings