voluntary or forced renunciation of sovereign power

Abdication is the act of formally relinquishing monarchical authority. Abdications have played various roles in the succession procedures of monarchies. While some cultures have viewed abdication as an extreme abandonment of duty, in other societies it was a regular event, and helped maintain stability during political succession. Historically, abdications have occurred both by force (where the regnant was forced to abdicate on pain of death or other severe consequences) and voluntarily. Some rulers are ruled to have abdicated in absentia, vacating the physical throne and thus their position of power, although these judgments were generally pronounced by successors with vested interest in seeing the throne abdicated, and often without or despite the direct input of the abdicating monarch. More recently, due to the largely ceremonial nature of the regnant in many constitutional monarchies, many monarchs have abdicated due to old age.


  • ABDICATION, n. An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the high temperature of the throne.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • Obedience to a person, institution or power (heteronomous obedience) is submission; it implies the abdication of my autonomy and the acceptance of a foreign will of judgment in place of my own. Obedience to my own reason or conviction (autonomous obedience) is not an act of submission but one of affirmation. My conviction and my judgment, if authentically mine, are part of me. If I follow them rather than the judgment of others, I am being myself; hence the word obey can be applied only in a metaphorical sense and with a meaning which is fundamentally different from the one in the case of “heteronomous obedience.”
    • Erich Fromm, “Disobedience as a psychological and moral problem,” On Disobedience (1981), p. 19.
  • It would have been easier for me to make the great gesture of abdication. I would have been spared many a denunciation. But to leave a sinking ship, especially one that needed her captain more than ever, was a step I could not bring myself to take.
  • For me, it [being Queen] is a responsibility that does not include abdication. It is a task one has been given and taken upon oneself, and one does not relinquish it because it would perhaps be convenient personally to be rid of some of it.
  • No ruler is ever really dethroned by his subjects. No hand but his own ever takes the crown from his head... When he ceases to lead... the revolt which casts him from power is only the outward manifestation of his previous abdication.
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