Puzzle: Absolute Monarchy

There is only one absolute monarchy in present-day Europe. What is it?

Answer: (hidden with [spoiler], ROT13 encoded)

Ingvpna Pvgl Fgngr

Here is my rot13 encoder/decoder, should you need one.

#! /bin/sh
tr A-Za-z N-ZA-Mn-za-m

Now John, if I were half as skilled with computers, I would know how to do this. But I’m not and I don’t.

One could argue that particular state is a Theocracy rather than a Monarchy – but why split hairs? I had never heard before of the entertaining ROT13 coding system. Perhaps transliteration into Cyrillic would be equally effective?

Back in USENET days, ROT13 was widely used for punch lines of jokes, spoilers, and answers to puzzles posted in news groups. Many news reader programs had keystroke commands to ROT13 transform highlighted text. Since the encoding is its own inverse, you only need one command. There is a similar ROT5 encoding for strings of digits: some news clients would automatically use it for digits in text it was encoding.

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I know the answer, but I wonder about it. Is it really a monarchy if the monarch is elected? If so, why aren’t dictatorships monarchies? Was Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany a monarchy? If not, why is Vatican City a monarchy?

Absolute monarchies are usually hereditary, but I don’t think that is part of the definition. Wikipedia defines “absolute monarchy”, quoting Nathanial Harris’s Systems of Government: Monarchy as:

Absolute monarchy (or absolutism as doctrine) is a form of monarchy in which the monarch is the only one to decide and therefore rules on his own. In this kind of monarchy, the king is usually limited by a constitution. However in some of these monarchies, the king is by no means limited and has absolute power.

The Vatican City page, “The Vatican’s Government”, states:

The general politics and governance of the Vatican City are undertaken by the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope. The Pope is the one the head of the Vatican government and is in charge of the Vatican’s wealth. The Pope exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive and judicial power over the state of the Vatican City.

That sounds consistent with the definition of absolute monarchy. All monarchs exercise power through courtiers and institutions to whom they delegate it, but these are under the sole authority of the monarch and serve at the pleasure of the sovereign. How the monarch is chosen isn’t the deciding factor: it’s whether there are constitutional, legislative, or judicial checks upon the monarch’s powers—the Vatican document explicitly says that there are not.

Most dictatorships, including those of Hitler and Stalin, have a nominally and to some extent actual collective leadership, with independent power centres such as the military, secret police, and industrialists. Stalin, in particular, felt himself constrained in his actions by the need to keep the Politburo on his side. Having largely staffed it with cronies, this wasn’t too difficult, but it’s entirely possible that, say, the heads of the KGB and military could have taken him down if they so wished (which is pretty much what happened to Khrushchev). But, in any case, the puzzle was about present-day Europe, and there are no dictatorships there currently.


I like the ROT13. It may be useful.

Yrgf tb Oenaqba