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The abdication of Napoleon

The abdication (from Latin abdicare , to lose oneself ), also called abdication or renunciation , is the formal renunciation of public office by the holder, in particular the renunciation of the throne by a monarch . Even a pretender to the throne can abdicate with regard to his claim to the throne, but in this case one speaks of renunciation .

In European history, the abdication of monarchs is - in contrast to antiquity - a relatively common occurrence. Mostly it took place under duress through enemy dynasties, the heir apparent, civil wars or (since the 19th century) through revolutions .

In Luxembourg and the Netherlands , the abdication of the monarch has become a tradition. With the abdication of Queen Beatrix, the Dutch monarch passed on the royal dignity to the son or daughter for the third time in a row since the abdication of Queen Wilhelmina in 1948.

The abdicating monarch renounces the office of head of state either only for himself, like Prajadhipok of Thailand in 1934, or for his descendants who are not affected by the direct succession.

Abdication versus abdication

While the concept of abdication has a clearly defined, formal meaning in historical and political science , the word abdication is used much more frequently in common parlance - and today it is often used in a figurative sense.

One speaks of the abdication of a coach who resigns from his (private civil) office, as well as of someone having abdicated from a previously assigned leading role through his behavior .

If in politics a resignation or resignation from office is not due to external pressure, but for moral reasons or because of failure to implement ideas, such a resignation is now often seen as honorable and courageous. In the earlier customary abdication of kings and princes, this was rather rare. An example of an honorable abdication was Heinrich Dusemer in 1350.


The admissibility of abdication was once an important issue, as was the case with the tired Pope Celestine V in 1294, with Queen Christina of Sweden in 1654 or with Edward VIII of Great Britain in 1936.

Other questions arose when a monarch abdicated due to external pressure (e.g. from a parliament). In 1862, for example, because of the rejection of his military budget in the Prussian constitutional conflict, Wilhelm I considered abdicating in favor of his son. Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, however, expressed serious concerns: A monarch who abdicated because of a parliamentary resolution would create an undesirable precedent and make the rule of his successor more difficult.

Even Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui held the abdication of a monarch basically unworthy.

In some German principalities, in the course of the early modern period, according to contemporary constitutional law (cf. Julius Bernhard von Rohr , Friedrich Karl von Moser ) , the term abdication also extended to the end of a reign , such as in Hesse.

Revolutionary abdication in Europe

Probably the most extensive abdication of all time took place in Germany in November 1918, when Kaiser Wilhelm II , the Crown Prince and - with the exception of the Grand Duke of Hesse , the King of Bavaria and the Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont - all the princes of the German states abdicated. In the case of the Kaiser himself, his last Prime Minister, Max von Baden , anticipated the decision of the monarch and informed the public; Wilhelm II did not sign the formal document until three weeks later, when the republic had long been proclaimed.

In Austria in 1848 the sick and indecisive Emperor Ferdinand I resigned the government after the revolution of that year on the advice of his relatives in favor of his 18-year-old nephew Franz Joseph I , but retained his personal imperial title. Emperor Karl I of Austria did not abdicate in 1918, but merely declared his "waiver of any share in state affairs". The constitutional effect was the same; the following day the republic was proclaimed in German Austria .

An example of a declaration of renunciation by a pretender to the throne is that of Otto von Habsburg in 1961 in order to be able to enter Austria . He did not receive his entry permit until five years later.

Historically significant abdications

Abdication of monarchs

Abdication of pretenders to the throne

Abdication of the Popes


  • Susan Richter , Dirk Dirbach (ed.): Renunciation of the throne. The abdication in monarchies from the Middle Ages to modern times . Böhlau, Cologne 2010. ISBN 978-3-412-20535-5 .
  • Susan Richter (ed.): Renounced rule. Media stagings of princely abdications in early modern Europe, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2019, ISBN 978-3-412-51563-8 .
  • Lothar Machtan : The abdication: How Germany's crowned heads fell out of history. Propylaea Verlag 2008, ISBN 978-3-549-07308-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Abdication  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Abdication  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Single receipts

  1. Viktor Cathrein SJ : Moral philosophy. A scientific exposition of the moral, including the legal, order. 2 volumes, 5th, newly worked through edition. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1911, Volume 2, p. 692 f. ( Abdication ).
  2. ^ Pauline Puppel: Die Regentin: Vormundschaftliche Herrschaft in Hessen 1500-1700, (revised version Phil. Diss. University of Kassel 2002/03) Campus Verlag: Kassel 2004, pp. 135 ff. ISBN 978-3-593-37480-2
  3. Der Spiegel 29/1961; spiegel.de: Invasion postponed . After the National Council election on March 6, 1966, Austria's black-red (= grand) coalition ended. The Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) gave him six weeks after taking power, what Otto had for years processed vain: a valid passport for Austria.
  4. Vasile Stoica: The Roumanian Question: The Roumanians and their Lands . Pittsburgh Printing Company, Pittsburgh 1919, p. 70.