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Abdication

Abdication (from the Latin abdicatio disowning, renouncing, from ab, from, and dicare, to declare, to proclaim as not belonging to one), the act whereby a person in office renounces and gives up the same before the expiry of the time for which it is held. In Roman law, the term is especially applied to the disowning of a member of a family, as the disinheriting of a son, but the word is seldom used except in the sense of surrendering the supreme power in a state.

Probably the most famous abdication in recent memory is that of King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom in 1936, who abdicated the British throne in order to marry American divorceť Wallis Simpson, over the objections of the Church of England and the royal family. (See Abdication crisis of 1936.) This was also the first time in history that the British crown was surrendered entirely voluntarily. Richard II of England, for example, was forced to abdicate after the throne was seized by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, while Richard was out of the country.

When James II of England, after throwing the great seal into the Thames, fled to France in 1688, he did not formally resign the crown, and the question was discussed in parliament whether he had forfeited the throne or had abdicated. The latter designation was agreed upon, for in a full assembly of the Lords and Commons, met in convention, it was resolved in spite of James's protest "that King James II having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom, by breaking the original contract between king and people, and, by the advice of Jesuits and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws, and having withdrawn himself out of this kingdom, has abdicated the government, and that the throne is thereby vacant." The Scottish parliament pronounced a decree of forfeiture and deposition. Among the most memorable abdications of antiquity may be mentioned that of Sulla the dictator, 79 B.C., and that of the Emperor Diocletian, A.D. 305. The following is a list of the more important abdications:

Pope Benedict IX 1048
Stephen II of Hungary 1131
Albert (the Bear) of Brandenburg 1169
Ladislaus III of Poland 1206
Pope Celestine V Dec. 13, 1294
John Baliol of Scotland 1296
John Cantacuzene, emperor of the East 1355
Richard II of England Sept. 29, 1399
Baldassare Cossa, Antipope John XXIII 1415
Eric VII of Denmark or Erik XIII of Sweden of Sweden 1439
Murad II, Ottoman Sultan 1444 and 1445
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor 1556
Christina of Sweden 1654
Mary Queen of Scots July 24, 1567
John Casimir of Poland 1618
James II of England 1688
Frederick Augustus of Poland 1704
Philip V of Spain 1724
Victor Amadeus of Sardinia 1730
Ahmed III, Sultan of Turkey 1730
Charles of Naples (on accession to throne of Spain) 1759
Stanislaus II of Poland 1795
Charles Emanuel IV of Sardinia June 4, 1802
Charles IV of Spain Mar. 19, 1808
Joseph Bonaparte of Naples June 6, 1808
Gustav IV of Sweden Mar. 29, 1809
Louis Bonaparte of Holland July 2, 1810
Napoleon I, French Emperor April 4, 1814, and June 22, 1815
Victor Emanuel of Sardinia Mar. 13, 1821
Charles X of France Aug. 2, 1830
Pedro I of Brazil 1 April 7, 1831
Miguel of Portugal May 26, 1834
William I of the Netherlands Oct. 7, 1840
Louis Philippe, King of the French Feb. 24, 1848
Louis Charles of Bavaria Mar. 21, 1848
Ferdinand of Austria Dec. 2, 1848
Charles Albert of Sardinia Mar. 23, 1849
Leopold II of Tuscany July 21, 1859
Isabella II of Spain June 25, 1870
Amadeus I of Spain Feb. 11, 1873
Alexander of Bulgaria Sept. 7, 1886
Milan of Serbia Mar. 6, 1889
Emperor Xuantong of China 1911
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom Dec. 11, 1936
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy May 9, 1946
Wilhelmina of the Netherlands 1948
Leopold III, King of the Belgians July 16, 1951
Juliana of the Netherlands 1980

1 Pedro had succeeded to the throne of Portugal in 1826, but abdicated it at once in favor of his daughter.


See also: Lists of incumbents, List of monarchs who lost their thrones or abdicated in the 20th century