Why were women excluded from the succession line in the Meiji constitution?

Why were women excluded from the succession line in the Meiji constitution?

Article 2 of the Meiji consitution (full text here) says:

The Imperial Throne shall be succeeded to by Imperial male descendants, according to the provisions of the Imperial House Law.

A history book I was perusing indicated that this was a break with previous Japanese tradition and explains this by Prussian-German influence. This explanation makes a lot of sens, since two Prussian experts (Rudolf von Gneist and Lorenz von Stein) were helping with the drafts.

However, the Japanese did reject some European notions they didn't want in their constitution: (wiki article, "drafting" section):

[Ito Hirobuni, chair of the drafting commission] also rejected some notions as unfit for Japan, as they stemmed from European constitutional practice and Christianity.

So, I'd like to know if there was some internal debate on this point, in which some Japanese upheld the traditional approach which allowed for a ruling empress - and why did the German (Salic?) approach prevail?

I think the biggest motivation for excluding women as successors is to limit the number of potential heirs and to concentrate power for the reigning sovereign. Furthermore the reasons against doing so are weak.

Japanese Empresses

First, a background of Japanese empresses. From Wikipedia:

  • Empress Suiko (554-628), r. 593-628-first ruling empress
  • Empress Kōgyoku (594-661), r. 642-645-formerly Princess Takara (Empress Consort of Jomei)
  • Empress Saimei (594-661), r. 655-661 (same person as Empress Kōgyoku)
  • Empress Jitō (645-702), r. 690-697
  • Empress Gemmei (661-721), r. 707-715
  • Empress Genshō (680-748), r. 715-724-formerly Princess Hidaka
  • Empress Kōken (718-770), r. 749-758
  • Empress Shōtoku (718-770), r. 764-770 (same person as Empress Kōken)
  • Empress Meishō (1624-1696), r. 1629-1643
  • Empress Go-Sakuramachi (1740-1813), r. 1762-1771-most recent ruling empress

It is noted that 8 of the 10 listed are between 593-770, relatively early in Japanese history. Furthermore, they were all princesses (having fathers who were emperors) and their successors were all chosen from the paternal imperial lines. That is, no empress inherited the throne via the maternal line.

Given this, it can be argued that empresses are unusual, and do not enjoy the same "legitimacy" as emperors. In a few cases women ascended the throne to postpone succession conflicts between male heirs. Therefore the reason for including women in the succession rules is not so strong.

Japanese Succession

Japan did not practice primogeniture for a long time. What used to be the norm was that the title would rotate between brothers in order of age, before being passed to the first son of the eldest brother. The emperors also needed to perform many time-consuming rituals, and abdication (rather than death) was more common, after which the emperors enjoyed retirement in luxury.

The relatively short reigns meant that there was more of a need for succession candidates, which meant less of a reason to exclude women in the past.

Changes under Meiji Restoration

The Meiji Restoration was a period of rapid reform and modernisation. The Meiji Constitution gave the emperor a lot of power and established a constitutional monarchy heavily influenced by the Prusso-German model.

This background is important in that it hints at two factors that contribute to the exclusion of empresses:

  • Excluding potential successors and concentrating power on the monarch. The new emperor has a bigger and more direct political role and much less of a ritualistic one, which meant that their reign could be and needed to be longer - rapid succession of such a powerful figure would be highly destabilising. This also means that there is less of a need for more successors, and too many potential successors is both a destabilising and power-diluting factor.
  • Imitation of the more advanced Western model; this reform era was so rapid that there was no time to thoroughly prove every small reform. "What works for the Europeans will work for us", was what Japan probably felt. Although some exclusions were made, as the question mentions, the question of empresses is a relatively small one, since the tradition of empresses is quite weak.

Modern controversy

There have been calls to loosen the succession rules, some by removing the exclusion of women, in fairly recent times. However there are many motivations for this, and the traditionalist one is fairly minor.

  • The chief concern is that some consider the pool of successors to be too limited. The 1947 Constitution of Japan further limited the succession rules by excluding adoption, polygyny and non-direct male descendants. The motivation at the time may have been to severely curtail the influence of the imperial family, but this also means that if an emperor has no sons with his only wife, then the imperial line could die out. The current line of succession is that the crown prince is more than 50 years old and has no male heirs of his own; furthermore his brother had no son until 2006, prior to which there was increased talk of loosening the succession rules.
  • There is also some vested interest in restoring empresses by the current princesses.
  • Another likely motivation is of an egalitarian nature.

(I think @congusbongus made some very good points concerning the lack of reasons against male-only succession, but I disagree with the motivations given in that answer. While plausible, "limiting heirs" and "concentrate power" seems to me like deductions borne of faulty premises regarding imperial power. Moreover, the Japanese were extremely concerned with the lack of heirs at the time, with so many of Meiji Emperor's children dying young.)

The main reason women were excluded was sexism (though not necessarily from framers of the inheritance law themselves - see below). More specifically, Japanese leaders were concerned with (in no particular order):

  • Maintaining the lineage of the imperial bloodline
  • Possibility of political interference by the consort of an Empress Regnant
  • Perception that the consort will be above the Tenno (as husband)

Japan's adoption of Salic inheritance began with the old Imperial Household Law of 1889 (from which the concurrent Meiji Constitution derived its inheritance clause). Its drafting started shortly after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. In most of the early drafts, the traditional eligibility of women was affirmed.

Opposition was however voiced during debates. Notable leaders include the likes of Shimada Saburo (島田三郎), Masuda Kotokoku (益田克徳), Numa Morikazu (沼間守一), and Inoue Kowashi (井上毅). They advanced a number of arguments, which I'll roughly translate below:

Integrity of the royal lineage.

  1. 若し然らば人臣にして女帝に配偶し参もらせ、皇太子を挙げ給ふ事ありとも… 余は畏る、人心(臣?)の血統、皇家に混ずるの疑惑を来たし、為めに其尊厳を害するなきやを。

    If a subject becomes consort to a female Emperor, their union may result in a prince… What I fear is that when the blood of the subject mingles with the imperial line, the confusion would harm the dignity of the Crown Prince.

    - Numa Morikazu (沼間守一)

  2. 男を尚び女を次にするは、現に我国人の脳髄を支配するの思想にして、血統は男統に存すと思惟するも亦我国人の慣性に固着せり。故に此等の点より考ふるも亦女帝を立るの不可なるを知る 。

    Currently, the mindset of extolling men above women is one that dominates the brains of our countrymen. Likewise, patrilineal descent is the sort of thinking our countrymen are used to. Based on this, it takes little thought to realise that a female Emperor is not viable.

    - Masuda Kotokoku (益田克徳)

Interference by the consort

  1. 夫の皇婿は政治上の人にあらず、而して暗に女帝の力を借りて政治に干渉す。是れ予がありと云ふ所以なり。何を以て之を言ふ、権力を得んと欲するは人さかんの情なり。而して此情、男子は女子より熾なり 。

    As husband, the imperial consort is not a political position, but may secretly intervene in politics through an Empress Regnant. This would be a malady of the system. A desire for power is a normal human emotion. But this desire is stronger in men than in women.

    - Shimada Saburo (島田三郎)

  2. 憲法既に皇帝を政治の最上位に置く。是れ皇婿、陽に女帝の意なりと云ふて、いかん陰に其実力を政治上に施さば、憲法之を如何ともする能はざるべきなり。一憲法あらば百患跡を絶つと思考せるは、余りに事情に迂なるの論とや云はん 。

    The constitution puts the Emperor in the highest position of politics. The consort might claim he is conveying the Empress Regnant's wishes, while secretly applying his own. How could the constitution deal with this? A good constitution should preempt potential problems; from that angle, we should nto complicate things.

    - Shimada Saburo (島田三郎)

Public perceptions of the consort.

  1. 我国の現状、男を以て尊しとなし、之を女子の上に位せり。今皇婿を立て、憲法上女帝を第一尊位に置くも、通国の人情は制度を以て之を一朝に変ずる能はざる者なるが故に、女帝の上に一の尊位を占るの人あるが如き想を為すは、日本国人の得て免るゝ能はざる所なるべし、豈皇帝の尊厳を損ずることなきを得んやあに

    The current situation in our nation is that men are held to be superior to women. Even if the Constitution places a female Emperor at the highest position, if she is to take a consort, the whole nation's sentiments cannot be changed in one morning. Therefore the people of the nation would feel that someone occupies an even higher position than the Emperor. We cannot allow the dignity of the Imperial throne to be damaged like this.

    - Shimada Saburo (島田三郎)

  2. 我日本現今の社会に於ては、夫婦孰れをか尊しとす。夫に柔順なるを妻の美徳… 然るに女帝を立るとせん歟、全国の人皆将さに言はんとす、我陛下は至貴至尊なり、然れども此至貴至尊の御身にし て猶皇婿に柔順ならざるべからずと。是れ余輩が其尊厳に害ありとなす所以なり。

    In the current society of Japan, husbands and wives do not have equal status. Gentle obedience to her husband is a virtue for a wife… But if a female Emperor accedes to the throne, the whole nation would say, Her Majesty is the most noble and most exalted, but even this most noble and most exalted person would still be obedient to the imperial consort. Then we would have harmed the dignity of the imperial throne.

    - Numa Morikazu (沼間守一)

It was also pointed out that women didn't have the vote, so a Empress Regnant would seem like a contradiction.


By law women generally have no rights in politics. The crown is the highest political authority of the land. It is a contradiction in logic that a women who has no right to vote can hold the highest political authority.

- Inoue Kowashi (井上毅)

In conclusion: pretty much all of the arguments basically boil down to sexism (mostly on the part of the Japanese people, or so it was claimed). But note that I'm not saying they, by any means, represent all or perhaps even most of the Japanese leadership. Strong refutations were raised against all of the above arguments by contemporaries.

Moreover, being against limiting the crown to males is not necessarily being any more progressive. For instance, it was suggested that the royal lineage would be preserved with an Empress Regnant, by mandating she marry another member of the imperial family. It fell to Shimada Saburo to rebuff such a measure as inhumane.

Update per Semaphore:
A source for some of the cited statements is the office of the Prime Minister of Japan.

Japan's Royal Household Faces Major Challenges in Line of Succession

TOKYO — It’s a slice of history that carries a sheen of glamour and a dusting of a fairy tale: The world’s oldest continuous monarchy, dating back to 660 B.C., boasts a royal seat known as the Chrysanthemum Throne and a princess set to marry a commoner.

But the story of Japan’s monarchy has a problem that may seem from an era long past. The country’s male-only line of succession, combined with a dwindling royal household and an aging emperor set to abdicate, means that the royal family faces an uncertain future.

The Japanese parliament voted Friday to allow Emperor Akihito, 83, to abdicate in the next three years. The popular royal figurehead signaled last year that age was a contributing factor in his desire to step down. His would be the first abdication since Emperor Kokaku did so in 1817, two centuries ago.

But while Japanese lawmakers passed the milestone bill allowing for a one-time-only abdication, they also avoided the larger issue of opening up the line of succession to female members of the royal household — which currently only has 19 members, just five of whom are male.

Instead, the parliament noted in an addendum that it would seriously consider whether to allow women in the royal family to retain their official duties after marrying commoners.

The resolution speaks directly to the issue of Princess Mako, who indicated that this summer she would officially announce her engagement to Kei Komuro, who she met as a university student. Under current rules governing the Imperial Household, the 25-year-old granddaughter of the current emperor would relinquish her royal status, as well as her official duties, by marrying a commoner.

The resolution to reconsider the issue allowed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to appeal to public sentiment, which generally supports opening the line of succession to women, while also not alienating his conservative base, which does not.

"Having a stable imperial succession is a very important issue," Abe said on Friday. "The government will respect the addendum and continue with the examination of this issue."

In May, a survey by the Kyodo news agency reported that 59 percent of Japanese people "supported realizing both a female emperor and an emperor of female lineage" while 86 percent support allowing a woman to assume the throne.

"In terms of global norms and values, the fact that a royal woman who marries a commoner is cast out of the Imperial Household strikes many people in Japan and outside Japan as a very old-fashioned approach, totally out of sync with 21st century norms," said Professor Jeff Kingston, who specializes in modern Japanese history at Temple University's campus in Japan.

Nami Morooka, 21, agreed with that sentiment. "I'm in favor of allowing female-lineaged royal families," she said. "I think we should have an imperial family that is more in line with current times. I don't think we need to be tied to old ways."

"I'm in favor of allowing female-lineage royal families. I think we should have an imperial family that is more in line with current times."

Currently, Akihito's sons Crown Prince Naruhito, 57, and then Prince Akishino, 51, are next in line for the throne.

Naruhito is father to Princess Aiko, 15. After her birth, the government discussed potentially allowing female ascension to the throne, but the issue was set aside after the birth of Akishino’s son Prince Hisahito in 2006, according to the Associated Press.

"Until he was born, [former Prime Minister Junichiro] Koizumi had already prepared legislation allowing for female succession because they recognized that they were basically looking into the abyss of no male heirs,” said Kingston. He added that the bill was hastily withdrawn after the announcement that there would be a new male heir, even though at the time public sentiment supported allowing for a female emperor.

The birth of Hisahito doesn't ensure an uninterrupted line of succession, however. The young prince is third in line for the throne, presenting a major generation gap in the male-only line of succession. Fourth to take the throne currently would be his great uncle Prince Hitachi, 81.

"It's so obvious that there are not enough imperial family members," Keiko Hongo, a professor of medieval history at the University of Tokyo, told The New York Times. "We should accept the reality. That is an unavoidable issue to be discussed."

Mako and her 22-year-old sister, Princess Kako, as well as Aiko, are ineligible to succeed to the throne — despite being descended from direct male heirs of the first Emperor Jimmu.

"In terms of looking into ways to deal with the decreasing members of the royal family and also of the Imperial succession itself, we plan to proceed with having a wide range of debates, including the examination of female royal households," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said in a daily press briefing Friday.

Japan did not always have a male-only line of succession. The Japanese imperial throne theoretically can be passed on to any male or female — as long as they descend in direct male line from the first Emperor Jimmu. Before the Meiji Restoration of 1868, eight women served as female emperors. They did so for a variety of reasons, including postponing succession disputes and serving in place of a male heir before he came of age.

However, that changed in the mid-19th century, when then-leaders of the nation imported the Prussian model of imperial succession rules and princesses were explicitly excluded from succession.

But with the country now facing a shortage of royals to carry out official duties — as well as the dwindling number of male heirs to succeed to the throne — the issue is once again on the minds of many.

While Abe's base and more conservative factions of the population oppose allowing women to expand their duties and ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, many feel the moment has come for Japan to catch up with modern times.

"I'm in favor of having a female-lineage royal house. And what's wrong with having a female emperor?" said one 80-year-old man who declined to give his name. "I don’t understand why anyone would be against a female emperor. England has their queen and there’s no issue with that. I think any dissent to the idea would be very strange.”

Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo. Joy Y. Wang reported from New York.


Traditionally, the imperial throne was passed on under custom which resembled the rule of agnatic seniority. Theoretically, any male or female with patrilineal lineage to early Japanese monarchs, who descended in direct male line from the first emperor, Jimmu, could come to hold the throne. In practice, preference was given to first-born male offspring of a preceding male monarch, followed by his brothers, sons, other males of the immediate male-line family, and ultimately male members of the Shinnōke houses, cadet branches distantly related to the reigning monarch. Because there existed no restrictions on remarriage or polygyny in historical Japan, there existed usually many male relatives who could take over the throne.

However, there have been several instances of a woman serving as a reigning Empress of Japan. All reigning empresses were descendants of the Imperial Dynasty in the male line. Such successions have happened for a variety of reasons. On some occasions, the direct male heir was only a toddler and unable to perform the imperial rituals. In such an instance, his mother, aunt or elder sister, if also of Imperial lineage through her patriline, temporarily took over the throne until the child came to puberty, which was deemed sufficient for a boy's accession. An empress' offspring also did not have claim to the throne from the said maternal lineage, so assigning a female to the throne had the convenient effect of postponing succession disputes. The last time Japan had a reigning empress was in 1771, when Empress Go-Sakuramachi abdicated in favor of her nephew, Emperor Go-Momozono.

After the Meiji Restoration, Japan imported the Prussian model of imperial succession, in which princesses were explicitly excluded from succession. The Japanese government also banned polygyny, which was previously allowed to any family with noble rank (samurai or kuge) particularly if the first wife could not produce male offspring. The Imperial Household Law of 1947, enacted under Japan's post-war constitution after World War II, a further restriction was instituted: only the descendants of the male line of Emperor Taishō (the father of then-emperor Hirohito) could be part of the official imperial family and have a claim to succession, excluding all other male lines of the imperial dynasty and specifically barring the emperor and other members of the imperial family from adopting children.

Under Chapter 1: Article 1 of the Imperial Household Law, "The Imperial Throne shall be succeeded to by a male offspring in the male line belonging to the Imperial Lineage". [1] The line of succession is detailed in Article 2 as:

  1. The eldest son of the Emperor
  2. The eldest son of the Emperor's eldest son
  3. Other descendants of the eldest son of the Emperor
  4. The second son of the Emperor and his descendants
  5. Other descendants of the Emperor
  6. Brothers of the Emperor and their descendants
  7. Uncles of the Emperor and their descendants

The Japanese imperial dynasty, descended from the Emperor Jimmu, is perhaps the oldest patrilineage in the world, and members of that single dynasty have ruled Japan for nearly 2700 years. The ancient Japanese system is of agnatic succession, generally by primogenature, with the caveat that, in case the imperial family lacked heirs, they may adopt a boy from collateral cadet branches of the Imperial lineage. Four such cadet branches of the imperial family had, from ancient times, held the privilege of supplying an heir in adoption to the throne of Japan. The need for adoption rarely arose, because Emperors normally had several consorts, and the sons of all consorts were equally eligible to succeed.

All of these traditions and solutions had been discontinued or prohibited by the 1950s. Emperor Hirohito was the Emperor of Japan during World War II. After the war ended, a new constitution was drawn up for Japan which, among other things, limited the succession to agnatic descendants of Hirohito's father, the Emperor Taisho, thus excluding cadet branches of the Imperial family. It also prohibited the ancient and well-accepted Imperial Japanese practise of adoption. Since the days of the Emperor Meiji, the practise of having several consorts had been discontinued. The imperial family, therefore, became very small after the new constitution of Japan was adopted.

By the turn of the century, these restrictions imposed by the Allies had resulted in a situation where the dynasty came perilously close to extinction. Emperor Akihito, son of Hirohito, had only two sons: Naruhito and Fumihito. The younger son, Prince Fumihito, was the first to marry, and he soon became the father of two daughters, Princess Mako (b. 1991) and Princess Kako (b. 1994), but he had no son. Akihito's elder son, Naruhito, who married in 1993, did not become a father until December 2001, when his wife bore him a daughter, the Princess Aiko. Naruhito and his wife received their child with great joy, since they had almost despaired of parenthood. However, the birth of the princess opened the question of the succession to public debate, because Naruhito's wife, who had suffered a miscarriage previously, and was very close to forty years of age, was unlikely to bear further children.

Akihito's brother, Prince Hitachi, has no children at all.

The two other collateral members of the Imperial Family also had only daughters: the late Prince Tomohito of Mikasa had two daughters, Princess Akiko of Mikasa, born December 20, 1981, and Princess Yōko of Mikasa, born October 25, 1983 the late Prince Takamado had three daughters, Princess Tsuguko of Takamado, born March 8, 1986, Princess Noriko of Takamado, born July 22, 1988, and Princess Ayako of Takamado born September 15, 1990. Prior to the birth of Prince Hisahito, no male heir had been born into the Imperial Family in nearly 41 years.

Male members of the imperial family Edit

Order of succession Edit

In the early 2000s, the succession controversy emerged as a political issue. The Asahi Shimbun published an editorial in May 2006 [2] suggesting that the current system was unsustainable. In an Asahi Shimbun survey in March 2006, 82% of the respondents supported the revision of the Imperial Household Law to allow a woman to ascend to the Imperial Throne. [3] Then Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi also strongly supported the revision, pledging to present a bill to the 2006 session of the parliament. [4]

Some conservative lawmakers opposed Koizumi and said the debate was premature. The current emperor's cousin, Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, also opposed the proposal, saying that the official male members of the Japanese imperial family might take up concubines in order to produce male members because it was previously possible for a male illegitimate child to assume the imperial throne. Later he said that this remark was just a joke. [5] Another solution would be to restore the Shinnoke (agnatic collateral branches of the imperial dynasty which had been disinherited by the United States) to the line of succession. [6]

Prince Akishino's wife, Princess Kiko, gave birth to a baby boy on September 6, 2006. [7] [8] The child, Prince Hisahito, is now second in line to the Imperial Throne. Following the birth of Prince Hisahito, the political debate surrounding succession subsided. Koizumi withdrew his bill, though public opinion polling suggested that support for the change was still around 68%. [3]

Controversy exists as to what extent the current rule of succession under the Imperial Household Law should be changed. Those on the Right advocate a change, holding the Prussian-style agnatic primogeniture, but bringing back the previously excluded male relatives into the Imperial household. Liberals advocate the adoption of absolute primogeniture. Moderates advocate re-adoption of earlier, indigenous customs of succession, that is, that a female can succeed to the throne as long as she holds precedence in seniority or proximity within the patrilineal kinship. Princess Takamatsu, the last surviving Arisugawa-Takamatsu and aunt to Emperor Akihito, advocated the traditional, customary rights of female princesses to succession, in her media interviews and articles, after the birth of Princess Aiko.

Adoption of absolute primogeniture would permit, as has happened in history, unmarried or widowed female descendants in the male line of the Imperial House to inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne, but would also allow something unprecedented: it would allow married princesses and princesses' children whose fathers are not descendants in the male line of the earlier emperors, to ascend the throne. This scenario could be interpreted as meaning a new dynasty would take over the Chrysanthemum Throne, since dynasties are traditionally defined patrilineally.

The Abe government had indicated that it would begin discussions about the status of women in the imperial family soon after Naruhito ascends the throne. "I don’t think this would be their preference," stated academic historian in Imperial Japan Kenneth Ruoff, "But they don’t have any choice. They are facing extinction of the imperial line." [9]


Meiji Constitution Edit

The Meiji Constitution was the fundamental law of the Empire of Japan, propagated during the reign of Emperor Meiji ( r . 1867–1912 ). It provided for a form of mixed constitutional and absolute monarchy, based on the Prussian and British models. In theory, the Emperor of Japan was the supreme leader, and the cabinet, whose prime minister was elected by a privy council, were his followers in practice, the Emperor was head of state but the Prime Minister was the actual head of government. Under the Meiji Constitution, the prime minister and his cabinet were not necessarily chosen from the elected members of the Diet. Pursuing the regular amending procedure of the "Meiji Constitution", it was entirely revised to become the "Post-war Constitution" on 3 November 1946. The Post-war Constitution has been in force since 3 May 1947.

The Potsdam Declaration Edit

On 26 July 1945, shortly before the end of the Second World War, Allied leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of China issued the Potsdam Declaration. The Declaration demanded Japan's unconditional surrender, demilitarisation and democratisation. [8]

The declaration defined the major goals of the post-surrender Allied occupation: "The Japanese government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established" (Section 10). In addition, "The occupying forces of the Allies shall be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished and there has been established in accordance with the freely expressed will of the Japanese people a peacefully inclined and responsible government" (Section 12). The Allies sought not merely punishment or reparations from a militaristic foe, but fundamental changes in the nature of its political system. In the words of political scientist Robert E. Ward: "The occupation was perhaps the single most exhaustively planned operation of massive and externally directed political change in world history."

The Japanese government accepted the conditions of the Potsdam Declaration, which necessitates amendments to its Constitution after the surrender. [8]

Drafting process Edit

The wording of the Potsdam Declaration—"The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles . "—and the initial post-surrender measures taken by MacArthur, suggest that neither he nor his superiors in Washington intended to impose a new political system on Japan unilaterally. Instead, they wished to encourage Japan's new leaders to initiate democratic reforms on their own. But by early 1946, MacArthur's staff and Japanese officials were at odds over the most fundamental issue, the writing of a new Constitution. Emperor Hirohito, Prime Minister Kijūrō Shidehara and most of the cabinet members were extremely reluctant to take the drastic step of replacing the 1889 Meiji Constitution with a more liberal document. [9]

In late 1945, Shidehara appointed Jōji Matsumoto, state minister without portfolio, head of a blue-ribbon committee of Constitutional scholars to suggest revisions. The Matsumoto Commission's recommendations (ja:松本試案), made public in February 1946, were quite conservative as "no more than a touching-up of the Meiji Constitution". [ citation needed ] MacArthur rejected them outright and ordered his staff to draft a completely new document. An additional reason for this was that on 24 January 1946, Prime Minister Shidehara had suggested to MacArthur that the new Constitution should contain an article renouncing war.

The Constitution was mostly drafted by American authors. [5] A few Japanese scholars reviewed and modified it. [6] Much of the drafting was done by two senior army officers with law degrees: Milo Rowell and Courtney Whitney, although others chosen by MacArthur had a large say in the document. The articles about equality between men and women were written by Beate Sirota. [10] [11]

Although the document's authors were American, they took into account the Meiji Constitution, the demands of Japanese lawyers, the opinions of pacifist political leaders such as Shidehara and Shigeru Yoshida, and especially the draft Kenpō Sōan Yōkō ( 憲法草案要綱 ) , which guaranteed fundamental rights based on popular sovereignty. [12] It was presented by the Constitution Research Association ( 憲法研究会 , Kenpō Kenkyū-kai ) under the chairmanship of Suzuki Yasuzō ( 鈴木安蔵 ) (1904–1983), which had been translated into English in its entirety already by the end of December 1945. MacArthur gave the authors less than a week to complete the draft, which was presented to surprised Japanese officials on 13 February 1946. On 6 March 1946, the government publicly disclosed an outline of the pending Constitution. On 10 April, elections were held for the House of Representatives of the Ninetieth Imperial Diet, which would consider the proposed Constitution. The election law having been changed, this was the first general election in Japan in which women were permitted to vote.

Unlike previous most Japanese legal documents, the constitution is written in modern colloquial Japanese instead of Classical Japanese. [13] The Japanese version includes some awkward phrasing and scholars sometimes consult the English drafts to resolve ambiguities. [14] [15]

The MacArthur draft, which proposed a unicameral legislature, was changed at the insistence of the Japanese to allow a bicameral one, with both houses being elected. In most other important respects, the government adopted the ideas embodied in the 13 February document in its own draft proposal of 6 March. These included the constitution's most distinctive features: the symbolic role of the Emperor, the prominence of guarantees of civil and human rights, and the renunciation of war. The constitution followed closely a 'model copy' prepared by MacArthur's command. [16]

In 1946, criticism of or reference to MacArthur's role in drafting the constitution could be made subject to Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) censorship (as was any reference to censorship itself). [17] Until late 1947, CCD exerted pre-publication censorship over about 70 daily newspapers, all books and magazines and many other publications. [18]

Adoption Edit

It was decided that in adopting the new document the Meiji Constitution would not be violated, but rather legal continuity would be maintained. Thus the 1946 Constitution was adopted as an amendment to the Meiji Constitution in accordance with the provisions of Article 73 of that document. Under Article 73 the new constitution was formally submitted to the Imperial Diet, which was elected by universal suffrage, which was granted also women, in 1946, by the Emperor through an imperial rescript issued on 20 June. The draft constitution was submitted and deliberated upon as the Bill for Revision of the Imperial Constitution.

The old constitution required that the bill receive the support of a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet to become law. Both chambers had made amendments. Without interference by MacArthur, House of Representatives added Article 17, which guarantees the right to sue the State for tort of officials, Article 40, which guarantees the right to sue the State for wrongful detention, and Article 25, which guarantees the right to life. [19] [20] The house also amended Article 9. And the House of Peers approved the document on 6 October the House of Representatives adopted it in the same form the following day, with only five members voting against. It became law when it received the Emperor's assent on 3 November 1946. [4] Under its own terms, the constitution came into effect on 3 May 1947.

A government organisation, the Kenpō Fukyū Kai ("Constitution Popularisation Society"), was established to promote the acceptance of the new constitution among the populace. [21]

Early proposals for amendment Edit

The new constitution would not have been written the way it was had MacArthur and his staff allowed Japanese politicians and constitutional experts to resolve the issue as they wished. [ citation needed ] The document's foreign origins have, understandably, been a focus of controversy since Japan recovered its sovereignty in 1952. [ citation needed ] Yet in late 1945 and 1946, there was much public discussion on constitutional reform, and the MacArthur draft was apparently greatly influenced by the ideas of certain Japanese liberals. The MacArthur draft did not attempt to impose a United States-style presidential or federal system. Instead, the proposed constitution conformed to the British model of parliamentary government, which was seen by the liberals as the most viable alternative to the European absolutism of the Meiji Constitution. [ citation needed ]

After 1952, conservatives and nationalists attempted to revise the constitution to make it more "Japanese", but these attempts were frustrated for a number of reasons. One was the extreme difficulty of amending it. Amendments require approval by two-thirds of the members of both houses of the National Diet before they can be presented to the people in a referendum (Article 96). Also, opposition parties, occupying more than one-third of the Diet seats, were firm supporters of the constitutional status quo. Even for members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the constitution was advantageous. They had been able to fashion a policy-making process congenial to their interests within its framework. Yasuhiro Nakasone, a strong advocate of constitutional revision during much of his political career, for example, downplayed the issue while serving as prime minister between 1982 and 1987.

The constitution has a length of approximately 5,000 words and consists of a preamble and 103 articles grouped into 11 chapters. These are:

  • I. The Emperor (Articles 1–8)
  • II. Renunciation of War (Article 9)
  • III. Rights and Duties of the People (Articles 10–40)
  • IV. The Diet (Articles 41–64)
  • V. The Cabinet (Articles 65–75)
  • VI. Judiciary (Articles 76–82)
  • VII. Finance (Articles 83–91)
  • VIII. Local Self–Government (Articles 92–95)
  • IX. Amendments (Article 96)
  • X. Supreme Law (Articles 97–99)
  • XI. Supplementary Provisions (Articles 100–103)

Edict Edit

The constitution starts with an imperial edict made by the Emperor. It contains the Emperor's Privy Seal and signature, and is countersigned by the Prime Minister and other Ministers of State as required by the previous constitution of the Empire of Japan. The edict states:

I rejoice that the foundation for the construction of a new Japan has been laid according to the will of the Japanese people, and hereby sanction and promulgate the amendments of the Imperial Japanese Constitution effected following the consultation with the Privy Council and the decision of the Imperial Diet made in accordance with Article 73 of the said Constitution. [4] [22]

Preamble Edit

The constitution contains a firm declaration of the principle of popular sovereignty in the preamble. This is proclaimed in the name of the "Japanese people" and declares that "sovereign power resides with the people" and that:

Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people.

Part of the purpose of this language is to refute the previous constitutional theory that sovereignty resided in the Emperor. The constitution asserts that the Emperor is merely a symbol of the state, and that he derives "his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power" (Article 1). The text of the constitution also asserts the liberal doctrine of fundamental human rights. In particular Article 97 states that:

the fundamental human rights by this constitution guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free they have survived the many exacting tests for durability and are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate.

The Emperor (Articles 1–8) Edit

Under the constitution, the Emperor is "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people". Sovereignty rests with the people, not the Emperor, as it did under the Meiji Constitution. [8] The Emperor carries out most functions of a head of state, formally appointing the Prime Minister and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, convoking the National Diet and dissolving the House of Representatives, and also promulgating statutes and treaties and exercising other enumerated functions. However, he acts under the advice and approval of the Cabinet or the Diet. [8]

In contrast with the Meiji Constitution, the Emperor's role is almost entirely ceremonial, and he does not have powers related to government. Unlike other constitutional monarchies, he is not even the nominal chief executive or even the nominal commander-in-chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). The constitution explicitly limits the Emperor's role to matters of state delineated in the constitution. The constitution also states that these duties can be delegated by the Emperor as provided for by law.

Succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne is regulated by the Imperial Household Law and is managed by a ten-member body called the Imperial Household Council. The budget for the maintenance of the Imperial House is managed by resolution of the Diet.

Renunciation of war (Article 9) Edit

Under Article 9, the "Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes". To this end the article provides that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained". The necessity and practical extent of Article 9 has been debated in Japan since its enactment, particularly following the establishment of the Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF), a de facto post-war Japanese military force that substitutes for the pre-war Armed Forces, since 1 July 1954. Some lower courts have found the JSDF unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court never ruled on this issue. [8]

Individuals have also challenged the presence of U.S. forces in Japan as well as the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty under Article 9 of the Constitution. [23] The Supreme Court of Japan has found that the stationing of U.S. forces did not violate Article 9, because it did not involve forces under Japanese command. [23] The Court ruled that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to be a highly sensitive political question, and declined to rule on its legality under the political question doctrine. [23]

Various political groups have called for either revising or abolishing the restrictions of Article 9 to permit collective defence efforts and strengthen Japan's military capabilities.

The United States has pressured Japan to amend Article 9 and to rearm [24] [25] as early as 1948 [26] with Japan gradually expanding its military capabilities, "sidestepping constitutional constraints". [27]

Individual rights (Articles 10–40) Edit

"The rights and duties of the people" are featured prominently in the post-war constitution. Thirty-one of its 103 articles are devoted to describing them in detail, reflecting the commitment to "respect for the fundamental human rights" of the Potsdam Declaration. Although the Meiji Constitution had a section devoted to the "rights and duties of subjects" which guaranteed "liberty of speech, writing, publication, public meetings, and associations", these rights were granted "within the limits of law" and could be limited by legislation. [8] Freedom of religious belief was allowed "insofar as it does not interfere with the duties of subjects" (all Japanese were required to acknowledge the Emperor's divinity, and those, such as Christians, who refused to do so out of religious conviction were accused of lèse-majesté). Such freedoms are delineated in the post-war constitution without qualification.

Individual rights under the Japanese constitution are rooted in Article 13 where the constitution asserts the right of the people "to be respected as individuals" and, subject to "the public welfare", to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". This article's core notion is jinkaku, which represents "the elements of character and personality that come together to define each person as an individual", and which represents the aspects of each individual's life that the government is obligated to respect in the exercise of its power. [28] Article 13 has been used as the basis to establish constitutional rights to privacy, self-determination and the control of an individual's own image, rights which are not explicitly stated in the constitution.

Subsequent provisions provide for:

  • Equality before the law: The constitution guarantees equality before the law and outlaws discrimination against Japanese citizens based on "political, economic or social relations" or "race, creed, sex, social status or family origin" (Article 14). The right to vote cannot be denied on the grounds of "race, creed, sex, social status, family origin, education, property or income" (Article 44). Equality between the sexes is explicitly guaranteed in relation to marriage (Article 24) and childhood education (Article 26).
  • Prohibition of peerage: Article 14 forbids the state from recognising peerage. Honours may be conferred but they must not be hereditary or grant special privileges.
  • Democratic elections: Article 15 provides that "the people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them". It guarantees universal adult (in Japan, persons age 20 and older) suffrage and the secret ballot.
  • Prohibition of slavery: Guaranteed by Article 18. Involuntary servitude is permitted only as punishment for a crime.
  • Separation of Religion and State: The state is prohibited from granting privileges or political authority to a religion, or conducting religious education (Article 20).
  • Freedom of assembly, association, speech, and secrecy of communications: All guaranteed without qualification by Article 21, which forbids censorship.
  • Workers' rights: Work is declared both a right and obligation by Article 27 which also states that "standards for wages, hours, rest and other working conditions shall be fixed by law" and that children shall not be exploited. Workers have the right to participate in a trade union (Article 28).
  • Right to property: Guaranteed subject to the "public welfare". The state may take property for public use if it pays just compensation (Article 29). The state also has the right to levy taxes (Article 30).
  • Right to due process: Article 31 provides that no one may be punished "except according to procedure established by law". Article 32, which provides that "No person shall be denied the right of access to the courts", originally drafted to recognize criminal due process rights, is now also understood as the source of due process rights for civil and administrative law cases. [29]
  • Protection against unlawful detention: Article 33 provides that no one may be apprehended without an arrest warrant, save where caught in flagrante delicto. Article 34 guarantees habeas corpus, right to counsel, and right to be informed of charges. Article 40 enshrines the right to sue the state for wrongful detention.
  • Right to a fair trial: Article 37 guarantees the right to a public trial before an impartial tribunal with counsel for one's defence and compulsory access to witnesses.
  • Protection against self-incrimination: Article 38 provides that no one may be compelled to testify against themselves, that confessions obtained under duress are not admissible and that no one may be convicted solely on the basis of their own confession.
  • Other guarantees:
      government (Article 16)
  • Right to sue the state (Article 17) and conscience (Article 19) (Article 19) (Article 20)
  • Rights to change residence, choose employment, move abroad and relinquish nationality (Article 22) (Article 23)
  • Prohibition of forced marriage (Article 24) (Article 26)
  • Protection against entries, search and seizures (Article 35)
  • Prohibition of torture and cruel punishments (Article 36)
  • Prohibition of ex post facto laws (Article 39)
  • Prohibition of double jeopardy (Article 39)
  • Under Japanese case law, constitutional human rights apply to corporations to the extent possible given their corporate nature. Constitutional human rights also apply to foreign nationals to the extent that such rights are not by their nature only applicable to citizens (for example, foreigners have no right to enter Japan under Article 22 and no right to vote under Article 15, and their other political rights may be restricted to the extent that they interfere with the state's decision making).

    Organs of government (Articles 41–95) Edit

    The constitution establishes a parliamentary system of government in which legislative authority is vested in a bicameral National Diet. Although a bicameral Diet existed under the existing constitution, the new constitution abolished the upper House of Peers, which consisted of members of the nobility (similar to the British House of Lords). The new constitution provides that both chambers be directly elected, with a lower House of Representatives and an upper House of Councillors.

    The Diet nominates the Prime Minister from among its members, although the Lower House has the final authority if the two Houses disagree. [8] Thus, in practice, the Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party of the Lower House. [8] The House of Representatives has the sole ability to pass a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet, can override the House of Councillors' veto on any bill, and has priority in determining the national budget, and approving treaties.

    Executive authority is vested in a cabinet, jointly responsible to the Diet, and headed by a Prime Minister. [8] The prime minister and a majority of the cabinet members must be members of the Diet, and have the right and obligation to attend sessions of the Diet. The Cabinet may also advise the Emperor to dissolve the House of Representatives and call for a general election to be held.

    The judiciary consists of several lower courts headed by a Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is nominated by the Cabinet and appointed by the Emperor, while other justices are nominated and appointed by the Cabinet and attested by the Emperor. Lower court judges are nominated by the Supreme Court, appointed by the Cabinet and attested by the Emperor. All courts have the power of judicial review and may interpret the constitution to overrule statutes and other government acts, but only in the event that such interpretation is relevant to an actual dispute.

    The constitution also provides a framework for local government, requiring that local entities have elected heads and assemblies, and providing that government acts applicable to particular local areas must be approved by the residents of those areas. These provisions formed the framework of the Local Autonomy Law of 1947, which established the modern system of prefectures, municipalities and other local government entities.

    Amendments (Article 96) Edit

    Under Article 96, amendments to the constitution "shall be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House and shall thereupon be submitted to the people for ratification, which shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast thereon, at a special referendum or at such election as the Diet shall specify". The constitution has not been amended since its implementation in 1947, although there have been movements led by the Liberal Democratic Party to make various amendments to it.

    Other provisions (Articles 97–103) Edit

    Article 97 provides for the inviolability of fundamental human rights. Article 98 provides that the constitution takes precedence over any "law, ordinance, imperial rescript or other act of government" that offends against its provisions, and that "the treaties concluded by Japan and established laws of nations shall be faithfully observed". In most nations it is for the legislature to determine to what extent, if at all, treaties concluded by the state will be reflected in its domestic law under Article 98, however, international law and the treaties Japan has ratified automatically form a part of domestic law. Article 99 binds the Emperor and public officials to observe the constitution.

    The final four articles set forth a six-month transitional period between adoption and implementation of the Constitution. This transitional period took place from 3 November 1946, to 3 May 1947. Pursuant to Article 100, the first House of Councillors election was held during this period in April 1947, and pursuant to Article 102, half of the elected Councillors were given three-year terms. A general election was also held during this period, as a result of which several former House of Peers members moved to the House of Representatives. Article 103 provided that public officials currently in office would not be removed as a direct result of the adoption or implementation of the new Constitution.

    Process Edit

    Article 96 provides that amendments can be made to the Constitution if approved by super majority of two-thirds of both houses of the Diet, and then by a simple majority in a popular referendum. The Emperor promulgates the successful amendment in the name of the people, and cannot veto it. Details of the process is determined by the Diet Act [ja] [30] and the Act on Procedures for Amendment of the Constitution of Japan [ja] . [31] [32]

    Unlike some constitutions (e.g. the German, Italian, and French Constitutions), Japan's Constitution does not have an explicit entrenchment provision limiting what can be amended. [8] However, the Preamble of the Constitution declared democracy to be the "universal principle of mankind" and Article 97 proclaims the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution to be "for all time inviolable." [8] Because of this, scholars generally believe that basic principles such as the sovereignty of the people, pacifism, and respect for human rights unamendable. [8] [33] More broadly, fundamental norms written in the Constitution by constituent power cannot be amended. Preamble of the Constitution states”We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith”. Pacifism, popular sovereignty and respect for basic human rights are among them according to the Preamble and Article 11. [34]

    History Edit

    The Constitution has not been amended since its enactment in 1946. [8] Some commentators have suggested that the Constitution's American authors favoured the difficulty of the amendment process from a desire that the fundamentals of the regime they had imposed would be resistant to change. [ citation needed ] Among the Japanese themselves, any change to the document and to the post-war settlement it embodies is highly controversial. From the 1960s to the 1980s, Constitutional revision was rarely debated, [35] although amendment of the Constitution has been one of the party line of the LDP since it was formed. [36] [37] [38] In the 1990s, right-leaning and conservative voices broke some taboos, [35] for example, when the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun published a suggestion for Constitutional revision in 1994. [35] This period saw a number of right-leaning groups pushing aggressively for Constitutional revision and a significant number of organizations and individuals speaking out against revision [39] and in support of "the peace Constitution".

    The debate has been highly polarised. The most controversial issues are proposed changes to Article 9—the "peace article"—and provisions relating to the role of the Emperor. Progressive, left, centre-left and peace movement-related individuals and organizations, as well as the opposition parties, [40] labor [41] and youth groups advocate keeping or strengthening the existing Constitution in these areas, while right-leaning, nationalist and conservative groups and individuals advocate changes to increase the prestige of the Emperor (though not granting him political powers) and to allow a more aggressive stance of the JSDF by turning it officially into a military. Other areas of the Constitution and connected laws discussed for potential revision related to the status of women, the education system and the system of public corporations (including social welfare, non-profit and religious organizations as well as foundations), and structural reform of the election process, e.g. to allow for direct election of the prime minister. [35] Numerous grassroots groups, associations, NGOs, think tanks, scholars, and politicians speak out on either side of the issue. [42]

    Amendment Drafts by the LDP Edit

    The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), one of the most influential political parties in Japan that has been in majority in the Diet for most of the time since its 1955 establishment, has adopted several party platforms each of which lists "revision of the current constitution" as a political motive. One of the earliest platforms, "The Duties of the Party" in 1955, points out as follows: [43]

    Although democracy and liberalism emphasized under the control of the Allied occupation should be respected and upheld as a new principle for Japan, the initial objective of the occupying forces of the Allies was mainly to demoralize the State therefore, many of the reforms implemented by the forces including those of the constitution, education and other governmental systems have been unjustly suppressing the notion of the State and patriotism of the people and excessively disuniting the national sovereignty.

    In recent years the LDP has committed itself more to constitutional revision, following its victory in the September 2005 general election of the representatives. Currently, the party has released two versions of amendment drafts, one in 2005 and another in 2012.

    2005 Draft Edit

    In August 2005, the then Japanese Prime Minister, Jun'ichirō Koizumi, proposed an amendment to the constitution to increase Japan's Defence Forces' roles in international affairs. A draft of the proposed constitution was released by the LDP on 22 November 2005 as part of the fiftieth anniversary of the party's founding. The proposed changes included:

    • New wording for the Preamble.
    • First paragraph of Article 9, renouncing war, is retained. The second paragraph, forbidding the maintenance of "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential" is replaced by an Article 9-2 which permits a "defence force", under control of the Prime Minister, to defend the nation and which may participate in international activities. This new section uses the term "軍" (gun, "army" or "military"), which has been avoided in the current constitution. It also adds an Article 76 about military courts members of the JSDF are currently tried as civilians by civilian courts.
    • Modified wording in Article 13, regarding respect for individual rights.
    • Changes in Article 20, which gives the state limited permission within "the scope of socially acceptable protocol" for "ethno-cultural practices". Changes Article 89 to permit corresponding state funding of religious institutions.
    • Changes to Articles 92 and 95, concerning local self-government and relations between local and national governments.
    • Changes to Article 96, reducing the vote requirement for constitutional amendments in the Diet from two-thirds to a simple majority. A national referendum would still be required.

    This draft prompted debate, with strong opposition coming even from non-governmental organisations of other countries, as well as established and newly formed grassroots Japanese organisations, such as Save Article 9. Per the current constitution, a proposal for constitutional changes must be passed by a two-thirds vote in the Diet, then be put to a national referendum. However, there was in 2005 no legislation in place for such a referendum.

    Koizumi's successor Shinzō Abe vowed to push aggressively for Constitutional revision. A major step toward this was getting legislation passed to allow for a national referendum in April 2007. [44] By that time there was little public support for changing the Constitution, with a survey showing 34.5% of Japanese not wanting any changes, 44.5% wanting no changes to Article 9, and 54.6% supporting the current interpretation on self-defense. [44] On the 60th anniversary of the Constitution, on 3 May 2007, thousands took to the streets in support of Article 9. [44] The Chief Cabinet secretary and other top government officials interpreted the survey to mean that the public wanted a pacifist Constitution that renounces war, and may need to be better informed about the details of the revision debate. [45] The legislation passed by parliament specifies that a referendum on Constitutional reform could take place at the earliest in 2010, and would need approval from a majority of voters.

    2012 Draft Edit

    On 27 April 2012, the LDP drafted a new version of amendment [46] with an explanatory booklet [47] for general readers. The booklet states that the spirit of the amendment is to "make the Constitution more suitable for Japan" by "drastically revising the translationese wording and the provisions based on the theory of natural human rights currently adopted in the Constitution". [48] The proposed changes includes:

    • Preamble: In the LDP draft, the Preamble declares that Japan is reigned by the Emperor and adopts the popular sovereignty and trias politica principles. The current Preamble refers to the government as a trust of the people (implying the "natural rights codified into the constitution by the social contract" model) and ensures people "the right to live in peace, free from fear and want", but both mentions are deleted in the LDP draft.
    • Emperor: Overall, the LDP draft adopts a wording that sounds as though the Emperor has greater power than under the current Constitution. [49] The draft defines him as "the head of the State" (Article 1). [50] Compared to the current Constitution, he is exempted from "the obligation to respect and uphold this Constitution" (Article 102). The draft defines Nisshōki as the national flag and Kimigayo the national anthem (Article 3).
    • Human rights: The LDP draft, as the accompanying booklet states, revises many of the human right provisions currently adopted in the Constitution. The booklet describes the reason of these changes as: "Human rights should have ground on the State's history, culture and tradition" and "Several of the current Constitutional provisions are based on the Western-European theory of natural human rights such provisions therefore require to be changed." [51] The draft lists every instance of the basic rights as something that is entitled by the State – as opposed to something that human beings inherently possess – as seen in the draft provisions of "new human rights" (see below).

    The current Constitution has the phrase "public welfare" in four articles (Articles 12, 13, 22 and 29) and states that any human right is subject to restriction when it "interferes with the public welfare". The majority of legal professionals argue that the spirit of such restriction against rights based on "public welfare" is to protect other people's rights from infringement. [52] In the LDP draft, every instance of the phrase "public welfare" is replaced with a new phrase: "public interest and public order". The booklet describes the reason for this change as "to enable the State to restrict human rights for the sake of purposes other than protecting people's rights from infringement", [51] but it remains unclear under what conditions the State can restrict human rights. It also explains that what "public order" means is "order of society" and its intention is not to prohibit the people from making an objection to the government, [53] but it explains nothing about "public interest".

    Provisions regarding the people's rights modified or added in the LDP draft include:

    • [Individualism]: The LDP draft replaces the word "individuals" with "persons" (Article 13). This change reflects the draft authors' view that "excessive individualism" is an ethically unacceptable thought. [citation needed] [54]
    • Human rights and the supremacy of the constitution: The current constitution has Article 97 at the beginning of the "Supreme Law" chapter, which stipulates that the constitution guarantees the basic human rights to the people. The current, prevalent interpretation of Article 97 is that this article describes the essential reason why this constitution is the supreme law, which is the fact that the constitution's spirit is to guarantee human rights. [55] In the LDP draft, this article is deleted and the booklet does not explain any reason for the deletion.
    • Freedom of assembly, association, speech and all other forms of expression: The LDP draft adds a new paragraph on Article 21, which enables the State to prohibit the people from performing expressions "for the purpose of interfering with public interest and public order". The LDP explain that this change makes it easy for the State to take countermeasures against criminal organizations like Aum Shinrikyo. [56]
    • Right to property: The LDP draft adds a new paragraph stating that the State shall define intellectual property rights "for the sake of promotion of the people's intellectual creativity" (Article 29).
    • Workers' rights: Workers have the right to participate in a labour union, but currently there is a dispute on whether public officials should be entitled to this right. The LDP draft add a new paragraph to make it clear that public officials shall not enjoy this right or part thereof (Article 28).
    • Freedom from torture and cruel punishments: Under the current constitution, torture and cruel punishments are "absolutely forbidden", but the LDP draft deletes the word "absolutely" (Article 36). The reason for this change is not presented in the booklet.
    • "New human rights": The LDP draft adds four provisions regarding the concept collectively called "new human rights": [57] protection of privacy (Article 19–2), accountability of the State (Article 21–2), environmental protection (Article 25–2), and rights of crime victims (Article 25–4). However, the draft only requires the State to make a good faith effort to meet the stated goals and does not entitle the people to these "rights", as the booklet points out. [58]
    • Obligations of the people: The LDP draft can be characterized by its obligation clauses imposed on the people. The current constitution lists three obligations: to work (Article 27), to pay taxes as provided for by law (Article 30), and to have all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary education as provided for by law (Article 26). The LDP draft adds six more:
      • The people must respect the national anthem and flag (Article 3).
      • The people must be conscious of the fact that there are responsibilities and obligations in compensation for freedom and rights (Article 12).
      • The people must comply with the public interest and public order (Article 12).
      • The people must help one another among the members of a household (Article 24).
      • The people must obey commands from the State or the subordinate offices thereof in a state of emergency (Article 99).
      • The people must uphold the constitution (Article 102).

      Additionally, although defence of the national territory (Article 9–3) and environmental protection (Article 25–2) are literally listed under the LDP draft as obligations of the State, these provisions let the State call for the "cooperation with the people" to meet the goals provided, effectively functioning as obligation clauses on the people's side.

      • Equality: The current constitution guarantees equality to citizens, prohibiting any discrimination based on "race, creed, sex, social status or family origin". The LDP draft adds "handicaps" (Articles 14 and 44) between "sex" and "social status", improving the equality under the law. On the other hand, the sentence "No privilege shall accompany any award of honor, decoration or any distinction" in the current paragraph (2) of Article 14 is deleted in the LDP draft, which means that the State shall be allowed to grant "privilege" as part of national awards. The reason for this change is not presented in the booklet.
      • National security: The LDP draft deletes the current provision declaring that armed forces and other war potential shall never be maintained, and adds new Articles 9-2 and 9-3 stating that the "National Defense Force" shall be set up and the Prime Minister shall be its commander-in-chief. According to the paragraph (3) of the new Article 9–2, the National Defense Force not only can defend the territory from a foreign attack and can participate in international peacekeeping operations, but also can operate to either maintain domestic public order or to protect individual rights.
      • State of emergency: The LDP draft grants the Prime Minister the authority to declare a "state of emergency" in a national emergency including foreign invasions, domestic rebellions and natural disasters (Article 98). When in a state of emergency, the Cabinet can enact orders that have the effect of the laws passed by the [National Diet] (Article 99).
      • Relaxation of separation of religion and the State: The LDP draft deletes the current clause that prohibits the State from granting "political authority" to a religious organization, and enables the State to perform religious acts itself within the scope of "social protocol or ethno-cultural practices" (Article 20).
      • Political control over the courts: Unlike the current constitution, which guarantees that the Supreme court judges shall not be dismissed unless the "review" procedure stipulated by the constitution, the LDP draft enables the Diet to define this review procedure through a Diet-enacted law, not the constitution (Article 79). The draft also states that salary of a judge – of both the Supreme Court and inferior courts – could be decreased in the same manner as any other kinds of public officials (Articles 79 and 80) by the subordinate offices of the State (namely, the National Personnel Authority).
      • Further amendments: The LDP draft states that a simple majority in the two Houses shall be adequate for a motion for constitutional amendment (Article 96). An actual amendment shall still require a national referendum, but a simple majority in "the number of valid votes actually cast", as opposed to "the number of a qualified voters" or "the number of votes", shall enact the amendment (Article 96).

      2014 Reinterpretation Edit

      On 1 July 2014, a Cabinet meeting issued a decision on Article 9, reinterpreting the Constitution and to approve collective defence operations by the JSDF. [26] [25] This decision was challenged as violation of the Constitution by Japanese Federation of Bar Associations. [59] Historically, the government has maintained that Article 9 forbids the right to collective defence. [60]

      Why are there no Empresses in Japan?

      The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women made headlines recently after deciding to remove criticism about Japan’s male-only imperial succession. The reaction in Tokyo, and the U.N. committees decision to amend the report, have riled up many in the international community such as activist and columnist Arudo Debito. Tokyo’s rejection of the criticism, according to cabinet secretary Suga, is based on the notion that “The Imperial system of our country and the royal systems of various countries have always been based on popular support and reflect the history and traditions of each country.” Unfortunately for Suga, neither of these statements are entirely true. In a 2012 poll conducted by Kyodo News, 66% of Japanese people support the idea of female succession to the throne. So much for the “based on popular support” notion. So what of the “history and traditions” argument?

      Ruling empresses are certainly not without historical precedent. There have been eight ruling empresses throughout history, with two of those empresses ruling more than once. Japanese imperial history, like the histories of many royal families, is peppered with a bit of myth. If we include that as well, there are even more empresses regnant to add to the roster. In fact the entire imperial line, dating back to 660BCE, is supposedly descended from the goddess Amaterasu. Conservative historians will claim that these empresses regnant were merely place holders until a suitable heir could be found. Admittedly, most of the 8 reigning empresses ruled for less than ten years, with the majority of them abdicating their throne to a relative. Still, the precedent exists, as a challenge to the current system of “agnastic seniority”, wherein only male heirs are permitted to succeed the throne, with preference given to the older generation.

      So if the “popular support” and “historical precedence” arguments do not hold water, surely the “traditional values” argument must. On this point, Suga is right – the current policy is based on national tradition, just not Japanese national tradition. The laws governing imperial succession are in fact based on German, or to be more precise, Prussian tradition – namely the teachings of Hegel.

      The policy of male-only primogeniture can be traced back to the 1889 Meiji Constitution, which was heavily influenced by the Prussian system. One of the major proponents of the Meiji constitution was Tatsukichi Minobe. In his book Japan’s Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism, Walter Skya writes that “Minobe’s Constitution of Japan (Nihon Kempo) was virtually Allgemiene Staatslehre, Georg Jellinek’s work on state law.” Sky describes how many intellectuals in Meiji era Japan favored a sort of populist constitutional monarchy similar to England or France, but that Prussian monarchy was favored by oligarchs (mostly former Samurai) who wanted to retain their control over the country. Skya describes how the “military elite holding political power wanted to preserve control over the state, eventually opting for the Prussian-inspired Constitution of the Empire of Japan, which they thought would allow them to have legal authority to do this.” In other words, the reason for adopting the laws that currently regulate imperial succession, in fact had very little to do with the emperor at all. They were implemented to make sure the rich and powerful, stayed rich and powerful. As Sky writes, “the basic means adopted for consolidating the oligarchy’s domestic position was a variant of mid-century official nationalism, rather consciously modeled on Hohenzollern Prussia-Germany.”

      At the end of World War Two, these laws were upheld and in fact further expanded with the 1947 Imperial Household Law. This law, which is now being hotly debated, forbid the emperor from adoption, excluded many branches of the imperial family, and outlawed polygamy, a long-practiced means to ensuring male heirs. It is this law that is often cited as the basis of the current male-only restriction, but this law was also created by the American occupying forces – in other words not Japanese tradition. The law was created to reduce the burden on the people of the swollen Imperial family by trimming away large chunks of it. It was also created to restrict the powers of the Emperor, in lieu of actually removing him. In this light, it makes it all the more curious that the conservative right wants to protect these regulations, while they try to dismantle every other vestige of American-imposed constitutionalism.

      Varying viewpoints have emerged on how to handle the current crisis of only one male heir, Emperor Akihito’s grandson Prince Hisahito. The proposal of conservatives is to reinstate the branches of the family that were excluded and allow adoption of distant relatives. On the opposite side of the spectrum, people are calling for absolute primogeniture, meaning not only female succession, but allowing matrilinial succession (including children who share no blood with the current Emperor). The moderate approach, shared by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is to allow female heirs to retain their imperial status even after marriage – something currently forbidden. Although several hearings have been held and legislation has been introduced, a consensus has yet to be reached as to what to do.

      Gender equality is certainly an important problem in Japanese society, and empowering women is one of the stated goals of the current administration. Japan consistently lags behind many other nations in terms of gender equality, especially in government. According to a 2015 survey by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Japan came in an abysmal 119 out of 190 countries, well below its neighbors in China and even North Korea. Perhaps Suga was right to push back on criticism of Imperial succession, when bigger issues face the nation. For example, Suga’s own party, the Liberal Democratic Party has a paltry 8.6% representation of women. Indeed, criticism should be pointed at society at large, and the government in specific which effects over 60 million Japanese women, rather than policies which affect at current three princesses. No offense to Princesses Aiko, Mako and Kako.

      So Secretary Suga, I have fixed your statement: “The Imperial system of our country… is based on popular support [that no longer exists] and [ignores inconvenient] history and [instead follows] traditions of [Prussia – a monarchy that no longer exists]”

      A Prince&rsquos Birth Silences the Debate

      Soon after the Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law submitted its report in 2005, Princess Akishino became pregnant with her third child. Given that the child could be a boy, the government put off revising the law and shelved the report. In 2006 the princess gave birth to Prince Hisahito, the first male born into the imperial family in 41 years. The imperial succession debate quickly died out as a result.

      In recent years, a new plan has been advocated in which female members of the imperial family would remain in the family after marriage and become the heads of their own branch houses. The logic behind this plan is that the succession problem can be set aside for the moment, now that hopes are pinned on Prince Hisahito, the only male-line male among Emperor Akihito&rsquos grandchildren and that creating distaff branches will prevent the imperial family from growing smaller for the time being.

      In 2012, the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan summarized the issues regarding the creation of distaff branches after surveying experts and those in financial, labor, and other circles. The climate of opinion was that the most realistic and popular solution would be to have Emperor Akihito&rsquos three granddaughters&mdashPrincess Aiko, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito, and Princess Mako and Princess Kako, the daughters of Prince Akishino&mdashstay in the imperial family even after marriage and head distaff branches that would retain royal status for only one generation.

      But the DPJ subsequently lost power to the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, and Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, who is said to be in favor of maintaining the male-lineage tradition, has taken no interest in the issue. And so, Emperor Akihito&rsquos anguish continues.


      Unlike many constitutional monarchs, the emperor is not the nominal chief executive. Most constitutional monarchies formally vest executive power in the monarch, but the monarch is bound by convention to act on the advice of the cabinet. In contrast, Article 65 of the Constitution of Japan explicitly vests executive power in the Cabinet, of which the prime minister is the leader. The emperor is also not the commander-in-chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. The Japan Self-Defense Forces Act of 1954 explicitly vests this role with the prime minister.

      The emperor's powers are limited only to important ceremonial functions. Article 4 of the Constitution stipulates that the emperor "shall perform only such acts in matters of state as are provided for in the Constitution and he shall not have powers related to government." It also stipulates that "the advice and approval of the Cabinet shall be required for all acts of the Emperor in matters of state" (Article 3). Article 4 also states that these duties can be delegated by the Emperor as provided for by law.

      While the emperor formally appoints the prime minister to office, Article 6 of the Constitution requires him to appoint the candidate "as designated by the Diet", without giving the emperor the right to decline appointment.

      Article 6 of the Constitution delegates to the emperor the following ceremonial roles:

      1. Appointment of the Prime Minister as designated by the Diet.
      2. Appointment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as designated by the Cabinet.

      The emperor's other duties are laid down in Article 7 of the Constitution, where it is stated that "the Emperor, with the advice and approval of the Cabinet, shall perform the following acts in matters of state on behalf of the people." In practice, all of these duties are exercised only in accordance with the binding instructions of the Cabinet:

      1. Promulgation of amendments of the constitution, laws, cabinet orders, and treaties.
      2. Convocation of the Diet.
      3. Dissolution of the House of Representatives.
      4. Proclamation of general election of members of the Diet.
      5. Attestation of the appointment and dismissal of Ministers of State and other officials as provided for by law, and of full powers and credentials of Ambassadors and Ministers.
      6. Attestation of general and special amnesty, commutation of punishment, reprieve, and restoration of rights.
      7. Awarding of honors.
      8. Attestation of instruments of ratification and other diplomatic documents as provided for by law.
      9. Receiving foreign ambassadors and ministers.
      10. Performance of ceremonial functions.

      Regular ceremonies of the emperor with a constitutional basis are the Imperial Investitures (Shinninshiki) in the Tokyo Imperial Palace and the Speech from the Throne ceremony in the House of Councillors in the National Diet Building. The latter ceremony opens ordinary and extra sessions of the Diet. Ordinary sessions are opened each January and also after new elections to the House of Representatives. Extra sessions usually convene in the autumn and are opened then. [8] [ non-primary source needed ]

      Although the emperor has been a symbol of continuity with the past, the degree of power exercised by the emperor has varied considerably throughout Japanese history.

      Origin (7th - 8th centuries AD) Edit

      In the early 7th century, the emperor had begun to be called the "Son of Heaven" ( 天子 , tenshi, or 天子様 tenshi-sama) . [9] The title of emperor was borrowed from China, being derived from Chinese characters, and was retroactively applied to the legendary Japanese rulers who reigned before the 7th–8th centuries AD. [10]

      According to the traditional account of the Nihon Shoki, Japan was founded by Emperor Jimmu in 660 BC. However most modern scholars agree that Jimmu and the nine first emperors are mythical. [11]

      Modern historians generally believe that the emperors up to Suinin are "largely legendary" as there is insufficient material available for verification and study of their lives. Emperor Sujin (148-30 BC) is the first emperor with a direct possibility of existence according to historians, but he is referred to as "legendary" due to a lack of information. [12] [ better source needed ] The emperors from Emperor Keiko to Emperor Ingyo (376–453 AD) are considered as perhaps factual. Emperor Ankō (401–456), traditionally the 20th emperor, is the earliest generally agreed upon historical ruler of all or a part of Japan. [13] [ original research? ] The reign of Emperor Kinmei (c. 509 –571 AD), the 29th emperor, is the first for whom contemporary historiography is able to assign verifiable dates [14] [15] however, the conventionally accepted names and dates of the early emperors were not confirmed as "traditional" until the reign of Emperor Kanmu (737–806), the 50th sovereign of the Yamato dynasty. [16]

      Archaeological information about the earliest historical rulers of Japan may be contained in the ancient tombs known as kofun, constructed between the early 3rd century and the early 7th century AD. However, since the Meiji period, the Imperial Household Agency has refused to open the kofun to the public or to archaeologists, citing their desire not to disturb the spirits of the past emperors. Kofun period artefacts were also increasingly crucial in Japan as the Meiji government used them to legitimise the historical validity of the emperor's reclaimed authority. [17] In December 2006, the Imperial Household Agency reversed its position and decided to allow researchers to enter some of the kofun with no restrictions.

      Disputes and Instability (10th century) Edit

      The growth of the samurai class from the 10th century gradually weakened the power of the imperial family over the realm, leading to a time of instability. Emperors are known to have come into conflict with the reigning shogun from time to time. Some instances, such as Emperor Go-Toba's 1221 rebellion against the Kamakura shogunate and the 1336 Kenmu Restoration under Emperor Go-Daigo, show the power struggle between the imperial court and the military governments of Japan.

      Factional control (530s - 1867) and Shōguns (1192 - 1867) Edit

      There have been six non-imperial families who have controlled Japanese emperors: the Soga (530s–645), the Fujiwara (850s–1070), the Taira (1159–1180s), the Minamoto and Kamakura Bakufu (1192–1333), the Ashikaga (1336–1565), and the Tokugawa (1603–1867). However, every shogun from the Minamoto, Ashikaga, and Tokugawa families had to be officially recognized by the emperors, who were still the source of sovereignty, although they could not exercise their powers independently from the shogunate.

      From 1192 to 1867, sovereignty of the state was exercised by the shōguns, or their shikken regents (1203–1333), whose authority was conferred by Imperial warrant. When Portuguese explorers first came into contact with the Japanese (see Nanban period), they described Japanese conditions in analogy, likening the emperor with great symbolic authority, but little political power, to the pope, and the shōgun to secular European rulers (e.g., the Holy Roman Emperor). In keeping with the analogy, they even used the term "emperor" in reference to the shōguns and their regents, e.g. in the case of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whom missionaries called "Emperor Taico-sama" (from Taikō and the honorific sama). Empress Go-Sakuramachi was the last ruling Empress of Japan and reigned from 1762 to 1771. [18]

      Meiji Restoration (1868) Edit

      After the United States Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry's Black Ships forcibly opened Japan to foreign trade, and the shogunate proved incapable of hindering the "barbarian" interlopers, Emperor Kōmei began to assert himself politically. By the early 1860s, the relationship between the imperial court and the shogunate was changing radically. Disaffected domains and rōnin began to rally to the call of sonnō jōi ("revere the emperor, expel the barbarians"). The domains of Satsuma and Chōshū, historic enemies of the Tokugawa, used this turmoil to unite their forces and won an important military victory outside of Kyoto against Tokugawa forces.

      In 1868, Emperor Meiji was restored to nominal full power and the shogunate was dissolved. A new constitution described the emperor as "the head of the Empire, combining in Himself the rights of sovereignty", and he “exercises them, according to the provisions of the present Constitution”. His rights included to sanction and promulgate laws, to execute them and to exercise "supreme command of the Army and the Navy". The liaison conference created in 1893 also made the emperor the leader of the Imperial General Headquarters.

      World War II (1939 - 1945) Edit

      Emperor Showa, also known as Hirohito was in power during World War II, controlled both the sovereign of the state and the imperial forces. [19] The role of the emperor as head of the State Shinto religion was exploited during the war, creating an Imperial cult that led to kamikaze bombers and other manifestations of fanaticism. This in turn led to the requirement in the Potsdam Declaration for the elimination "for all time of the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest". [20]

      In State Shinto, the emperor was believed to be an arahitogami (a living god). Following Japan's surrender, the Allies issued the Shinto Directive separating church and state within Japan. Hirohito (Emperor Showa) was excluded from the postwar Tokyo war crimes trial, and his reign, which began in 1926 until his death in 1989. Scholars still debate about the power he had and the role he played during WWII. [19]

      Contemporary (1979 - ) Edit

      By 1979, Emperor Shōwa was the only monarch in the world with the monarchical title "emperor." Emperor Shōwa was the longest-reigning historical monarch in Japanese's history and the world's longest reigning monarch until surpassed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in July 2008. [21] On April 30, 2019, Emperor Emeritus Akihito abdicated from his reign due to health issues. [22] The previous time abdication occurred was Emperor Kōkaku in 1817. Naruhito ascended on May 1, 2019, referred to as Kinjō Tennō.

      Current constitution Edit

      The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights. Under its terms, the Emperor of Japan is "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people" and exercises a purely ceremonial role without the possession of sovereignty.

      The constitution, also known as the Constitution of Japan ( 日本国憲法 , Nihonkoku-Kenpō, formerly written 日本國憲法 ) , the "Postwar Constitution" ( 戦後憲法 , Sengo-Kenpō) or the "Peace Constitution" ( 平和憲法 , Heiwa-Kenpō) , was drawn up under the Allied occupation that followed World War II and was intended to replace Japan's previous militaristic and quasi-absolute monarchy system with a form of liberal democracy. Currently, it is a rigid document and no subsequent amendment has been made to it since its adoption.

      Realm & territories Edit

      Historically the titles of Tennō in Japanese have never included territorial designations as is the case with many European monarchs. [ citation needed ] The position of emperor is territory-independent—the emperor is the emperor, even if he has followers only in one province (as was the case sometimes with the southern and northern courts). [ citation needed ]

      During the Kofun period the first central government of the unified state was Yamato in the Kinai region of central Japan. [23] The territory of Japan has changed throughout history. Its largest extent was the Empire of Japan. In 1938 it was 1,984,000 km 2 (800,000 sq mi). [24] The maximum extent including the home islands and the Japanese colonial empire was 8,510,000 km 2 (3,300,000 sq mi) in 1942. [25] After its defeat in World War II the empire was dismantled. The contemporary territories include the Japanese archipelago and these areas. Regardless of territorial changes the Emperor remains the formal head of state of Japan. During most of history, de facto power was with Shoguns or Prime Ministers. The Emperor was more like a revered embodiment of divine harmony than the head of an actual governing administration. [ citation needed ] In Japan, it was more effective for ambitious daimyo (feudal lords) to hold actual power, as such positions were not inherently contradictory to the emperor's position. [ citation needed ] The shoguns and prime ministers derived their legitimacy from the Emperor. [ citation needed ] The parliamentary government continues a similar coexistence with the Emperor. [ citation needed ] The first recorded instance of the name Nihon 日本 was between 665 and 703 during the Asuka period. [26] This was several centuries after the start of the current imperial line. [27] The various names of Japan do not affect the status of the Emperor as head of state.

      Education Edit

      The emperors traditionally had an education officer. In recent times, Emperor Taishō had Count Nogi Maresuke, Emperor Shōwa had Marshal-Admiral Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō, and Emperor Akihito had Elizabeth Gray Vining as well as Shinzō Koizumi as their tutors. [28]

      Emperors, including his family, had to get an education at Gakushuin University by the Meiji Constitution. [29]

      There are two Japanese words equivalent to the English word "emperor": tennō ( 天皇 , "heavenly sovereign") , which is used exclusively to refer to the Emperor of Japan, and kōtei ( 皇帝 ) , which is used primarily to describe non-Japanese emperors. Sumeramikoto ("the Imperial person") was also used in Old Japanese. The term tennō was used by the emperors up until the Middle Ages then, following a period of disuse, it was used again from the 19th century. [30] In English, the term mikado ( 御門 or 帝 ), literally meaning "the honorable gate" (i.e. the gate of the imperial palace, which indicates the person who lives in and possesses the palace compare Sublime Porte, an old term for the Ottoman government), was once used (as in The Mikado, a 19th-century operetta), but this term is now obsolete. [3]

      Traditionally, the Japanese considered it disrespectful to call any person by his given name, and more so for a person of noble rank. This convention is only slightly relaxed in the modern age and it is still inadvisable among friends to use the given name, use of the family name being the common form of address. In the case of the imperial family, it is considered extremely inappropriate to use the given name. Since Emperor Meiji, it has been customary to have one era per emperor and to rename each emperor after his death using the name of the era over which he presided. Before Emperor Meiji, the names of the eras were changed more frequently, and the posthumous names of the emperors were chosen differently. [ citation needed ]

      Hirohito, as usually called in English outside Japan, was never referred to by his name in Japan. He was given posthumous name Shōwa Tennō after his death, which is the only name that Japanese speakers currently use when referring to him. [ citation needed ]

      The current emperor on the throne is typically referred to as Tennō Heika ( 天皇陛下 , "His (Imperial) Majesty the Emperor"), Kinjō Heika ( 今上陛下 , "His Current Majesty") or simply Tennō, when speaking Japanese. Emperor Akihito received the title Daijō Tennō ( 太上天皇 , Emperor Emeritus), often shortened to Jōkō ( 上皇 ), upon his abdication on 30 April 2019, and is expected to be renamed Heisei Tennō ( 平成天皇 ) after his death and will then be referred to exclusively by that name in Japanese.

      Origin of the title Edit

      Originally, the ruler of Japan was known as either 大和大王 / 大君 (Yamato-ōkimi, Grand King of Yamato), 倭王 / 倭国王 (Wa-ō/Wakoku-ō, King of Wa, used externally) or 治天下大王 (Ame-no-shita shiroshimesu ōkimi or Sumera no mikoto, Grand King who rules all under heaven, used internally) in Japanese and Chinese sources before the 7th century. The oldest diplomatic reference to the title 天子 (Tenshi, Emperor or Son of Heaven) can be found in a diplomatic document sent from Emperor Suiko to the Sui Dynasty of China in 607. In this document, Empress Suiko introduced herself to Emperor Yang of Sui as 日出處天子 (Hi izurutokoro no tenshi) meaning "Emperor of the land where the sun rises". [31] [32] The oldest documented use of the title 天皇 (Tennō, heavenly emperor) is on a wooden slat, or mokkan, that was unearthed in Asuka-mura, Nara Prefecture in 1998 and dated back to the reign of Emperor Tenmu and Empress Jitō in the 7th century. [33] [34]

      Throughout history, Japanese emperors and noblemen appointed a spouse to the position of chief wife, rather than just keeping a harem or an assortment of female attendants.

      The Japanese imperial dynasty consistently practiced official polygamy until the Taishō period (1912–1926). Besides his empress, the emperor could take, and nearly always took, several secondary consorts ("concubines") of various hierarchical degrees. Concubines were allowed also to other dynasts (Shinnōke, Ōke). After a decree by Emperor Ichijō ( r . 986–1011 ), some emperors even had two empresses simultaneously (identified by the separate titles kōgō and chūgū). With the help of all this polygamy, the imperial clan could produce more offspring. (Sons by secondary consorts were usually recognized as imperial princes, too, and such a son could be recognized as heir to the throne if the empress did not give birth to an heir.)

      Of the eight reigning empresses of Japan, none married or gave birth after ascending the throne. Some of them, being widows, had produced children before their reigns. In the succession, children of the empress were preferred over sons of secondary consorts. Thus it was significant which quarters had preferential opportunities in providing chief wives to imperial princes, i.e. supplying future empresses.

      Apparently, the oldest tradition of official marriages within the imperial dynasty involved marriages between dynasty members, even between half-siblings or between uncle and niece. Such marriages were deemed [ by whom? ] to preserve better the imperial blood or they aimed at producing children symbolic of a reconciliation between two branches of the imperial dynasty. Daughters of other families remained concubines until Emperor Shōmu (701–706)—in what was specifically reported as the first elevation of its kind—elevated his Fujiwara consort Empress Kōmyō to chief wife.

      Japanese monarchs have been, as much as others elsewhere, dependent on making alliances with powerful chiefs and with other monarchs. Many such alliances were sealed by marriages. However, in Japan such marriages soon became incorporated as elements of tradition which controlled the marriages of later generations, though the original practical alliance had lost its real meaning. A repeated pattern saw an imperial son-in-law under the influence of his powerful non-imperial father-in-law.

      Beginning from the 7th and 8th centuries, emperors primarily took women of the Fujiwara clan as their highest-ranking wives – the most probable mothers of future monarchs. This was cloaked as a tradition of marriage between heirs of two kami (Shinto deities): descendants of Amaterasu with descendants of the family kami of the Fujiwara. (Originally, the Fujiwara descended from relatively minor nobility, thus their kami is an unremarkable one in the Japanese myth world.) To produce imperial children, heirs of the nation, with two-side descent from the two kami, was regarded as desirable – or at least it suited powerful Fujiwara lords, who thus received preference in the imperial marriage-market. The reality behind such marriages was an alliance between an imperial prince and a Fujiwara lord (his father-in-law or grandfather), the latter with his resources supporting the prince to the throne and most often controlling the government. These arrangements established the tradition of regents (Sesshō and Kampaku), with these positions held only by a Fujiwara sekke lord.

      Earlier, the emperors had married women from families of the government-holding Soga lords, and women of the imperial clan, i.e. various-degree cousins and often even their own half-sisters. Several imperial figures of the 5th and 6th centuries such as Prince Shōtoku (574-622) were children of half-sibling couples. Such marriages often served as alliance or succession devices: the Soga lord ensured his domination of a prince who would be put on the throne as a puppet or a prince ensured the combination of two imperial descents, to strengthen his own and his children's claim to the throne. Marriages were also a means to seal a reconciliation between two imperial branches.

      After a couple of centuries, emperors could no longer take anyone from outside such families as a primary wife, no matter what the potential expediency of such a marriage and the power or wealth offered by such a match. Only very rarely did a prince ascend the throne whose mother was not descended from the approved families. The earlier necessity and expediency had mutated into a strict tradition that did not allow for current expediency or necessity, but only prescribed the daughters of a restricted circle of families as eligible brides, because they had produced eligible brides for centuries. Tradition had become more forceful than law.

      Fujiwara women often became empresses, while concubines came from less exalted noble families. In the last thousand years, sons of an imperial male and a Fujiwara woman have been preferred in the succession. The five Fujiwara families, Ichijō, Kujō, Nijō, Konoe, and Takatsukasa, functioned as the primary source of imperial brides from the 8th century to the 19th century, even more often than daughters of the imperial clan itself. Fujiwara daughters were thus the usual empresses and mothers of emperors. The Meiji-era Imperial House Law of 1889 made this restriction on brides for the Emperor and crown prince explicit. A clause stipulated that daughters of Sekke (the five main branches of the higher Fujiwara) and daughters of the imperial clan itself were primarily acceptable brides. The law was repealed in the aftermath of World War II. In 1959 the future Emperor Akihito became the first crown-prince for over a thousand years to marry a consort from outside the previously eligible circle.

      In Japanese mythology, the sacred treasures were bestowed on Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the grandson of the goddess Amaterasu, at the advent of Tenson kōrin. Amaterasu sent him to pacify Japan by bringing the three celestial gifts that are used by the emperor. [35] The account of Ninigi being sent to earth appears in the Nihon Shoki. The Three Sacred Treasures were inherited by successive Japanese emperors, which are the same as or similar to the sacred treasures in mythology. These three gifts signify that the emperor is the descendant of Amaterasu. The three sacred treasures are:

      During the succession rite (senso, 践祚), possessing the jewel Yasakani no Magatama, the sword Kusanagi and the mirror Yata no Kagami are a testament of the legitimate serving emperor. [36]

      The origins of the Japanese imperial dynasty are obscure, and it bases its position on the claim that it has "reigned since time immemorial". There are no records of any emperor who was not said to have been a descendant of other, yet earlier emperor ( 万世一系 bansei ikkei). There is suspicion that Emperor Keitai (c. AD 500) may have been an unrelated outsider, though the sources (Kojiki, Nihon-Shoki) state that he was a male-line descendant of Emperor Ōjin. However, his descendants, including his successors, were according to records descended from at least one and probably several imperial princesses of the older lineage.

      Millennia ago, the Japanese imperial family developed its own peculiar system of hereditary succession. It has been non-primogenitural, more or less agnatic, based mostly on rotation. Today, Japan uses strict agnatic primogeniture, which was adopted from Prussia, by which Japan was greatly influenced in the 1870s.

      The controlling principles and their interaction were apparently very complex and sophisticated, leading to even idiosyncratic outcomes. Some chief principles apparent in the succession have been:

      • Women were allowed to succeed (but there existed no known children of theirs whose father did not also happen to be an agnate of the imperial house, thus there is neither a precedent that a child of an imperial woman with a non-imperial man could inherit, nor a precedent forbidding it for children of empresses). However, female accession was clearly much more rare than male.
      • Adoption was possible and a much used way to increase the number of succession-entitled heirs (however, the adopted child had to be a child of another member agnate of the imperial house).
      • Abdication was used very often, and in fact occurred more often than death on the throne. In those days, the emperor's chief task was priestly (or godly), containing so many repetitive rituals that it was deemed that after a service of around ten years, the incumbent deserved pampered retirement as an honored former emperor.
      • Primogeniture was not used – rather, in the early days, the imperial house practiced something resembling a system of rotation. Very often a brother (or sister) followed the elder sibling even in the case of the predecessor leaving children. The "turn" of the next generation came more often after several individuals of the senior generation. Rotation went often between two or more of the branches of the imperial house, thus more or less distant cousins succeeded each other. Emperor Go-Saga even decreed an official alternation between heirs of his two sons, which system continued for a couple of centuries (leading finally to shogun-induced (or utilized) strife between these two branches, the "southern" and "northern" emperors). Towards the end, the alternates were very distant cousins counted in degrees of male descent (but all that time, intermarriages occurred within the imperial house, thus they were close cousins if female ties are counted). During the past five hundred years, however, probably because of Confucian influence, inheritance by sons – but not always, or even most often, the eldest son has been the norm.

      Historically, the succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne has always passed to descendants in male line from the imperial lineage. Generally, they have been males, though over the reign of one hundred monarchs there have been nine women (one pre-historical and eight historical) as emperor on eleven occasions.

      Over a thousand years ago, a tradition started that an emperor should ascend relatively young. A dynast who had passed his toddler years was regarded suitable and old enough. Reaching the age of legal majority was not a requirement. Thus, a multitude of Japanese emperors have ascended as children, as young as 6 or 8 years old. The high-priestly duties were deemed possible for a walking child. A reign of around 10 years was regarded a sufficient service. Being a child was apparently a fine property, to better endure tedious duties and to tolerate subjugation to political power-brokers, as well as sometimes to cloak the truly powerful members of the imperial dynasty. Almost all Japanese empresses and dozens of emperors abdicated and lived the rest of their lives in pampered retirement, wielding influence behind the scenes. Several emperors abdicated to their entitled retirement while still in their teens. These traditions show in Japanese folklore, theater, literature, and other forms of culture, where the emperor is usually described or depicted as an adolescent.

      Before the Meiji Restoration, Japan had eleven reigns of reigning empresses, all of them daughters of the male line of the Imperial House. None ascended purely as a wife or as a widow of an emperor. Imperial daughters and granddaughters, however, usually ascended the throne as a sort of a "stop gap" measure – if a suitable male was not available or some imperial branches were in rivalry so that a compromise was needed. Over half of Japanese empresses and many emperors abdicated once a suitable male descendant was considered to be old enough to rule (just past toddlerhood, in some cases). Four empresses, Empress Suiko, Empress Kōgyoku (also Empress Saimei), and Empress Jitō, as well as the legendary Empress Jingū, were widows of deceased emperors and princesses of the blood imperial in their own right. One, Empress Genmei, was the widow of a crown prince and a princess of the blood imperial. The other four, Empress Genshō, Empress Kōken (also Empress Shōtoku), Empress Meishō, and Empress Go-Sakuramachi, were unwed daughters of previous emperors. None of these empresses married or gave birth after ascending the throne.

      Article 2 of the Meiji Constitution (the Constitution of the Empire of Japan) stated, "The Imperial Throne shall be succeeded to by imperial male descendants, according to the provisions of the Imperial House Law." The 1889 Imperial Household Law fixed the succession on male descendants of the imperial line, and specifically excluded female descendants from the succession. In the event of a complete failure of the main line, the throne would pass to the nearest collateral branch, again in the male line. If the Empress did not give birth to an heir, the Emperor could take a concubine, and the son he had by that concubine would be recognized as heir to the throne. This law, which was promulgated on the same day as the Meiji Constitution, enjoyed co-equal status with that constitution.

      Article 2 of the Constitution of Japan, promulgated in 1947 by influence of the U.S. occupation administration, provides that "The Imperial Throne shall be dynastic and succeeded to in accordance with the Imperial Household Law passed by the Diet." The Imperial Household Law of 1947, enacted by the ninety-second and last session of the Imperial Diet, retained the exclusion on female dynasts found in the 1889 law. The government of Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru hastily cobbled together the legislation to bring the Imperial Household in compliance with the American-written Constitution of Japan that went into effect in May 1947. In an effort to control the size of the imperial family, the law stipulates that only legitimate male descendants in the male line can be dynasts, that imperial princesses lose their status as Imperial Family members if they marry outside the Imperial Family, [37] and that the emperor and other members of the Imperial Family may not adopt children. It also prevented branches, other than the branch descending from Taishō, from being imperial princes any longer.

      Current status Edit

      Succession is now regulated by laws passed by the National Diet. The current law excludes women from the succession. A change to this law had been considered until Princess Kiko gave birth to a son.

      Until the birth of Prince Hisahito, son of Prince Akishino, on September 6, 2006, there was a potential succession problem, since Prince Akishino was the only male child to be born into the imperial family since 1965. Following the birth of Princess Aiko, there was public debate about amending the current Imperial Household Law to allow women to succeed to the throne. In January 2005, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi appointed a special panel composed of judges, university professors, and civil servants to study changes to the Imperial Household Law and to make recommendations to the government.

      The panel dealing with the succession issue recommended on October 25, 2005, amending the law to allow females of the male line of imperial descent to ascend the Japanese throne. On January 20, 2006, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi devoted part of his annual keynote speech to the controversy, pledging to submit a bill allowing women to ascend the throne to ensure that the succession continues in the future in a stable manner. Shortly after the announcement that Princess Kiko was pregnant with her third child, Koizumi suspended such plans. Her son, Prince Hisahito, is the third in line to the throne under the current law of succession. On January 3, 2007, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announced that he would drop the proposal to alter the Imperial Household Law. [38]

      Another proposed plan is to allow unmarried men from the abolished collateral branches of the imperial family to rejoin through adoption or marriage. This would be an emergency measure to ensure stable succession. It does not revise the Imperial Household Law. [39] This does not restore the royalty of the 11 collateral branches of the Imperial House that were abolished in October 1947.

      Crown Prince Akishino was formally declared first in line to the chrysanthemum throne on November 8, 2020. [40]

      During the Kofun period, so-called "archaic funerals" were held for the dead emperors, but only the funerary rites from the end of the period, which the chronicles describe in more detail, are known. They were centered around the rite of the mogari ( 殯 ), a provisional depository between death and permanent burial. [41]

      Empress Jitō was the first Japanese imperial personage to be cremated (in 703). After that, with a few exceptions, all emperors were cremated up to the Edo period. [41] For the next 350 years, in-ground burial became the favoured funeral custom. Until 1912, the emperors were usually buried in Kyoto. [42] From Emperor Taishō onward, the emperors have been buried at the Musashi Imperial Graveyard in Tokyo.

      In 2013, the Imperial Household Agency announced that Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko would be cremated after they die. [43]

      Until the end of World War II, the Japanese monarchy was thought to be among the wealthiest in the world. [44] Before 1911, no distinction was made between the imperial crown estates and the emperor's personal properties, which were considerable. The Imperial Property Law, which came into effect in January 1911, established two categories of imperial properties: the hereditary or crown estates and the personal ("ordinary") properties of the imperial family. The Imperial Household Minister was given the responsibility for observing any judicial proceedings concerning imperial holdings. Under the terms of the law, imperial properties were only taxable in cases where no conflict with the Imperial House Law existed however, crown estates could only be used for public or imperially-sanctioned undertakings. Personal properties of certain members of the imperial family, in addition to properties held for imperial family members who were minors, were exempted from taxation. Those family members included the Empress Dowager, the Empress, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, the Imperial Grandson and the consort of the Imperial Grandson. [45] As a result of the poor economic conditions in Japan, 289,259.25 acres of crown lands (about 26% of the total landholdings) were either sold or transferred to government and private-sector interests in 1921. In 1930, the Nagoya Detached Palace (Nagoya Castle) was donated to the city of Nagoya, with six other imperial villas being either sold or donated at the same time. [45] In 1939, Nijō Castle, the former Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa shoguns and an imperial palace since the Meiji Restoration, was likewise donated to the city of Kyoto.

      At the end of 1935, according to official government figures, the Imperial Court owned roughly 3,111,965 acres of landed estates, the bulk of which (2,599,548 acres) were the emperor's private lands, with the total acreage of the crown estates amounting to some 512,161 acres those landholdings comprised palace complexes, forest and farm lands and other residential and commercial properties. The total value of the imperial properties was then estimated at ¥650 million, or roughly US$195 million at prevailing exchange rates. [note 2] [45] [46] This was in addition to the emperor's personal fortune, which amounted to hundreds of millions of yen and included numerous family heirlooms and furnishings, purebred livestock and investments in major Japanese firms, such as the Bank of Japan, other major Japanese banks, the Imperial Hotel and Nippon Yusen. [45]

      Following Japan's defeat in the Second World War, all of the collateral branches of the imperial family were abolished under the Allied occupation of the country and the subsequent constitutional reforms, forcing those families to sell their assets to private or government owners. Staff numbers in the imperial households were slashed from a peak of roughly 6,000 to about 1,000. The imperial estates and the emperor's personal fortune (then estimated at US$17.15 million, or roughly US$625 million in 2017 terms) were transferred to either state or private ownership, excepting 6,810 acres of landholdings. Since the 1947 constitutional reforms, the imperial family has been supported by an official civil list sanctioned by the Japanese government. The largest imperial divestments were the former imperial Kiso and Amagi forest lands in Gifu and Shizuoka prefectures, grazing lands for livestock in Hokkaido and a stock farm in the Chiba region, all of which were transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Imperial property holdings have been further reduced since 1947 after several handovers to the government. Today, the primary imperial properties include the two imperial palaces at Tokyo and Kyoto, several imperial villas and a number of imperial farms and game preserves. [47]

      As of 2017, Akihito has an estimated net worth of US$40 million. [48] The wealth and expenditures of the emperor and the imperial family have remained a subject of speculation and were largely withheld from the public until 2003, when Mori Yohei, a former royal correspondent for the Mainichi Shimbun, obtained access to 200 documents through a recently passed public information law. Mori's findings, which he published in a book, revealed details of the imperial family's US$240 million civil list (in 2003 values). [49] Among other details, the book revealed the royal family employed a staff of over 1,000 people. [50] The total cost of events related to the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito was approximately 16.6 billion yen ($150 million) in 2019. This is 30% higher than Emperor Emeritus Akihito's accession (1990). [51]

      Scribbles in a Storm

      W ritten ​ constitutions ? &lsquoBecause of where I came from, these documents seemed profoundly exotic.&rsquo In spite of where she came from, which was England, Linda Colley became many years ago the first English intellectual to explain to her nation just how exotic &lsquoBritishness&rsquo was. Now, with the same pioneering enthusiasm, she has produced a book about constitutions. Not the unwritten playground rules that supposedly guide the Anglo-British state, but those semi-sacred printed sheets of paper for which men and women in the outside world have been known to die.

      The book comes at the right moment. Constitutional storms are massing over the old United Kingdom. One, of course, is territorial: the matter of Scottish secession and perhaps Irish reunion. Another approaching hard rain is less obvious but more dangerous. This is the accelerating offensive of the Westminster executive against its restraints: against rival centres of power in Brussels or Edinburgh, against plural interpretations of history, against law itself. Most British governments since Thatcher&rsquos have sought to stamp out what they see as a spreading &lsquoEuropean heresy&rsquo: the notion that supreme law should stand above parliaments, that judges in a democracy may reverse the will of an elected government if it violates a constitution.

      This storm has been brewing for a long time. Take a late 20th-century example: during one of those recurring leak panics, somebody in Whitehall revealed to a journalist that a cabinet minister was lying. In the uproar that followed, a civil servant was challenged to confirm that she owed unconditional loyalty to her minister. But she demurred. &lsquoAt the end of the day, I answer to the little lady at the end of the Mall.&rsquo That reply confirmed that the United Kingdom is still essentially a monarchical structure. Not in terms of direct royal intervention, but as a polity in which power flows from the top down. The idiotic doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty &ndash the late 17th-century transfer of absolutism from kings endowed with divine right to an elected assembly &ndash excludes any firmly entrenched distribution of rights. Popular sovereignty in Britain is a metaphor, not an institution.

      The civil servant was repeating a beloved and antique myth: that in England &ndash and later in Great Britain &ndash a ghostly higher level of political authority survives, above bishops, landowners and parliaments, to which a subject can appeal. Is a prime minister bound by Magna Carta, for instance? (No way, but it&rsquos indelicate to say so.) Unlike most countries, the UK has no constitution &ndash and so no law of state. Or, to put it another way, nobody knows who is ultimately in charge. During the year of Brexit mud-wrestling in the House of Commons, it was variously claimed that the final say rested with &lsquothe People&rsquo speaking through a referendum, or with the elected sovereign Parliament, or with the royal prerogative somehow ventriloquised by the executive (i.e. Theresa May and her cabinet). The spectacle was ridiculous. But did it really matter? Great Britain and then the UK had muddled rather successfully through the centuries without a written constitution. People sort of knew what was expected of them, and what was over the top. Why change that?

      The answer is: because our governments are growing lawless. A constitution is the &lsquosupreme law&rsquo in most modern states, a justiciable statute to which political decisions &ndash even democratic ones &ndash are subordinate. Until recently, the notion of supreme law has been alien to England. But now these alien notions have built up into a rooted and ambitious immigration. Since the 1960s, government decisions have been taken to judicial review and reversed if they are held to be unlawful. Over the years, judicial review has gnawed countless moth-holes in the threadbare blanket of parliamentary sovereignty, resulting in the establishment of a Supreme Court and heading very discreetly towards something resembling a joined-up constitution. The counter-attack is fuelled by the growing arrogance and greed for power of the executive, which is now determined to avenge its humiliation by the Supreme Court in 2019 when it threw out Boris Johnson&rsquos illegal attempt to prorogue Parliament. Suella Braverman, the attorney general, spoke for Johnson and many others in this Tory cabinet when she proclaimed that &lsquowe must take back control&rsquo from the judiciary, that judges were &lsquotrespassing&rsquo on &lsquoinherently political terrain&rsquo, and that &lsquoquestions which fell hitherto exclusively within the prerogative of elected ministers have yielded to judicial activism.&rsquo

      That language doesn&rsquot only reveal stupendous ignorance of legal and political norms in the outside world. It shows that the United Kingdom is entering a momentous struggle over civil liberty, more significant even than the battle for parliamentary reform in the 1830s. On one side, a hungry populism slashes at any limitation, criticism or distribution of Westminster authority, a movement related to the pandemic of win-all, take-all populism infecting much of the world. On the other, a resistance is slowly gathering which insists that fundamental law should be above parliaments, that a true citizen swears loyalty to a constitution and not to a cabinet. As Oliver Cromwell told Parliament in 1654, &lsquoin every government there must be somewhat fundamental, somewhat like a Magna Carta, that should be standing and unalterable.&rsquo

      The quotation comes from Linda Colley&rsquos latest, largest and most adventurous work. It arrives with perfect timing, for &ndash in spite of its curious title &ndash The Gun, the Ship and the Pen is a book about constitutions. As Colley might put it, it was the din of guns and the cost of ships that impelled pens to scribble down political blueprints for change and reform. This is almost a history of the modern world as told through the development of constitutions: Colley starts with Pasquale Paoli&rsquos design for a free Corsica in 1755, and carries on into the Seven Years&rsquo War, which began in 1756 and whose global spread and fearsome costs (a single 74-gun ship required nearly three thousand mature oak trees and twenty miles of rope, and France built nearly fifty of them in the 1780s alone) changed empires and politics. The pressures set up by the new &lsquohybrid warfare&rsquo, waged by sea as well as by land, &lsquohelped to precipitate, enforce and shape new attempts at political and constitutional change and invention&rsquo.

      Starting the book in the 18th century means that Colley doesn&rsquot spend time on constitutional origins. But even in medieval Europe, contractual agreements of kingship were quite often written down. In the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish nobles warn King Robert that if he should let them down and &lsquoyield Scotland or us to the English king or people&rsquo, they will dethrone him and choose another. &lsquoWe who are as good as you swear to you who are no better than us to accept you as our king,&rsquo the Aragonese allegiance oath declared, &lsquoprovided you observe all our laws and liberties, and if not, not&rsquo (&lsquoy si no, no&rsquo). Religion and the notion of &lsquosupreme law&rsquo came into it later, as Protestant intellectuals fought back against papal authority and the emerging &lsquodivine right&rsquo theory of monarchy. In Scotland, men and women died rather than admit that an earthly prince could give orders to a Christian church. Obedience was due only to a king or queen who confessed the supreme kingship of Jesus Christ. In 1644, Samuel Rutherford published a defiant book that was burned by the public hangman in St Andrews and Edinburgh. Its title was Lex Rex &ndash &lsquoThe law is king.&rsquo As a fervent Calvinist, he meant the law of God. But the idea that all human authority was subordinate to a fundamental written code &ndash the Bible, in this case &ndash bequeathed special intensity to the countless printed constitutions in the period Colley discusses. It&rsquos a pity she doesn&rsquot examine that religious dimension.

      She is anything but uncritical about constitutions. They are &lsquoemphatically not innocent devices and never have been&rsquo, she writes. &lsquoFrom the outset &hellip written constitutions have been as much to do with enabling varieties of power as they have been with restricting power.&rsquo Some were written to limit what a monarch could do some to justify royal or imperial omnipotence. Many were the outcome of revolutions and codified freshly won rights and liberties, like the proud constitutions of newly independent nations. As the 19th century drew on, white colonists composed constitutions to make sure that &lsquonatives&rsquo and slaves were locked out of citizenship and denied property rights. Colley shows that in the middle and later 19th century, constitutions actually narrowed rather than broadened their promise of rights. Not only property but racial qualifications became fashionable. So too did the exclusion of women from the franchise. This was partly a result of the spreading influence of Freemasonry in Europe and America, with its intense prejudice against female membership. But it happened elsewhere too. In Hawaii women were gradually evicted from political offices they had traditionally held, and in Japan the Meiji modernisers purged women from the bureaucracy. Already in 1810, women were excluded not just from the provisions for active citizenship in the much admired Cadiz constitution in Spain, but even from the debates leading to its formulation.

      It&rsquos a shame that the language of so many of these constitutions, progressive or repressive, is a tail-coated Victorian prose. Words that can still clutch the heart (&lsquoIn the name of God, and of the dead generations &hellip&rsquo) tend to belong to declarations of independence. Colley finds an exception in the opening of the 1787 American constitution. Its original draft began: &lsquoWe the peoples of the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,&rsquo and so tediously on. But one of the youngest delegates to the drafting congress, the 25-year-old Gouverneur Morris, tweaked it so that it now read: &lsquoWe, the People of the United States &hellip&rsquo Colley points out that a united American nation, let alone a single &lsquopeople&rsquo, didn&rsquot yet exist. But with those sonorous words read and reprinted across the world, it suddenly did.

      C olley ​ is a very visual historian. Jeremy Bentham becomes not just an intellectual fountain spraying the world with bold ideas, but a sheltered old fellow who scarcely ventured beyond his London house in Queens Square Place. King Pomare II of Tahiti preferred to write his &lsquocode&rsquo of governance while lying on his front on the ground, propped up with a cushion. To read Colley&rsquos account of Pitcairn Island in 1838 &ndash a Scottish naval captain had given the islanders the world&rsquos first constitution to grant all men and all women the vote &ndash is to see a handful of defenceless folk and their pigs wandering among the trees, and to hear the immensity of the Pacific breaking on the shore. But it&rsquos not an empty immensity for Colley: &lsquoAs regards constitutional change and innovation, developments across the Pacific in general &ndash including on some of its smaller islands &ndash possess a wide significance.&rsquo

      Personalities perform in the foreground of a series of historical set-pieces, vividly recounted and analysed. A long section presents the Empress Catherine II, climbing out of bed at four in the morning every day for eighteen months to work at her &lsquoNakaz&rsquo &ndash her code for a (despotic) Enlightenment order, patched together with &lsquoborrowed&rsquo passages from Montesquieu and the French Encyclopedists. &lsquoThe sovereign is absolute, for no other than absolute powers, vested in one person, can be suitable to the extent of so vast an empire.&rsquo Nothing will make me like that evil woman, but Colley&rsquos long and thoughtful retelling of her political development, raking the world for wisdom in the midst of lethal conspiracies and crazy speculation about her sex life, is compelling. Her evocation of Haiti is another brilliant set-piece, as she evaluates the constitutions devised by that phenomenal generation of black leaders after Haitian independence had been won by the slave rebellion of 1791. Jean-Jacques Dessalines asserted human equality and rights, appealing to &lsquothe Supreme Being&rsquo in the French Jacobin style, but rebuking &lsquonature by whom we have been so unjustly &hellip considered as outcast children&rsquo. Toussaint Louverture, the best known of them, was followed by Henry Christophe, who declared himself king in a hereditary monarchy. Historians have mocked him for his crowns and gorgeous uniforms. But Colley comes impressively to his defence. In 1811, a monarchy might still attract an international respect denied to republics: &lsquoFor all of the surge in transformative written constitutions &hellip monarchy would remain the default mode of formal state leadership until the First World War, and in some regions even longer.&rsquo

      Gustaf III, king of a Sweden exhausted by aggressive wars, imposed a constitution, or &lsquoForm of Government&rsquo, in 1772 and declared himself a citizen. As king, he swore allegiance to his own document, and required his male subjects to take separate oaths of allegiance to constitution and to crown. This recognition that fundamental law could be superior to a mere government predated the supreme status the Americans in Philadelphia gave to their own constitution. Thomas Paine, the exciseman from Thetford, egged on the Americans to firm republicanism and supported the calling of a congress to draw up a &lsquoContinental Charter&rsquo. Even before the outbreak of the French Revolution, constitutions were being reprinted, shipped across the globe and imitated on a pick-and-mix basis by an assortment of impatient authors who adapted texts to suit their own situations and fancies. Here, as Colley shows, there was a divergence. Some, like the elderly Jeremy Bentham, saw a constitution as an Enlightenment proclamation of universal rights and values. Others, like his young visitor Eduard Gans from Berlin, took the Hegelian view that constitutions must arise at least in part from the specific past and culture of a nation. &lsquoDo you actually value history?&rsquo Gans asked. Bentham exploded. &lsquoThis upholder of mindlessness, this page on to which intellect and stupidity are equally written &hellip&rsquo

      One of the virtues of this book is that it isn&rsquot Eurocentric. The Polish constitution of 1791, which so much excited radicals and intellectuals in France and Britain, gets only a passing mention. Instead, Colley discusses the 1821 Plan de Iguala in Mexico, whose famous Twelfth Article overthrew racial (but not sexual) discrimination: &lsquoAll the inhabitants of New Spain, without any distinction between Europeans, Africans or Indians,&rsquo it held, &lsquoare citizens of this monarchy.&rsquo And she finds a connection between the plan and the extraordinary Calcutta Journal, edited in those years by the radical English wanderer James Silk Buckingham and his friend Rammohan Roy, a high-caste Bengali intellectual who campaigned to reform Hinduism and attacked the ruling East India Company. Both men believed in the reforming power of written constitutions for India and republished the Plan de Iguala in their paper. It was translated and published all over the world, first in the United States and even, in 1821, by the Connaught Journal, which said that &lsquoIreland would not now exhibit a scene of wretchedness and despair&rsquo if that Twelfth Article had been available to Ireland&rsquos excluded Catholic majority. In North America, Sequoyah composed a script for the Cherokee language, and in 1827 joined a group of activists to launch a Cherokee constitution on the grounds that they were an independent nation. But a few years later most of the Cherokee were driven off their lands in Georgia and into the wilderness, four thousand of them dying on the way. As Colley observes, this episode shows the link between access to print and constitution-making, but it also shows that stronger constitutions could kill weaker ones: &lsquoWhite Americans progressively used a web of written and printed constitutions to help forge, knit together, legitimise and broadcast to the world a vast transcontinental empire.&rsquo

      In contrast, although it possessed an ancient print industry, China produced scarcely any constitutional documents before the last decades of the 19th century. Here Colley almost flaunts her mastery of obscure sources: &lsquoAn American merchant based in Macao made precisely this point in 1831.&rsquo If &lsquoconstitution manufactories&rsquo were pumping the stuff out in Spain, Portugal, Hanover or Saxony, the merchant asked, why not in China? Her own explanation is that the Qing empire had not yet been under the intense &lsquowarlike pressure&rsquo which forces a revaluation of the state and its institutions. That pressure was to arrive in the form of the Opium Wars, the Taiping Rebellion and the Dungan Revolt, the last two of which caused upwards of twenty million deaths, and &ndash decisively &ndash China&rsquos defeats by France and Japan.

      Napoleon forced &lsquomodern&rsquo constitutions on conquered Europe. Some countries, including Poland, embraced his code and administrative patterns, and Napoleonic remnants survive there to this day. Others, such as the German states, turned on him in patriotic outrage as soon as they dared, but kept many of his reforms &ndash the emancipation of the Jews, for instance. In Spain, conquered by French armies, an opposition parliament protected by the Royal Navy managed to gather in Cadiz in 1810 it agreed on a grandiose constitution for Spain and its overseas empire, limiting royal power, abolishing &lsquoexactions&rsquo on Indigenous peoples and offering the vote to all free adults (except blacks and women). The Cadiz constitution was only ever implemented for very brief intervals Spain was still under French occupation, while anti-colonial revolutions against Spanish rule were breaking out all over Latin America. The future Duke of Wellington said witheringly that the Cadiz document was done on the principle that a painter paints a picture, &lsquoviz., to be looked at&rsquo.

      At this point, Colley turns to Frankenstein, or rather to her own take on whether Mary Shelley modelled the monster or Frankenstein himself on Napoleon. It&rsquos an old speculation, and Colley&rsquos answer is: both. &lsquoAt one level, Napoleon is clearly an inspiration for the monster &hellip an unnatural, increasingly violent creature who nonetheless possesses &ldquopowers of eloquence and persuasion&rdquo.&rsquo At another level, Napoleon&rsquos career &lsquocolours Mary Shelley&rsquos descriptions of her central character, the scientist Frankenstein himself &hellip a furiously ambitious individual who believes himself to be above &ldquothe herd of common projectors&rdquo and &ldquodestined for some great enterprise&rdquo.&rsquo

      The major section on Japan, and the Meiji restoration which in a few years transformed Japan from a narcissistic samurai dreamland into a military and industrial world power, is the book&rsquos tour de force. Colley analyses the bond with Prussia, and later with imperial Germany, as eager Meiji emissaries learned not only how to build battleships and siege guns but what sort of constitution could be at once modern and &lsquoopen&rsquo and yet preserve autocratic power. Ito Hirobumi, the dominating moderniser who would become Japan&rsquos first prime minister, learned statecraft in Berlin from the Prussian academic Rudolf von Gneist. Rather surprisingly for an architect of the rule-bound authoritarian state of Prussia, von Gneist felt that a constitution should not be a legal document but should instead &lsquoembody the spirit and capacities of the nation&rsquo. For this reason, he admired the informal, unwritten way the English regulated their polity.

      Many foreign reformers agreed. Even Simon Bolívar, the &lsquoLiberator&rsquo of Spanish America, swallowed Britain&rsquos complacent image of itself hook, line and sinker: &lsquoHow can we use the term monarchy to describe a system that recognises popular sovereignty, the division and balance of powers, civil liberty?&rsquo he wrote. It is &lsquothe worthiest model for anyone aspiring to the enjoyment of the rights of man and to all the political happiness compatible with our fragile nature&rsquo. London, capital of the land with no constitution, attracted throughout the 19th century political exiles from all over the world, many of them trying to discover the secret of Britain&rsquos &lsquoapparent capacity to combine extreme modernity, the rule of law and relative political stability&rsquo. Colley suggests that Britain&rsquos &lsquounusual degree of immunity from successful invasions and violent domestic transitions meant that its rulers in London never felt &ndash and still do not feel &ndash an urgent need to concede&rsquo a written constitution. Fair enough. But another reading of history might be that it was the outbreak of war with revolutionary and then Napoleonic France which cut the United Kingdom off from the political currents of European Enlightenment, currents that would eventually have floated even England into some form of republicanism and law-based popular sovereignty. As it was, the threat of invasion, manipulated patriotism and police terror united to sever a connection that has never been restored. Colley believes that the impossibility of a UK constitution diverted the energy of British intellectuals into a substitute: an outpouring of constitutional history, offering precedents later taken up by the leaders of independence movements in the British Empire.

      W ar ​ is the real keyword of this book. Again and again, Colley points to its conduct, its geographical extent and its costs as the most reliable stimulus for constitution-making. As the American sociologist Charles Tilly wrote, states make war and war makes states, and the collateral creativity of war has always impressed Colley. At the core of her path-breaking study Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992) was the proposal that &lsquoBritishness&rsquo as a joint identity hung on three pegs: anti-Catholic prejudice, participation in empire, and war. As she wrote in that book, &lsquoWe can plausibly regard Great Britain as an invented nation superimposed, if only for a while, onto much older alignments and loyalties. It was an invention forged above all by war.&rsquo

      In this new book, she asserts over and over again that causal connections can be traced between warfare and the spread of written constitutions. Their proliferation, she complains, &lsquohas often been explained only by reference to the rise of democracy and the lure of certain (mainly Western) notions of constitutionalism. Focusing on the contribution made by recurrent episodes of armed violence provides for a more comprehensive and variegated view.&rsquo As well as the revolutionary outbreaks in Corsica, the Americas, Haiti and elsewhere, attention should be paid &lsquoto how rising levels of warfare &hellip fed into more imaginative modes of constitutional activity in other sectors of the world&rsquo. Colley records the way that, starting in the 1750s, &lsquowidely distributed iconic texts and single document constitutions aimed at constraining governments, and promising a variety of rights&rsquo, multiplied until they became a &lsquoquantum surge&rsquo after each of the 20th-century world wars. In another passage, she asks: &lsquoBut why did responses to these war-related disturbances and shifts increasingly take the form of new written texts?&rsquo I am not sure that this book, whose central purpose seems to have been to answer that question, quite does so.

      It&rsquos not hard to demonstrate that war in this period, swelling monstrously in its global extent, army numbers and killing power, could shake existing states and empires to their foundations. The cost of modern conflict &ndash the enormous human mobilisations, the new battle fleets &ndash emptied treasuries and laid crushing burdens of taxation on populations. The relentless search for recruits brought grief and often violence to every village. Disruption led to discontent, sometimes to revolt. But there&rsquos no simple and direct link between warfare &ndash and the social turmoil it provokes &ndash and constitution-writing. Colley shows, shrewdly enough, how rulers desperate for cannon-fodder devised a connection between soldiering and the new idea of citizenship. Join the army, and you will be entitled to a vote and to the protection of new-fangled constitutional rights, all set down in writing. (This condition effectively kept women out of political life.) In that sense, warfare did sponsor some constitutions. But was it more than a single powerful factor in a bundle of upheavals, class conflicts and royal or plebeian ambitions, any combination of which could move somebody with a pen to design a new order? It would have helped to be given at least one detailed example of the way the pressures of a specific war led to a constitution. Colley cites America&rsquos 1787 constitution, which, she argues, was not intended primarily as &lsquoa blueprint of a liberal democratic society&rsquo but was a &lsquogrimly necessary plan for a more effective and defendable union&rsquo in the face of military threats from Britain, Spain and even Russia. Perhaps. On the other hand, Britain in 1815 emerged emaciated and simmering with unrest after three huge wars in a generation, but developed no written constitution. The best that can be said is that people start scribbling most frequently in stormy times, when the existing state of governance no longer carries conviction with subjects, rulers or both.

      All the same, Colley&rsquos book proves that constitutions can sprout from all kinds of earth. They can limit a ruler&rsquos power, or sanctify and entrench that power. They can be grants of universal rights, or &lsquono trespassing&rsquo notices designed to keep natives, women, immigrants and the poor out of decision-making. Some are manifestos for a political movement. Others are foundational documents for a nation&rsquos fresh-won independence. But the case for imposing a written constitution on ancient Britain, while touching on several of those motives, is more elementary. The &lsquounconstitution&rsquo has worked only because England&rsquos ruling elites, out of decent self-interest, have never fully exploited its incredible lack of formal constraint on executive power. That convention is now ending, and the executive is pushing hard at its boundaries. What&rsquos needed is not yet a constitution, but its preliminary, the recognition that governments must be subject to supreme law, &lsquoLex Rex&rsquo, and that an agreed law of state must be written down. For that, Colley&rsquos book provides the ink. So where is the pen?

      The Chrysanthemum Throne: Archaic values and a new emperor

      The abdication of Emperor Akihito on 30 April 2019 and the enthronement of his eldest son Naruhito the following day, as the 126th emperor of Japan, was a landmark event. This was the first abdication of a reigning emperor since Kokaku abdicated in 1817, in what is seen as the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world.

      The Japanese government came up with a law to allow the throne to pass to 59-year-old Naruhito after his father publicly announced in August 2016 that he had decided to “retire” – which renewed debate about the male-only succession system.

      The exclusion of women as heirs to the throne first appeared as law in 1869 in Article 2 of the Meiji Constitution, and was reinforced by the 1947 rewritten constitution of Japan. As a result, out of a total of 18 members of the imperial family, not one of the 13 women will ever have access to the throne. Naruhito’s younger sister, Princess Nori, was even forced to leave the imperial household and to surrender her status after marrying Yoshiki Kuroda, a “commoner”, in 2005.

      The same thing was to happen to Princess Mako on wedding Kei Kumoro in November 2018, but the marriage has now been put on hold until 2020. This is in spite of the fact that both Akihito’s and Naruhito’s marriages to “commoners” are viewed as indicators of their “humanity”.

      There are now just three living heirs to the Chrysanthemum Throne: Naruhito’s younger brother, Prince Akishino, as well as Akishino’s son, 11-year-old Prince Hisahito, and Akishino’s 82-year-old brother, Prince Masahito.

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      1 /11 Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Emperor Akihito abdicates: In pictures

      Matriarchal beginnings

      Despite the exclusion of women from the throne, traditional myth linked to the imperial origins portrays early Japan as a matriarchal society. Popular Shinto and the mythological traditions of the emperor cult are based on a belief in the sun goddess, Amaterasu, from whom the first emperor, Jimmu (who reigned from 660BC until 585BC) is said to have descended. Legendary celebrations in honour of Amaterasu are part of the imperial enthronement ritual, Daijosai, in which the newly crowned emperor symbolically shares a meal with his imperial ancestors.

      Ironically, women, even members of the imperial family, are forbidden from attending this ceremony. It is difficult to imagine how Masako, Naruhito’s Harvard educated, former career diplomat wife might have felt in being excluded from attending the enthronement ritual, and that her own daughter, Princess Toshi, can never hope to succeed to the throne because of her gender.


      This exclusion serves to reinforce a rigid patriarchal system and the subordination of women in Japanese society as a natural cultural norm. It is also at odds with the fact that Japanese religious mythology is based around a female deity. But a lack of studies on women in Japanese history reinforces a belief that their role has been of less worth than that of men.

      Nevertheless, Chinese and Japanese historical sources show that women leaders were not a rarity in ancient times. One of the most well-known is Himiko who ruled over more than 30 states during the later part of the Yayoi period from about 180-248AD. This was a time of political and social crisis, and historians remain undecided as to her real identity. But, whoever she really was, the fact remains that she was a powerful woman who ruled Japan.

      Women on the throne

      Until the constitution was rewritten in 1947 and changes to the imperial succession procedure were introduced, Empress Jingū (AD201-269) was considered to be the 15th Japanese imperial ruler. As with Himiko, she reigned during a period of turmoil and the legendary invasion of Silla, the South Korean peninsula – although the 1947 reforms, and a re-evaluation of historical records, led to her name being removed as empress. She does however hold the honour of being the first woman, in 1881, to be featured on a Japanese banknote.

      In addition to Jingū, there have been eight empresses of Japan, two of whom reigned twice. In both cases, according to the “Nihongi”, the Chronicles of Japan, the women reascended to the throne after abdication in favour of a male relative. The fact that their successors were more often than not male has only fuelled the argument that tradition requires male-only succession.


      During his time as prime minister from 2000 to 2006, Junichiro Koizumi pushed for changes to allow women to succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne. But the birth of a new male heir, Hisahito, in 2006, appeared to overshadow discussion over disparity between male and female imperial privilege.

      While the emperor has no political role, the symbolic and cultural significance links modern Japan to a mythological past. Akihito’s reign will be remembered for improved ties with neighbours, reconciliation and recognition of the past suffering of those in the region, influencing politics and change through gesture.

      As Reiwa, the era of beautiful harmony, begins, it is hoped that the Japanese government will open the way for women to succeed Naruhito to the country’s throne. This would be a long overdue gesture that would have an enormous and significant impact for women, parity and recognition of their contribution and achievement throughout Japan.

      Ella Tennant is a teaching fellow at the language centre and liberal arts at Keele University. This article first appeared on The Conversation

      Why the Royal Family Used to Forbid Marriage After Divorce

      When Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle in 2018, he didn’t just break the mold by marrying an American actress. Markle was also divorced—her two-year-long marriage to producer Trevor Engelson ended in 2013.

      Marrying a divorced person was taboo among the British monarchy for hundreds of years. By signing off on the match, Queen Elizabeth, who mustꂾ consulted before people within the line of succession marry, reinforced the family’s recent about-face on divorce. But why was it such a divisive issue in the past?

      “Historically the Church of England’s position was that divorce was okay, but remarriage was not,” saysਊrianne Chernock, an associate professor of history at Boston University whose research focuses on gender and the British monarchy.

      Ironically, the roots of that position𠅊nd the Church of England itself—lie in the inability of Henry VIII to annul his marriage with the blessing of the Catholic Church. In the 1530s, Henry decided he wanted an annulment after Catherine of Aragon failed to give birth to a male heir. When the pope repeatedly refused to grant his request, Henry first limited the Church’s influence in England, then formally severed ties to Catholicism in 1534.

      This break from the Roman Catholic Church meant that the British monarch, not the pope, was the official head of the church in Britain. Henry and the monarchs that followed took on the role of �nder of the faith.” Since then, monarchs have pledged to uphold the religious tenets of the Church of England at their coronations. Within the royal family, it became nearly impossible to divorce or marry someone whose previous marriage had ended.

      Catherine of Aragon pleading her case against divorce from King Henry VIII. (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)

      Like most other Christian religions of the time, the Church of England mirrored societal stigmas against divorce. England’s monarchs reflected the laws of their church, even as divorce laws became more liberal. At first, though it was possible to legally divorce, Parliament had to grant the dissolution of the marriage. As a result, writes legal analyst Henry Kha, only 131 divorces were legally granted in England during the entire 18th century.

      Over the years, divorce became more common. Civil divorce became possible starting in 1857, but standards did not change for monarchs.  Nor did Church of England doctrine: Until 2002, the church would not recognize the marriage of any divorced person whose ex-spouse was still living. And thanks to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, the sitting monarch had to approve the marriage of any descendant of George II, and if they didn’t, both houses of Parliament had to do it instead. This law gave monarchs massive control over their families’ love lives, and it came into play when royals tried to marry divorced people.

      That didn’t mean that royals didn’t attempt divorce: In 1820, George IV was so determined to divorce his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, that he convened a parliamentary panel to prove that his wife had been unfaithful. The divorce never went through, but its effect on the monarchy was disastrous.

      Caroline’s trial in the court of public opinion essentially launched the tabloid’s obsession with royals. 𠇏or the first time,” writes historian Carolyn Harris, “the collapse of a royal marriage unfolded in twopenny broadsheets that were accessible to members of all social backgrounds.”

      Royal divorce, it seemed, was on the table, but it took until 1936 for the royal family to contend with a monarch who tried to marry a divorced person. When Edward VII decided to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite, he sparked a constitutional crisis. By marrying her against his elected government’s will, Edward would have undermined faith in the British Parliament, so he abdicated instead.

      After that, divorce became almost a way of life for the Windsors. In 1953, Princess Margaret flirted with marrying Peter Townsend, a divorced war hero. Ultimately, she abandoned the relationship, possibly because she would have had to give up her ability to succeed to the throne. Soon, Margaret herself was a divorcee, and three of Elizabeth II’s four children divorced, too. In 1992, Princess Anne remarried in Scotland, whose church does not consider marriage a sacrament, and sidestepped the Church of England’s restriction on divorcees remarrying.

      The Prince and Princess of Wales during a visit to Canada. (Credit: Tim Graham/Getty Images)

      Then, in 1996, Prince Charles, who is first in line to the throne, divorced Diana, creating a media firestorm. Though Diana never remarried, Charles did𠅊nd his bride, Camilla Parker Bowles, had been divorced, too. Elizabeth okayed the marriage, ushering in a new era of attitudes toward divorce within the royal family.

      Now, says Chernock, divorce is “more the norm than the exception,” at least for the current members of the royal family. “It would be somewhat hypocritical at this point [for them] to invoke the old standard,” she says.

      Since 2002, the Church of England hasਊllowed the remarriage of divorced persons in certain special circumstances. Regardless of what the Church of England does, says Chernock, expect future monarchs to be more laid back about divorce. “Given the increasingly lax nature of expectations around questions of divorce, the sovereign will be much more sympathetic and flexible in the future,” she says. “I can’t imagine the next generation using that tradition in some kind of personal, cruel way.”

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      Watch the video: Module 5: Meiji Constitution (January 2022).