Monarchy is the oldest known form of government. In Sumeria and Egypt, the ensi and pharaoh, respectively, ruled over their people with an iron fist; it was believed that these individuals were conduits to the gods, an idea that became known as the Divine Right of Kings. From the dawn of recorded history until recent memory, almost every civilization was ruled by a sovereign, whether king or queen, sultan or tsar, kaiser or khan, pasha or shah.
Parliamentary rule, the earliest form of democracy, appeared in Athens and Rome and elsewhere, but anti-monarchism did not begin in earnest until 1649, when the British Parliament overthrew King Charles I. Even then it took three centuries and countless false starts for republicanism to prevail.
After the Second World War, in the period historians refer to as the “short” twentieth century, many of the world’s monarchies fell. This remarkable collection features issues from some of the world’s last kings: