While the concept of the dignified constitution came out of a specific historical context, the twentieth century proved that Bagehot’s insights travel well. The British monarch’s “reserve powers” to dissolve Parliament and choose a prime minister are exercised mechanically on advice by the government of the day, though in theory they remain as a last check on political ambitions that might endanger constitutional arrangements. Longer-serving monarchs have an informal ability to “advise” and “warn” prime ministers out of the public eye.3 Other countries like Spain and Japan have relied on monarchy to symbolize continuity and bridge deep divides. The Spanish monarchy was refounded after a divisive civil war and four decades of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.4 The king also helped suppress a right-wing coup attempt in 1982, for example, by donning military uniform to urge the troops to return to the barracks and respect the democratic constitutional settlement. Japan’s emperors were mere figureheads when the shoguns held “efficient” power, and after 1945 were designated a symbol of the nation. Deference to them persisted amid rapid postwar social change.5 In republics, too, the style of office also reflects particular traditions: from the self-effacing German presidency to the majestic pomp surrounding the French president in his head of state role.
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