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(Lat. abdicatio, disowning, renouncing, from ab, from, and dicare, to declare, to proclaim as not belonging to one), the act whereby a person in office renounces and gives up the same before the expiry of the time for which it is held. In Roman law, the term is especially applied to the disowning of a member of a family, as the disinheriting of a son, but the word is seldom used except in the sense of surrendering the supreme power in a state. Despotic sovereigns are at liberty to divest themselves of their powers at any time, but it is otherwise with a limited monarchy. The throne of Great Britain cannot be lawfully abdicated unless with the consent of the two Houses of Parliament.

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and people, and, by the advice of Jesuits and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws, and having withdrawn himself out of this kingdom, has abdicated the government, and that the throne is thereby vacant.''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

The following is a list of the more important abdications of the 18th Century:
James II. of England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1688
Frederick Augustus of Poland . . . . . . . . . . . . 1704
Philip V. of Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1724
Victor Amadeus II. of Sardinia . . . . . . . . . . . 1730
Ahmed III., Sultan of Turkey . . . . . . . . . . . . 1730
Charles of Naples (on accession to throne of Spain). 1759
Stanislaus II. of Poland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1795
Charles Emanuel IV. of Sardinia . . . . . . June 4, 1802
Charles IV. of Spain . . . . . . . . . . . .Mar. 19, 1808
Joseph Bonaparte of Naples . . . . . . . . . June 6, 1808
Gustavus IV. of Sweden . . . . . . . . . . .Mar. 29, 1809
Louis Bonaparte of Holland . . . . . . . . . July 2, 1810
Napoleon I., French Emperor. . . . . . . . .April 4, 1814, and June 22, 1815
Victor Emanuel of Sardinia . . . . . . . . .Mar. 13, 1821
Charles X. of France . . . . . . . . . . . . Aug. 2, 1830
Pedro of Brazil 1 . . . . . . . . . . . .April 7, 1831
Miguel of Portgual . . . . . . . . . . . . . May 26, 1834
William I. of Holland . . . . . . . . . . . Oct. 7, 1840
Louis Philippe, king of the French . . . . .Feb. 24, 1848
Louis Charles of Bavaria . . . . . . . . . .Mar. 21, 1848
Ferdinand of Austria . . . . . . . . . . . . Dec. 2, 1848
Charles Albert of Sardinia . . . . . . . . .Mar. 23, 1849

Sources:

  • Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia