Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
INTERREGNUM is the interval between one reign and another. In an hereditary monarchy the heir to the throne is king by right after the death of his predecessor; every one knows the expression: "The king is dead, long live the king." An interregnum can occur only in states where, at the end of one dynasty, the new prince succeeds only after a certain interval.
—There is no interregnum in a republic, for the supreme magistrate is elective; he does not reign, but governs. The end of his government being known beforehand, the election of his successor can be held, and the one enters into office the moment the other departs from it. In this case, also, there is no break in the continuity.
—It is not so in an elective monarchy. The king having been elected for life, the precise date of the end of his reign is not known, and it would not be pleasant to tell a man that you believe he will soon die. In these states, then, there is an interregnum, the time of election. The evils that result from these momentary removals of the representative of supreme authority, are well known. Thus at Rome, after the death of a king, the senate nominated a substitute for the performance of the religious functions that could not be performed by other magistrates. The wars of the pretenders which, in the Roman empire, followed the death of Galba, and of Didius Julianus, were veritable interregnums. In France we may cite the interregnum from 736 to 741, from the death of Thierry II. to the accession of Childeric III Charles Martel governed France during this period, as he had governed it under Thierry II., and as his son, Pepin the Short, governed it under the succeeding monarch. There was also an interregnum of one year between the death of Charlemagne and the accession of Charles the Simple; an interregnum of five months in 1316, from the death of Louis the Quarrelsome to the birth of John I, who reigned four days. The most celebrated in history was the great interregnum of the German empire, which lasted twenty-three years, from the death of Conrad IV. (1250) to the election of Rudolph of Hapsburg (1273). Three emperors were elected at the same time during this interval: William of Holland, Richard of England, and Alphonsus of Arragon. None of them reigned. It was a period of discord and violence.
—The great improvement in political institutions has, in the different countries, either suppressed the royal power, or extended to the mode of transmitting it the increased regularity of all political movements. Thus the interregnums which were so terrible and so disastrous in ancient history, are accidents entirely foreign to the history of modern times.
JACQUES DES BOISJOSLIN.
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