What is a Head of State? - The Art of World Building
Jun 282018

In any government, there are roles and titles. A few are most important for us as world builders.

Head of State

The “head of state” is the visible representative of a sovereign power. He often has no actual power or authority, being ceremonial, such as the Queen of England. This leader sometimes appears to have power in making appointments to the government, but this is often a formality, as the real power to accept—or reject—these appointments lies in the legislature. Other functions are also ceremonial, including the signing of bills into law. The head of state is also the highest military leader, or commander-in-chief, but as with other matters, the responsibility can be ceded to others who have control (in this case of the military).

Examples of heads of state would be kings, emperors, and presidents. Presidents are sworn in. Monarchs are coroneted. In a hereditary monarchy, the head of state provides continuity with the past. Sometimes the image of the head of state (actual portraits, statues, or images on coins) replaces national symbols like the flag, resulting in a cult of personality. Ceremonial heads of state often attend events to add excitement to them.

One power they do have is to grant knighthood, nobility, and other honors. They can also declare martial law. As world builders, we can grant them whatever powers we wish. On Earth, governments and previous heads of state have granted the position a wide variety of rights, many of them reflecting the nation’s culture. As a general rule, however, heads of state have few powers unless they’re also the head of government, which is where their real powers originate.

Monarchs generally inherit their position as head of state. On Earth, the role is typically reserved for males unless none are available. If we’d like to be more modern, we can include females. These bloodlines and the order of succession are sometimes not clear, leading to wars when two people think they’re the next king.


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