Which figureheads have taken power?
December 29, 2013 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Just what the title says. Besides the Meiji restoration, when did a figurehead manage to overthrow / take over from whoever the de facto rulers were? Bonus points for figurehead positions that had actually held power in the past and lost it.
posted by PMdixon to Law & Government (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Mahmud II forced the disbandment of the Janissaries, but he may not have been entirely a figurehead before that.
posted by dilettante at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2013

One could argue that Juan Carlos took power by not taking power.
posted by irrelephant at 3:58 PM on December 29, 2013

Hitler was recruited as a figurehead by Von Papen.

In regards to the Meiji Restoration, the emperor didn't really overthrow the Shogunate and take over. Instead, it was more of a movement led by a clique or oligarchy, the 藩閥 / hambatsu.

Without their support and their direction, the Meiji Emperor would never have had any of the authority he did enjoy.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:05 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Augusto Pinochet.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:04 PM on December 29, 2013

Richard II of England was a boy-king, with three designated rulers while he was in his minority. Eventually, he wrested much power from them; their continued interference in politics and his rule led to their execution for treason (not by Richard, but by the Lords Apellant - essentially the old guard/upper management just below the king).

His power was short-lived; with such unstable leadership the Crown was soon taken by Henry Bolingbroke (King Henry IV). (The official party line of the time was that Richard voluntarily abdicated; a claim made less credible when he accidentally fell on several sharp instruments while in prison.)
posted by IAmBroom at 5:05 PM on December 29, 2013

The Byzantine Emperor Constantine VI was a figurehead while his mother, the Empress Irene ruled as regent. His mother had no intention of giving up her power until he forcibly took it with the backing of the army.

That only lasted about 5 years until his mother took sole power as Empress and blinded and exiled him to an island with the mistress he had recently married.
posted by deanc at 5:11 PM on December 29, 2013

Ooh, deanc, you reminded me! Edward II (the nancy-boy object of ridicule in Mel Gibson's Braveheart) had a wife, but clearly this match was loveless. She took a lover, deposed and killed the king, and siezed power as regent on behalf of her son, Eddie III.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:18 PM on December 29, 2013

Oh, yeah, I forgot: Peter the Great took power from his sister Sophia, who was regent while he was young.
posted by dilettante at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

North Korea's current leader Kim Jong-un was at first (2011) regarded by some analysts as just a figurehead, with real power residing in his uncle, Jang Song-Taek. (Another source.) But less than three years later, Uncle Jang has been executed and Kim Jong-un is regarded as firmly in charge.
posted by beagle at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wrote a piece about how Hirohito, certainly a figurehead in the Japanese tradition, at least briefly exercised real authority in order to bring an end to World War II.
posted by beagle at 11:44 AM on December 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

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