In this alternate timeline, the Canadian Maritimes as well as Ontario also join the rebelling colonies, creating the Seventeen Colonies.

During the American revolution, it was a pretty important that the people had control over who led them, but is it possible for them to, instead of a president, have a king lead them? Perhaps by having a prime minister like modern Canada and England? What is the smallest historical difference I can make to history to make the Seventeen colonies into a monarchy?

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    $\begingroup$ Have Washington say yes rather than no... Kingship was offered to him and he declined and then set the 2 term tradition too $\endgroup$
    – Durakken
    Oct 8, 2016 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ My thought Exactly, @Durakken. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Oct 8, 2016 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ Why would canada join in? I recall a|youtube video explaining why they didn’t. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Oct 8, 2016 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ It's actually a myth that the kingship was ever offered to Washington. But it's plausible enough, and a fairly small change, so it could work for your world. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2016 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ There I was going to suggest they call the new leader "king" instead of "president". To the delight of STAR WARS fans everywhere by establishing an electable monarch. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Oct 9, 2016 at 8:15

6 Answers 6


The office of President was completely invented by the Founders. There was no real precedent for a president (ho HO!) in any previous culture; Rome had two consuls, Athens had either a supreme assembly, or an individual who tyrannically consolidated power.

The most likely way to establish a monarchy would have been for the Convention to decide that the president's term was unlimited. A president for life, effectively an elected monarch. This was not unprecedented, at the time of the revolution Stanislaw II was the elected monarch of Poland. He was from a prominent noble family and elected king in 1764 at age 32. Poland had had a succession of elected kings over the last ~300 years, with monarchs coming from major families in Poland and Germany as well as relatives of the Swedish, Hungarian, and French kings.

To make this politically feasible, the elected King would have to meet the requirements of the constitution for a president (35 years old, natural born citizen) and would have the same powers (veto, commander-in-chief, appoint members of the cabinet and judiciary with consent of Senate, sign foreign treaties and declare war with the consent of the Senate). Since the cabinet would do most of the day to day business, which is of course beneath the dignity of the king, the king could appoint a prime minster, who would replace the vice president and be in charge of the cabinet. The Secretary of State, Defense, Treasury, Attorney General, etc would then work for the Prime minister, who is appointed by the King.

Washington would have (obviously) been the first king. On his death in 1799, there would be an election with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as leading candidates. Since Jefferson won this election in real life in 1800, he would have been king until his death in 1826. In as much as John Adams' son was elected president in 1824, he would be a good bet to be the third king from 1826-1848. After that you have to figure it out (Zachary Taylor? Millard Filmore? Henry Clay? Winfield Scott? Alternate history is fun!)

  • $\begingroup$ Alternate history is fun! $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Oct 10, 2016 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ There was an English precedent when Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector rather then king in the republican Commonwealth government after the English Civil War. He wasn’t directly elected, but he was basically a President with a different name for the job. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Dec 17, 2020 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Mike Scott: No, he was basically a king with a different name for the job. Perhaps "President for Life", as with many dictators in recent years, since calling yourself king or emperor tends to be unpopular. But see Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Empire: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_African_Empire $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 17, 2020 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Cromwell wasn’t a king, because he didn’t inherit the job. Admittedly his son did. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Dec 17, 2020 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Mike Scott: Neither did William the Conqueror inherit the job. Nor (from a quick scan through the Wikipedia list of English kings) did Stephen, Henry IV, Edward VI, Henry VI, Henry VII, Jane, Mary I, Mary II, or William III. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 18, 2020 at 17:31

There are two types of monarchy. The absolute type and the constitutional type. In modern days, an absolute monarchy would be a disguised dictatorship, so I will assume the question is about a constitutional monarchy.

Perhaps you could look to Belgium for a historical analogue. In 1830 Belgium became independent from the Netherlands. A constitutional convention was held that decided to create a new monarchy. Their first choice of King (the second son of the King of France) rejected the offer, so a German prince, Leopold of Saxe-Gotha and Coburg, was made King, and his family continues to rule Belgium.

The smallest change you could make to give America a king would be at the constitutional convention in 1787. Perhaps something had "gone wrong" between the end of the revolutionary war and the convention. For example, if there was a corruption scandal affecting Washington and his associates. And this shut those who most wanted a republic (Jefferson, Madison etc) out of the convention.

Perhaps Edward, one of the sons of George III, had sided with the rebels, and had become a popular General. Or Ferdinand of the Two Sicilies (Son of the king of Spain) could take that role. Or even a French royal, Charles, from French Canada, leading an army of Quebecois. A popular General, from an established royal house. With republicans in disgrace, a convention led by Hamilton changes the articles of union to form a monarchy with Edward, Ferdinand or Charles as King or Emperor, advised by a senate of men appointed for life from each state, and a parliament elected by landowning men.

God Bless Imperial America.

  • $\begingroup$ Edward would have to be an amazingly precocious general, seeing as he was 8 years old when the declaration was signed. $\endgroup$ Oct 8, 2016 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Ok how about Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn. He seems to have been the type to join a revolution just to annoy his elder brother. The Belgian analogy calls for a existing member of a royal household to be made King. You would just have to make this believable. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Oct 8, 2016 at 19:41

It seems artificial to have one of the founding fathers become King. This was an era when social classes were rigid, and it was a tremendous feat to join even the low-ranking nobility. If Washington or somebody else became King, they likely would not be seen as real monarchs by Europeans. Therefore, I think it's more realistic to have someone from an existing royal family, preferably the British Royal Family, to become the new king of America.

Scenario 1: A member of the British Royal Family joins the revolution, lending legitimacy to the American cause in exchange for position as constitutional monarch in the new colonial government. Scenario 2: The colonists kidnap a member of the British Royal Family(while trying to make it seem voluntary, not a kidnapping), in order to lend legitimacy to their cause. The new "king" can deliver canned speeches, and serve as an important figurehead and source of central leadership for the founding fathers. Of course, the founding fathers are still in charge.

  • $\begingroup$ Scenario 3: Offer the crown to a member of another royal family, probably a little brother with virtually no chance of inheriting his father kingdom. One century later, many of the new countries in the Balkans chose their kings that way (often from German Royal Families). Way more simpler than Scenario 2, that sounds like a the plot of bad movie... +1 anyway for the first paragraph. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Oct 9, 2016 at 0:50
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    $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 It would be a great movie. George IV struts along the streets of Boston, flanked by his royal guard. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin casually approach from behind. Jefferson drives a carriage nearby. Suddenly Washington and Franklin open their vests, each pull out 2 muskets and pepper the guards with holes. Washington does a spin move. Jefferson picks up the young prince like a sack of potatoes, they all get in the getaway carriage and ride off into the sunset at a snail's pace. $\endgroup$ Oct 9, 2016 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Salmoncrusher Already seen that movie. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Oct 10, 2016 at 15:31

There is a (false) story that Washington was offered the title of 'King' - its not a big stretch to imagine a world where he was both offed the job and accepted it.

England had executed their king a little over 100 years before the revolution and then after a nasty few years under the 'Lord Protector' they had decided to re-instate a king, with reduced powers on the grounds that it was the lesser of all evils - that could have played into the decision of the Americans in the constitutional convention....


I know you've asked for the smallest change possible; and others have answered that well, but I'd like to volunteer something crazy. This is justified, I think, by the fact that at the time the colonists were not at all sympathetic to any vestiges of legacy feudalism, and so it'd take more than a hand waving myth about Washington being offered crown, or life presidency, to make the USA remain a monarchy in any real sense of the word.

So let's go back in time to the French and Indian War, and say that France wins by spending an eye watering amount of money, accruing an even more absurd debt and pushing themselves closer to revolution at home.

But in the colonies, New France gains considerable territory, and importantly imposes absolute French monarchist culture upon the annexed English colonies by bludgeoning them with carrot and stick. Perhaps then the American revolution is a complete failure as it is suppressed with extreme violence. The old world revolution happens before long, and as a result much of the French aristocracy flee to New France, which turns the colony into a bastion of monarchism isolated from the events in Europe (this happened when Brazil became the Empire of Brazil: in 1808 Portugal's prince regent fled Napoleon's invasion). Given their experience of the loss of France to revolutionary forces, New France is more experienced in how to maintain power.

Furthermore, since New France is monarchist it gains sympathy from the counter-revolutionary powers come the Napoleonic Wars, who are keen to promote the old ways and grant legitimacy to those like themselves. Britain for one becomes friendly with New France given their ideological similarities.


I have considered alternate timelines in which the thirteen colonies join the Holy Roman Empire as sort of equivalents of the free imperial cities. And thus after the fall of the empire in 1806 the colonies as remaining states of the empire might get together to elect a new Holy Roman Emperor over the thirteen colonies.


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