ABDICATION, the act whereby a person in office renounces and gives up the same before the expiry of the time for which it is held. 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 with drawn himself out of this kingdom, has abdicated the government, and that the throne is thereby vacant.“ The Scotch Parliament pronounced a decree of forfeiture and deposition. Among the most memorable abdications of antiquity may be mentioned that of Sulla the dictator, B.C. 79, and that of the Emperor Diocletian, A.D. 305. The following is a list of the more important abdications of later times:—

Benedict IX., Pope, 1048
Stephen II. of Hungary, 1131
Albert (the Bear) of Brandenburg, 1169
Ladislaus III., Duke of Poland, 1267
John Balliol of Scotland, 1296
John Cantacuzene, Emperor of the East, 1355
John XXIII., Pope, 1415
Eric VII. of Denmark and XIII. of Sweden, 1439
Amurath II., Ottoman Emperor, 1444 and 1445
Charles V., Emperor, 1556
Christina of Sweden, 1654
John Casimir of Poland, 1668
James II. of England, 1688
Frederick Augustus of Poland, 1706
Philip V. of Spain, 1724
Victor Amadeus II. of Sardinia, 1730
Achmet III., Ottoman Emperor, 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 of France, 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
Don Miguel of Portugal, May 26, 1834
William I. of Holland, Oct. 7, 1840
Louis Philippe of France, Feb. 24, 1848
Louis Charles of Bavaria, Mar. 21, 1848
Ferdinand of Austria, Dec. 2, 1848
Charles Albert of Sardinia, Mar. 23, 1849
Leopold II. of Tuscany, July 21, 1859
Isabella II. of Spain, June 25, 1870
Amadeus I. of Spain, Feb. 11, 1873

  1. Pedro had succeeded to the throne of Portugal in 1826, but abdicated it at once in favour of his daughter.