In a monarchy, a regent (from Latin regens 'ruling, governing') is a person appointed to govern a state pro tempore (Latin for 'for the time being') because the monarch is a minor, absent, incapacitated or unable to discharge the powers and duties of the monarchy, or the throne is vacant and the new monarch has not yet been determined. One variation is in the Monarchy of Liechtenstein, where a competent monarch may choose to assign regency to their of-age heir, handing over the majority of their responsibilities to prepare the heir for future succession. The rule of a regent or regents is called a regency. A regent or regency council may be formed ad hoc or in accordance with a constitutional rule. Regent is sometimes a formal title granted to a monarch's most trusted advisor or personal assistant. If the regent is holding their position due to their position in the line of succession, the compound term prince regent is often used; if the regent of a minor is their mother, and she is wife or widow of the king, she would be referred to as queen regent.
If the formally appointed regent is unavailable or cannot serve on a temporary basis, a regent ad interim may be appointed to fill the gap.
In a monarchy, a regent usually governs due to one of these reasons, but may also be elected to rule during the interregnum when the royal line has died out. This was the case in the Kingdom of Finland and the Kingdom of Hungary, where the royal line was considered extinct in the aftermath of World War I. In Iceland, the regent represented the King of Denmark as sovereign of Iceland until the country became a republic in 1944. In the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795), kings were elective, which often led to a fairly long interregnum. In the interim, it was the Roman Catholic primate (the archbishop of Gniezno) who served as the regent, termed the interrex (Latin: ruler 'between kings' as in ancient Rome). In the small republic of San Marino, the two Captains Regent, or Capitani Reggenti, are elected semi-annually (they serve a six-month term) as joint heads of state.
Famous regency periods include that of the Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, giving rise to many terms such as Regency era and Regency architecture. Strictly this period lasted from 1811 to 1820, when his father George III was insane, though when used as a period label it generally covers a wider period. Philippe II, Duke of Orléans was Regent of France from the death of Louis XIV in 1715 until Louis XV came of age in 1723; this is also used as a period label for many aspects of French history, as Régence in French, again tending to cover a rather wider period than the actual regency. For a period of a month and a half, the Second French Empire was a regency. The Emperor departed with his army, giving his political powers to his wife who essentially carried out all his roles and even sent him orders. He would never be able to return to France, and the empire ended as a regency two days after his defeat and imprisonment at the Battle of Sedan. The equivalent Greek term is epitropos (επίτροπος), meaning overseer.
As of 2022,[update] Liechtenstein (under Alois, Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein) is the only country with an active regency. In 2016, at the age of 96, Prem Tinsulanonda became the oldest regent of any nation, when he became the regent for Rama X of Thailand, who chose not to ascend the throne until the mourning period for his father ended. Previously this record was held by Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria, who was 91 at the end of his regency.
The term regent may refer to positions lower than the ruler of a country. The term may be used in the governance of organisations, typically as an equivalent of "director", and held by all members of a governing board rather than just the equivalent of the chief executive.
In the Society of Jesus, a regent is an individual training to be a Jesuit and who has completed his novitiate and philosophy studies but has not yet progressed to theology studies. A regent in the Jesuits is often assigned to teach in a school or some other academic institution.
Some university managers in North America are called regents, and a management board for a college or university may be titled the "Board of Regents". In New York State, all activities related to public and private education (P-12 and postsecondary) and professional licensure are administered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, the appointed members of which are called regents.
In the Dutch Republic, the members of the ruling class, not formally hereditary but forming a de facto patrician class, were informally known collectively as regenten (the Dutch plural for regent) because they typically held positions as "regent" on the boards of town councils, as well as charitable and civic institutions. The regents group portrait, regentenstuk or regentessenstuk for female boards in Dutch, literally "regents' piece", is a group portrait of the board of trustees, called regents or regentesses, of a charitable organization or guild. This type of group portrait was popular in Dutch Golden Age painting during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Again in Belgium and France (régent in French, or in Dutch), "regent" is the official title of a teacher in a lower secondary school (junior high school), who does not require a college degree but is trained in a specialized école normale (normal school).
In the Dutch East Indies, a regent was a native prince allowed to rule de facto colonized 'state' as a regentschap. Consequently, in the successor state of Indonesia, the term regent is used in English to mean a bupati, the head of a kabupaten (second level local government).
In Malaysia, a regent or "pemangku raja" in Malay is the interim ruler of a Malay state if the king is elected as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or is unable to assume the role as head of state. For example, the regent of Pahang, Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah held the post after his father, Abdullah of Pahang was elected as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, in 2019.
In the Philippines – specifically, the University of Santo Tomas – the Father Regent, who must be a Dominican priest and is often also a teacher, serves as the institution's spiritual head. They also form the Council of Regents that serves as the highest administrative council of the university.
Elsewhere, in Lagos, Nigeria, the Erelu Kuti rules the kingdom as regent whenever there isn't an Oba of Lagos. Much like in Eswatini, succession to the throne is not immediate, and the Erelu Kuti (a functionary of high rank in her own right) is charged with serving as its custodian until a replacement to the previous Oba is crowned. Regency is commonly practiced in Southwestern states, predominantly Ondo and Ekiti.
- Harper, Douglas. "regency". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2014-08-18. "early 15c., "government by regents," from Medieval Latin regentia, from Latin regens (see regent). Notable instances were: France 1715–1723 (under Philip, Duke of Orleans), Britain 1811–1820 (under George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent)..."
- Rees, Abraham (1819). The cyclopaedia; or, Universal dictionary of arts, sciences, and literature. Vol. 29. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown. REGENT.
- Johnson, Samuel (1828). A Dictionary of the English Language ... Abstracted from the folio edition of the author ... Fourteenth edition, corrected, etc. London: A & H Spottiswoode. REGENT. Archived from the original on 2021-07-23. Retrieved 2020-09-26.
- "Luxarazzi 101: Regency and Accession in Liechtenstein". www.luxarazzi.com. 2013-11-13. Archived from the original on 2022-10-17. Retrieved 2022-10-16.