A friend recently asked me: Isn't a king the same thing as a dictator? Of course, the answer is no, but Americans have always been taught that kings are tyrants and that power corrupts. It shouldn't surprise anyone that this confusion exists. It is possible for any government to become dictatorial or self-serving. Most modern governments are well on their way to becoming State-ist entities without having changed any structural elements at all. By State-ist I mean a government in which the people serve the ruler(s) rather than the ruler(s) serving the people. See A New Paradigm
A king is the head of state in a country which is usually ruled or controlled by an individual who normally rules for life and typically inherits the throne by birth. Kings may be autocrats or may be ceremonial heads of state, with actual authority vested in a parliament or other body. Most monarchs, are bound by tradition and ceremonial to reign in a certain way . He has been born to, brought up for, and trained all his life in this role. In short, his life was spent for his people the moment he took his first breath. A king knows that he owes his position to no talent or gift of his own, leaving just a little room for humility.
A dictator is a ruler who assumes sole and absolute power without hereditary ascension. He has usually placed himself in the position of head of state, either in a coup d'etat or having stood for election. Every dictator is a self made man. Having clawed his way to the top, he considers himself beholding to no one, neither God nor man. His talent for acquiring power is generally unaccompanied by learning or skill in statecraft. Unbound by tradition, he may rule by his own whim.
Any state can become a dictatorship or State-ist. To discover the degree of relative State-ism present, simply ask: Do great men serve the people or do the people serve the "great" men? For example, the United States is largely a dictatorship of special interests and corporations, with the people and their representatives doing the other's bidding. In my opinion, the worst king is better than the best dictator. Most XX century dictators were popularly elected, to follow a "corrupt" king. One thinks of the turmoils of modern Germany after the forced abdication of Wilhelm II which lead to the advent of Hitler and National Socialism.