What part does the Queen/king play in the British Constitution?

(1) Introduction:

During dark ages of 5th and 6th centuries, there were small kingdoms in Great Britain and these kingdoms were to face invaders. The concept of single ruler developed in 7th and 8th centuries. Since then, concept of king/queen started developing within borders of Great Britain.

With the passage of time, the concept was evolved that king/queen possessed absolute powers and was free to govern according his/her will. However, a time came when powers of king/queen were delegated to other authorities like parliament. In this way, king/queen was deprived of his/her absolute powers. It was here that term Crown was originated.

(2) Difference between British King/Queen & Crown:

These two terms King/Queen and Crown are usually intermixed with each other. But the reality is that these terms are different from each other. Followings are the main differences between these two terms:

  1. Legal & temporary status
  2. Institution & individual
  3. Demise
  4. King/Queen a part of Crown

 

1.Legal & Temporary Status:

Crown is considered as a legal person. Contrary to this King/Queen is just a temporary human occupant.

2. Institution & Individual

Crown is an institution, but King/Queen is an individual. No-doubt King/Queen holds powers of this institution, but these powers are now used by Parliament and Cabinet in Great Britain.

3. Demise:

A strong concept is that a King/Queen can demise, but a Crown cannot die. Here explanation is that a King/Queen can be replaced, but a Crown cannot be replaced. In other words, Crown is eternal.

4. King/Queen a Part of Crown

Another difference is that King/Queen is a part of Crown, but Crown is not part of King/Queen.

 

(3) Constitutional Powers of British King/Queen or Crown:

After a lengthy period of evolution, Great Britain has succeeded in converting its absolute monarchy into constitutional monarchy. Under constitutional monarchy, Great Britain has form of government in which its King/Queen acts as Head of State King/Queen some constitutional powers.

Followings are some constitutional powers of British King/Queen.

  1. Various appointments
  2. Power To receive & welcome representatives & heads of other states
  3. British King/Queen & Parliament
  4. British King/Queen & Prime Minister
  5. British King/Queen & cabinet
  6. British King/Queen & legislation
  7. British King/Queen & judicial decisions or punishments
  8. British King/Queen & foreign affairs
  9. British King/Queen & war affairs
  10. British King/Queen & states under British control.

 

 (1) Various Appointments:

British King/Queen can make the following appointments:

a) Civil services

b) Appointment of judges of Apex Courts

c)Appointment of diplomats & ambassadors

d) Appointment of representatives in UNO & other organizations

e) Appointment of chiefs of army, naval & air forces

f) Appointment of Archbishops & other officials of Canter Bury & Mark

 (a) Civil Services:

Appointments are made against civil services after approval of British Prime Minister’s list for appointment of civil services by British King/Queen. Even British King/Queen has power to dismiss any civil servant except judges.

(b) Appointment of Judges Of Apex Courts:

British King/Queen appoints judges of Apex Courts.

(c)Appointment of Diplomats & Ambassadors:

British King/Queen appoints diplomats and ambassadors to other states.

(d) Appointment of Representatives in UNO & Other Organization

 British King/Queen appoints representatives in UNO and other organizations.

(e) Appointment of Chiefs of Army, Naval & Air Forces.

British King/Queen possesses power to appoint chiefs of army, naval and air forces.

(f) Appointment of Archbishops & Other Officials of Canter Bury & Mark:

It is British King/Queen, who appoints Archbishops and other officials of Canter Bury and Mark.

 

 (ii) Power To Receive & Welcome Representatives & Heads Of Other States:

It is British King/Queen, who receives and welcomes representatives and heads of other states.

 

(iii) British King/Queen & Parliament:

Regarding British Parliament, British King/Queen has following powers:

a. Address To Ceremonial Opening Of Parliament:

b. Summoning & Postponing Of Sessions Of Parliament:

c. Dissolution Of Parliament:

 

a. Address To Ceremonial Opening Of Parliament:

British King/Queen opens Parliament in person, and addresses both Houses in his/her Speech. Both houses of Parliament cannot proceed until King/Queen’s Speech is read.

b. Summoning & Postponing Of Sessions Of Parliament:

British King/Queen has power to summon and postpone session of Parliament.

c. Dissolution Of Parliament:

British King/Queen possesses power to dissolve Parliament and holds elections. However, this power regarding dissolution of Parliament has not been used for a long period.. Usually, British King/Queen dissolves the Parliament on advice of Prime Minister for purposes of holding elections.

 

(iv) British King/Queen & Prime Minister:

Regarding Prime Minister, British King/Queen possesses following powers:

a. Appointment of Prime Minister

b. Dissolution of House of Commons

c. Advice to Prime Minister

 

a. Appointment Of Prime Minister:

It is power of British King/Queen to appoint every new Prime Minister. However, this power can be used in either of following situations.

(a-1) Situation, where a party gains majority

(a-2) Situation, where no party gains

  

(a-1) Situation, Where A Party Gains Majority:

Usually that leader whose party gains majority in elections of House of Commons is made Prime Minister. British King/Queen calls such leader, invites him/her to make ministry and verifies him as Prime Minister.

(a-2) Situation, Where No party Gains Majority

If no party gains majority in elections of House of Commons, British King/Queen can use this power for appointment of Prime Minister according to his/her will.

b. Dissolution Of House Of Commons:

If Prime Minister or his/her cabinet looses confidence of Parliament, British King/Queen can dissolve House of Commons on advice of Prime Minister.

 c. Advice To Prime Minister:

British King/Queen has power to give advice to Prime Minister. Even the King/Queen can warn or correct Prime Minister when some act of Prime Minister is seemed to damage the state.

 

 (v) British King/Queen & Cabinet:

 As far as cabinet is concerned, British King/Queen possesses the following powers:

  (a)  Appointment of ministers

 (b)  Dismissal of ministers

 

(a) Appointment Of Ministers:

British King/Queen possesses power to appoint ministers of cabinet.

(b)Dismissal Of Ministers:

British King/Queen has power to dismiss ministers of cabinet.

 

vi) British King/Queen & Legislation:

Royal assent of British King/Queen is necessary to convert Bill of Parliament into law. Without royal assent, a Bill cannot become a law.

(vii) British King/Queen & Judicial Decisions Or Punishments:

All judicial decisions are announced through name of British King/Queen. British King/Queen possesses power to increase or lessen or end completely any punishment.

(viii) British King/Queen & Foreign Affairs:

All relations are developed in the name of British King/Queen at international level. It means that British King/Queen can make commitments for the country on an international stage.

(ix) British King/Queen & War Affairs:

British King/Queen is chief of British Armed Forces. The king/Queen can declare war and make peace treaty even without verification of Parliament.

(x) British King/Queen & States Under British Control:

Regarding states under British control, British King/Queen can make laws.

 

(4) Constitutional Role Or Character Of British King or Queen:

According to un codified Constitution of Great Britain, King/Queen is Head of State. In theory, British King/Queen possesses great constitutional powers. However, these powers are very little as far as practice is concerned. The reason is that British King/Queen though possesses some prominent constitutional powers, yet these powers have not been exercised for a long period. In this way, constitutional role or character of British King/Queen is very limited. Following reasons can be described for such limited constitutional role or character:

(i)  Legislative power

(ii)  Executive power

(iii)  Judicial power

(iv)  Royal Prerogative

(v)  Church of England

 

  • Legislative Power:

Legislative power is exercised by British King/Queen only by and with advice and consent of Parliament.

  • Executive Power:

Executive power is exercised by British King/Queen only through Prime Minister and cabinet.

  • Judicial Power:

Judiciary has become independent through statute and conventions. Therefore, real judicial power is vested into judiciary and not into British King/Queen.

  • Royal Prerogative

Although some of the government’s executive authority, which is known as Royal Prerogative, is theoretically vested in British King/Queen, yet the King/Queen has to exercise such prerogative only on the advice of ministers due to constraints of convention and precedent.

  • Church Of England:

No-doubt British King/Queen is head of Church of England, but Church of England has its own legislative, judicial and executive structures.

 

 (5) The Queen/King reigns but does not rule in England

According un codified constitution of Great Britain. King/Queen is Head of State. In theory, British King/Queen possesses great constitutional powers. However, these powers are very little as far as practice is concerned. The reason is that British King/Queen though possesses some prominent constitutional powers, yet these powers have not been exercised directly by British King/Queen for a long period. In this way, constitutional role or character of British King/Queen is very limited. For it is opined that King/Queen reigns but does not rule in England. Following reasons can be described for explanation of this opinion.

  1. Legislative power
  2. Executive Power:
  3. Judicial power
  4. Royal Prerogative
  5. Church of England

 

Legislative Power:

Legislative power is exercised by British King/Queen only by and with advice and consent of Parliament.

Executive Power:

Executive power is exercised by British King/Queen only through Prime Minister and cabinet.

Judicial Power:

Judiciary has become independent through statute and conventions. Therefore, real judicial power is vested into judiciary and not into British King/Queen.

Royal Prerogative

Although some of the government’s executive authority, which is known as Royal Prerogative, is theoretically vested in British King/Queen, yet the King/Queen has to exercise such prerogative only on the advice of ministers due to constraints of convention and precedent.

Church Of England:

No-doubt British King/Queen is head of Church of England, but Church of England has its own legislative, judicial and executive structures.

 

(6) “The King Can Do No Wrong”/Privilizes of Crown:

Shortly speaking, the King can do no wrong means that there can be no process of law against him. The reason is that power of King is not to do any injury, it is created for the benefit of the people, and, therefore, cannot cause injury to them. It means that the king is not to cause some wrong to anyone. And when no wrong can be committed by king, then no process of law can be initiated against the king. Due to this concept, some immunities have been given to the king.

Some of them are followings:

(i)  Immunity from civil proceedings

(ii)  Immunity from criminal proceedings

(iii)  Other immunities

 

(i)  Immunity From Civil Proceedings:

Historically, the general rule in Great Britain was that the King/Queen was not proceeded against in civil cases. However, following means could be adopted to initiate civil proceedings against the King/Queen.

(a)  Petition of rights

(b)  Suits against Attorney-General

(c)  Actions against ministers or government departments.

(a)   Petition Of Right:

British King/Queen could be proceeded against in civil cases through petition of right, but royal permission was necessary for it.

(b)  Suits Against Attorney-General:

 British King/Queen could be proceeded against in civil cases by suits against Attorney-General.

(c)  Actions Against Ministers Or Government Departments:

British King/Queen could be proceeded against in civil cases by actions against ministers or government departments where an Act of Parliament had specifically provided that immunity had been waived.

Now the position has been changed by the Crown Proceedings Act 1947: Proceedings of tort and contract can be brought against the King/Queen.

 

(ii) Immunity From Criminal Proceedings:

Contrary to civil proceedings, criminal proceedings cannot be brought against the King/Queen. However, criminal can be brought against the King/Queen if permission has been acquired by statute.

 

(iii) Other Immunities:

Followings are those other immunities, which are available to British King/Queen:

 

(a)  Immunity from arrest

(b)  Immunity to members of royal household

(c)  No arrest in presence of King/Queen

(d)  Non arrest within borders of a royal palace (۵)

(e)  No judicial process in a royal palace

 

(a) Immunity From Arrest:

British King/Queen is exempted from arrest in all cases.

(b)  Immunity To Members Of Royal Household:

Members of royal household are also exempted from arres in civil proceedings.

(c) No Arrest In Presence Of King/Queen:

No arrest can be made in British King/Queen’s presence.

 (d) No Arrest Within Borders Of A Royal Palace:

No arrest can be made within borders of a royal palace.

(e) No Judicial Process In A Royal Palace:

When a royal palace is used as a royal residence, judicial process cannot be executed within that palace.

 

(7) Conclusion:

To conclude, it can be stated that British Monarchy has passed through a lengthy period of evolution. During this period, the monarchy has lost its authoritative powers due to democratic development, but has gained dignity and honor due to its own respect for democracy.

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