The Home of Lords yesterday debated the deserves of the Counsellors of State Invoice, which seeks so as to add Princess Anne and Prince Edward to the listing of individuals that may act when the monarch is unable to take action. As Craig Prescott explains, it is a neat resolution, however a brief one.
The beginning of a brand new reign inevitably brings change to the monarchy. One particular change is that the monarch will as soon as once more journey abroad, together with visits to a few of the 14 different nations that even have a brand new head of state.
However what concerning the monarch’s constitutional and authorized function whereas they’re away? This function contains the granting of royal assent to laws, appointment of ministers, ratification of treaties, and appointment of judges and diplomats. Many of those capabilities require the private signature of the monarch (the royal signal guide), or within the case of holding Privy Council conferences and the state opening of parliament, their private participation. This displays how the monarch, as head of state, stays a central a part of the UK’s constitutional preparations. It’s pivotal to the equipment of presidency that the royal authority is at all times accessible to grant the ultimate, formal authorized approval to big selection of selections made by authorities and parliament.
The required continuity is supplied by the Regency Act 1937, supplemented by the Regency Acts 1943 and 1953. If the monarch is abroad, or is unwell and unable to conduct their duties, Counsellors of State will be appointed to train the royal capabilities. Through the reign of Elizabeth II, Counsellors of State had been appointed over 100 occasions, facilitating the Queen’s in depth abroad journey and establishing her place on the worldwide stage.
The Regency Acts present that the Counsellors of State are the partner of the monarch and the primary 4 within the line of succession, of full age, domiciled within the UK. For the inheritor obvious or inheritor presumptive, the Regency Act 1943 allowed for then Princess Elizabeth to develop into a Counsellor of State when she grew to become 18, in any other case ‘full age’ for these functions is 21. The 1943 Act additionally allowed for any potential Counsellor of State to be excluded if they’re abroad through the interval of appointment. This provision was launched in order that Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, could be excepted whereas Governor-Common of Australia to forestall any potential battle between that function and his place as a Counsellor of State.
The Regency Act 1953 particularly made Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mom, an additional Counsellor of State for the remainder of her life. This meant that for a lot of the Queen’s reign there have been six Counsellors of State, though Prince Philip by no means acted as he invariably travelled along with her. Most lately in Could, Counsellors of State had been appointed for the state opening of parliament, Prince Charles (as he then was) learn the speech, supported by the presence of Prince William.
The issue is that beneath the Regency Acts, the Counsellors of State are the Queen Consort, Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Andrew, and Princess Beatrice. Assuming that the Queen Consort will journey alongside the King, because of this out of this pool, solely Prince William carries out public duties. The issue is that the Counsellors of State act in pairs. Given the significance of finishing up public duties to the fashionable monarchy, in precept it’s incongruous for a non-working member of the royal household who doesn’t conduct such duties to behave as a Counsellor of State.
This isn’t a brand new drawback: the Earl of Harewood (maybe higher recognized for his work as Chairman of the English Nationwide Opera and as a Governor of BBC) was one of many eligible Counsellors of State from 1944 to 1951. When Cupboard mentioned what grew to become the Regency Act 1953, the Earl of Harewood was floated as a potential addition. Lord (Gavin) Simonds, the Lord Chancellor, described him ‘as not an excellent title for this function’. Finally, the priority is that if comparatively distant figures from the road of succession are appointed, then this dangers pulling at a thread that results in questioning the necessity for royal involvement altogether. This danger turns into even stronger within the circumstances of Prince Harry and Prince Andrew given the (very totally different) circumstances by which they determined to withdraw from public life. Prince Harry stays a Counsellor of State as a result of he retains his British domicile as his ‘domicile of origin’. It’s typically tough to switch this with a ‘domicile of selection’, reminiscent of the US. An extra issue is that by retaining the lease on Frogmore Cottage in Windsor he retains a hyperlink to the UK.
The answer to the current drawback is to return to the previous. As mentioned above, the Regency Act 1953 made Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mom an additional Counsellor of State along with these beneath the Regency Act 1937. This was partly as a result of the Queen Mom misplaced this standing on the loss of life of George VI, as she was not the spouse of the monarch. The Regency Act 1953 achieved this with a deeming provision, in that it was ‘as if’ the Queen Mom was appointed alongside the others. The 1937 Act itself was not amended.
That is the strategy taken with the Counsellors of State Invoice, which particularly names Prince Edward and Princess Anne as additional Counsellors of State, ‘as if’ they’re appointed with the others beneath the 1937 Act. The impact is that, alongside Prince William, three Counsellors of State will now be accessible to behave. Presumably the royal family will coordinate their diaries to make sure that two of those three will be capable of act throughout any interval of their appointment. For instance, paperwork held within the Nationwide Archives present that in 1970 Princess Margaret was requested to return from vacation just a few days sooner than deliberate to make sure that together with the Queen Mom, two Counsellors had been within the nation.
The magnificence of this resolution is that that it doesn’t take away anybody from the pool of potential counsellors. This strategy has sparked some debate within the Home of Lords at second studying and an modification aimed on the elimination of Prince Harry and Prince Andrew was briefly debated, earlier than being withdrawn. The Commons can be prone to talk about this situation. Though there’s a principled argument for his or her elimination, it’s legally pointless. There’ll nonetheless be solely three energetic Counsellors. In essence, the identical end result might be achieved by Buckingham Palace posting an announcement on the web site stating, ‘that usually solely those that carry out public duties would act as Counsellors of State’.
It isn’t too tough to think about a possible situation the place having solely three Counsellors of State might be problematic. Think about that the King and Queen are in Australia and one of many three Counsellors of State can be abroad, however grounded by unhealthy climate. What occurs if a Counsellor falls in poor health and a few pressing enterprise arises?
Such considerations occupied the thoughts of Sir Alan (Tommy) Lascelles, who in 1951, wrote to then Prime Minister Winston Churchill suggesting that the ‘margin of security [was] dangerously slender’ when solely two counsellors had been within the nation. In observe, having three energetic counsellors is a return to early proposals for what grew to become the Regency Act 1937. In 1935, initially three Counsellors of State had been to be appointed, with later variations of the invoice growing this to 4 and including the partner of the monarch.
Clearly trendy communications reduce the danger, however the invoice maybe misses a possibility by not together with the Princess of Wales. This is able to additionally enable for the Prince and Princess of Wales – who will develop into a Counsellor of State when her husband turns into King – to behave collectively, which might be acceptable for some duties of a ceremonial nature, reminiscent of receiving ambassadors. Sometimes seeing the Prince and Princess of Wales in a extra formal, constitutional capability, would normalise the notion that at some point they may develop into King and Queen. It will additionally show that it’s the royal household as entire, somewhat than simply the monarch, which serves the monarchy as an establishment on the centre of the UK’s constitutional preparations and on the coronary heart of public life.
The long run
Assuming that the King lives till 2034, Prince George will develop into a Counsellor of State when he turns 21, changing Princess Beatrice. Princess Charlotte will substitute Prince Andrew in 2036, and Prince Louis will supplant Prince Harry in 2039. Though the longevity of the Queen Mom, Prince Philip and Elizabeth II signifies that the Royal Household take pleasure in remarkably strong well being, the difficulty of Counsellors of State must be revisited ought to Prince Edward or Princess Anne develop into unable to behave. Whereas in her nineties, the Queen Mom stopped appearing as a Counsellor of State, as youthful members of the royal household acted as a substitute, however this will not be an possibility for Princess Anne or Prince Edward for a while.
Basically, the Counsellors of State Invoice doesn’t tackle the rising structural points latent within the Regency Acts. The Acts stick with a presumption that seniority inside the Royal Household stems solely from the road of succession somewhat than their precise public function. What if Prince George, Princess Charlotte or Prince Louis observe the route that their uncle, Harry, has taken?
The youngsters of the Prince and Princess of Wales may additionally want to ease themselves into life as a ‘working royal’. Earlier than conducting public duties, they might pursue a profession within the armed forces, attend college, or acquire different expertise earlier than embarking on a number of many years of public service. Though being a Counsellor of State might be a part of Prince George’s apprenticeship for the day he turns into King, this factors to the broader want for additional flexibility.
It’s well-known that the King intends to ‘slim down’ the dimensions of the royal household. To some extent this has already occurred following the choices of Prince Harry and Prince Andrew. This has additionally gone additional: the Duke of Kent has lately retired from conducting public duties, aged 87, and inevitably so will the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, (aged 78 and 76 respectively). If there are not any plans for youthful members to take their place, the main target will more and more fall on the direct line of succession. In 20 years’ time, the ‘working royals’ might solely be King William V, Queen Catherine, Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte, maybe supported by Prince Edward and his spouse, the Countess of Wessex. By then, Princess Anne might be in her nineties.
If there aren’t sufficient working royals to offer the required variety of Counsellors of State, then others might have to be drafted in, presumably alongside a member of the Royal Household. Doable candidates embrace Supreme Court docket judges, who share with the royal household that needed character of political neutrality. Earlier than the Regency Act 1937 was handed, Counsellors of State appointed beneath the royal prerogative included non-royals. For instance, in 1911, along with Prince Arthur of Connaught, the Counsellors of State included the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor and Lord President of the Council. One other strategy could be to permit the inheritor to the throne to behave alone, at the very least for sure capabilities. There are partial precedents for this. For instance, in 1909 and 1910, the Prince of Wales, (later George V) held Privy Council conferences beneath the authority of his father, Edward VII.
The Counsellors of State Invoice follows an extended custom of regency laws designed to confront particular issues arising on the time. But, if the many years forward see the emergence of a brand new mannequin of monarchy, targeted nearly solely on the direct line of succession, then it will have to be supported by the required equipment to make sure that the monarchy continues to fulfil its core authorized and constitutional capabilities.
If you’re within the Regency Acts, and different facets of the way forward for the monarchy, the writer was a panellist at two of the Unit’s 2022 seminar occasions. In March, he was on a panel to debate The Platinum Jubilee and the Way forward for the Monarchy, and in October he was one of many audio system at our Planning for the Subsequent Coronation, and the New Reign occasion.
In regards to the writer
Dr Craig Prescott is a Lecturer in Regulation at Bangor College.
Featured picture: King Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by UK Authorities.