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AstroChuck's avatar

What powers does the British Monarchy hold?

Asked by AstroChuck (37438points) May 17th, 2008 from iPhone

I’d always thought that, as the UK is a constitutional monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II was just a figurehead with no power. A couple of weeks ago I was told by a co-worker that the queen has the power to declare war. Is this true? Any UK flutherers (flutherites, jellies?) out there who might know?

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15 Answers

marinelife's avatar

From the Centre for Citizenship

Members of Parliament are required to swear an oath of loyalty to the queen, not to the people who elected them and not to a constitution. Those who have refused have been barred from taking their seats in the legislature. Bishops of the Church of England also swear their allegiance to the monarch, rather than to their god or their church. Police officers and soldiers likewise swear loyalty to the Queen, not to the government or their country.

The monarch has the power to:

Choose the Prime Minister.
Dismiss ministers and governments.
Dissolve Parliament.
Refuse to agree to legislation passed by Parliament.
Dismiss the governments of other countries of which she is monarch.
Pardon convicted criminals.
Declare a state of emergency.
Issue proclamations.
Command the army and raise a personal militia.

The monarch is supposed to be impartial and to do as the government wishes. Walter Bagehot, the nineteenth century economist and author of the influential text on Britain’s unwritten constitution, The English Constitution, declared that the functions of the monarch were to be consulted, to encourage and to warn the government.

However, the access to information about government business that is denied to the average citizen, and a continuity in office while the elected representatives of the people come and go, certainly provide the potential for a very unfair influence.

The monarch is able to read a wide range of confidential government documents that are not in the public domain until many years later. These include intelligence service reports that are not shown to other ministers of the government. She or he has frequent visits from the Prime Minister and is consulted on major policy changes and other matters by request.

The right the monarch has to declare a state of emergency when there is civil disorder or she believes that the government is acting unconstitutionally is potentially a very powerful one. Through the un-elected privy council she could issue proclamations which would not be subject to parliamentary approval and which would be enforced by the police and magistrates.

AstroChuck's avatar

Wow. I guess she is much more powerful than I’d believed. Thanks.

wildflower's avatar

Although possible, it’s highly improbable that the Queen exercises those powers.

I believe it’s roughly the same in all European monarchies.

Tennis5tar's avatar

Really though, she just rubber-stamps things. If she were to go against protocol or the view of the general public there are enough people that are anti-monarchy, we would get rid of it all together… at least I hope so anyway.

kevbo's avatar

The monarch is also the only person in the UK who is legally allowed to drive without a license.

marinelife's avatar

@kevbo: A la “It’s my country, I’ll drive if I want to.”

kevbo's avatar

You would drive, too, if it happened to you!

donovan5678910's avatar

The British don’t suck even now that John Adams stood up for the British captin is because he wasn’t the who said to “fire if you dare” it people that live in the 13 colines who said“fire if you dare” not the British captin so John Adams and the British captin are friends but the war still went on but it was not led by John Adams or the british captin it was led by same other leaders.so you shouldn’t say the British captin way back then was mean to our 13 colines only because John Adams stood up for him but not the soilders that fire and if you don’t belive me go to on demand then go HBS series and look for John Adams and wacth the movie to see what really happend way bcak then in the war but remeber the British captin was not a mean captin he was a nice one because he didn’t say“fire if you dare” it people from the 13 colines because they dare them to so remeber John Adams was “friends” not enmies with the British captin remeber I said “friends”.And that the stroy ofthe British and John Adams.

marinelife's avatar

Movies and TV shows definitely do not show “what really happened way back then.”

AstroChuck's avatar

@donovan5678910— I don’t think I could’ve said it any better.

eambos's avatar

I’m sorry donovan, but was that English?
Im having some trouble comprehending what your comment means and how it relates.

Back on topic…
I didn’t realize the monarch of England still had that much power. I really thought it was just a figurehead position

marinelife's avatar

@Eambos I agree. I found that surprising. I would love to hear from our British Flutherite brethren on whether it’s known by every British school kid and whether they are Ok with it.

wildflower's avatar

Is donovan talking about the Boston Massacre? Seriously, had no idea if that was even meant to be a coherent statement, but tried googling “British Captain (I took some liberties with the spelling) John Adams” and found a few sites connected to the Boston Massacre…....
I’m not British – or in the UK, but I’m gonna make a bold statement here and claim that the Boston Massacre is not the first thing that comes to mind when Brits think of the powers their Queen has…....

Tennis5tar's avatar

@ Marina: I am British. They don’t teach us anything about the workings of government or the monarchy in schools… I can think of many reasons why, since I started studying British Politics. Before I stated studying this course, I was only aware of the Queen’s duties in signing in the Prime Minister.

It all seems a bit pointless to have a King/Queen now, with modern-day democracy. But we are British and therefore we stand by tradition, even if there is no point to it!

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