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  #1  
Old 01-02-2005, 09:37 AM
Merman Merman is offline
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When did the King of Britain lose all his power?

I've just been reading up on history of Britain in the 19th century, and I'm afraid they left something out. It seems, sometime between 1800 and 1830 the Prime Minister changed from being chosen by the King to being chosen by Parliament. How did this happen?

Also, once this happened, how close was the British constitution to what it is now?
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  #2  
Old 01-02-2005, 10:36 AM
Smapti Smapti is offline
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Someone better versed in British history than I will come along shortly to explain this in depth, but the simple answer is that the shift of power from the king to Parliament was slow and gradual. The Glorious Revolution and the Act of Succession at the beginning of the 18th century, and to a lesser extent the English Civil War 60 years earlier, established Parliament's right to pick the successor to the throne and disqualify potential heirs for various reasons, which was a major step away from absolutism, and by the time of Victoria 100 years later the transition was mostly complete - Victoria needed Disraeli's consent before she could style herself "Empress of India". As to your second question, the main difference between British government in the 1850s and today is that the House of Lords had much more power at that time than now - they lost their veto power in 1911, many hereditary peers were removed in 1998, and there is currently talk of abolishing the House altogether and establishing a Supreme Court to fulfill the functions currently performed by the Law Lords.

A minor point - technically speaking, the Prime Minister is still appointed by the Queen without confirmation from Parliament, although in practice her appointee is always the leader of the majority party in the Commons.

-Smapti, Yank and amateur Anglophile.
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Old 01-02-2005, 10:42 AM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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I think there might have been an inkling that kings could be had when Charles I was executed in 16 fortysomething.
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Old 01-02-2005, 12:16 PM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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There's always been a tension between leaders having popular support and leaders having the endorsement of the monarch. The result of the Glorious Revolution (1688-89) was that Parliament always has the last word, though they were gracious, up to a point, in working with the monarch, after they got one they could work with.

In point of fact, the Queen's Ministers are always theoretically named by her. However, she names all but the Prime Minister on the advice of the P.M. she has called, and she selects him (or her) from a list of those who can command a majority in the House of Commons -- which will obviously normally have only one name on it. This custom evolved under the Hanovers, who didn't concern themselves overly much with English politics (and yes, I meant "English" in that particular context, though they weren't overly interested in Scotch, Welsh, or Irish politics either), and effectively became constitutional law in 1839-40 when Victoria was convinced that she needed to replace Melbourne, on whom she'd relied since taking the throne, with Earl Grey, whose party had won the Commons majority, in order to govern effectively through them.

As pointed out in a couple of histories of modern royalty, however, Elizabeth II personally chose Harold Macmillan in 1957 and Earl Home in 1963, in each case "taking soundings" of Conservative Party leaders to assure herself that they would be acceptable, but with no chosen party leader in place, it was she who made the choice.
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Old 01-02-2005, 01:35 PM
Roches Roches is offline
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A related question: If the Crown symbolizes the law, when did the King become bound to make legal decisions according to common law and written law? That is, was there a time when the King could make legal decisions arbitrarily, and, if so, when did this time end? Also, if the King could make arbitrary legal decisions, did his decisions become binding in the future?
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Old 01-02-2005, 02:44 PM
Rex Fenestrarum Rex Fenestrarum is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp
As pointed out in a couple of histories of modern royalty, however, Elizabeth II personally chose Harold Macmillan in 1957 and Earl Home in 1963, in each case "taking soundings" of Conservative Party leaders to assure herself that they would be acceptable, but with no chosen party leader in place, it was she who made the choice.
Well, you beat me to it, but I just wanted to clarify that in both those instances, there was no "clear choice" for PM. Of course, while the Queen could have chosen anyone she wanted to be PM, political necessity dictates that she pick someone at least somewhat close to the top of the victorious party's power structure.
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Old 01-02-2005, 04:01 PM
Khampelf Khampelf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roches
A related question: If the Crown symbolizes the law, when did the King become bound to make legal decisions according to common law and written law? That is, was there a time when the King could make legal decisions arbitrarily, and, if so, when did this time end? Also, if the King could make arbitrary legal decisions, did his decisions become binding in the future?

An Important step in that direction, ie away from the absolute rule of Kings, came about with the signing of the Magna Carta. 1066 I think.
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Old 01-02-2005, 04:06 PM
Tapioca Dextrin Tapioca Dextrin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Sonoran Lizard King
1066 I think.
1215 is a little closer.
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  #9  
Old 01-02-2005, 04:32 PM
Rex Fenestrarum Rex Fenestrarum is offline
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1066 was the Battle of Hastings. I must admit that I only remember the date of the Manga Carta from Lisa Simpson's little song from The Simpsons:

sung to the tune of "Camptown Races"

In 1215 at Runnymeade, do-dah, do-dah
The nobles and the king agreed...
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  #10  
Old 01-02-2005, 04:32 PM
Rex Fenestrarum Rex Fenestrarum is offline
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1066 was the Battle of Hastings. I must admit that I only remember the date of the Magna Carta from Lisa Simpson's little song from The Simpsons:

sung to the tune of "Camptown Races"

In 1215 at Runnymeade, do-dah, do-dah
The nobles and the king agreed...
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  #11  
Old 01-02-2005, 04:46 PM
Khampelf Khampelf is offline
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D'Oh.

Teach me to go off the top of my head in GQ.

What's 149 years, 'twixt dopers?
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