A hypothetical about British government and catastrophe

For something I’m writing: Say that, through some masterly planned out bit of terrorism, a Hitler-esque night of murdering government officials takes place in modern-day Britain. Amongst the two victims are the Prime Minister, most members of the cabinet, and the queen, and the immediate heir. (Vaguely plausible in my world due to a combination of inside men, very large sums of money, and some supernatural psychic help).

As I understand it, if the Prime Minister abruptly kicks it, it’s the monarch’s perogative to effectively appoint a new head of government. But in my scenario, the queen and her successor are both dead, so obviously, the monarch’s not going to be doing any appointing.

Is this something that, say, the Queen could potentially have written into her will (eg, “in case of my untimely demise coinciding precisely with that of the prime minister, appoint John Doe”)? Would the majority party just sort of…decide, and pick someone? Would an election be held, and if so, would Parliament need to be dissolved (iirc, that’s required for an election)?

I understand that it’s a fairly far-out scenario, but I’m just looking for what more intelligent people than myself think would be most likely.

Bonus opinion question: If the Queen were to suddenly kick it, along with whoever’s next for the job, what are the chances of the institution of the monarchy suriviving?

There are many people in the line to the throne. If you took out the Queen and Prince Charles, then the next one in line (I’m sure one of the Brits in the audience will chime in here with who that is) would take the throne. Seems to me that taking out ALL the potential successors to the throne is of a similar order of magnitude to taking out ALL the potential successors to the US President.

It might even help, skipping Charles for the more popular William ;). If it got as far as the not particularly well-known Princess Beatrice, Andrew’s elder daughter and fifth in line to the throne, those who care about such things might be a bit taken aback by this unexpected new Queen we would have.

The royal line of succession will simply go to the next heir, who would appoint the Prime Minister. It’s unlikely that they’d be able to take out EVERY known relative of the Queen. There are probably hundreds of royal cousins that are theoretically eligible to suceed if the worst happens.

And looking through that list of succession, I’m quite tempted to stage a royal massacre of twenty-seven toffs, just so that we can have out first King Cassius :smiley:

After Charles, it’s Prince William, who’s considerably more popular that Charles (though as to why is a mystery. Slightly loopy old-fashioned troglodytic Prince, or youthful handsome Prince? A difficult question). After that, it’s Prince Harry. Here’s a much longer list.

What I think’d be an interesting situation is if the Queen and the first 59 people on that list get bumped off; our new monarch would be the King of Norway.
As to the original question, the monarch isn’t as involved. The Prime Minister (or whoever would take that role in a party) is chosen by the members of that party. While “officially” the current Monarch needs to approve the decision, in practice they’re not going to say no. The Queen really has no actual say in the running of parliament.

There would need to be an some form of voting or selection within the current majority party as to who the next PM would be (with the Deputy PM presiding in the interim), but there wouldn’t be any recess. Parliament is only dissolved in the case of a general election (every single seat being up for the electorate to vote for), not for a reshuffle of cabinet positions.

Bonus optional answer; Charles isn’t really that popular, but then he’s not hated, either. It’s possible that should the Queen kick the bucket, people might use it as an excuse to remove the monarchy altogether. I don’t think it would happen by general consensus, though. We (and apologies for speaking on behalf of everyone in the UK) are pretty much indifferent to them anyway, but indifference isn’t enough to change considerable portions of UK law or do away with tradition.

Likewise i’m tempted to organise the removal of 11, but that would only lead to a totalitarian state with curiously garbed freedom fighters.

But what if, by doing in the Prime Minister and all the members of the cabinet, our assassins managed to render the majority party into a minority of the House of Commons? Given that there are twenty-some-odd members of the cabinet, this scenario is certainly plausible in a closely-divided Parlaiment. Who would select the new PM – the newly majority party, or the formerly majority party? Would there be an “interim” PM until by-elections could be held to fill the vacant seats?

Hmm. I suspect whatever happened, the party that comes off worse would voice their disapproval pretty strongly.

I don’t know, to be honest. I suspect that, since this is the result of some extraordinary actions, that the two main parties would be able to comprimise on letting the previously-in-power party choose the interim PM, but with a general election to follow very shortly, depending on how long it takes to organise it.

This sort of thing has happened before (though by Act of Parliament rather than mass murder). When the Act of Settlement was passed, excluding Catholics from the succession, Georg, Elector of Hanover (the future George I), became second in line to the throne (behind his mother Sophia, who died before she could inherit.) Had it not been for the Act of Settlement he would have been 58th in line. That’s right, no fewer than 57 Catholic princes and princesses were passed over to get to him.

Indeed, Wikipedia lists 926 succesors to the British throne . Pretty much every noble in Europe is on that list.

How much must it suck to be last on the list?

Wiping out the British government is almost impossible. No matter how many people you kill, there’s always going to be some person who’s next on the list to inherit the crown. And it’s automatic so you don’t need a functioning government to recognize the succession.

Then once you’ve found the appropriate Ralph Jones and made him King, the rest of the government falls into place. Britain has an unwritten constitution, so there’s a lot of flexibility in the system. Even if every single member of parliament was killed, you could still find some respected public figures and have the King appoint them as a temporary Prime Minister and cabinet while new elections are held. The provisional government would all agree to be non-partisan and not run for election and would all step down as soon as the new Parliament was elected.

The long list of the people in line to the thone is one of the reasons it is very easy for someone to claim relations to some European royal. It’s not that spactacular a claim. Before WWII every European monarch was related in some way. Except for King Zog of Albainia who wasn’t really a king but a dictator of a two bit country that had an ego and made himself king.

There are over 3000 dynasts to the British Throne. Any diaster that could kill of them would likely mean the end of the world.

You’re still ahead of Paris Hilton. :smiley:
[sub]Heck, I’m probably ahead of Paris Hilton on that list…[/sub]

Let’s assume some kind of intelligent plague system* that performs DNA analysis on each victim and goes after relations to the Queen (and gets them all, in the process killing half of Europe and the peoples of the European Diaspora, but that’s just a side-effect).

In that case, wouldn’t the surviving Britons just go back to their Germanic roots and elect themselves a new monarch?

[sub]*Such an intelligent plague is an interesting speculation. The part doing the analysis need not be the killing component; it could just identify the victims and leave them vulnerable to an otherwise harmless mild infection…[/sub]

Far greater, which is why King Ralph was based on an implausible premise (there are hundreds of persons with a documented line-of-succession claim to the throne). (But whaddaya want, it’s a comedy! :slight_smile: )

BTW, I’m the rightful emperor of China! :slight_smile: (My reign-name is Dong Hang Lo. Of the Wang Dynasty.)

AFAIK this wouldn’t actually change anything. Parliment does not select the PM the Queen does. Whoever the monarch chooses to form the government becomes PM. By convention this is the leader of the winning party in the election (the one with the most MPs), but there is nothing to stop the queen from appointing some bum of the streets if she wishes. Under normal circumstances this is never going to happen, but in this is kind of situation I’m sure the new Monarch would just appoint a PM who is acceptable to all parties.

That’s not quite accurate–the convention that the monarch appoint a Prime Minister who can command a majority in Parliament is binding. Were she to do otherwise, it would be akin to Congress and the President of the US deciding to ignore all rulings by the Supreme Court, or the Supreme Court of the US arbitrarily ruling that the US Constitution gives them the power to disolve Congress. IOW, it would be a severe abrogation of her responsability and a major constitutional crisis that would almost certainly result in her forced abdication (were she to refuse to back down) and possibly the end of the Monarchy.

OTOH, the situation discribed (in which enough members of the majority party were assasinated along with the royal family that they became a minority party) is exactly the sort of situation in which the monarch’s powers become real and important. (The same can happen if no party wins a majority in an election.) In this case, it isn’t clear who could best command a majority in Parliament, so the monarch has some discretion in who she chooses. Given that it would clearly be the perogative of the monarch to make the choice in such a situation, I doubt Parliament would try to form a new government until the new monarch was established.