Can the Royals hold office?

Okay I have no idea about British politics, so bear with me…

Can one of the Royal family, particularly someone in the line of succession for the Throne, run for public office? Can Henry (that’s the younger brother right?) someday run for Prime Minister?

What’s the haps limeys?

Nope. Members of the nobility can secure places in the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, but the House of Commons (the house with the real power) is reserved for, by definition, commoners. By law, the Monarch cannot even enter the Commons chamber. Harry would have to give up all titles and honours (most of which he got when he was born) in order to run for office, and offhand I don’t know of any member of the royal family who has ever done so.

It wouldn’t be cricket.

NITPICK: the Monarch never enters the Commons due to convention; he/she is not banned by law. This is not possible, since the Monarch is above the law.

In general, under English law, property, titles etc will be inherited by a child who is in utero at the time of the father’s death, provided he is subsequently born alive. So if this rule does not apply to the crown, it is an exception to the general rule.

Having said that, you can see a case for such an exception. There is also a rule that the crown can never be vacant. My guess would be that, if the situation ever arose, the courts would rule that the crown would pass to the heir presumptive, and that a child not born could not inherit the crown.

Members of the Royal family could not take seats in the House of Lords unless they had peerages of their own, which most do not. Those who do have peerages (e.g. the Duke of York) have hereditary peerages rather than life peerages, and a hereditary peerage no longer guarantees a seat in the House of Lords, so they would need to be elected by the other hereditary peers.

Legally, so far as I know, there is nothing to stop a member of the Royal family who has no peerage (e.g. Princess Anne) from seeking election to the House of Commons. And, legally, the Prime Minister can be drawn either from the Lords or the Commons – in fact he doesn’t have to be a member of either house - so a Royal, whether or not a member of either House, could be appointed Prime Minister

But this would all be regarded as constitutionally highly undesirable, and none of it is likely to happen.

Damn! The first two paragraphs of my post above relate to an entirely different thread. Please ignore them.

The main misconception in the OP is the assumption that UK politicians ‘run for public office’. No major national office in the UK is directly elected. What politicians do instead is to ‘run’ (the British term is actually ‘stand’) for election to the House of Commons. The leader of the party which controls the Commons is usually then apointed Prime Minister. Offices are then allocated by the Prime Minister to his leading supporters. (I realise that you may know all this already.) Those appointed to the major political offices almost always sit in Parliament, but there is, in fact, no requirement that they must. Moreover, some of those offices are always given to members of the House of Lords, which is, after all, the upper chamber of the UK Parliament. On the rare occasions when someone from outside Parliament is chosen, he or she is usually immediately elevated to the Lords.

Political realities dictate that the Prime Minister and the major officeholders are now always chosen from the Commons, but the OP is clearly intended as a theoretical exercise, so let’s ignore those realities for a moment. There is nothing to stop a Prime Minister choosing anyone, including most members of the Royal Family, for most public offices. It just looks better and protects his own position if he mainly picks elected MPs. Moreover, there would be nothing to stop Prince Harry or most other members of the Royal Family standing for the Commons. (This is now even true for the royal dukes who no longer sit in the Lords.)

To return to reality, the reason why no member of the Royal Family would seek a role in politics is that they realise that the stability of the monarchy depends on it remaining above politics. This is why they don’t even vote in elections, even although there is no legal reason to prevent most of them from doing so.

The closest recent example of a member of the Royal Family holding political office was, arguably (and it is arguable), Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, when he was viceroy of India in the 1940s. He was also the last example of a member of the Royal Family to hold a senior, non-honourific military position.

That whirring noise you hear is Sir Edward Coke spinning in his grave: “The King is under no man, but God and the Law.”

In point of fact, there are in law specified groups of people who cannot be elected to the House of Commons, among them lunatics, peers, members of the Royal Family, convicted felons, and clergymen of the Church of England. (An interesting grouping!)

There would be in theory no bar to, say, the Duke of Kent serving as, e.g., Minister of Silly Walks – but there is a custom, today in mild desuetude, that no member of the Royal House will take a stand on any issue that might be politically divisive. This would prevent any of them from taking a seat in the Government – since it would put them in opposition to the Opposition. (Yeah, I know that sentence rots, but you try rephrasing it!)

It may be worth mentioning that Harry, Duke of Gloucester, George VI’s brother, was considered for the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Armed Forces by a disaffected group of MP’s during WWII. Churchill’s comment on how easy it would be for a P.M. given the sorts of powers they advocated and bolstered by Prince Harry’s support to become a dictator put the kibosh to that proposal.

This may have been true in the days of absolute monarchs; however, England (and the rest of the UK of ourse) had a deciding moment, if you will, called the Magna Carta. There are, I’m sure, other non-written parts of the UK’s Constitution that precede it and thus also have legal affect on the monarch.

Ah!!! “legal effect!” Dratted misspellings.

Of course they can! They’re no different from the Orioles or Cardinals or anybody else.

The Red Sox can not hold office.

The Queen (as monarch) doesn’t have a vote either.

Does this extend to other members of the Royal Family? If, so, how far down (children, cousins, etc)?

Just as an interesting tidbit-the Prime Minister of Bulgaria is actually the former monarch, Tsar Simon of Bulgaria.

How’s THAT for fascinating and useless royal trivia?

The Queen has no vote because she is part of Parliament, which is composed of the Crown, the Lords and the Commons. Since she is one part of Parliament, she has no vote to elect another part, the Commons.

It used to be that none of the peers could vote in elections to the Commons, for the same reason. I would imagine that has changed with the reform of the Lords.

So, until the change in the Lords, any of her children who held peerages would not have been able to vote in the elections for the Commons. Assuming that rule was done away with in the reforms, I would imagine that none of them would do so anyway, simply to respect the convention that the Royal Family does not engage in politics.

APB, would you really say that Mountbatten was a member of the Royal Family? True, he was Victoria’s great-grandson, but so were a lot of other people. He was way, way down in the line of succession, even coming after the Kaiser and his sons. Would a second cousin to the King be considered part of the Family?

or was it more because the Windsors “kept up the connexion” with the Mountbattens on a social level, than as a matter of his position in the succession?

Even after his nephew married Elizabeth, it still seems a bit of a stretch to me to put him in the Royal Family.

No no - the Magna Carta sets out the rights of the people, but does not straightjacket the Monarch.

Under the Crown Proceedings Act, the Monarch has no criminal or civil liability. Until asbestos claims were brought against the government, this immunity used to apply to the Crown as a whole (i.e. including the government), but is now limited to the Monarch only.

The extension of this immunity is that laws cannot apply to the Monarch: if he/she is immune from prosecution, how can he/she be bound by the law? This principle is one that is still staunchly defended by the Queen. If you remember, when she started to pay income tax, it was a voluntary arrangement - this is because the Queen felt that to pass legislatation to make this official would undermine the principle of the Monarch being outside of the law.

A discussion of the effect of this (and the neat tricks employed by the Palace to avoid undermining this situation) can be found in a Guardian report here.
[sub]Warning! Left Wing Agenda contained within![/sub]

Bunch of loose ends:

First, it’s my impression that parts of Magna Charta, the (English)Bill of Rights, and a few other statutes made law by the Crown in Parliament permanently restrict specific rights of the monarch and are binding on later monarchs. SirJames, can you confirm or correct this?

Second, there are not “a whole lot” of English subjects descended from Victoria – and the Battenbergs (who became Mountbattens) were close to the Royal Family long before Philip met Elizabeth. On some formal paper relative to Elizabeth’s early adulthood (marriage certificate? something related to the accession?) the principal witness is “Milford Haven” – who is the Marquess of Milford Haven, one of the Mountbattens.

Bulgaria: Interesting sidelight – Guinastasia, have you heard anything about him “pulling a Juan Carlos” – becoming King again by popular consent? I knew he was quite well respected by Bulgarians, and had heard this voiced as a possibility just after the fall of Communism. Are there any other pretenders who might actually have a possibility of restoration to the throne?

But, is it not true that in each aristocratic family, only the head of the family is an actual Peer? For example, IIRC, the heir of Marquis X may carry the courtesy title Earl of Y., and Earl Y’s son may be Baron of Z., but the Barony of Z. and the Earldom of Y are all subsumed in the Marquisate of X. The son and grandson, though using courtesy titles, are technically commoners and can run for the House Of Commons.

I heard somewhere that Winston Churchill, according to the custom with Prime Ministers, was offered a peerage at one point, but refused it because he didn’t want to exclude himself from politics.

Both are true. The recognition given to the wife and offspring of a peer are by courtesy only; they are legally considered commoners.

(Notes: British Prime Minister Lord John Russell was Prime Minister in the mid-1800s, and held a seat in the Commons. He was “Lord John” because his father was Earl Russell, giving him a courtesy title, but he remained a commoner. Tony Benn was heir to some lordship that he insisted on renouncing in order to remain active in politics.)

Winston Churchill was offered an Earldom, the traditional reward for retiring P.M.'s, and refused it – having been in the Commons for 50 years at the time, he preferred to stay there. He did, however, eventually accept the Queen’s offer of the Garter (and only then became Sir Winston).

Nope, unfortunately I haven’t heard anything about it-sorry.

One of Queen Victoria’s sons-in-law, the Duke of Argyll sat in the House of Commons when he was Marquis of Lorne, and later of course, in the House of Lords when he became the Duke.

Mountbaden was indeed a member of the royal family. His mother was the eldest child of Queen Victoria’s 2nd daughter-Princess Alice, the Duchess of Hesse-Dharmstadt. His mother’s younger sister Princess Alix became the Empress of Russia. His father was a Battenberg-his grandfather’s first cousin.

It isn’t always how closely you’re related by blood, but often by virtue of say, knowing certain members of the family better. Prior to WWI, Mountbaden’s father was First Lord of the Sea.

Minor nit-pick, Guin: Louis of Battenberg and many men since were not “First Lord of the Sea” but First Sea Lord. The five Sea Lords are the senior naval officers who together constitute the Admiralty’s “general staff,” with the First Sea Lord being the equivalent of the American Chief of Naval Operations. They constitute the top-level professional staff of the (political) First Lord of the Admiralty, who in a less tradition-oriented nation would be termed something like the Minister of Naval Affairs.