Queen Elizabeth and her Queenly powers

(1) I understand that the British Monarchy as it is now is mainly a ceremonial thing. What powers, if any, does the Queen actually have?

(2) When and how did the monarchy lose governmental power?

An excellent page (albeit run by the Guardian - boo hiss!! ;)) that explains the powers of the Queen… especially:

So, although she has power, she never really uses it - it would be interesting to see what would happen if she actually tried…


The loss of the power of the British Monarchy has been a gradual process over many hundreds of years with the odd real burst of activity.

I guess you could say that King John’s signing of the Magna Carta in the eleventh century signalled the start of the change.

garius: Ahem. 13th century. But that’s pretty much right.

I’m missing something here. How did Heath and Thatcher use the royal prerogative, not being royals themselves? Is this some way for the monarch and the PM to combine to bypass Parliament?

Yes, they did. And it would be unconstitutional, if we had a freakin constitution.

Don’t forget HRH’s Governor General getting rid of the Australian PM some years ago.

yojimboguy, the prerogative powers are the residue of the personal powers of the Crown. Originally, the monarch had a wide range of personal powers which he/she exercised on his/her own initiative. With the growth of Parliament and democracy, many of those prerogative powers have been gradually eliminated, by statutes passed by Parliament. Some prerogative powers survive, but by constitutional convention, the monarch only exercises those powers on the advice of the Prime Minister, who is the effective head of government.

So the monarch’s prerogative powers to make treaties and to make war still exist, but she will only exercise them on the advice of the PM. The PM in turn takes political responsibility for the exercise of those powers and is accountable to Parliament and the people for the advice he gave to the monarch.

According to some British friends that lived down the street a few years ago the Queen’s power is exerted most often through social means. Evidently, IIRC, if you piss her off she won’t invite you to her parties.

And I’m not making a joke. It’s no small thing, in the circle of people who go to these, to be dropped from the Royal “A” list. It can have a real impact on what people do.

I think QEII also has a big say in who get’s knighted.

Any Brits out there? How about some comments on this.

Nobody has yet mentioned that the Queen can move an arbitrary number of spaces in any orthogonal or diagonal direction. She may not pass over occupied spaces, and ends her move by occupying an empty space or by capturing an enemy piece.

Orthogonal movement passes through rows of spaces that are connected to their neighbors in the row by shared sides. Diagonal movement passes through the corners of spaces, connecting spaces of the same color on a suitably checkered board.

Can’t you just picture Elizabeth doing all that?

She can eat Swans. I’m not allowed, but she can eat all the swans she wants. She could go to an all you can eat swan buffet and be sure of being the only person there.

She’s not allowed into the City of London without the Lord MAyors permission though (like she cares with all those swans to eat).

She can’t vote either.

Mmmm swan…

Isn’t she also barred from entering the House of Commons?

Yup, she has to be invited in by Black Rod.

She’s still Duke of Normandy though.

The point behind the prerogative is that the power is vested in the Crown, i.e., the Queen as an institution – and that her ministers cannot just decide to do something pertaining to the Prerogative as Pres. Bush could by Executive Order; they must persuade her that it needs to be done. It’s a useful bit of flexibility – the P.M. or the Cabinet can act swiftly in an emergency (as opposed to debating it in the Commons or, God forbid, in the Lords too!), but cannot act arbitrarily unless they can drag along the Queen as seeing justification for what they propose to do.

In and of herself, she still retains a large number of powers that are never exercised, such as the Royal Veto (last used in 1714). With the British discuss-it-all-out-before-voting style of governance, where the Queen’s approval on legislation is almost pro forma, odds are she and her successors will never have occasion to use it – but it’s there in case a situation comes up. (Hypothetical example: controversial measure is passed by a small majority in Commons, constitutional crisis arises that results in a change of ministry, new P.M. disapproves of controversial measure – which is still in “the Boxes” pending the Queen’s signature; the new P.M. could “advise” (i.e., tell) her to veto it, and that veto would be a valid use of the prerogative.)

Does her wealth figure into her power in any way? Last I heard, she was the richest woman on the planet. It’s not like Bill Gates is toppling governments, but he’s not wearing a crown, either…

The only thing she spends serious wedge on is horses. She is absolutely minted whichever way you count it (which is incredibly hard) but she has nothing to spend her dosh on. She has enough castles, Rolls-Royces, Da Vincis etc.

Her living expenses are paid by the state, and she famously doesn’t carry cash (but her credit’s pretty good).

She did lose a bundle in the dot com bubble though. But it didn’t really make a dent.

She doesn’t even come close to being the richest women in Britain.


Her powers don’t seem to extend to preventing her family from causing unedifying tiffs in the new media. :slight_smile:

oh dammit - off with her head.

Without going off at a total tangent it is nigh on impossible to say what the Queen is worth as it is very hard to state what is hers, what is the Crown’s and what is the state’s.

Somethings are obvioulsy hers eg Balmoral, Sandringham, her horses; family jewellery etc.

Somethings are obvioulsy the state’s eg the royal parks, the royal flight etc

But where do the crown jewels come in? The royal art collection (which alone would make Mr Gates blush), royal stamp collection?
Royal palaces?

Also what is this stuff actually worth? Royal provenance makes very ordinary items valuable. A teapot worth £10 is worth £200 if it used to be the Queen’s and so on.

And then we come to the Crown Estate. THis would make the Duke of Westminster look like a big issue seller. However the revenues are given over to the state in return for the civil list.

Incidentally she own quite a big bit of Times Square.