What If Prince Charles Killed Someone?

This is a purely hypothetical question, and I have to admit I don’t know the finer points of the law in this area. But what if Prince Charles of England killed someone? As I understand it, most constitutional monarchies like the UK have what is called sovereign immunity, meaning “the King [or prince, in this case] can do no wrong” (which is ironically/sadly even found in the US’s 11th Amendment–I digress). But what if he is found to be a danger to others? Then what would the govt. of the UK do?

And you will notice I put this in GD, because I have another, more subjective, question: If this happened, would the people of the UK demand this law is changed?

And finally, Am I wrong in even assuming this is true in Britain? Do they even have this law? (But if they just did at one time, my previous questions still apply to that other era, at least.)


I don’t know if there is a ‘Sovereign Immunity’ law on the books in the UK. But if it is, I imagine it would be considered in the realm of powers the monarch technically still possesses but are never used. The Queen can, I believe, dismiss parliament, for example. But if she actually exercised that power without a very good reason, it would probably spell the end of the monarchy. And that very good reason would have to be something widely supported by the public.

The Windsors want to survive and I can’t imagine the Queen pulling some stunt to get her kid off the hook if he murdered someone.

The President of the US has the power to pardon. But if his kid went and shot up a post office, I can’t see him using a presidential pardon to get him off. The public outrage would be too much.

Well, first I would say that Prince Charles isn’t the sovereign, merely a member of the royal family at this point. To the extent that the Queen has some level of theoretical immunity due to embodying the Crown, and thus being unable to prosecute herself (I think this might be what you’re referring to?), it’s not shared by Charles.

But I say theoretical immunity because it’s like all those other things that we leave as technical details in our system, including the existence of the monarchy itself - if there was a big problem, we’d change it, to go with your second question. If Prince Charles (or the Queen herself) offed someone, I can pretty much guarantee you there would be some quiet words in the halls of power and we’d have a change. I suspect we people of the UK would demand it.

It’s especially true in terms of Charles, who really doesn’t have the same level of popularity as the Queen at the moment (or William, for that matter. Harry, probably.)

Well, he could off the queen, then he’d assume the throne, thus being unable to prosecute himself. That is, if his need to kill someone was unsuppressable.

The Monarch has immunity in her personal and private capacity, on the basis that the courts can’t bind the sovereign, as the sovereign provides the courts. The monarch has “fount of justice” as part of the official title. This goes waaaaay back. (Although the Crown, Monarch as embodiment of the State, basically the government, can be sued. The laws on this were tidied up in 1947) She’s the only one, so Prince Charles would be prosecuted like anyone else. His sister Anne, for instance, has been done a couple of times for things like speeding iirc.

If the Queen went on a mad rampage, then no doubt Parliament would step in. There’s precedent after all, but this time beheading probably isn’t on the cards.

The Queen is the person who does pardoning, but nowadays it is extremely rarely used, and always on the advice of Ministers. The most notable recent use of it was in 2006 to pardon all the WWI soldiers shot for cowardice. There are statutory mechanisms in place to deal with run-of-the-mill miscarriages of justice, so there isn’t much demand for the royal pardon.

The British Public would expect and demand he be treated in the same way as any other citizen.

The Royal family and UK government are not stupid. I’m sure the recent “unpleasantness” in the middle east has not escaped their attention.

Charles himself has no such immunity; that resides in the Sovereign, which is currently the Queen.

The analogy, as someone pointed out above, is similar to the American presidential pardon - sure it’s theoretically possible, but no president is going to effectively grant, say, a member of his family immunity by pardoning everything they do. It’s just not politically viable.

If the Queen went on a machine-gun rampage, she’d be the Queen for approximately another 5 seconds. Then she’d either abdicate voluntarily, or there would be a “revolution” (although it would be bloodless).

As Charles I, James II, and Edward VIII discovered, sovereign immunity is more like a guideline.

Obviously Nepal is not the same country as the UK, but when their Crown Prince went on a killing spree, he wasn’t charged with a crime, he was made king instead. If he lived more than three days though, things might have been a bit different.

Why would she abdicate? She has a machine gun!!!
(Actually I’m laughing my ass off at the image of the Queen machine gunning people… :D)

Helen Mirren could pull it off.

He became King because the King was dead and he was the Crown Prince and the Crown automatically vested in him at the moment of death. As it was the circumstances of it were unique and different from a run of the mill murder, you had a member of a Royal Family gunning down the rest of them.

I suspect that of the Prince/King for half a week had survived, the would have been dealt with.

I would have said the same thing about Watergate. One running mate attempting to pardon the other for crimes presumably committed for both their benefit should have been a game changer.

Minor annoying nitpick that my Welsh girlfriend would be pissed off about if I didn’t correct it, Charles is the Prince of Wales, not England.

But I digress…

Prince Charles would certainly be prosecuted, as he isn’t the monarch. As a precedent, Princess Anne was prosecuted when her dog attacked a member of the public.

As for the Queen, I have no doubt that she would be prosecuted, but how that would come about would no doubt keep the PM/parliament/Law Lords in considerable debate. The joy of having no written constitution means that theoretical laws (such as the Queen being above the law) can be changed by parliament.

As it stands, the courts (and parliament) operate under the authority of The Crown. The Crown currently happens to sit on the Queen’s head, but there’s no reason that the Crown wouldn’t be whipped off and placed on Charles’ in her place, with her status being reduced to Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Windsor or similar, and her being prosecuted as such.

At the end of the day, The Crown exists according to the will of the people, embodied in parliament. The Magna Carta stated that no man or King was above the law. The Government of the day would step in to solve this constitutional crisis, as they have done a number of times before, most recently in the case of Edward VIII.

And Prince of Scotland. And Duke of Cornwall. Basically, anywhere with an independence movement and he’s the bigwig. Still, he does also get to call himself Lord of the Isles.

And, if he became king and went on a killing spree, he could always be sent to a mental institution, to be restrained as a danger to himself and others. Avoids the messy legal complications with a potential prosecution.

Yes, he’s Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, but it is the least of his titles, having fallen out of favour around 1603. Charles is officially Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland. I think Lord of the Isles is the coolest of his titles, however.

Another minor nitpick: If the President of the United States pardoned his kid for crimes, we would at least have the impeachment option and/or refuse to reelect him. The monarch in the UK reigns for life with no (legal?) way to remove him/her.

I’m not familiar with the details of such a pardon attempt, but I’d hazard a guess that the word “attempt” might be key there?

I’m sure a single Act of Parliament would suffice.

Yes, there is a way to remove the monarch. Parliament simply passes a bill that says, “Betsy is no longer the monarch. We hereby choose some random minor European noblity as our new monarch.”

This is how the Saxe-Coberg and Gothas got the job in the first place.

Or, they could just make the queen 9 inches shorter. That worked wonders on Charles I.