The History of the British Royal family can be traced all the way back to the days of the Kings of England and beyond, to which their residences, armies, governments, jewels, and even clothing would come to be world-renowned. In addition to trends set and eras emphasised by a sitting King or Queen, the history of a people and of land is embodied within their Sovereign and those that reigned before. Within this section of the website, the British Monarchist Society and Foundation will constantly be adding information, topics, and research from within the organisation and by researchers, to bring you the best tidbits and facts relating to the history of not only Britain’s Monarchs and their families, but the palaces, fortresses and buildings which have played host to much of Britain’s rich, vibrant and sometimes less than colourful history.

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History of The Crown

1917: The House of WIndsor

1936: The Three Kings

The Abdication Crisis

Buckingham Palace at War

1997: Goodbye England's Rose

Symbols of Monarchy

Our Constitution

Crown in the United Kingdom

Her Majestys Realms

Crown Dependencies

The Commonwealth

Religion & Royal Peculiars

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History of The Crown

The history of the English Crown up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603 is long and eventful. In the Dark Ages during the fifth and sixth centuries, communities of peoples in Britain inhabited homelands with ill-defined borders. Such communities were organised and led by chieftains or kings. Following the final withdrawal of the Roman legions from the provinces of Britannia in around 408 AD, these small kingdoms were left to preserve their own order and to deal with invaders and waves of migrant peoples such as the Pics from beyond Hadrian’s Wall.

The Scots from Ireland and Germanic tribes from the continent. King Arthur, a larger-than-life figure, has often been cited as a leader of one or more of these kingdoms during this period, although his name now tends to be used as a symbol of British resistance against the invasion. The concept of a single ruler unifying different tribes based in England developed in the eighth and ninth centuries in figures such as Offa and Alfred the Great. Norman Conquest, the machinery of government developed further, producing long-lived national institutions including Parliament.

The Middle Ages saw several fierce contests for the Crown, culminating in the Hundred Years War. The conflict was finally ended with the advent of the Tudors. Tudors, the dynasty which produced some of England’s most successful rulers and a flourishing cultural Renaissance. The end of the Tudor line with the death of Queen Elizabeth I, the ‘Virgin Queen’ in 1603 brought about the Union of the Crowns with Scotland.  Until 1603 the English and Scottish Crowns were separate, although links between the two were always close – members of the two Royal families intermarried on many occasions. Following the Accession of King James VI of Scotland (I of England) to the English Throne, a single monarch reigned in the United Kingdom. The last four hundred years have seen many changes in the nature of the Monarchy in the United Kingdom. From the end of the 17th century, monarchs lost executive power and they increasingly became subject to Parliament, resulting in today’s constitutional Monarchy under Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

The Scottish Crown has a long and complex history. From a number of local rulers governing separate territories and peoples, a single king emerged by the beginning of the twelfth century to govern most of what is today’s Scotland. The thirteenth century was a time of instability for the Scottish Crown in the face of internal fighting and the Wars of Independence with England. A sense of nationhood and a stable monarchical succession began to develop from the fourteenth century onwards, culminating in the Stewart dynasty. In 1603 a member of this dynasty, King James VI, succeeded to the English Crown. The Union of the Crowns was followed by the Union of the Parliaments in 1707. Although a new Scottish Parliament now determines much of Scotland’s legislation, the two Crowns remain united under a single Sovereign, the present Queen.

1917: The House of Windsor

The House of Windsor is the royal house of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V by royal proclamation on 17 July 1917, when he changed the name of the British Royal Family from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor, due to the anti-German sentiment in the British Empire during World War I. High anti-German sentiment amongst the people of the British Empire during World War I reached a peak in March 1917, when the Gotha G.IV, a heavy aircraft capable of crossing the English Channel, began bombing London directly and became a household name. In the same year, on 15 March, King George’s first cousin, Nicholas II, the Emperor of Russia, was forced to abdicate, which raised the spectre of the eventual abolition of all the monarchies in Europe. The King and his family were finally convinced to abandon all titles held under the German Crown and to change German titles and house names to anglicised versions. Hence, on 17 July 1917, a royal proclamation issued by King George V declared:

By the KING. A PROCLAMATION declaring that the Name of Windsor is to be borne by his Royal House and Family and Relinquishing the Use of All German Titles and Dignities.


WHEREAS We, having taken into consideration the Name and Title of Our Royal House and Family, have determined that henceforth Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor:

And whereas We have further determined for Ourselves and for and on behalf of Our descendants and all other the descendants of Our Grandmother Queen Victoria of blessed and glorious memory to relinquish and discontinue the use of all German Titles and Dignities:

And whereas We have declared these Our determinations in Our Privy Council:

Now, therefore, We, out of Our Royal Will and Authority, do hereby declare and announce that as from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that all the descendants in the male line of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, other than female descendants who may marry or may have married, shall bear the said Name of Windsor:

And do hereby further declare and announce that We for Ourselves and for and on behalf of Our descendants and all other the descendants of Our said Grandmother Queen Victoria who are subjects of these Realms, relinquish and enjoin the discontinuance of the use of the Degrees, Styles, Dignities, Titles and Honours of Dukes and Duchesses of Saxony and Princes and Princesses of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and all other German Degrees, Styles, Dignities. Titles, Honours and Appellations to Us or to them heretofore belonging or appertaining.

Given at Our Court at Buckingham Palace, this Seventeenth day of July, in the year of our Lord One thousand nine hundred and seventeen, and in the Eighth year of Our Reign.

GOD save the KING.’ 

The 1917 proclamation stated that the name of the Royal House and all British descendants of Victoria and Albert in the male line were to bear the name of Windsor, except for women who married into other families. The name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha came to the British Royal Family in 1840 with the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, son of Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha. Queen Victoria herself remained a member of the House of Hanover.  The only British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was King Edward VII, who reigned for nine years at the beginning of the modern age in the early years of the twentieth century.

Soon after Elizabeth became Queen of the Commonwealth Realms in 1952, Earl Mountbatten (as Prince Philip’s uncle was then known) advocated that she change the name of her royal house to House of Mountbatten; it was the standard practice for the wife in a marriage to adopt her husband’s surname. When Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary, heard of this suggestion, she informed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and he later advised the Queen to issue a royal proclamation declaring that the royal house was to remain known as the House of Windsor. This she did on 9 April 1952, officially declaring it her “Will and Pleasure that I and My children shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that my descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the name of Windsor.” On 8 February 1960, after the death of Queen Mary and the resignation of Churchill, the Queen confirmed that she and her children would continue to be known as the House and Family of Windsor, as would any agnatic descendants who enjoy the style of Royal Highness and the title of Prince or Princess. Still, Elizabeth also decreed that her agnatic descendants who do not have that style and title would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

The House of Windsor – Windsor had a long association with the monarchy in Britain, through the town of Windsor, Berkshire, and Windsor Castle; the link is alluded to in the Round Tower of Windsor Castle being the basis of the badge of the House of Windsor. From 1917 to 1919, George V also stripped 15 of his German relations—most of whom belonged to the House of Hanover—of their British titles and styles of prince and princess. During the twentieth century, kings and queens of the United Kingdom have fulfilled the varied duties of constitutional monarchy. One of their most important roles has been acting as national figureheads lifting public morale during the devastating wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. The period saw the modernisation of the monarchy in tandem with many social changes which have taken place over the past 90 years. One such modernisation has been the use of mass communication technologies to make the Royal Family accessible to a broader public all over the world.

1936: The Three Kings

1936 is known by many as the year of Abdication, but it is a year in which there were three kings on the throne of the United Kingdom. This extraordinary year in British history brought many changes within the Monarchy. It began in January when King George V (first Monarch of the House of Windsor), met his demise at his country retreat, Sandringham. His son and heir, Edward VIII ascended to the throne. King Edward VIII though was not destined to rule long. He was the reluctant King – his personal history had proved him uninterested in the position to which he was born to take. He was a playboy prince and very popular with the ladies, however scandal would erupt as he would seek to make his married American mistress Wallis Warfield Simpson. Queen– who was in the process of divorcing her second husband. The King’s choice of consort would soon prove to be his downfall. The King persisted with his insistence and shocked the nation by publicising his intent to marry Mrs. Simpson soon after the King’s scandalous behaviour of appearing in the society pages with her. The British people and in turn the government would not have accepted Mrs. Simpson as their Queen, This was a known fact and a unwelcome problem that King Edward VIII would have to face in a very public manner. Divorced people were not accepted at court, especially ones with two living ex-husbands. Although the King was not forbidden to marry Mrs. Simpson. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin advised him, on religious and political grounds, that he must make a choice between the throne and marrying Mrs. Simpson, or the King’s government would resign. By December 1936, His Majesty had made his decision and used his power to expedite Wallis’ divorce from her second husband Ernest Simpson. Upon securing divorce for Mrs. Simpson, The King then took the task upon himself to inform his kingdom and territories beyond the seas that it was impossible for his to carry out his duties “without the help and support of the woman I love…”. This was a proclamation, an instrument of abdication which would see him give up the throne in favour of the woman he loved. King Edward VIII gave up his kingdom and his empire, where he chose personal satisfaction over duty and service to his people. King Edward VIII became the only monarch in the history of Great Britain to voluntarily abdicate his position. Edward VIII’s younger brother, His Royal Highness, Prince Albert, Duke of York would become the next King of the United Kingdom upon the abdication of his brother, who would become known as the Duke of Windsor. Edward VIII did marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson where they were symbolically exiled to France as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor until the dark days of WWII would see them sent to the Bahamas on official business on behalf King George VI’s government. The abdication and the subsequent exile to France of the newly titled Duke and Duchess of Windsor turned out to be a blessing for both the Duke of Windsor and the UK in its entirety, due to the fact that the Duke of Windsor did not wish to be burdened by the position of King, and therefore knew that the people of Britain were in better hands under their new Sovereign King George VI. By September 1939, Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany where the steadfast and level-headed George VI and his Queen, Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) would be embraced by the people of Britain, as they led the British people through the worst of WWII. The King and Queen were a beacon of hope during the difficult times of despair throughout the Blitz, as well as the many other terrible bombings of Great Britain by the Nazis. King George VI began his reign as a reluctant King, a nervous man with a pronounced stammer who never wanted to reign, but took his duty to his people to his heart. He was a physically ill man, but with Queen Elizabeth by his side, they were a team that proved right for Britain and indeed the institution of Monarchy. King George V knew his son Edward well. He knew that he would be the sole participant in the making of his own downfall, to which King Edward VIII proved his father right. Edward VIII was self-indulgent to the point of self-destruction as his father predicted. King Edward VIII’s reign as Monarch was one of the shortest in British history, lasting only 325 days, or about 11 months, one month less than his father had so sagely predicted. Edward VIII never did have a coronation ceremony, leaving him an uncrowned King of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, and the realms and territories beyond the seas.

The Abdication Crisis

In 1936, a constitutional crisis in the British Empire was caused by King-Emperor Edward VIII’s proposal to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing a divorce of her second.

The marriage was opposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Religious, legal, political and moral objections were raised. As a British monarch, Edward was the nominal head of the Church of England, which did not then allow divorced people to remarry if their ex-spouses were still alive, so it was widely believed that Edward could not marry Wallis Simpson and remain on the throne. Simpson was perceived to be politically and socially unsuitable as a consort because of her two failed marriages. It was widely assumed by the Establishment that she was driven by the love of money or position rather than love for the King. Despite the opposition, Edward declared that he loved Simpson and intended to marry her whether his governments approved or not. The widespread unwillingness to accept Simpson as the King’s consort, and Edward’s refusal to give her up, led to his abdication in December 1936. He remains the only British monarch to have voluntarily renounced the throne since the Anglo-Saxon period. He was succeeded by his brother Albert, who took the regnal name of George VI. Edward was given the title His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor following his abdication, and he married Wallis Simpson the following year. They remained married until his death 35 years later.

Edward VIII succeeded his father, George V, as King-Emperor of the British Empire on 20 January 1936. He was a bachelor, but for the previous few years, he had often been accompanied at private social events by Wallis Simpson, the American wife of British shipping executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson. Ernest Simpson was Wallis’s second husband; her first marriage, to U.S. Navy pilot Win Spencer, had ended in divorce in 1927. During 1936, Wallis Simpson attended more official functions as the King’s guest and, despite her name appearing regularly in the Court Circular, the name of her husband was conspicuously absent. In the summer of that year, the King eschewed the traditional prolonged stay at Balmoral, opting instead to holiday with Simpson in the eastern Mediterranean onboard the steam yacht Nahlin. The cruise was widely covered in the American and continental European press, but the British press maintained a self-imposed silence on the King’s trip. Nevertheless, Canadians and expatriate Britons, who had access to the foreign reports, were largely scandalised by the coverage.

By October, it was rumoured in high society and abroad that Edward intended to marry Simpson as soon as she was free to do so. At the end of that month, the crisis came to a head when she filed for divorce and the American press announced that marriage between her and the King was imminent. On 13 November, the King’s private secretary, Alec Hardinge, wrote to him, warning: “The silence in the British Press on the subject of Your Majesty’s friendship with Mrs Simpson is not going to be maintained… Judging by the letters from British subjects living in foreign countries where the Press has been outspoken, the effect will be calamitous.” Senior British ministers knew that Hardinge had written to the King and may have helped him draft the letter.

The following Monday, 16 November, the King invited British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin to Buckingham Palace and informed him that he intended to marry Simpson. Baldwin informed the King that such a marriage would not be acceptable to the people, stating: “…the Queen becomes the Queen of the country. Therefore in the choice of a Queen, the voice of the people must be heard.” Baldwin’s view was shared by the Australian High Commissioner in London, Stanley Bruce, who was a former Australian prime minister. On the same day that Hardinge wrote to the King, Bruce met Hardinge and then wrote to Baldwin expressing horror at the idea of a marriage between the King and Simpson. Governor-General of Canada Lord Tweedsmuir told Buckingham Palace and Baldwin that Canadians held a deep affection for the King, but also that Canadian public opinion would be outraged if Edward married a divorcee.

The British press remained quiet on the subject, until Alfred Blunt, Bishop of Bradford, gave a speech to his Diocesan Conference on 1 December. In it, he alluded to the King’s need for divine grace, saying: “We hope that he is aware of his need. Some of us wish that he gave more positive signs of his awareness.” The press took this for the first public comment by a notable person on the crisis and it became front-page news the following day. When asked about it later, however, the bishop claimed he had not heard of Mrs Simpson at the time he wrote the speech.
Acting on the advice of Edward’s staff, Simpson left Britain for the south of France on 3 December in an attempt to escape intense press attention. Both she and the King were devastated by the separation. At a tearful farewell, the King told her, “I shall never give you up.” On 6 December, the sexual psychologist Bernard Armitage wrote confidentially to Baldwin about Edward’s relationship with Simpson. His diagnosis was that as a young man Edward had suffered from social and sexual inadequacy. He ended “The stage was set for disaster”.

Opposition to the King and his marriage came from several directions.

Edward’s desire to modernise the monarchy and make it more accessible, though appreciated by many people, was feared by the British Establishment. Edward upset the aristocracy by treating their traditions and ceremonies with disdain, and many were offended by his abandonment of accepted social norms and mores.

Edward was the first British monarch to propose marrying a divorced woman or marrying after divorce. Although Henry VIII famously separated the Church of England from Rome in order to acquire an annulment of his first marriage, he never divorced; his marriages were annulled. At the time, the Church of England did not allow divorced people to remarry in church while a former spouse was still living. The monarch was required to be in communion with the Church of England and was its nominal head. If Edward married Wallis Simpson, a divorcee who would soon have two living ex-husbands, it would conflict with his ex officio role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Wallis Simpson, 1936 – Wallis’s first divorce (in the United States on the grounds of “emotional incompatibility”) was not recognised by the Church of England and, if challenged in the English courts, might not have been recognised under English law. At that time, the church and English law considered adultery to be the only grounds for divorce. Consequently, under this argument, her second (and third) marriages would have been bigamous and invalid.

The King’s ministers (like his family) found Wallis Simpson’s background and behaviour unacceptable for a queen. Rumours and innuendo about her circulated in society. The King’s mother, the dowager Queen Mary, was even told that Simpson might have held some sort of sexual control over Edward, as she had released him from an undefined sexual dysfunction through practices learnt in a Chinese brothel. This view was partially shared by Dr Alan Campbell Don, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who wrote that he suspected the King “is sexually abnormal which may account for the hold Mrs S. has over him”. Even Edward VIII’s official biographer, Philip Ziegler, noted that: “There must have been some sort of sadomasochistic relationship… [Edward] relished the contempt and bullying she bestowed on him.” Police detectives following Simpson reported back that, while involved with Edward, she was also involved in another sexual relationship, with a married car mechanic and salesman named Guy Trundle. This may well have been passed on to senior figures in the establishment, including members of the royal family. A third lover has also been suggested, the Duke of Leinster. Joseph Kennedy, the American ambassador, described her as a “tart”, and his wife, Rose, refused to dine with her. However, Edward was either unaware of these allegations or chose to ignore them. Wallis was perceived to be pursuing Edward for his money; his equerry wrote that she would eventually leave him, “having secured the cash”. The future prime minister Neville Chamberlain wrote in his diary that she was “an entirely unscrupulous woman who is not in love with the King but is exploiting him for her own purposes. She has already ruined him in money and jewels…”

When Edward visited depressed mining villages in Wales, his comment that “something must be done” led to concerns among elected politicians that he would interfere in political matters, traditionally avoided by constitutional monarchs. Ramsay MacDonald, Lord President of the Council, wrote of the King’s comments: “These escapades should be limited. They are an invasion into the field of politics & should be watched constitutionally.” As Prince of Wales, Edward had publicly referred to left-wing politicians as “cranks” and made speeches counter to government policy. During his reign as king, his refusal to accept the advice of ministers continued: he opposed the imposition of sanctions on Italy after its invasion of Ethiopia, refused to receive the deposed Emperor of Ethiopia, and would not support the League of Nations.

Although Edward’s comments had made him popular in Wales, he became extremely unpopular with the public in Scotland following his refusal to open a new wing of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, claiming he could not do so because he was in mourning for his father. On the day after the opening, he was pictured in the newspapers cavorting on holiday: he had turned down the public event in favour of meeting Simpson.

Members of the British government became further dismayed by the proposed marriage after being told that Wallis Simpson was an agent of Nazi Germany. The Foreign Office obtained leaked dispatches from the German Reich’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Joachim von Ribbentrop, which revealed his strong view that opposition to the marriage was motivated by the wish “to defeat those Germanophile forces which had been working through Mrs Simpson”.[39] It was rumoured that Simpson had access to confidential government papers sent to Edward, which he notoriously left unguarded at his Fort Belvedere residence. While Edward was abdicating, the personal protection officers guarding Simpson in exile in France sent reports to Downing Street suggesting that she might “flit to Germany”.

Files from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, written after the abdication, reveal a further series of claims. The most damaging allege that in 1936, during her affair with the King, Simpson was simultaneously having an affair with Ambassador Ribbentrop. The Bureau’s source (Duke Carl Alexander of Württemberg, a minor German royal then living as a monk in the United States) claimed that Simpson and Ribbentrop had a relationship and that Ribbentrop sent her 17 carnations every day, one for each occasion they had slept together. The FBI claims were symptomatic of the extremely damaging gossip circulating about the woman Edward proposed to make a queen.

Relations between the United Kingdom and the United States were strained during the inter-war years and the majority of Britons were reluctant to accept an American as queen consort. At the time, some members of the British upper class looked down on Americans with disdain and considered them socially inferior. In contrast, the American public was clearly in favour of marriage, as was most of the American press.

As a result of these rumours and arguments, the belief strengthened among the British establishment that Simpson could not become a royal consort. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King told Edward to do “what he believed in his own heart was right” and the Canadian government appealed to the King to put his duty before his feelings for Simpson. British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin explicitly advised Edward that the majority of people would be opposed to his marrying Simpson, indicating that if he did, in direct contravention of his ministers’ advice, the government would resign en masse. The King responded, according to his own account later: “I intend to marry Mrs Simpson as soon as she is free to marry… if the Government opposed the marriage, as the Prime Minister had given me a reason to believe it would, then I was prepared to go.” Under pressure from the King, and “startled” at the suggested abdication, Baldwin agreed to take further soundings on three options:

  1. Edward and Simpson marry and she becomes queen (a royal marriage)
    2. Edward and Simpson marry, but she did not become queen, instead of receiving some courtesy title (a morganatic marriage)
    3. Abdication for Edward and any potential heirs he might father, allowing him to make any marital decisions without further constitutional implications.

The second option had European precedents, including Edward’s own great-grandfather, Duke Alexander of Württemberg, but it had no parallel in British constitutional history. The prime ministers of the five Dominions (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Irish Free State) were consulted, and the majority agreed that there was “no alternative to the course (3)”. Mackenzie King, Joseph Lyons (Prime Minister of Australia), and J. B. M. Hertzog (Prime Minister of South Africa) opposed options 1 and 2. Michael Joseph Savage (Prime Minister of New Zealand) rejected option 1 and thought that option 2 “might be possible… if some solution along these lines were found to be practicable”, but “would be guided by the decision of the Home government”. In communications with the British government, Éamon de Valera, (president of the Irish Free State government), remarked that as a Roman Catholic country, the Irish Free State did not recognise divorce. He supposed that if the British people would not accept Wallis Simpson then abdication was the only possible solution. On 24 November, Baldwin consulted the three leading opposition politicians in Britain: Leader of the Opposition Clement Attlee, Liberal leader Sir Archibald Sinclair, and Winston Churchill. Sinclair and Attlee agreed that options 1 and 2 were unacceptable, and Churchill pledged to support the government.

Churchill did not support the government, however. In July, he had advised the King’s legal counsel, Walter Monckton, against the divorce, but his advice was ignored. As soon as the affair became public knowledge, Churchill started to pressure Baldwin and the King to delay any decisions until parliament and the people had been consulted. In a private letter to Geoffrey Dawson, the editor of The Times newspaper, Churchill suggested that a delay would be beneficial because given time, the King might fall out of love with Simpson. Baldwin rejected the request for delay, presumably because he preferred to resolve the crisis quickly. Supporters of the King alleged a conspiracy between Baldwin, Geoffrey Dawson, and Cosmo Gordon Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The royal physician Bertrand Dawson was possibly involved in a plan to force the prime minister to retire on the grounds of heart disease, but he eventually accepted, on the evidence of an early electrocardiograph, that Baldwin’s heart was sound.

Political support for the King was scattered and comprised politicians outside of the mainstream parties such as Churchill, Oswald Mosley, and the Communists. David Lloyd George also supported the King despite disliking Simpson. He was, however, unable to take an active role in the crisis because he was on holiday in Jamaica with his mistress. In early December, rumours circulated that the King’s supporters would join together in a “King’s Party”, led by Churchill. However, there was no concerted effort to form an organised movement and Churchill had no intention of leading one. Nevertheless, the rumours damaged the King and Churchill severely, as Members of Parliament were horrified at the idea of the King interfering in politics.

The letters and diaries of working-class people and ex-servicemen generally demonstrate support for the King, while those from the middle and upper classes tend to express indignation and distaste. The Times, The Morning Post, Daily Herald, and newspapers owned by Lord Kemsley, such as The Daily Telegraph, opposed the marriage. On the other hand, the Express and Mail newspapers, owned by Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Rothermere, respectively, appeared to support a morganatic marriage. The King estimated that the newspapers in favour had a circulation of 12.5 million, and those against had 8.5 million. Backed by Churchill and Beaverbrook, Edward proposed to broadcast a speech indicating his desire to remain on the throne or to be recalled to it if forced to abdicate, while marrying Simpson morganatically. In one section, Edward proposed to say:

“Neither Mrs Simpson nor I have ever sought to insist that she should be queen. All we desired was that our married happiness should carry with it a proper title and dignity for her, befitting my wife. Now that I have at last been able to take you into my confidence, I feel it is best to go away for a while, so that you may reflect calmly and quietly, but without undue delay, on what I have said.”

Baldwin blocked the speech, saying that it would shock many people and would be a grave breach of constitutional principles. By modern convention, the sovereign could only act with the advice and counsel of ministers drawn from, or approved by, the King’s various parliaments. In seeking the people’s support against the government, Edward was opting to oppose the binding advice of his ministers and instead act as a private individual. Edward’s British ministers felt that, in proposing the speech, Edward had revealed his disdainful attitude towards constitutional conventions and threatened the political neutrality of the Crown.

Cabinet Office files released in 2013 show that on or before 5 December 1936, the Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, had ordered that Edward’s telephones be bugged, directing the General Post Office (which controlled British telephone services) to intercept “telephone communications between Fort Belvedere and Buckingham Palace on the one hand and the continent of Europe on the other.” On 5 December, having in effect been told that he could not keep the throne and marry Simpson, and having had his request to broadcast to the Empire to explain “his side of the story” blocked on constitutional grounds, Edward chose the third option.

Following Simpson’s divorce hearing on 27 October 1936, her solicitor, John Theodore Goddard, became concerned that there would be a “patriotic” citizen’s intervention (a legal device to block the divorce), and that such an intervention would be successful. The courts could not grant a collaborative divorce (a dissolution of marriage consented to by both parties), and so the case was being handled as if it were an undefended at-fault divorce brought against Ernest Aldrich Simpson, with Wallis Simpson as the innocent, injured party. The divorce action would fail if the citizen’s intervention showed that the Simpsons had colluded by, for example, conniving in or staging the appearance of his adultery so that she could marry someone else. On Monday 7 December 1936, the King heard that Goddard planned to fly to the south of France to see Wallis Simpson. The King summoned him and expressly forbade him to make the journey, fearing the visit might put doubts in Simpson’s mind. Goddard went straight to Downing Street to see Baldwin, as a result of which he was provided with an aeroplane to take him directly to Cannes.

Upon his arrival, Goddard warned his client that a citizen’s intervention, should it arise, was likely to succeed. It was, according to Goddard, his duty to advise her to withdraw her divorce petition. Simpson refused, but they both telephoned the King to inform him that she was willing to give him up so that he could remain king. It was, however, too late; the King had already made up his mind to go, even if he could not marry Simpson. Indeed, as the belief that the abdication was inevitable gathered strength, Goddard stated that: “[his] client was ready to do anything to ease the situation but the other end of the wicket [Edward VIII] was determined”. Goddard had a weak heart and had never flown before, so he asked his doctor, William Kirkwood, to accompany him on the trip. As Kirkwood was a resident at a maternity hospital, his presence led to false speculation that Simpson was pregnant, and even that she was having an abortion. The press excitedly reported that the solicitor had flown to Simpson accompanied by a gynaecologist and an anaesthetist (who was actually the lawyer’s clerk).

At Fort Belvedere, on 10 December, Edward signed his written abdication notices, witnessed by his three younger brothers: Prince Albert, Duke of York (who succeeded Edward as George VI); Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester; and Prince George, Duke of Kent. The following day, it was given legislative form by special Act of Parliament: His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act 1936. Under changes introduced in 1931 by the Statute of Westminster, a single Crown for the entire empire had been replaced by multiple crowns, one for each Dominion, worn by a single monarch in an organisation then known as the British Commonwealth. Though the British government, hoping for expediency and to avoid embarrassment, wished the Dominions to accept the actions of the home government, the Dominions held that Edward’s abdication required the consent of each Commonwealth state. This was duly given; by the Parliament of Australia, which was at the time in a session, and by the governments of the other Dominions, whose parliaments were in recess.

However, the government of the Irish Free State, taking the opportunity presented by the crisis and is a major step towards its eventual transition to a republic, passed an amendment to its constitution on 11 December to remove references to the Crown. The King’s abdication was recognised a day later in the External Relations Act of the Irish Free State and legislation eventually passed in South Africa declared that the abdication took effect there on 10 December. As Edward VIII had not been crowned, his planned coronation date became that of George VI instead.  Edward’s supporters felt that he had “been hounded from the throne by that arch humbug Baldwin”, but many members of the establishment were relieved by Edward’s departure. Mackenzie King wrote in his diary on 8 December 1936 that Edward’s “sense of right or wrong has been largely obliterated by the jazz of life he has led for years” and, upon receiving news of Edward’s final decision to abdicate, “if that is the kind of man he is it is better he should not be long on the Throne.” Edward’s own Assistant Private Secretary, Alan Lascelles, had told Baldwin as early as 1927: “I can’t help thinking that the best thing that could happen to him, and to the country, would be for him to break his neck.”

On 11 December 1936, Edward made a BBC radio broadcast from Windsor Castle; having abdicated, he was introduced by Sir John Reith as “His Royal Highness Prince Edward”. The official address had been polished by Churchill and was moderate in tone, speaking about Edward’s inability to do his job “as I would have wished” without the support of “the woman I love”. Edward’s reign had lasted 327 days, the shortest of any British monarch since the disputed reign of Lady Jane Grey over 380 years earlier. The day following the broadcast he left Britain for Austria.

George VI gave his elder brother the title of Duke of Windsor with the style His Royal Highness on 12 December 1936. On 3 May the following year, the Simpsons’ divorce was made final. The case was handled quietly and it barely featured in some newspapers. The Times was especially disingenuous, printing a single sentence below a seemingly unconnected report announcing the Duke’s departure from Austria. When the Duke married Wallis in France on 3 June 1937, she became the Duchess of Windsor, but, much to Edward’s disgust, his brother issued letters patent the week before that denied her the style of Her Royal Highness.

The Duke of Windsor lived in retirement in France for most of the rest of his life. His brother gave him a tax-free allowance, which the Duke supplemented by writing his memoirs and by illegal currency trading. He also profited from the sale of Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House to George VI. Both estates are private property and not part of the Royal Estate, and were therefore inherited and owned by Edward, regardless of the abdication. During World War II, Edward served as Governor of the Bahamas, where he was plagued by rumours and accusations that he was pro-Nazi. He reportedly told an acquaintance: “After the war is over and Hitler will crush the Americans… we’ll take over… They [the Commonwealth] don’t want me as their king, but I’ll soon be back as their leader.” He also told a journalist that “it would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler was overthrown”. Comments like these reinforced the belief that the Duke and Duchess held Nazi sympathies and the effect of the abdication crisis of 1936 was to force off the throne a man with extreme political views. The Duke explained his views in the New York Daily News of 13 December 1966: “…it was in Britain’s interest and in Europe’s too, that Germany be encouraged to strike east and smash Communism forever… I thought the rest of us could be fence-sitters while the Nazis and the Reds slogged it out.” However, claims that Edward would have been a threat or that he was removed by a political conspiracy to dethrone him remain speculative and “persist largely because since 1936 the contemporary public considerations have lost most of their force and so seem, wrongly, to provide an insufficient explanation for the King’s departure”.

Buckingham Palace at War

WWII (1939-1945) was a troubled time for Great Britain, however, the Royal family and in fact their home, Buckingham Palace was not out of harm’s way, but rather in the direct and immediate face of danger for as long as the war in Europe raged on. Throughout the war, the Palace had lost much of its staff to the army and most of the rooms were shut. The windows were shattered by bomb blasts and had to be boarded up.  In the early days of the Blitz, His Majesty’s (King George VI) government took the stance that the Royal family should leave London as a precautionary and safety measure. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth publicly refused to leave London or send the children to Canada as suggested. She declared, “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave the King. And the King will never leave.” Provisions were in fact made for the safety of little Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at a “home in the country” for the duration of the war, which would later be identified as Windsor Castle.  The defiance of Queen Elizabeth aggravated Hitler, to which he is said to have called her “the most dangerous woman in Europe” because he viewed her popularity and courage as a threat to German interests.

*During the Blitz, Buckingham Palace and its grounds were struck on sixteen separate occasions (of which nine were direct hits). The Palace forecourt, inner quadrangle, and South and North Wings were all marred by high explosive and delayed-action bombs. Despite this, the targeting of Buckingham Palace resulted in only partial success: physical damage was limited and there were no mass casualties. The Palace was first hit on 8 September 1940 when a 50kg delayed-action high explosive bomb landed harmlessly in the grounds. On 9 September 1940, a second delayed-action bomb fell close to a swimming pool at the northwestern part of the Palace. The bomb was roped off and later detonated, leaving a large crater and destroying much of the swimming pool. The North Wing of the Palace was damaged and many Palace windows were blown out.

The Palace was hit again on 13 September at around 11am, during the second of three daylight raids on London that day. A single German raider specifically targeted the Palace with a stick of five high explosive bombs. Two of these hit the inner quadrangle, a third struck the Royal Chapel in the South Wing and the remaining two (one delayed-action) fell on the forecourt and on the roadway between the Palace gates and the Victoria Memorial. The explosions in the quadrangle ruptured a water main and blew out most of the windows on the southern and western sides. The interior of the Royal Chapel was lacerated. Four workers were injured; one later died. Several portraits were damaged in the Palace corridors and the red carpets were lightly covered by dust. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were in residence at the time of the bombing – taking tea – but escaped unscathed. Congratulations on their safety poured in from around the Empire and beyond. After this attack, the Queen was prompted to express her solidarity with fellow Londoners, remarking:

“I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face”.

The incident did not end until 8.40am the following morning, when the delayed-action bomb – lying between the forecourt gates and the Victoria Memorial – finally detonated. Although rescue squads had been given ample time to build six foot-high sandbag walls around the bomb, the explosion destroyed much of the forecourt fencing around the south gate and left a crater 30’ by 20’ and 10’ deep.

On 15 September bombs also hit the Palace lawns and the Regency Bathroom facing the West Terrace. On 15 September 2010, at a ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral, marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the start of the Blitz, HRH Prince Charles told the press that his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, recalled how a single unexploded bomb was carried out of the Palace on a stretcher.  Two days later, on 17 September, another bomb landed shortly before 11am, just inside the Buckingham Garden Gate near the Royal Apartments, smashing a crater in the ground but not detonating upon impact. Investigators quickly confirmed the presence of a delayed-action UXB. Left where it was, the damage was minimal. When it finally detonated around 7 pm, this consisted mostly of broken glass littering nearby Grosvenor Place.

In his diary, General (later Field Marshal) Alanbrooke (in 1940 Commander-in-Chief of Home Forces) noted additional damage in October: ‘The most noisy night we have had yet and I was kept awake till 3 am by continual bombing. Several pretty close including a parachute mine in St James’s Park which blew in all the windows in Buckingham Palace and most houses surrounding the park’,

(Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, diary entry 16 October 1940, War Diaries 1939-1945, 1957)

On 1 November a high explosive bomb hit the lawns close to the western front of the Palace, damaging windows and a ground floor bedroom. The adjacent Royal Mews was also damaged.

On 8 March 1941, a Luftwaffe bomber flew over the Palace and dropped a single high explosive bomb which hit the North Lodge and partially demolished it. One policeman was killed. Only a few hours later, another wave of German aircraft dropped high explosive bombs over the forecourt. Despite initial confusion as to how many had hit, no major damage was inflicted on the Palace structure itself or utility mains. No casualties were reported among the Palace staff. In June 1944, the Palace grounds, walls, and an 18th-century summer house were badly damaged following a V1 flying bomb strike close to the Palace wall, at the western extreme of Constitution Hill. Because of its symbolic value and the fact that the Royal Family publicly insisted on staying in residence, Buckingham Palace provided a seductive target for the Luftwaffe attack during the Blitz. But their efforts did not succeed. Despite the significant number of attempts made on it, the Palace emerged from the Second World War with relatively slight damage.

1997: Goodbye England's Rose

On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales (mother to Princes William and Harry) passed unexpectedly as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. This tragic event and the loss of one of the world’s most famous personalities would change not only the face of but the actions of the Monarchy itself for years to come.

On Saturday 30 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, left Sardinia on a private jet and arrived in Paris with Dodi Fayed, the son of Mohamed al-Fayed. They had stopped there en route to London, having spent the preceding nine days together on board Mohamed al-Fayed’s yacht Jonikal on the French and Italian Riviera. They had intended to stay overnight. Mohamed Al-Fayed was and is the owner of the Hôtel Ritz Paris. He also owned an apartment in Rue Arsène Houssaye, a short distance from the hotel, just off the Avenue des Champs Elysées.

Henri Paul, the deputy head of security at the Ritz Hotel, had been instructed to drive the hired black 1994 Mercedes-Benz S280 in order to elude the paparazzi; a decoy vehicle left the Ritz first from the main entrance on Place Vendôme, attracting a throng of photographers. Diana and Fayed then departed from the hotel’s rear entrance rue Cambon at around 12:20 am (Sun 31 Aug 1997 00:20 +0200, local time), heading for the apartment in Rue Arsène Houssaye. They were the rear passengers, Trevor Rees-Jones, a member of the Fayed family’s personal protection team, was in the (right) front passenger seat.

After leaving the rue Cambon and crossing the Place de la Concorde they drove along Cours la Reine and Cours Albert 1er (the embankment road along the right bank of the River Seine) into the Place de l’Alma underpass. At around 12:23 am at the entrance to the tunnel Paul lost control; the car swerved to the left of the two-lane carriageway before colliding head-on with the 13th pillar supporting the roof at an estimated speed of 105 km/h (65 mph). It then spun and hit the stone wall of the tunnel backward, finally coming to a stop. The impact caused substantial damage, particularly to the front half of the vehicle. There was (and still is) no guard rail between the pillars to prevent this. Diana, Princess of Wales, her friend, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz W140, Henri Paul, were pronounced dead at the scene; the bodyguard of Diana and Dodi, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor. At around 14:00, Diana’s former husband, His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales, and her two older sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes arrived in Paris; they left with her body 90 minutes later bound for England.

Although the media blamed the paparazzi following the car, an 18-month French judicial investigation found that the crash was caused by Paul, who lost control of the car at high speed while drunk. Paul was the head of security at the Hôtel Ritz and had earlier goaded the paparazzi waiting outside the hotel. His inebriation may have been exacerbated by anti-depressants and traces of a tranquillising anti-psychotic in his body. The investigation concluded that the photographers were not near the Mercedes when it crashed. An inquest headed by Lord Justice Scott Baker into the deaths of Diana and Dodi began at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, on 2 October 2007, a continuation of the inquest that began in 2004. On 7 April 2008, the jury concluded that Diana and Dodi were the victims of an “unlawful killing” by the “grossly negligent” chauffeur Henri Paul and the drivers of the following vehicles. Additional factors were “the impairment of the judgment of the driver of the Mercedes through alcohol” and “the death of the deceased was caused or contributed to by the fact that the deceased was not wearing a seat-belt, the fact that the Mercedes struck the pillar in the Alma Tunnel rather than colliding with something else”.


Diana’s death was met with extraordinary public expressions of grief, and her funeral at Westminster Abbey on 6 September drew an estimated 3 million mourners and onlookers in London, and worldwide television coverage watched by 2.5 billion people. It was aired to 200 countries in 44 languages. Singer Elton John performed a new version of his song “Candle In The Wind” at the service.

Members of the public were invited to sign a book of condolence at St James Palace. Throughout the night, members of the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and the Salvation Army provided support for people queuing along the Mall. More than one million bouquets were left at her London home, Kensington Palace, while at her family’s estate of Althorp the public was asked to stop bringing flowers as the volume of people and flowers in the surrounding roads was said to be causing a threat to public safety.

By 10 September, the pile of flowers outside Kensington Gardens was 5 feet (1.5m) deep in places and the bottom layer had started to compost. The people were quiet, queuing patiently to sign the book and leave their gifts. There were a few minor incidents. Fabio Piras, a Sardinian tourist, was given a one-week prison sentence on 10 September for having taken a teddy bear from the pile. When the sentence was later reduced to a £100 fine, Piras was punched in the face by a member of the public when he left the court. The next day two women, a 54-year-old secondary school teacher, and a 50-year-old communications technician, were each given a 28-day prison sentence for having taken 11 teddy bears and a number of flowers from the pile outside the palace. This was reduced to a fine of £200 each after they had spent two nights in prison.

Some criticised the reaction to Diana’s death at the time as being “hysterical” and “irrational”. As early as 1998 philosopher Anthony O’Hear identified mourning as a defining point in the “sentimentalisation of Britain”, a media-fuelled phenomenon where image and reality become blurred. These criticisms were repeated on the 10th anniversary, when journalist Jonathan Freedland expressed the opinion that “It has become an embarrassing memory, like a mawkish, self-pitying teenage entry in a diary,… we cringe to think about it.” In 2010, Theodore Dalrymple wrote “sentimentality, both spontaneous and generated by the exaggerated attention of the media, that was necessary to turn the death of the princess into an event of such magnitude thus served a political purpose, one that was inherently dishonest in a way that parallels the dishonesty that lies behind much sentimentality itself”.

Some cultural analysts disagreed. Sociologist Deborah Steinberg pointed out that many Britons associated Diana not with the Royal Family but with social change and more liberal society: “I don’t think it was hysteria, the loss of a public figure can be a touchstone for other issues.”

The Royal Family

The reaction of the Queen and the Royal Family to Diana’s death caused resentment and outcry from the public. The Queen, Prince Philip, and other members of the Royal family were at the summer residence of Her Majesty, Balmoral Castle, and the initial decision not to return to London or to mourn more publicly was much criticised at the time. Their rigid adherence to protocol, and their concern to care for Diana’s two grieving sons, was interpreted by some as a lack of compassion and respect for the deceased Princess.

In particular, the refusal of Buckingham Palace to fly the Royal Standard at half-mast provoked angry headlines in newspapers. Overeager editors without proper understanding or education on Royal symbols such as the Royal Standard created headlines such as” Where is our Queen? Where is her Flag?” asked The Sun. The Palace’s stance was one of royal protocol: no flag could fly over Buckingham Palace, as the Royal Standard is only flown when the Queen is in residence, and the Queen was then in Scotland. The Royal Standard never flies at half-mast as it is the Sovereign’s flag and there is never an interregnum or vacancy in the monarchy, as the new Monarch immediately succeeds his or her predecessor. Rightfully so, the Royal Standard did not fly at half-mast and will never do so as long as there is a Monarchy within the United Kingdom.

As a compromise, the Union Flag was flown at half-mast as the Queen left for Westminster Abbey on the day of the funeral. This set a precedent, and Buckingham Palace has subsequently flown the Union Flag when the Queen is not in residence. The Queen, who returned to London with members of the Royal family from Balmoral, agreed to a television broadcast to the nation. This was a historic moment in time that showed the resilience and continuity of the Monarchy, despite a moment in time to which logic was overruled by public emotion and grief. On the day of Diana’s funeral procession, the Royal family emerged from not only the Palace, but the front gates to pay respects and watch Diana’s coffin pass by. In her own tribute to Diana, Her Majesty bowed her head to the Princess as the funeral cortege made its way past Buckingham Palace and on to Althorp House.

Public Reactions

Over a million people lined the four-mile (6 km) route from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. Outside the Abbey and in Hyde Park crowds watched and listened to proceedings on giant outdoor screens and huge speakers as guests filed in, including representatives of the many charities of which Diana was patron. Notable attendants included Hillary Rodham Clinton; Bernadette Chirac, wife of the French President, Jacques Chirac; and other celebrities, including Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and Diana’s good friend’s singers George Michael and Elton John – the latter performed a rewritten version of his song “Candle in the Wind” that was dedicated to her. The service was televised live around the world.

The protocol was disregarded when the guests applauded the speech by Diana’s younger brother Earl Spencer, who strongly criticised the press and indirectly criticised the Royal Family for their treatment of her. The funeral is estimated to have been watched by 31.5 million viewers in Britain. Precise calculation of the worldwide audience is not possible but estimated at around 2.5 billion. After the end of the ceremony, the coffin was driven to Althorp in a Daimler hearse. Mourners cast flowers at the funeral procession for almost the entire length of its journey and vehicles even stopped on the opposite carriageway of the M1 motorway as the cars passed. In a private ceremony, Diana was buried on an island in the middle of a lake. In her casket, she wore a black Catherine Walker dress and is clutching a rosary in her hands. The rosary had been a gift from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a confidante of Diana, who had died the day before her funeral. A visitors’ centre is open during the summer months, with an exhibition about her and a walk around the lake. All profits are donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

Subsequent Events

In the years after her death, interest in the life of Diana has remained high. As a temporary memorial, the public co-opted the Flamme de la Liberté (Flame of Liberty), a monument near the Alma tunnel related to the French donation of the Statue of Liberty to the United States. The messages of condolence have since been removed and its use as a Diana memorial has discontinued, though visitors still leave messages in her memory. A permanent memorial, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, was opened by the Queen in Hyde Park in London on 6 July 2004.

Diana was ranked third in the 2002 Great Britons poll sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the British public, after Sir Winston Churchill (1st) (her cousin), and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (2nd), just above Charles Darwin (4th), William Shakespeare (5th), and Isaac Newton (6th). That same year, another British poll named Diana’s death as the most important event in the country’s last 100 years. Historian Nick Barrett criticised this outcome as being “a pretty shocking result”.

Symbols of Monarchy

Symbols of the Monarchy can be found almost everywhere in the United Kingdom. From the money we use to the flags we fly, to the stamps we adhere to our letters, the symbols of our Monarchy are everywhere. There are many more symbols of Monarchy which you may or may not know of, some of which are attached to the very everyday products that we purchase, use, and eat. Our Crown is seen in many different ways, whilst many of these symbols are found in places you would least expect them. This section will help you identify the great symbols of our Monarchy.

The National Anthem: God Save the Queen

The British National Anthem dates back to the eighteenth century. ‘God Save The King’ was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London in 1745, which came to be known as the National Anthem at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The words and tune are anonymous, and may date back to the seventeenth century. In September 1745 the ‘Young Pretender’ to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh. In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, arranged ‘God Save The King’ for performance after a play. It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly.

This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting monarchs with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established. There is no authorised version of the National Anthem as the words are a matter of tradition. Additional verses have been added down the years, but these are rarely used. The words used today are those sung in 1745, substituting ‘Queen’ for ‘King’ where appropriate. On official occasions, only the first verse is usually sung.

The words of the National Anthem:
God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen! Send her victorious, Happy, and glorious, Long to reign over us; God save the Queen!

  1. O Lord our God arise, Scatter her enemies And make them fall; Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks, On Thee our hopes we fix, God save us all!
  2. Thy choicest gifts in store On her be pleased to pour; Long may she reign; May she defend our laws, And ever give us cause To sing with heart and voice, God save the Queen!
  3. Not in this land alone, But be God’s mercies known, From shore to shore! Lord make the nations see, That men should brothers be, And form one family, The wide world over.
  4. From every latent foe, From the assassins blow, God save the Queen! O’er her thine arm extend, For Britain’s sake defend, Our mother, prince, and friend, God save the Queen!

This British tune has been used in other countries. European visitors to Britain in the eighteenth century noticed the advantage of a country possessing such a recognised musical symbol. In total, around 140 composers, including Beethoven, Haydn, and Brahms, have used the tune in their compositions. In America, the words have been changed, but the tune remains the same. However “God Save The Queen” is known by our American cousins by the new verses and words of “My Country T’is Of Thee”.

The Royal Standard

The Royal Standard represents the Sovereign and the United Kingdom. The Royal Standard is flown when The Queen is in residence in one of the Royal Palaces, on The Queen’s car on official journeys and on aircraft (when on the ground). It may also be flown on any building, official or private (but not ecclesiastical buildings), during a visit by The Queen, if the owner or proprietor so requests. The Royal Standard also used to be flown on board the Royal Yacht, when it was in service and The Queen was on board. The Royal Standard is only flown when the Sovereign is present. If the Union Jack is flying above Buckingham Palace instead of the Standard, The Queen is not in residence.


The present-day postal service in the UK has Royal origins, beginning in the system used to send Court documents in previous centuries. For centuries letters on affairs of State to and from the Sovereign’s court, and dispatches in time of war were carried by messengers of the Court and couriers employed for particular occasions. Symbols of the Royal origins of the UK’s postal system remain. A miniature silhouette of the monarch’s head is depicted on all stamps; the personal ciphers of The Queen and her predecessors (going back to Victoria) appear on most letterboxes, and the main postal delivery service is known as the Royal Mail. The image of The Queen which appears on UK postage stamps was designed by Arnold Machin, who originally created it as a sculpture. Issued on 5 June 1967, it has remained unchanged for four decades. It is thought that this design is the most reproduced work of art in history, with over 200 billion examples produced so far.

The Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels are the ceremonial treasures that have been acquired by English kings and queens, mostly since 1660. The collection includes not only the regalia used at coronations, but also crowns acquired by various monarchs, church and banqueting plate, orders, insignia, robes, a unique collection of medals, and Royal christening fonts. Britain is the only European monarchy still using its regalia for the consecration ceremony of crowning the Sovereign. At Westminster Abbey, where William I was the first monarch to be crowned, the Sovereign is escorted to the Coronation Chair (used at every coronation since 1300) by individuals carrying the processional regalia. The most famous attempt at theft was in 1671 by Colonel Thomas Blood. He was caught at the East Gate of the Tower with the crown, one sceptre, and the orb. During the Second World War, the jewels were hidden in a secret location which has never been disclosed.

The function of the Royal coat of arms is to identify the person who is Head of State. In respect of the United Kingdom, the Royal arms are borne only by the Sovereign. The arms are used in the administration and government of the country, appearing on coins, in churches, and on public buildings. They also appear on the products and goods of Royal warrant holders. The Sovereign’s coat of arms has evolved over many years and reflects the history of the Monarchy and of the country. In the design, the shield shows the various Royal emblems of different parts of the United Kingdom: the three lions of England in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland in the second and the harp of Ireland in the third. It is surrounded by a garter bearing the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense (‘Evil to him who evil thinks’), which symbolises the Order of the Garter, an ancient order of knighthood of which the Queen is Sovereign. The shield is supported by the English lion and Scottish unicorn and is surmounted by the Royal crown. Below it appears the motto of the Sovereign, Dieu et mon Droit (‘God and my right’). The plant badges of the United Kingdom – rose, thistle and shamrock – are often displayed beneath the shield.

The Scottish version of the Royal coat of arms shows the lion of Scotland in the first and fourth quarters, with that of England being in the second. The harp of Ireland is in the third quarter. The mottoes read ‘In defence’ and ‘No one will attack me with impunity. From the times of the Stuart kings, the Scottish quarterings have been used for official purposes in Scotland (for example, on official buildings and official publications).

The special position of Wales as a Principality was recognised by the creation of the Prince of Wales long before the incorporation of the quarterings for Scotland and Ireland in the Royal Arms. The arms of the Prince of Wales show the arms of the ancient Principality in the centre as well as these quarterings. Coats of arms of members of the Royal Family are broadly similar to The Queen’s with small differences to identify them. A crest is not the same as a coat of arms. A crest is only one part of the full coat of arms: the three-dimensional object placed on top of the helm.

Bank Notes and Coinage

There are close ties between the Monarchy and the UK monetary system. These can be seen, for example, in the title of the ‘Royal Mint’ and the representation of the monarch on all circulating British coinage. During The Queen’s reign, there have been four representations of Her Majesty on circulating coinage. The original coin portrait of Her Majesty was by Mary Gillick and was adopted at the beginning of the reign in 1952. The following effigy was by Arnold Machin OBE, RA, approved by the Queen in 1964. That portrait was used on all the decimal coins from 1968. The next effigy was by Raphael Maklouf FRSA and was adopted in 1985. From the time of Charles II onwards, a tradition developed of monarchs being represented on the coinage facing in the opposite direction to their immediate predecessor.

Royal warrants are granted to people or companies who have regularly supplied goods or services for a minimum of five consecutive years to The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales. A Royal warrant is initially granted for five years, after which time it comes up for review by the Royal Household Tradesmen’s Warrants Committee. Warrants may not be renewed if the quality or supply for the product or service is insufficient, as far as the relevant Royal Household is concerned. The warrants are a mark of recognition that tradesmen are regular suppliers of goods and services to the Royal households. Strict regulations govern the warrant, which allows the grantee or company to use the legend ‘By Appointment’ and display the Royal coat of arms on his products, such as stationery, advertisements and other printed material, in his or her premises and on delivery vehicles. There are currently approximately 800 Royal warrant holders, holding over 1,100 Royal warrants between them (some have more than one Royal warrant).

In 1960, The Queen adopted a personal flag to be flown on any building, ship, car or aircraft in which she was staying or travelling. The Royal Standard represents not only the Sovereign but also the United Kingdom, whereas The Queen’s own flag is personal to her alone and can be flown by no one other than The Queen. The Queen’s personal flag consists of the initial ‘E’ ensigned with the Royal crown, surrounded by a chaplet of roses. The design is in gold (or yellow) on a blue field and the flag is fringed with gold (or yellow).

Since its introduction, the flag’s use has been altered. Although it is not a ‘Head of Commonwealth’ flag, it has in effect become The Queen’s personal Commonwealth flag. It is flown to mark her presence in non-monarchical Commonwealth countries and in realms that have not adopted a personal flag specifically for The Queen. Some realms have adopted their own versions of the flag to be flown as a personal flag when The Queen is in their country, each one incorporating the country’s arms with The Queen’s personal design. The Queen’s personal flag is also flown on a number of Commonwealth occasions in the United Kingdom.

In addition to his standard as Prince of Wales, the Prince has a personal flag exclusively for use in Wales. The flag is based on the Arms of the Principality of Wales, also known as the Arms of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native Prince of Wales.

The flag was flown for the first time on June 11, 1969 – three weeks before The Prince’s Investiture – at Castle Green, Cardiff, for the inauguration of the Royal Regiment of Wales, of which The Prince is Colonel-in-Chief. During the Investiture ceremony on 1 July 1969, the Standard for Wales was flown from Caernarfon Castle’s Eagle Tower. The Prince of Wales also has a personal banner for his use in Scotland, based on his Scottish titles – Duke of Rothesay, Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland. It consists of four quarterings. The first and third feature a blue and white chequered band across a gold background, representing the Great Steward of Scotland, whilst the second and fourth quarterings show a black galley on a white background, representing the Lord of the Isles. A small shield in the centre shows the lions rampant, representing the dukedom of Rothesay.

Other children of the Sovereign have flags that feature the Scottish version of the Royal Standard, bearing heraldic ‘labels’ or differences to distinguish each Royal individual.

The Great Seal of the Realm is the chief seal of the Crown, used to show the Monarch’s approval of important state documents. In today’s constitutional monarchy, the Sovereign acts on the advice of the Government of the day, but the seal remains an important symbol of the Sovereign’s role as Head of State. The practice of using this seal began in the reign of Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century, when a double-sided metal matrix with an image of the Sovereign was used to make an impression in wax for attachment by ribbon or cord to Royal documents. The seal meant that the monarch did not need to sign every official document in person; authorisation could be carried out instead by an appointed officer.

In centuries when few people could read or write, the seal provided a pictorial expression of Royal approval that all could understand. The uniqueness of the official seal – only one matrix was in existence at any one time – also meant it was difficult to forge or tamper with official documents. The Great Seal matrix has changed many times throughout the centuries. A new matrix is engraved at the beginning of each reign on the order of the Sovereign. It is traditional that on the death of the Sovereign the old seal is used until the new Sovereign orders otherwise. For many monarchs, a single seal has sufficed. In the case of some long-reigning monarchs, such as Queen Victoria, the original seal simply wore out and a series of replacements were required.

The Queen has had two Great Seals during her reign. The first was designed by Gilbert Ledward and came into service in 1953. Through long usage and the heat involved in the sealing process, the matrix lost definition. In 2001 a new Great Seal, designed by sculptor James Butler and produced by the Royal Mint, came in use. The Great Seal matrix is used to create seals for a range of documents requiring Royal approval, including letters patent, Royal proclamations, commissions, some writs (such as writs for the election of Members of Parliament), and the documents which give the power to sign and ratify treaties. Each year more than 100 documents pass under the Great Seal. Separate seals exist for Scotland – the Great Seal of Scotland – and for Northern Ireland. The process of sealing takes place nowadays at the House of Lords in the office of the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery.

A system of ‘colour coding’ is used for the seal impression, depending on the type of document to which it is being affixed. The different coloured sealing material is used for different types of document. Dark green seals are affixed to letters patent which elevates individuals to the peerage. Blue seals are used for documents relating to the close members of the Royal Family. Scarlet red is used for documents appointing a bishop and for most other patents.

Our Constitution

The British Constitution is an unwritten document, unlike the constitution in America or the European Constitution, and as such, is referred to as an uncodified constitution, in the sense that there is no one single document that can be referred to as the constitution of the United Kingdom. The British Constitution is very unique and can be found in a variety of different documents, some dating as far back as the Magna Carta in 1215. Supporters of our constitution believe that the current way allows for flexibility and change to occur without too many problems. Those who want a written constitution believe that it should be codified so that the public as a whole has access to it in document form, as opposed to just constitutional experts who know how to interpret it, and where to look for it.

Amendments to Britain’s unwritten constitution are made by a simple majority of support for the change in both Houses of Parliament, which are then followed by the Royal Assent. The constitution as we know can be drawn from several various sources, but the most basic written instruments that can be found as a basis of our constitution are the Magna Carta of 1215, the Act of Settlement of 1701, the laws and customs of Parliament, court judgments, as well as parliamentary constitutional conventions and royal prerogatives.

Crown in the U.K.

The Queen in Scotland

“Since 1999 Scotland has had two Parliaments: one in Edinburgh for devolved, domestic matters, and the other at Westminster for UK-wide issues. Scotland had its own Parliament until the Act of Union of 1707 when the Parliament in London took responsibility for legislation in Scotland. In a referendum on 11 September 1997, a majority of the Scottish public voted in favour of a Scottish Parliament. The first session was held on 12 May 1999 and the Scottish Parliament was officially opened by The Queen on 1 July 1999 in its temporary building on the Mound in Edinburgh. The new Scottish Parliament building was formally opened by The Queen on 9 October 2004. The building is sited opposite the Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh. With 129 members (including the Presiding Officer) elected every four years, the Scottish Parliament can introduce primary legislation and is responsible for a portfolio that includes education, health, law, environment, economic development, local government, housing, and police. It also has the power to vary the basic rate of income tax by up to three pence in the pound. Under legislation that established the Scottish Parliament, Members of the Scottish Parliament take the oath of allegiance to the Crown. The Queen also receives a weekly report from the Scottish Parliament on its business, given its specific legislative role. The Queen appoints the Scottish First Minister and has regular audiences with him or her to keep up to date with Scottish affairs.

The Queen in Wales

“A referendum in 1997 saw the public vote in favour of a National Assembly for Wales. The first elections were held on 6 May 1999, and elections are held every four years. The Assembly was officially opened on 26 May 1999 in Cardiff, a ceremony in which The Queen and The Prince of Wales played prominent roles. Both The Queen and The Prince of Wales spoke at the opening ceremony in the temporary Assembly building. During the ceremony, The Queen symbolically signed a document on which was written the opening words of the Government of Wales Act. On 1 March 2006, The Queen opened the permanent home for the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff. The Welsh Assembly has 60 members (including the Presiding Officer). It can introduce only secondary legislation, covering areas including legislation, health, training, environment, housing, tourism, and agriculture. It has no powers to alter income tax, but it does allocate the funds made available to Wales from the Treasury of the UK. Wales remains within the framework of the United Kingdom, and laws passed in Parliament in Westminster still apply to Wales. The Government of Wales Act 2006, which came into force in May 2007, assigned to The Queen new ceremonial functions of formally appointing Welsh ministers and granting Royal Assent to Acts of the Assembly. In addition, the Assembly staff are members of Her Majesty’s Home Civil Service. The Queen holds audiences from time to time with the First Minister to keep abreast of business in Wales. However, the formal advice on which Her Majesty acts in relation to Wales is provided by her UK ministers.

The Queen in Northern Ireland

“The Northern Ireland Assembly was established as part of the Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 as the prime source of authority for all devolved responsibilities. A total of 108 members were elected to the Assembly on 25 June 1998 by Proportional Representation (Single Transferable Vote) from the existing 18 Westminster constituencies. The Assembly was given full legislative and executive authority in respect of those matters previously within the remit of six Northern Ireland government departments: the Departments of Agriculture, Economic Development, Education, Environment, Finance and Personnel, and Health and Social Services. The Queen met members of the Assembly when she visited the Assembly building at Stormont as part of her Golden Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom in 2002, and again in 2005.

The Realms

A Commonwealth Realm is a sovereign nation that has Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II as its Monarch and Head of State. These Sovereign nations are also members of the Commonwealth of Nations, which have the Royal line of succession in common with other Realms, thus being titled “Commonwealth Realms”. Since 1992, there are 16 Commonwealth Realms.

There are 15 Commonwealth Realms in addition to the United Kingdom:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Canada
  • Jamaica
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Belize
  • Papua New Guinea
  • St. Christopher and Nevis
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Tuvalu
  • Barbados
  • Grenada
  • Solomon Islands
  • St. Lucia
  • The Bahamas

Relationship of the Realms

The Commonwealth Realms are sovereign states, united only in the voluntary and symmetric sharing of the institution of the Monarchy, the succession, and the Queen herself; the person of the sovereign and the Crown were said in 1936 to be “the most important and vital link” between the realms. Political scientist Peter Boyce called this grouping of countries associated in this manner, “an achievement without parallel in the history of international relations or constitutional law.” Terms such as personal union, a form of personal union, and shared monarchy, amongst others, have all been advanced as definitions since the beginning of the Commonwealth itself, though there has been no agreement on which term is most accurate, or even whether the personal union is applicable at all. The United Kingdom no longer holds any legislative power over any country besides itself, although some countries continue to use, by their own volition, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as part of their own judiciary; usually as the highest court of appeal.

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Philip, reads the Throne Speech in the Senate Chambers, officially opening the session of Parliament on Oct. 18, 1977. The Canadian Press Images/Paul Chiasson

Since each realm has the same person as to its monarch, the diplomatic practice of exchanging ambassadors with letters of credence and recall from one head of state to another is redundant. Diplomatic relations between the Commonwealth realms are thus at a cabinet-level only and high commissioners are exchanged between realms (though all other countries in the Commonwealth of Nations also follow this same practice, but for traditional reasons). A High Commissioner’s full title will thus be High Commissioner for Her Majesty’s Government of (name of the nation). Conflicts of interest have arisen from this relationship amongst independent states, ranging from minor diplomatic matters—such as the monarch expressing on the advice of one of her cabinets views that counter those of another of her cabinets—to more serious conflicts regarding matters of armed conflict, wherein the monarch, as head of state of two different realms, may be simultaneously at war and at peace with a third country, or even at war with himself as head of two hostile nations. In such cases, viceroys have tended to avoid placing the sovereign directly in the centre of the conflict, meaning that a governor-general may have to take controversial actions entirely on his or her own initiative through the exercise of the reserve powers.

The Crown in the Commonwealth realms

The evolution of the Commonwealth realms has led to the scenario wherein the Crown has both a separate and a shared character; it is a singular institution with one sovereign, but also simultaneously operates separately within each country, with the Queen being equally a part of each state and acting in right of a particular realm as a distinct legal person guided only by the advice of the cabinet of that jurisdiction. This means that in different contexts the term Crown may refer to the extra-national institution shared amongst all 16 countries, or to the Crown in each realm considered separately. However, though the monarchy is therefore no longer an exclusively British institution, having become “domesticated” in each of the realms, it may in the media and legal fields often still be elaborated as the British Crown for reasons historical, of convenience, or political, regardless of the different, specific, and official national titles and terms used when addressing the Queen of the citizenry in each jurisdiction; for example, in Barbados, the Queen is titled as Elizabeth II, Queen of Barbados, or simply the Queen of Barbados, with her full title making mention of her position as queen of the other Commonwealth realms.

To guarantee the continuity of this arrangement after the first realms were established in 1931, the preamble of the Statute of Westminster laid out a convention that any alteration to the line of succession in any one country must be voluntarily approved by the parliaments of all the realms. This convention was first applied to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 and was reasserted by the Perth Agreement of 2011, in which all 16 realms agreed in principle to change the succession rule to absolute primogeniture of non-Catholics. Alternatively, a realm may choose to end its participation in the shared Monarchy.

From a cultural standpoint, the shared nature of the Crown is less clear. In all realms, the sovereign’s name and image and other royal symbols unique to each nation are visible in the emblems and insignia of governmental institutions and militia, leading to the argument that the Crown as a shared link between the Commonwealth realms, with the Crown in right of each country having unique domestic characteristics. The Queen’s effigy, for example, appears on coins and banknotes in some countries, and an oath of allegiance to the Queen is usually required from politicians, judges, military members, and new citizens. It is also asserted, however, that the Crown throughout the realms remains essentially British and primarily of the United Kingdom, despite the legal and cultural evolution of the Commonwealth since the 1930s. Indeed, by 1959 it was being asserted by Buckingham Palace officials that the Queen was “equally at home in all her realms.”
Monarch’s role in the realms

The monarch is, in theory, the supreme governor of each of the Commonwealth realms, charged with issuing executive orders, commanding the military forces, and creating and administering laws. However, each country now operates under the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy and the concept of responsible government, meaning that the monarch only exercises her powers on the advice of her Crown ministers, who are usually drawn from, and thus responsible to, the elected chamber of the relevant parliament.

While this remains the case for all the Commonwealth realms, their sovereign resides predominantly in her oldest realm, the United Kingdom, and thus carries out her duties there mostly in person. The Queen appoints viceroys to perform most of the royal constitutional and ceremonial duties on her behalf in the other realms: in each, a governor-general as her personal national representative, as well as a governor as her representative in each of the Australian states. These appointments are all made on the advice of the prime minister of the country or the premier of the state concerned, though this process may have additional requirements. In certain other cases, the extent to which varies from realm to realm, specific additional powers are reserved exclusively for the monarch—such as the appointment of extra senators to the Canadian Senate, the creation of honours, or the issuance of letters patent—and on occasions of national importance, the Queen may be advised to perform in person her constitutional duties, such as granting Royal Assent or issuing a royal proclamation. Otherwise, all royal powers, including the Royal Prerogative, are carried out on behalf of the sovereign by the relevant viceroy, which, apart from those already mentioned, include a lieutenant governor in each province of Canada (appointed by the Governor-General of Canada). In the United Kingdom, the Queen appoints Counsellors of State to perform her constitutional duties in her absence.

Similarly, the monarch will perform ceremonial duties in the Commonwealth realms to mark historically significant events. He or she does so most frequently in the United Kingdom and, in the other countries, during tours at least once every five or six years, meaning the Queen is present in a number of her dominions outside the UK or acting on behalf of those realms abroad, approximately every other year. For this work, the sovereign receives no salary from any state; instead, only the expenses incurred for each event (security, transportation, venue, etc.) are, due to the nature of the Crown in the realms, funded by the relevant state individually through the ordinary legislative budgeting process and, if called for, by the organisation that invited the sovereign’s attendance. These engagements are organised in order for the Crown to honour, encourage, and learn about the achievements or endeavours of individuals, institutions, and enterprises in a variety of areas of the lives of the Queen’s subjects.

Crown in the U.K.

The Channel Islands

The Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey) and the Isle of Man are not part of the United Kingdom but are dependent territories of the English Crown. Both have their own forms of self-administration, although the United Kingdom government is responsible for certain areas of policy. The Queen has a special relationship with both Crown dependencies and is known thereby unique titles.

Situated 10 to 30 miles off the northwest coast of France, the Channel Islands are not part of the United Kingdom. They are dependent territories of the English Crown, as successor to the Dukes of Normandy. The Channel Islands have two main administrative units, or Bailiwicks, of Jersey and Guernsey. In each Bailiwick, The Queen’s personal representative is the Lieutenant Governor, who since the mid-eighteenth century has acted as the channel of communication between the Sovereign and the Channel Islands’ government. The islands have their own legislative assemblies, as well as their own administrative, fiscal and legal systems. They have wide powers of self-government, although primary legislation passed by the assemblies requires approval by The Queen in Council (Privy Council).

The United Kingdom government is responsible for the defence and international relations of the Islands, and the Crown is ultimately responsible for their good government. In fulfilling its responsibilities to the Islands, the Crown acts through the Privy Council. The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor is the Privy Counsellor primarily concerned with the affairs of the Channel Islands. In the Channel Islands, the Queen is known as The Duke of Normandy. At official functions, islanders raise the loyal toast to ‘The Duke of Normandy, our Queen’. The Queen has visited the islands on various occasions – most recently, in May 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of their liberation from German occupation.


The Channel Islands were part of the Duchy of Normandy when Duke William, following his conquest of England in 1066, became William I. In 1106, William’s youngest son Henry I seized the Duchy of Normandy from his brother Robert; since that time, the English Sovereign has always held the title Duke of Normandy. By 1205, England had lost most of its French lands, including Normandy. However, the Channel Islands, part of the lost Duchy, remained a self-governing possession of the English Crown. While the islands today retain autonomy in government, they owe allegiance to The Queen in her role as Duke of Normandy.

The Isle of Man

Lies in the Irish Sea, roughly the same distance from England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The Crown’s personal representative today is the Lieutenant Governor, who is appointed by The Queen and who has delegated power to grant Royal Assent to legislation dealing with domestic matters. The Government, known as Tynwald, consists of two branches: the Legislative Council (mostly chosen by the House of Keys) and the House of Keys (which has 24 elected members). However, the Crown, acting through the Privy Council, is the ultimate authority, with the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor having prime responsibility as Privy Counsellor for Manx affairs. The United Kingdom government is responsible for the defence and international relations of the Island. On 5 July each year, Tynwald Court assembles in the open air on Tynwald Hill at St John’s. During The Queen’s most recent visit in July 2003, Her Majesty presided over the outdoor Tynwald ceremony at St. John’s. The Queen is known in the Isle of Man as Lord of Man. The Queen has visited the Isle of Man on various occasions, most recently in 2003.

It has the oldest representative government in the Commonwealth. The legislative system was introduced around 800 AD when the Isle was part of the Norwegian Kingdom of the Hebrides. The original government, the Tynwald, consisted of the King, two advisers, the chief officials and council, and the Keys, which was a representative group ‘of the worthiest men in the Island’. In 1266 the island was ceded to Scotland, and England later acquired it by treaty under Edward I. The lordship of Man was handed over to English lords in return for regular payments to successive monarchs. From 1405 to 1765 the island was ruled by the Earls of Derby, and later the Dukes of Atholl, as Lords of Man. The use of the island as a secure base for smugglers became such a problem that, in 1765, the British government gave the island its own legislature but required all customs and taxes to be paid into the British exchequer. The lordship reverted to the Crown, and George III became Lord of Man.

The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth and the Crown. The Commonwealth of Nations is an organisation of 53 independent states made up mostly of former colonies that were part of the British Empire. The Commonwealth is headed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, however this position is not a hereditary one. 16 nations in The Commonwealth share Queen Elizabeth II as their Head of State, although each of these nations are governed separately – United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. These are known as the ‘Commonwealth Realms’.

Its Purpose

The origins of the Commonwealth lie in Britain’s former colonial empire. Until 1949, the member states of today’s Commonwealth were united through common allegiance to the British Crown. After the Second World War, many countries sought their independence. Soon after attaining independence in 1947, India declared that it wished to adopt a republican constitution, but also wanted to remain within the Commonwealth. This was accepted in the London Declaration agreed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1949, provided that India accepted King George VI as “the symbol of the free association of the independent Member Nations and as such Head of the Commonwealth”.Over the next two decades, British rule ended in many parts of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Pacific. With a few exceptions (such as Myanmar, formerly known as Burma), the newly independent countries joined the Commonwealth and recognised King George VI and, following his death, Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth.

The London Declaration made it possible for the Asian and African states of the former Empire, most of which wished to become republics, to remain within the Commonwealth upon attaining independence. This has led to the development of the contemporary Commonwealth. Member countries of the Commonwealth can therefore have different constitutions: a republic with a president as Head of State (such as India and South Africa), an indigenous monarchy (for example, Lesotho, Malaysia, Swaziland and Tonga), a sultanate (Brunei), an elected Paramount Chieftaincy (Western Samoa), or a realm recognising The Queen as Sovereign (for example the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Barbados). Whichever form their constitution takes, member countries all recognise The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth. Today the Commonwealth continues to play an important social and political role in the world, as a major association of countries. As The Queen declared in a Silver Jubilee speech in 1977, it symbolises “the transformation of the Crown from an emblem of dominion into a symbol of free and voluntary association. In all history this has no precedent.” The term ‘Commonwealth’ was first used by British Liberal politician Lord Rosebery in Adelaide, Australia, in 1884. During a famous speech, he referred to the British Empire as ‘a Commonwealth of Nations’.

The Queen And The Commonwealth

This is an important symbolic and unifying role. As Head,The Queen personally reinforces the links by which the Commonwealth joins people together from around the world. One of the ways of strengthening these connections is through regular Commonwealth visits. During her reign, The Queen has visited every country in the Commonwealth (with the exception of Cameroon, which joined in 1995) and made many repeat visits. One third of The Queen’s total overseas visits are to Commonwealth countries. The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and other members of the Royal Family are also regular visitors to the Commonwealth.

The Queen keeps in touch with Commonwealth developments through regular contact with the Commonwealth Secretary General and his Secretariat. This is the Commonwealth’s central organisation. Based in London, it co-ordinates many Commonwealth activities. Her Majesty also has regular meetings with Heads of Government from Commonwealth countries.Each year, The Queen attends the Commonwealth Day celebrations in London. Since 1977, Commonwealth Day has been celebrated throughout the Commonwealth on the second Monday in March. The Queen attends an inter-denominational service held in Westminster Abbey, followed by a reception hosted by the Commonwealth Secretary General.

Modern communications technology allows The Queen to speak to every part of the Commonwealth through her annual Christmas and Commonwealth Day messages. Both messages are delivered by The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth to the peoples of the Commonwealth as a whole. They are unique in that they are delivered on The Queen’s own responsibility, drafted without ministerial advice. Every two years a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) is held, at locations throughout the Commonwealth. The Queen is normally present in the host country, during which she has a series of private meetings with the Commonwealth countries’ leaders. The Commonwealth Games are a major sporting occasion which brings together young people from all over the world in friendly competition. The Queen often attends the Commonwealth Games to open or close them – most recently, the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia.

In all these different ways The Queen, though not part of the machinery of government in the Commonwealth, acts as a personal link and human symbol of the Commonwealth as an international organisation. Instead of the Royal standard, The Queen uses special flags when she visits the Commonwealth. She has a personal flag – an initial E and crown within a chaplet of roses – for use at Commonwealth meetings. In realms such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, The Queen uses a different standard for each individual country.

Commonwealth Members

There are currently 53 members of the commonwealth: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Dominica, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Zambia.

Religion & Royal Peculiars

In the United Kingdom, The Queen’s title includes the words ‘Defender of the Faith’.This means Her Majesty has a specific role in both the Church of England and the Church of Scotland. As established Churches, they are recognised by law as the official Churches of England and Scotland, respectively. In both England and Scotland, the established Churches are subject to the regulation of law. The principle of religious toleration is fully recognised both for those of other creeds and for those without any religious beliefs.There are no established Churches in Northern Ireland nor in Wales. They were disestablished in 1869 in Northern Ireland and 1920 in Wales. There is no established Church in any Commonwealth country of which The Queen is Monarch (i.e. a realm). In addition to playing a role in the Churches of England and Scotland, The Queen recognises and supports the various other faiths practised in the UK and Commonwealth.

Though Her Majesty is “Defender of the Faith” and Supreme Head of the “Church of England”, it is the Archbishop of Canterbury who sets out the direction of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior primate and chief religious figure of the Church of England as well as the spiritual leader of the Anglican communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. The current archbishop is Justin Welby. He is the 105th in a line which goes back more than 1400 years to Augustine of Canterbury, the “Apostle to the English”, in the year 597. On 9 November 2012 it was officially announced that Welby, then the Bishop of Durham, had been appointed to succeed Rowan Williams as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. His enthronement took place in Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013. From the time of Augustine until the 16th century, the Archbishops of Canterbury were in full communion with the See of Rome and thus usually received the pallium. During the English Reformation the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, at first temporarily under Henry VIII and Edward VI and later permanently during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Today the Archbishop fills four main roles:

  • He is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, which covers the eastern parts of the County of Kent. Founded in 597, it is the oldest see in the English church.
  • He is the metropolitan archbishop of the Province of Canterbury, which covers the southern two-thirds of England.
  • He is the senior primate and chief religious figure of the Church of England (the British sovereign is the supreme governor of the church). Along with his colleague the Archbishop of York he chairs the General Synod and sits or chairs many of the church’s important boards and committees; power in the church is not highly centralised, however, so the two archbishops can often lead only through persuasion. The Archbishop of Canterbury plays a central part in national ceremonies such as coronations; due to his high public profile, his opinions are often in demand by the news media.
  • As spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop, although without legal authority outside England, is recognised by convention as primus inter pares (first among equals) of all Anglican primates worldwide. Since 1867 he has convened more or less decennial meetings of worldwide Anglican bishops, the Lambeth Conferences.

In the last two of these functions he has an important ecumenical and interfaith role, speaking on behalf of Anglicans in England and worldwide. The archbishop’s main residence is Lambeth Palace in the London Borough of Lambeth. He also has lodgings in the Old Palace, Canterbury, located beside Canterbury Cathedral, where the Chair of St. Augustine sits. As holder of one of the “five great sees” (the others being York, London, Durham and Winchester), the Archbishop of Canterbury is ex officio one of the Lords Spiritual of the House of Lords. He is one of the highest-ranking men in England and the highest ranking non-royal in the United Kingdom’s order of precedence. Since Henry VIII broke with Rome, the Archbishops of Canterbury have been selected by the English (British since the Act of Union in 1707) monarch. Today the choice is made in the name of the monarch by the prime minister, from a shortlist of two selected by an ad-hoc committee called the Crown Nominations Commission. Since the 20th century, the appointment of Archbishops of Canterbury conventionally alternates between more moderate Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals.

A Royal Peculiar?

Although the Archbishop of Canterbury may outline the direction of the Church of England and have control over , he is not in control of every cathedral or place of worship in the United Kingdom. It is ultimately the Sovereign who prevails over the Archbishop and therefore in the right order of fashion maintains his or her own places of worship to which the Archbishop of Canterbury has no power over. Such places of worship can be chapels, churches, abbeys and large cathedrals and are known as Royal Peculiars. A Royal Peculiar (or Royal Peculier) is a place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch, rather than under a bishop. The concept dates from Anglo-Saxon times, when a church could ally itself with the monarch and therefore not be subject to the bishop of the area. Later it reflected the relationship between the Norman and Plantagenet kings and the English church. Unlike many of the ecclesiastical foundations of the medieval period the Royal Peculiars were not abolished in the English Reformation effected under the Tudors.

Some of the most famous Royal Peculiars:

Westminster Abbey (The Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster) commonly known as Westminster Abbey, and containing Henry VII’s chapel which is the chapel of the Order of the Bath. The chapels associated with the Chapel Royal, which refers not to a building but to an establishment in the Royal Household; a body of priests and singers to explicitly serve the spiritual needs of the Sovereign.

The Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace -This chapel has been used regularly since 1702 and is the most commonly used facility today. Located in the main block of St. James’s Palace it was built circa 1540 and altered since, most notably by Sir Robert Smirke in 1837. The large window to the right of the palace gatehouse is in the north wall of this chapel which is laid out on a north-south rather than the usual east-west axis. Its ceiling richly decorated with royal initials and coats of arms is said to have painted by Holbein.

The Queen’s Chapel, St James’s Palace – The Chapel once also part of the St. James’s Palace compound, was built between 1623 and 1625 as a Roman Catholic chapel, at a time when the construction of Catholic churches was prohibited in England, for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I. From the 1690s it was used by Continental Protestant courtiers and became known as the German chapel. After the adjacent apartments burnt down in 1809 they were not replaced, and in 1856-57 Marlborough Road was built between the palace and the chapel.

The Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace – On the 13th of October 1537 (the feast of the Translation of Saint Edward the Confessor) the longed-for son was born to Queen Jane Seymour in the Palace, and on the 15th he was baptized and confirmed in the Chapel Royal by Archbishop Cranmer, who was also his godfather (his godmother was his eldest sister The Princess Mary). The Queen died soon after that, and lay in state in the Chapel Royal for three weeks ; her viscera were buried by order of the King beneath the altar of the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace, and her body was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. King Henry VIII was to be buried in the same grave at Windsor ten years later ; and a hundred years after that, in 1649, the body and head of the Martyr King Charles I were interred in the same place.

The Chapel of St John the Evangelist in the Tower of London – Part of the original construction of the White Tower begun in 1078 by William the Conqueror. The chapel was at the heart of the king’s royal and ceremonial apartments and would probably originally have been brightly painted.The Chapel of St. John’s is not only the best-preserved interior in the White Tower, but also one of the best examples of Anglo-Norman church architecture in England. Although it was probably orginally brightly painted, Henry III (1216-72) embellished it with stained glass windows representing the Virgin and Child and St. John the Evangelist, a painting of Edward the Confessor, and a figure of Christ. For much of its later history, it was used to store state records. By tradition, it was here that King Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth of York, was laid in state after dying at the Tower in childbirth. It was also here that Henry VIII’s eldest daughter, Mary, was betrothed by proxy to Philip of Spain. St. John’s is still a royal chapel and the Queen’s Chaplain performs a series of services throughout the year.

The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula – Tower of London – St Peter ad Vincula has, arguably, one of the richest and most important histories of all the Chapels Royal, although this is not immediately apparent at present. Historical documents refer to St Peter’s as a Royal Chapel as early as the 12th Century. Today it is a Chapel Royal and it is a ‘Royal Peculiar’ directly under the jurisdiction of The Queen. It is the parish church to HM Tower of London, the most visited heritage site in the country.Building started on the current site of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the early 1500s but the presence of a religious building predates even the White Tower, built for William the Conqueror in 1078.In common with many other castle-chapels around England, St Peter ad Vincula was a Saxon building which was “taken-into” a nearby Norman castle. We don’t know if the Normans rebuilt the original building they found, but in 1240, Henry III undertook several repairs and improvements. Clearly this work was not to the taste of his son, Edward I, as in 1286 he demolished the old chapel and built a new one on the site. No images of either of these chapels survive, but some of the bricks of Edward’s chapel do survive in the north wall. Edward’s chapel burnt down in 1512 and was replaced with the present structure.

The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy, exempt from any bishop’s jurisdiction and a private chapel of the sovereign in right of the Duchy of Lancaster. It is the chapel of The Royal Victorian Order. The number of members of the order in recent years has outgrown the available space in the Savoy Chapel so the service for those who have received awards is now held in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle every four years. A palace was built on the Savoy estate in the fourteenth century by John of Gaunt (1340-1399), a younger son of King Edward III. Its lifetime was short. It was plundered and burned in 1381 during the Peasants’ Revolt. Contrary to a persistent belief, nothing of the palace survives above ground. It remained semi-derelict until what was left of it was cleared away in the early sixteenth century by command of King Henry VII to construct a foundation known as ‘Hospital of Henry late King of England of the Savoy’. The hospital was begun towards the end of the king’s reign and completed by 1515. On 11 May 1937 King George VI commanded that it should be the Chapel of the Royal Victorian Order.

The Chapel of St Mary Undercroft – the crypt of the former St Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster is also a Royal Peculiar. The building is administered through the Lord Great Chamberlain and Black Rod and it has no dedicated clergy: by convention services were conducted by the Rector of St Margaret’s, Westminster, a member of the Chapter of Westminster Abbey. In 2010 the Speaker of the House of Commons used his right of appointment to nominate an outsider, Revd. Rose Hudson-Wilkin.

The Royal Foundation of St Katharine – Founded in 1147 by Queen Matilda as a religious community and medieval hospital for poor infirm people next to the Tower of London. The Royal Foundation of St Katharine has a long and rich history dating back to 1147. Enjoying Royal patronage, the Foundation has established itself as a facility for both practical and pastoral care in the East End of London. The Foundation enjoys the title of ‘Royal Peculiar, a site of worship which is under the jurisdiction of the British Monarch rather than a Bishop’. This rare honour allows for a symbiotic relationship between the church and lay people, encouraging altruistic action in the heart of the community.

Chapel Royal, Holyrood Palace – Holyrood Abbey is a ruined abbey of the Canons Regular in Edinburgh, Scotland. The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I. During the 15th century, the abbey guesthouse was developed into a royal residence, and after the Scottish Reformation the Palace of Holyrood House was expanded further. The abbey church was used as a parish church until the 17th century, and has been ruined since the 18th century. The remaining walls of the abbey lie adjacent to the palace, at the eastern end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

Cambridge The Church of St. Edward, King and Martyr, Cambridge – There was almost certainly a Saxon church on this site, though the present church dates back to the thirteenth century. The pointed arch at the base of the tower is one of the oldest parts of the building. The church was rebuilt around 1400, and the lofty chancel arch and the tall pointed arches in the nave date from this period. Most of the windows were added later, including the East window, which dates from the middle of the nineteenth century and was designed by G. G. Scott. In 1445 King Henry VI started his great work of building King’s College. The Church of St John Zachery, that was used by both Trinity Hall and Clare Hall (now Clare College), was on the site of the new College, and was demolished. In recompense, the King made over the living of the Church of St Edward to the Master and Fellows of Trinity Hall in perpetuity, and they still appoint its Chaplain. By 1446 the North and South chapels had been built, the former used by Trinity Hall and the latter by Clare Hall. They contribute much to the spacious appearance of the present building.

St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, the chapel of the Order of the Garter – In 1348, King Edward III founded two new religious colleges: St Stephen’s at Westminster and St George’s at Windsor. The new college at Windsor was attached to the Chapel of St Edward the Confessor which had been constructed by Henry III in the early thirteenth century. The chapel was then rededicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Edward the Confessor and St George the Martyr. Edward III also built the Aerary Porch in 1353-1354. It was used as the entrance to the new college. St George’s Chapel became the Mother Church of the Order of the Garter, and a special service is still held in the chapel every June and is attended by the members of the order. Their heraldic banners hang above the upper stalls of the choir where they have a seat for life. The Chapel suffered a great deal of destruction during the English Civil War. Parliamentary forces broke into and plundered the chapel and treasury on 23 October 1642. Further pillaging occurred in 1643 when the fifteenth-century chapter house was destroyed, lead was stripped off the chapel roofs, and elements of Henry VIII’s unfinished funeral monument were stolen. Following his execution in 1649, Charles I was buried in a small vault in the centre of the choir at St George’s Chapel which also contained the coffins of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. A programme of repair was undertaken at St George’s Chapel following the Restoration of the monarchy. The reign of Queen Victoria saw further changes made to the architecture of the chapel. The east end of the choir was reworked in devotion to Prince Albert; the Lady Chapel, which had been abandoned by Henry VII, was completed; a royal mausoleum was completed underneath the Lady Chapel, and a set of steps were built at the west end of the chapel to create a ceremonial entrance to the building.

Royal Chapel of All Saints (in the grounds of the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park) – The chapel is the successor to the chapels built at Royal Lodge and Cumberland Lodge for the use of their royal occupants and their staff. By the mid-1820s, George IV frequently resided at Royal Lodge during his refurbishment of Windsor Castle, and a larger chapel was required for the worship of his household and staff. The chapel was built by Jeffry Wyatville, the architect of the King’s works at Windsor Castle, and first used on Palm Sunday in 1825. The Treasury was informed of the chapel’s construction by Wyatville two weeks after it was inaugurated. It had been built without the permission of the Treasury, and as a “matter of unavoidable necessity”. Wyatville described the chapel has having been built “within an old building”, the older building has been described as a Porter’s Lodge, which had been previously described at the location of the chapel.

Repairs were carried out to the chapel in September 1825, and a few months later more repairs were required when the King tripped after leaving his pew. £200 was allocated by the Treasury for further repairs in December 1825. With the advent of William IV, the greater part of Royal Lodge was demolished, but the chapel survived, and held services for the “benefit of servants of the Park Establishment.” Queen Victoria occasionally attended services in the chapel, and recorded a visit in March 1842, remarking “Everyone joined in the singing, which I so much like. Afterward we walked to the Royal Lodge, and in the garden which is very pretty…” Francis Seymour gave the chapel a new organ upon his ascension as Marquess of Hertford, having previously been the Deputy Ranger of the park. A window dedicated to Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein, the son of Prince Christian and Princess Helena was dedicated in 1905. Prince and Princess Christian lived at Cumberland Lodge. The Duke and Duchess of York lived at Royal Lodge from 1931 and became regular worshipers at the chapel. They continued to visit after they became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. George VI refurbished the chapel, installing a new ceiling designed by Edward Maufe, renewing the pews, and adding a cover to the organ, designed by Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel. 

Royal Residences

Throughout the centuries, Britain’s kings and queens have built or bought palaces to serve as family homes, workplaces and as centres of government. Some of these are still being used today as official Royal residences and many can be visited by the general public. The residences still standing today can be roughly divided into three categories:

Official Royal residences

Are held in trust by the Queen for future generations. As well as being family homes for members of the Royal Family, these are also working buildings which are used for housing the offices of staff from the Royal Household, entertaining official guests and hosting formal events and ceremonies. The best-known of these residences are Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, as well as St. James’s and Kensington Palaces.

Private Estates

Are owned by The Queen and are often used to generate private income through farming or public access to Royal residences, they also house some well-known private residences such as Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House.

Unoccupied Royal residences

Are all other buildings in Great Britain which once housed members of the Royal Family and are therefore of historical interest. These buildings are owned by numerous bodies and individuals and many are open to the general public.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace – has served as the official London residence of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. Although in use for the many official events and receptions held by The Queen, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to visitors every year. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. In measurements, the building is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep (including the central quadrangle) and 24 metres high.The Palace is very much a working building and the centrepiece of Britain’s Constitutional Monarchy. It houses the offices of those who support the day-to-day activities and duties of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and their immediate family. The Palace is also the venue for great Royal ceremonies, State Visits and Investitures, all of which are organised by the Royal Household. Buckingham Palace is furnished and decorated with priceless works of art that form part of the Royal Collection, one of the major art collections in the world today. It is not an art gallery and nor is it a museum. Its State Rooms form the nucleus of the working Palace and are used regularly by The Queen and members of the Royal Family for official and State entertaining. More than 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as guests to banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and the Royal Garden Parties. For those who do receive an invitation to Buckingham Palace, the first step across the threshold is into the Grand Hall and up the curving marble stairs of the Grand Staircase. Portraits are still set in the walls, as they were by Queen Victoria. The Throne Room, sometimes used during Queen Victoria’s reign for Court gatherings and as a second dancing room, is dominated by a proscenium arch supported by a pair of winged figures of ‘victory’ holding garlands above the ‘chairs of state’.

It is in the Throne Room that The Queen, on very special occasions like Jubilees, receives loyal addresses. Another use of the Throne Room has been for formal wedding photographs. George IV’s original palace lacked a large room in which to entertain. Queen Victoria rectified that shortcoming by adding in 1853-5 what was, at the time of its construction, the largest room in London. At 36.6m long, 18m wide and 13.5m high, the Ballroom is the largest multi-purpose room in Buckingham Palace. It was opened in 1856 with a ball to celebrate the end of the Crimean War. It is along the East Gallery that The Queen and her State guests process to the Ballroom for the State Banquet normally held on the first day of the visit. Around 150 guests are invited and include members of the Royal Family, the government and other political leaders, High Commissioners and Ambassadors and prominent people who have trade or other associations with the visiting country. Today, it is used by The Queen for State banquets and other formal occasions such as the annual Diplomatic Reception attended by 1,500 guests. This is a very formal occasion during which The Queen will meet every head of mission accredited to the Court of St James’s. For the diplomats it is perhaps the highlight of the annual diplomatic social calendar.

The Ballroom has been used variously as a concert hall for memorial concerts and performances of the arts and it is the regular venue for Investitures of which there are usually 21 a year – nine in spring, two in the summer and ten in the autumn. At Investitures, The Queen (or The Prince of Wales as Her Majesty’s representative) will meet recipients of British honours and give them their awards, including knighting those who have been awarded knighthoods. From the Ballroom, the West Gallery, with its four Gobelin tapestries, leads into the first of the great rooms that overlook lawn and the formal gardens – setting for the annual Garden Parties introduced by Queen Victoria in 1868.

The State Dining Room is one of the principal State Rooms on the West side of the Palace. Many distinguished people have dined in this room including the 24 holders of the Order of Merit as well as presidents and prime ministers. Before the Ballroom was added to the Palace in the 1850s, the first State Ball was held in the Blue Drawing Room in May 1838 as part of the celebrations leading up to Queen Victoria’s Coronation. The Music Room was originally known as the Bow Drawing Room and is the centre of the suite of rooms on the Garden Front between the Blue and the White Drawing Rooms. Four Royal babies – The Prince of Wales, The Princess Royal, The Duke of York and Prince William – were all christened by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Music Room. One of its more formal uses is during a State Visit when guests are presented to The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and the visiting Head of State or for receptions. The last of the suite of rooms overlooking the gardens on the principal floor is the White Drawing Room. Originally called the North Drawing Room, it is perhaps the grandest of all the State Rooms. The Room also serves as a Royal reception room for The Queen and members of the Royal Family to gather before State and official occasions. The Bow Room is familiar to the many thousands of guests to Royal Garden Parties who pass through it on their way to the garden. It was originally intended as a part of George IV’s private apartments – to be the King’s Library – but it was never fitted up as such. Instead, it has become another room for entertaining and is where The Queen holds the arrival lunch for a visiting Head of State at the start of a State visit.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle – is an official residence of The Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world. A Royal home and fortress for over 900 years, the Castle remains a working palace today. The Queen uses the Castle both as a private home, where she usually spends the weekend, and as a Royal residence at which she undertakes certain formal duties. Every year The Queen takes up official residence in Windsor Castle for a month over Easter (March-April), known as Easter Court. During that time The Queen hosts occasional ‘dine and sleep’ events for guests, including politicians and public figures.

The Queen is also in residence for a week in June, when she attends the service of the Order of the Garter and the Royal Ascot race meeting. The Order of the Garter ceremony brings together members of the senior order of chivalry for a service in St George’s Chapel. Beforehand, The Queen gives a lunch for the Knights of the Garter in the Castle’s Waterloo Chamber. Any new Knights of the Garter are invested by The Queen in the Garter Throne Room. On the walls are portraits of monarchs in their Garter Robes, from George I to the present Queen, whose State portrait by Sir James Gunn was painted in 1954. Windsor Castle is often used by The Queen to host State Visits from overseas monarchs and presidents. Foreign Heads of State enter the Castle in horse-drawn carriages through the George IV Gateway into the quadrangle in the Upper Ward, where a military guard of honour is drawn up.

The traditional State Banquet is held in St George’s Hall (55.5m long and 9m wide), with a table seating up to 160 guests. Recent State visits held at Windsor Castle include those of President and Mrs. Mbeki of South Africa (2001), and King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan (2001), as well as a special visit by President and Madame Chirac of France to mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale (2004). St George’s Chapel remains an active centre for worship, with daily services open to all. The Chapel is a Royal Peculiar, that is, a chapel which is not subject to a bishop or archbishop but which owes its allegiance directly to the Sovereign. The Chapel, together with the remainder of the College of St George (a school for 400 children and St George’s House, a consultation centre), is governed by the Dean and Canons of Windsor, who, with their officers and staff, are independent of the Royal Household.

Many Royal weddings have been celebrated in St George’s Chapel, most recently that of Prince Edward and Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones in June 1999. In 2005 a service of dedication and prayer was held in the Chapel following the marriage of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. Funerals such as those of Princess Margaret and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, have also taken place there. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother lies buried in the Chapel with her husband, King George VI, and Princess Margaret, her younger daughter. Various departments of the Royal Household are based at Windsor Castle. The ancient Round Tower houses the Royal Archives and the Royal Photograph Collection. The Print Room and Royal Library house precious drawings, prints, manuscripts and books in the Royal Collection. These are shown in a programme of changing exhibitions in the Castle’s Drawings Gallery.

Those who live and work within the Castle include the titular head of the Castle community, the Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle; the Dean of Windsor, Canons and other staff who run the College of St George; the Military Knights of Windsor; the Superintendent of Windsor Castle and his staff, who are responsible for day-to-day administration; the Housekeeper and her staff; and soldiers who mount a permanent military guard in the Castle. Windsor Castle is also a busy visitor attraction. Many parts of the Castle are open to the public, including the precincts, the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s famous dolls’ house, St George’s Chapel, and the Albert Memorial Chapel. When The Queen is in official residence, Changing the Guard provides a colourful spectacle in the quadrangle.

The Queen’s Garden is the largest private garden in London – an ecosystem all its own!

Palace of Holyrood House

Palace of Holyroodhouse – Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Situated at the end of the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is closely associated with Scotland’s turbulent past, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived here between 1561 and 1567. Successive Kings and Queens have made the Palace of Holyroodhouse the premier Royal residence in Scotland. Today, the Palace is the setting for State ceremonies and official entertaining. During The Queen’s Holyrood week, which usually runs from the end of June to the beginning of July, Her Majesty carries out a wide range of official engagements in Scotland. The Investiture held in the Great Gallery is for Scottish residents whose achievements have been recognised in the twice-yearly Honours List which appears at New Year and on The Queen’s Official Birthday in June. King George V and Queen Mary held the first garden party in the grounds of Holyroodhouse and the tradition has been maintained to the present day. Each year, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh entertain around 8,000 guests from all walks of Scottish life during Holyrood week.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland. It stands at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile against the spectacular backdrop of Arthur’s Seat and is closely associated with Scotland’s rich history. The State Apartments reflect the changing tastes of successive monarchs, and are renowned for their fine plasterwork ceilings and unrivalled collection of Brussels tapestries. They are furnished with numerous fine paintings and other works of art, many of which have long associations with Holyroodhouse. Today the State Apartments are used by The Queen and other members of the Royal Family for official ceremonies and entertaining, most notably during Holyrood Week. The Throne Room is where the luncheon is held for the Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Thistle, on the occasion of the installation of a new Knight. In the Morning Drawing Room The Queen gives private audiences, for example with the First Minister of Scotland, the Lord High Commissioner or other visiting dignitaries. Scottish residents who are awarded an honour in either the New Year’s Honours List or The Queen’s Birthday Honours List receive their award at an Investiture ceremony in the Great Gallery.

One of the most famous rooms in the Palace, the Great Gallery is hung with Jacob de Wet’s portraits of the real and legendary kings of Scotland. It is the largest room in the Palace, connecting the King’s Suite on the east side with the historic apartments in James V’s Tower to the west. Included on the tour of the Palace is a display about the Order of the Thistle, the highest honour in Scotland. The Order honours Scottish men and women who have held public office or who have contributed in a particular way to national life. Shown alongside historic insignia is an example of the mantle worn at the Thistle Ceremony at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, which The Queen attends during her summer visit to the Palace.

St. Jame’s Palace

St. James’s Palace – is the senior Palace of the Sovereign, with a long history as a Royal residence. As the home of several members of the Royal Family and their household offices, it is often in use for official functions and is not open to the public. St. James’s Palace is one of London’s oldest palaces. It iS situated in Pall Mall, just north of St James’s Park. Although no sovereign Has resided there for almost two centuries, it has remained the official residence of the Sovereign and the most senior royal palace in the UK. For this reason it gives its name to the Royal Court (the “Court of St James’s”). St James’s Palace is still a working palace, and the Royal Court is still formally based there – foreign ambassadors are still accredited to the Court of St James’s, even though they are received by the monarch at Buckingham Palace. It is also the London residence of the Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy.

The Palace forms part of a sprawling complex of buildings housing Court offices and officials’ apartments. The complex includes York House, the former home of the Prince of Wales and his sons, Princes William and Harry, Lancaster House, which is used by HM Government for official receptions, as well as the nearby Clarence House, the home of the late Queen Mother and now the residence of the Prince of Wales. The Queen’s Chapel, built by Inigo Jones, adjoins St James’s Palace. While the Chapel is open to the public at selected times, the palace is not accessible to the public. St James’s Palace is one of the four buildings in London where guards from the Household Division can be seen (the other three are Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Horse Guards). Since the beginning of the 2000s, the Royal Philatelic Collection has been housed at St James’s Palace, after spending the entire 20th century at Buckingham Palace. From October 2008 onwards, and officially from 6 January 2009, the staff of Princes William and Harry moved into their own rooms in St James’s Palace and began reporting directly to the royal princes for the first time. Until recently the brothers’ duties were looked after by Prince Charles’s office at Clarence House.

Clarence House

Clarence House – which stands beside St James’s Palace, was built between 1825 and 1827 to the designs of John Nash for Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence. He lived there as King William IV from 1830 until 1837. During its history, the house has been altered, reflecting the changes in occupancy over nearly two centuries. It was the London home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother from 1953 until 2002 and was also the home of The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, and The Duke of Edinburgh following their marriage in 1947. Today Clarence House is the official London residence of The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. It is open to the public during the summer months each year.

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle – on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland is the private residence of The Queen. Beloved by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Balmoral Castle has remained a favourite residence for The Queen and her family during the summer holiday period in August and September. The Castle is located on the large Balmoral Estate, a working estate which aims to protect the environment while contributing to the local economy. The Estate grounds, gardens and the Castle Ballroom are open to visitors from the beginning of April to the end of July each year, under the management of the Balmoral Estate Office.

Sandringham House

Sandringham House – in Norfolk has been the private home of four generations of Sovereigns since 1862. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family regularly spend Christmas at Sandringham and make it their official base until February each year. Like Balmoral, the Sandringham Estate is a commercial estate managed privately on The Queen’s behalf.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace in London is a working Royal residence. Of great historical importance, Kensington Palace was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns until 1760. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Today Kensington Palace accommodates the offices and private apartments of a number of members of the Royal Family. Although managed by Historic Royal Palaces, the Palace is furnished with items from the Royal Collection.