The Queen in Government
The Crown is the British state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth Realms and their sub-divisions (such as Crown Dependencies, Provinces [Canada], or States[Australia]). However, The Crown is not owned by the people (as subjects and/or citizens) as a collective, such as in republics like the United States, France, Germany, and many others. Legally ill-defined, the term has different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. The Crown is used to designate the Monarch in either a personal capacity, as Head of the Commonwealth, or as the King or Queen of his or her Realms. It can also refer to the rule of law; however, in common parlance ‘The Crown’ refers to the functions of government and the civil service. There are many ways in which The Crown can be referred to, depending on the function it undertakes. The concept of The Crown is what modern-day Britain is founded on. Below you will find many components to The Crown which will give you a full understanding as to what The Crown is and how it functions.
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A rare interview
“I think I speak for my generation when I say that the example and continuity provided by The Queen is not only very rare among leaders but a great source of pride and reassurance.”
- H.R.H. Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge
‘Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith’
When her father died in February 1952, she became head of the Commonwealth and Queen Regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. She has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, and the decolonisation of Africa. Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence and realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics. Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes.
Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012 respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch as well as the world’s longest-serving female head of state, oldest living monarch, the longest-reigning current monarch, and the oldest and longest-serving current head of state.
Elizabeth has occasionally faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family, in particular after the breakdown of her children’s marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992 and the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales. However, support for the monarchy has consistently been and remains high, as does her personal popularity.
‘Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith’
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth was born in London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and she was educated privately at home. Her father acceded to the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
Duties, Rights And Powers Of H.M. The Queen
According to a famed British constitutional scholar, Walter Bagehot, Queen Elizabeth II “could disband the army; she could dismiss all the officers . . .she could sell off all our ships-of-war and all our naval stores; she could make a peace by the sacrifice of Cornwall and begin a war for the conquest of Brittany. She could make every citizen in the United Kingdom, male or female, a peer; she could make every parish in the United Kingdom a ‘University’; she could dismiss most of the civil servants, and she could pardon all offenders.”
Her Majesty’s actual rights as a Queen are only three:
- The right to be consulted by the Prime Minister.
- To encourage certain courses of action.
- To warn against others.
However her duties are far greater than her rights. Her Majesty’s duties do not just consist one or two, but the many below:
In times of Crisis, as with a hung Parliament, the lack of an automatic choice of Prime Minister or an unjustifiable and unnecessary request for a dissolution of Parliament, the Monarchy provides an impartial and non-political arbitrator, like an umpire called in when the players cannot agree. It would also be able to intervene if the government acted un-constitutionally by, say putting the opposition in jail, abolishing elections, or instructing the police not to prosecute members of the government for criminal offences. The Monarch can also dissolve Parliament, and appoint a Prime Minister to their liking, which has been done throughout Her Majesty’s reign. This duty falls upon the Monarch not only in England, but in the Commonwealth countries that retain the British Sovereign as their Monarch and Head of State.
A form of Government that only came into being yesterday can quite easily be overthrown tomorrow; an institution sanctified by 1,000 years of Sovereignty is more deeply embedded in the consciousness of the nation and more closely woven into the fabric of political life. It can still be overthrown (as by Oliver Cromwell in 1649), but people are still likely to think very hard before they pick up the sword. The Monarchy was Restored (1659 Charles II).
Governments come and go, A week is a long time in Parliament, and five years a lifetime. But the Sovereign is always there, and the apparatus of monarchy helps to bridge the discontinuities of party politics.
A lifetime of reading state papers, meeting heads of state and ambassadors, and holding a weekly audience with the Prime Minister gives The Queen an unequalled store of knowledge and experience. Politicians see state papers only when they are in office, but the Queen sees them every day. Her constitutional right to be consulted, to encourage and to warn makes this experience available to every government, as it is after all, Her Government.
Governments come and go, A week is a long time in Parliament, and five years a lifetime. But the Sovereign is always there, and the apparatus of monarchy helps to bridge the discontinuities of party politics.
The heredity principle does more than provide a formula for unopposed succession. It also means that everyone knows who the successor is likely to be, and that he or she will have been groomed for the job from birth.
A family at the head of the nation’s affairs is something everyone can understand and identify with. It makes the state seem human, personal and accessible. A parliament portrays public life as a battlefield; the monarchy portrays it as a family circle.
Recognition of Achievement
By honours, awards, visits, patronage and sponsorship the sovereign and the Royal Family can recognise and reward achievement by individuals and organisations, and publicly affirm their value to the nation.
Focus of Allegiance
A person and a family are a powerful symbol for the armed services of what they are fighting for, and are not so vulnerable to the winds of political favour in supporting the forces and honouring their sacrificing.
Because the monarchy is permanent, it can set a consistent moral standard which people can look to as a guide and example.
The monarchy can also give the nation an example or, to be more precise, a range of examples of acceptable behaviour in the smaller matters of social convention and behaviour. Even when some members of the Royal Family do not behave as well as people expect them to, they are still contributing to the process of reviewing and revising the nations behaviour patterns.
Custodianship of the Past
Through its ceremony, pageantry and ritual, the monarchy preserves the link with Britain’s history and reminds people of the country’s past achievements and the antiquity of their state.
Trusteeship of the Future
By being close to the heart of affairs, but outside of the political arena, the Royal Family can focus attention on the country’s long-term dangers and opportunities as a counterweight to the inevitably short-term preoccupations of politicians in the heat of the party battle.
Uniting the Nation with the State
Most important of all is the combination of the constitutional role as Head of State and the social role as Head of the Nation within a single institution, a single family and a single office. If the sovereign can be the focus of the people’s loyalty, pride, patriotism and a sense of nationhood, then the people are simultaneously focusing these emotions on the state of which the Queen is the constitutional head; they are confirming and supporting the legitimacy of the political, legal and economic system which regulates their daily lives.
A Commonwealth Realm is a country which has The Queen as its Monarch. The Queen is Head of State (Queen) of 15 Commonwealth realms in addition to the UK. She is also Head of the Commonwealth itself, a voluntary association of 53 independent countries. From Australia to Antigua, Canada to Cameroon, the Commonwealth is a remarkable international organisation, spanning every geographical region, religion and culture. It exists to foster international co-operation and trade links between people all over the world.
Powers of the Queen:
- The power to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister
- The power to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament
- The power to make war and peace
- The power to command the armed forces of the United Kingdom
- The power to regulate the Civil Service
- The power to ratify treaties
- The power to issue passports
- The power to appoint bishops and archbishops of the Church of England
- The power to create peers (both life peers and hereditary peers).
If the Queen pleases, she can ride in a horse carriage down Rotten Row, where others can only ride horseback. Her picture will appear on postage stamps, but she will not need them; her personal mail is franked. She can drive as fast as she likes in a car which needs no license number. She could tell her sister Princess Margaret when she could marry. She can confer Britain’s highest civilian decoration, the Order of Merit—one honour in which the Sovereign retains freedom of choice.
What Her Majesty cannot do is vote. Nor can she express any shading of political opinion in public. The Queen cannot sit in the House of Commons, although the building is royal property. She addresses the opening session of each Parliament, but she cannot write her own speech. The Queen cannot refuse to sign a bill of Parliament, and she cannot appear as a witness in court, or rent property from her subjects.
The role of our monarch is extensive, stressful, and time-consuming, in an age where instant gratification and rapid, fast-paced ways of life seem to be the status quo. However, in stark contrast to the fast-paced life of London’s streets, not one thing about the role of the Queen is executed in a rapid and fast-paced way. It oftentimes takes days, weeks, or even months of planning to execute the many various engagements that Her Majesty must carry out every year.
As well over 400 engagements keep Her Majesty continuously on the move both domestically and internationally each year, her responsibilities are not just composed of travel, investitures, receptions, and other various appointments. The role of our Head of State is just as diverse as the whole of Westminster, where The Queen must act in the capacity of not only Head of State*, but Head of the Nation*, where her role is complex and constitutional while remaining politically neutral in a setting that is a never-ending cycle of political warfare. The Queen’s role includes, but is not limited to her active duties within the Government, the Church, the Armed Forces, Honours, Crown Dependencies, the Commonwealth, and the Monarchy itself. The embodiment of the state within the Queen’s person provides the nation with a figurehead that is not only dedicated in her duties but has carried out her responsibilities to the nation without a blemish since 1952.
The role of Her Majesty is not one that is just ceremonial as duties, constitutional powers, and ceremonial responsibilities that make the Queen’s life anything but relaxing and trouble-free. Her knowledge of our constitution, her unconscionable wealth of knowledge and experience in statesmanship, and the sheer devotion to upholding her oath of duty to her people make Her Majesty’s role seem easy and well-rehearsed when in all actuality the role of Her Majesty is not one that not many people would be able to do, nor would they have the stamina to do continuously at the age of 87. Her Majesty (the Sovereign in particular) is the ultimate authority in the United Kingdom and rules over the nation as well as parliament through the Royal Prerogative*, which are powers that are used according to the laws enacted in Parliament or within the confines of precedent and convention.
The precise extent of the royal prerogative has never formally been delineated, but it includes the following powers of Her Majesty (the Sovereign), among others: many tend to think but encompasses a wide spectrum of official
- The power to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister
- The power to appoint and dismiss other ministers
- The power to summon, prolong and dissolve Parliament
- The power to make war and peace
- The power to command the armed forces of the United Kingdom
- The power to regulate the Civil Service
- The power to ratify treaties
- The power to issue passports
- The power to appoint Bishops and Archbishops of the Church of England
- The power to create peers (both life peers and hereditary peers)
The most important prerogatives still personally exercised by the Sovereign are the choice of whom to appoint the Prime Minister, and whether to grant a dissolution of Parliament on the request of the Prime Minister. The most recent occasion the monarch has had to exercise these powers was in February 1974, when Prime Minister Edward Heath resigned after failing to secure an overall majority in Parliament. H.M. Queen Elizabeth II appointed Harold Wilson, leader of the Labour Party, as Prime Minister, exercising her prerogative after extensive consultation with the Privy Council. The Labour Party had the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, but not an overall majority.
The Royal Prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognised in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy as belonging to the Sovereign alone. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and vested in a monarch with regard to the process of governance of their state, is carried out. Individual prerogatives can be abolished by Parliament, although in the United Kingdom special procedure applies. Though some Republican heads of state possess similar powers, they are not coterminous; containing a number of fundamental differences, and may be either more or less extensive (cf. reserve powers). While prerogative powers were originally exercised by the monarch acting alone, and do not require parliamentary consent, they are now generally exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet, who is then accountable for the decision to Parliament. There may be situations in which the monarch could choose to exercise the Royal Prerogative without the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Such situations are rare, and generally, only occur in emergencies or where existing precedent does not adequately apply to the circumstances in question. In many liberal-democratic constitutional monarchies, such actions could precipitate a constitutional crisis.
Head of State
As Head of State, The Queen undertakes constitutional and representational duties which have developed over one thousand years of history. There are inward duties, with The Queen playing a part in State functions in Britain. Parliament must be opened, Orders in Council have to be approved, Acts of Parliament must be signed, and meetings with the Prime Minister must be held. There are also outward duties of State when The Queen represents Britain to the rest of the world. For example, The Queen receives foreign ambassadors and high commissioners, entertains visiting Heads of State, and makes State visits overseas to other countries, in support of diplomatic and economic relations.
Head of the Nation
As ‘Head of Nation’, The Queen’s role is less formal but no less important for the social and cultural functions it fulfils. These include: providing a focus for national identity, unity, and pride; giving a sense of stability and continuity; recognising success, achievement, and excellence; and supporting service to others, particularly through public service and the voluntary sector. These roles are performed through different types of engagement. By means of regular visits through every part of the United Kingdom, The Queen is able to act as a focus for national unity and identity. Through her engagements and walkabouts, The Queen is able to meet people from every walk of life.
The Queen’s unifying role as Sovereign is also shown in her special relationships with the devolved assemblies in Scotland and Wales. In addition, at times of national celebration or tragedy, The Queen publicly represents the nation’s mood – for example, the annual commemoration of the war dead on Remembrance Sunday, or at celebrations for a national sporting victory. The Queen also has an essential role in providing a sense of stability and continuity in times of political and social change. The system of constitutional monarchy bridges the discontinuity of party politics. While political parties change constantly, the Sovereign continues as Head of State, providing a stable framework within which a government can introduce wide-ranging reforms. With more than five decades of reading State papers, meeting Heads of State and ambassadors and holding a weekly audience with the Prime Minister, The Queen has an unequalled store of experience upon which successive Prime Ministers have been able to draw. The Queen is able to recognise success and achievement in a personal way. These include honours, awards, visits, patronage and sponsorship. At Investitures, for example, The Queen honours individuals for public service or outstanding achievement.
The Queen in Government
As Head of State, Her Majesty the Queen is must remain in a strictly neutral position with respect to all matters political, where she is unable to vote or stand for election. However, the Queen does hold a key position in our nation, which is to fulfill the important and formal ceremonial roles in relation to the Government of the United Kingdom. The British Legislature is best described by the formal phrase ‘the Queen in Parliament’ which consists of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. Her Majesty is responsible for duties which include the opening of each new session of Parliament while dissolving Parliament before a general election and also approving Orders and Proclamations through the Privy Council. Her Majesty has a very special relationship with the Prime Minister which is secured by the constitution, where she retains the right to appoint and also meet with him or her on a regular basis, usually every Tuesday evening at Buckingham Palace. Not only is the Queen’s role highly specified in the Parliament of the whole of the United Kingdom, but she also has additional, formal responsibilities within the devolved assemblies of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The Queen has a clear and concise relationship with Parliament that is supported by the constitution. Though this role is comprised mostly of ceremonial duties, Her Majesty also has many key powers that make her more than a mere figurehead. The term ‘Crown in Parliament’ is most closely associated with the British legislature, which consists of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, but the most powerful political body of these three different factions is the House of Commons, which usually consists of a majority of MP’s (Members of Parliament) whom normally support the elected Government of the day, which has the dominant political power. The role of the Sovereign in the enactment of legislation today is purely formal but vital in the workings of our government. Although The Queen has the right to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn through regular audiences with the Prime Minister and her ministers, she is not an institution that can be ignored or brushed aside, as she acts as a checks and balances system to protect her people from an unjust and oppressive Parliament if the political party in power becomes tyrannical. As a constitutional monarch, Her Majesty (the Sovereign) is required to ratify (Royal Assent) all Bills which are passed by Parliament. Her Majesty does this on the advice of Government ministers. The Royal Assent (consenting to a measure in which the Sovereign signs and bill into law) has not been refused since the creation of the United Kingdom in 1707.
Crown In Parliament
The opening and dissolving of Parliament are some of the most important roles the queen must fulfill. The State Opening of Parliament is a ceremony, which is the greatest show of British pomp and pageantry while holding several underlying and symbolic examples of the Sovereigns power. Her Majesty opens Parliament in person, complete with legendary regalia including the main symbol of the monarch’s power, The Imperial State Crown. Her Majesty addresses both Houses in the House of Lords’ chambers while outlining her government’s program in The Queen’s Speech. Neither the House of Lords nor the House of Commons can proceed to public business until The Queen’s Speech has been read.
The Queen’s speech is read aloud by Her Majesty but is composed by the Government and not by the Queen herself. It outlines her Government’s policy (as the government makes laws in her name) for the oncoming session of Parliament which she has declared open by personally appearing within the Palace of Westminster (Parliament). The main focus and purpose of The Queen’s Speech is to indicate forthcoming legislation from Her Majesty’s government. In addition to opening Parliament, it is only The Queen who can summon Parliament, and prorogue (discontinue without dissolving it) or dissolve it. When a Prime Minister wishes to end the Parliamentary session and call for a general election, he or she is must seek the permission of the Queen to do so. It is for this purpose that the Prime Minister usually travels to Buckingham Palace (other than for his Tuesday night meetings with the Queen) for permission to hold and announce a general election.
The Parliament Act of 1911 sets the term of, or the life of the United Kingdom Parliament to a five-year term, unless it is dissolved sooner by the Sovereign at the request of the Prime Minister. This was amended only during World Wars I & II when the life of Parliament was extended annually to avoid general election during wartime. In the United Kingdom, each modern Parliament has been dissolved before its term has expired. When Parliament is summoned by the Sovereign, and also after a Royal proclamation, there must (since the Representation of the People Act 1918) be a period of at least twenty days before Parliament is allowed to convene. According to the Prorogation Act 1867, this period can be extended, but only for a term of fourteen days. There is one and only one occasion on which Parliament is allowed to meet without a Royal summons, and that is when the Sovereign has died. In these such sorrowful circumstances, the Succession to the Crown Act of 1707 provides that, if Parliament is not already sitting in session, it must immediately meet and sit. The Meeting of Parliament Act 1797 provides that, if the Sovereign dies after the Parliament has been dissolved, the immediately preceding Parliament can sit for up to six months at a time, if not prorogued or dissolved before then.
The Queen’s role in Parliament is:
- Assenting to Bills passed by Parliament, on the advice of Ministers;
- Giving audiences to Ministers, at which Her Majesty may be consulted, encourage and warn.
- Opening each new session of Parliament; Proroguing or dissolving Parliament before a general election.
The Queen and Her Prime Minister
Her Majesty has a very unique and special relationship with her Prime Minister, who is the senior political figure in the British Government, regardless of their political party. Her Majesty is a constitutional monarch, which allows her to remain politically neutral, while her Prime Minister contends within the political arena. When a potential Prime Minister to be is called to Buckingham Palace to be presented to Her Majesty, The Queen will then and only in-person ask him or her whether he or she will form a government in the Queen’s name. To this question, there are only two responses that are realistically possible. The most usual is a response of acceptance. If the situation is uncertain, as it was with Sir Alec Douglas-Home in 1963, a potential Prime Minister can accept an exploratory commission, were later in time returning later to report either failure or, as occurred in 1963, success. After a new Prime Minister has been appointed by Her Majesty, the Court Circular will record that “the Prime Minister Kissed Hands on Appointment”. This is not literally the case, but in actual fact, the literal kissing of her Majesty’s hands will take place later, in private Council. To date, there have been twelve British Prime Ministers during Queen Elizabeth II’s reign starting when she first ascended the throne with Sir Winston Churchill from 1952- 1955. Following her first Prime Minister, these others have followed in succession.
- Sir Anthony Eden 1955-1957
- Harold Macmillan 1957-1963
- Sir Alec Douglas-Home 1963-1964
- Harold Wilson 1964-70 and 1974-1976
- Edward Heath 1970-1974
- James Callaghan 1976-1979
- Margaret Thatcher 1979-1990
- John Major 1990-1997
- Tony Blair 1997-2007
- Gordon Brown 2007-2010
- David Cameron from 2010 – 2016
- Theresa May 2016 – 2019
- Boris Johnson 2019 – Present
Her Majesty, the Queen has the right to retain the ability to give a regular audience to a Prime Minister during his or her term of office, and Her Majesty plays a role in the mechanics of calling a general election. The Queen gives a weekly audience to the Prime Minister at which she has a right and a duty to express her views on Government matters of the day. If either party of this unique relationship is not available to meet in person, then the Queen and the Prime Minister will speak by telephone. The famed Tuesday evening meetings between Her Majesty and her Prime Minister, as with all communications between The Queen and her Government, remain strictly confidential. Having expressed her views and thoughts to the Prime Minister, Her Majesty abides by and acts on the advice of her ministers. The Queen as previously stated plays a part in the calling of a general election, where the Prime Minister of the day may request the Sovereign to grant the dissolution of Parliament at any time.
Dissolution can only occur with the Sovereigns approval. In normal circumstances, when a single-party government (not a coalition government as we have today) enjoys a majority in the House of Commons, the Sovereign would not refuse a dissolution, for the government would then resign as the ongoing government, as the Sovereign would be unable to find an alternative government capable of commanding the confidence of the elected House of Commons. After a general election has occurred, the appointment of the Prime Minister is solely the prerogative of the Sovereign. In appointing a Prime Minister, the Sovereign is guided by constitutional conventions that must be adhered to. The main requirement is to find someone who can command the confidence of the House of Commons. This is normally secured by appointing the leader of the party with an overall majority of seats in the Commons, but there could still be exceptional circumstances when The Queen might need to exercise discretion to ensure that the Government that bears her name is carried on.
Royal Assent is the Monarch’s agreement that is required to make a Bill into an Act of Parliament. While the Monarch has the right to refuse Royal Assent, nowadays this does not happen; the last such occasion was in 1707, and Royal Assent is regarded today as a formality. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in others that is a separate step. Under a modern constitutional monarchy, royal assent is considered to be little more than a formality; even in those nations which still, in theory, permit the monarch to withhold assent to laws (such as the United Kingdom, Norway, and Liechtenstein), the monarch almost never does so, save in a dire political emergency or upon the advice of their government. While the power to veto a law by withholding royal assent was once exercised often by European monarchs, such an occurrence has been very rare since the eighteenth century. Royal assent is sometimes associated with elaborate ceremonies.
In the United Kingdom, for instance, the sovereign may appear personally in the House of Lords or may appoint Lords Commissioners, who announce that royal assent has been granted at a ceremony held at the Palace of Westminster for this purpose. However, royal assent is usually granted less ceremonially by letters patent. In other nations, such as Australia, the governor-general (as the monarch’s representative) merely signs a bill. In Canada, the governor-general may give assent either in person at a ceremony held in the Senate or by a written declaration notifying parliament of their agreement to the bill.
Historical development of Royal Assent
Originally, legislative power was exercised by the sovereign acting on the advice of the Curia Regis, or Royal Council, in which important magnates and clerics participated and which evolved into parliament. In 1265, the Earl of Leicester irregularly called a full parliament without royal authorisation. Membership of the so-called Model Parliament, established in 1295 under Edward I included bishops, abbots, earls, barons, two knights from each shire, and two burgesses from each borough. The body eventually came to be divided into two branches: bishops, abbots, earls, and barons formed the House of Lords, while the shire and borough representatives formed the House of Commons. The King would seek the advice and consent of both houses before making any law. During Henry VI’s reign, it became regular practice for the two houses to originate legislation in the form of bills, which would not become law unless the sovereign’s assent was obtained, as the sovereign was, and still remains, the enactor of laws. Hence, all Acts include the clause “Be it enacted by the Queen’s (King’s) most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows…”. The Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 provide a second potential preamble if the House of Lords were to be excluded from the process. The power of parliament to pass bills was often thwarted by monarchs. Charles I dissolved parliament in 1629, after it passed motions and bills critical of—and seeking to restrict—his arbitrary exercise of power. During the eleven years of personal rule that followed, Charles performed legally dubious actions such as raising taxes without Parliament’s approval.
After the English Civil War, it was accepted that parliament should be summoned to meet regularly, but it was still commonplace for monarchs to refuse royal assent to bills. In 1678, Charles II withheld his assent from a bill “for preserving the Peace of the Kingdom by raising the Militia, and continuing them in Duty for Two and Forty Days,” suggesting that he, not parliament, should control the militia. The last Stuart monarch, Anne, similarly withheld on 11 March 1708, on the advice of her ministers, her assent to the Scottish Militia Bill. No monarch has since withheld royal assent on a bill passed by the British parliament. During the rule of the succeeding Hanoverian dynasty, power was gradually exercised more by parliament and the government. The first Hanoverian monarch, George I, relied on his ministers to a greater extent than had previous monarchs. Later Hanoverian monarchs attempted to restore royal control over legislation: George III and George IV both openly opposed Catholic Emancipation and asserted that to grant assent to a Catholic emancipation bill would violate the Coronation Oath, which required the sovereign to preserve and protect the established Church of England from Papal domination, and would grant rights to individuals who were in league with a foreign power which did not recognise their legitimacy.
However, George IV reluctantly granted his assent upon the advice of his ministers. Thus, as the concept of ministerial responsibility has evolved, the power to withhold royal assent has fallen into disuse, both in the United Kingdom and in the other Commonwealth realms. In 1914, George V did take legal advice on withholding royal assent from the Government of Ireland Bill, a highly contentious piece of legislation that the Liberal government intended to push through parliament by means of the Parliament Act 1911. The King decided that he should not withhold assent without “convincing evidence that it would avert a national disaster, or at least have a tranquillising effect on the distracting conditions of the time”.
Royal assent is the final stage in the legislative process for acts of the Scottish parliament. The process is governed by sections 28, 32, and 33 of the Scotland Act 1998. After a bill has been passed, the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament submits it to the monarch for royal assent after a four-week period, during which the Advocate General for Scotland, the Lord Advocate, the Attorney General, or the Secretary of State for Scotland may refer the bill to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (prior to 1 October 2009, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council) for review of its legality. Royal assent is signified by letters patent under the Great Seal of Scotland in the following form which is set out in The Scottish Parliament (Letters Patent and Proclamations) Order 1999 (SI 1999/737) and of which notice is published in the London, Edinburgh, and Belfast Gazettes: ELIZABETH THE SECOND by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen Head of the Commonwealth Defender of the Faith To Our trusty and well beloved the members of the Scottish Parliament GREETING:For as much as various Bills have been passed by the Scottish Parliament and have been submitted to Us for Our Royal Assent by the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament in accordance with the Scotland Act 1998 the short Titles of which Bills are set forth in the Schedule hereto but those Bills by virtue of the Scotland Act 1998 do not become Acts of the Scottish Parliament nor have effect in the Law without Our Royal Assent signified by Letters Patent under Our Scottish Seal (that is Our Seal appointed by the Treaty of Union to be kept and used in Scotland in place of the Great Seal of Scotland) signed with Our own hand and recorded in the Register of the Great Seal We have therefore caused these Our Letters Patent to be made and have signed them and by them do give Our Royal Assent to those Bills COMMANDING ALSO the Keeper of Our Scottish Seal to seal these Our Letters with that Seal. IN WITNESS WHEREOF we have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.WITNESS Ourself at … the … day of … in the … year of Our Reign. By The Queen, Herself Signed with Her Own Hand.
Measures, which were the means by which the National Assembly for Wales passed legislation between 2006 and 2011, were assented to by the Queen by means of an Order in Council. Section 102 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 required the Clerk to the Assembly to present measures passed by the assembly after a four-week period during which the Counsel General for Wales or the Attorney General could refer the proposed measure to the Supreme Court for a decision as to whether the measure was within the assembly’s legislative competence. Following the referendum held in March 2011, in which the majority vote for the assembly’s law-making powers to be extended, measures were replaced by Acts of the Assembly. Similarly to Acts of the Scottish parliament, after a four-week waiting period royal assent to acts of the assembly will be given by means of letters patent using the following wording:
ELIZABETH THE SECOND by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen Head of the Commonwealth Defender of the Faith To Our Trusty and well-beloved the members of the National Assembly for Wales GREETING:
For as much as one or more Bills have been passed by the National Assembly for Wales and have been submitted to Us for Our Royal Assent by the Clerk of the National Assembly for Wales in accordance with the Government of Wales Act 2006 the short Titles of which Bills are set forth in the Schedule hereto but those Bills by virtue of the Government of Wales Act 2006 do not become Acts of the National Assembly for Wales nor have effect in the Law without Our Royal Assent signified by Letters Patent under Our Welsh Seal signed with Our own hand We have therefore caused these Our Letters Patent to be made and have signed them and by them do give Our Royal Assent to those Bills which shall be taken and accepted as good and perfect Acts of the Assembly and be put in due execution accordingly commanding also the Keeper of Our Welsh Seal to seal these Our Letters with that Seal. In witness whereof, we have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.WITNESS Ourself at … the … day of … in the … year of Our Reign. By The Queen, Herself Signed with Her Own Hand. The letters patent may also be made in Welsh.
Under section 14 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, a bill which has been approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly is presented to the Queen by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for royal assent after a four-week waiting period during which the Attorney General for Northern Ireland may refer the bill to the Supreme Court. Assent is given by means of letters patent in the following form set out in the Northern Ireland (Royal Assent to Bills) Order 1999. ELIZABETH THE SECOND by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, To the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly GREETING: WHEREAS you the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly have passed a Bill the short title of which is set out in the Schedule hereto but the said Bill does not become an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly without Our Royal Assent; AND WHEREAS pursuant to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 the said Bill has been submitted to Us by [insert name of Secretary of State] one of Our Principal Secretaries of State for Our Royal Assent;We have therefore caused these Our Letters Patent to be made and have signed them and by them We give Our Royal Assent to the said Bill COMMANDING [insert name of Clerk of the Crown for Northern Ireland] the Clerk of the Crown for Northern Ireland to seal these Our Letters with the Great Seal of Northern Ireland AND ALSO COMMANDING that these Our Letters be notified to the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly;AND FINALLY WE declare that, in accordance with the Northern Ireland Act 1998, at the beginning of the day on which Our Royal Assent has been notified as aforesaid the said Bill shall become an Act of the Northern Ireland Assembly. In Witness whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent WITNESS Ourself at the day of in the year of Our Reign By the Queen Herself Signed with Her Own Hand. Between 1922 and 1972, bills passed by the Parliament of Northern Ireland were passed to the Governor of Northern Ireland for royal assent under the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, replacing the office of Lord-Lieutenant.
Church of England Measures
Under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 a measure of the General Synod of the Church of England becomes law once it has received royal assent in the same way as an Act of Parliament.
Jersey and Guernsey
The lieutenant governors of the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick and Islands of Guernsey do not by and under their own authority grant assent, nor, as proxies, as the British crown’s representative, deliver royal assent, to legislation emanating from the respective legislatures of these islands. The State of Jersey Law 2005 abolishes the power of the lieutenant governor to directly impose a formal veto to a resolution of the States of Jersey. The monarch of the United Kingdom, sitting in (together with members of the Cabinet of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the day, and who are also members of) the Privy Council, grants the equivalent of the royal assent to Jersey and Guernsey legislation (under the formula, or other words to the effect: “Her Majesty, having taken the report into consideration, was pleased, by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, to approve and ratify this Act (a copy of which is annexed to this Order) and to order that it, together with this Order, shall be entered on the Register of the Island of Jersey (or of the Islands of Guernsey) and observed accordingly. Her Majesty’s Officers in the Island (or Islands), and all others whom it may concern, are therefore to take notice of Her Majesty’s Order and to proceed accordingly”). The equivalent of the royal assent is formally granted or formally refused on the formal advice of the Committee of Council for the Affairs of Jersey and Guernsey in pursuance of Queen Elizabeth II’s order-in-council of 22 February 1952. A recent example when the equivalent of the royal assent was refused was in 2007, concerning reforms to the constitution of the Chief Pleas of Sark. (A revised version of the proposed reforms was subsequently given the equivalent of the royal assent.)In 2011, campaigners against a law that sought to reduce the number of senators in the states of Jersey petitioned the Privy Council to advise the Queen to refuse the equivalent of the royal assent. An Order in Council of 13 July 2011 established new rules for the consideration of petitions against the granting of the equivalent of the royal assent. Legislation in Jersey and Guernsey entitled “Laws” would seem to require the formal equivalent of the royal assent from the British monarch sitting in the Privy Council; other legislation such as regulations and orders (in Jersey) and ordinances (in Guernsey) would not seem to require such formal equivalent of the royal assent. There is a proposal that the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey should be granted the delegated power of granting the equivalent of the royal assent, formally from the monarch and the Privy Council, to enable laws to be granted formal approval within six weeks if no objection was raised, rather than having to formally refer every law for formal consideration in London and then formal approval also (usually) in London. “At present, there is a situation where Channel Island law-making depends, ultimately, on the UK government of the day, unelected [sic] by the islands.”
Jersey and Guernsey
Special procedures apply to legislation passed by the Tynwald of the Isle of Man. Before the lordship of the Island was purchased by the British Crown in 1765 (the Revestment), the assent of the Lord of Mann to a bill was signified by a letter to the governor. After 1765, the equivalent of the royal assent was at first signified by the letter from the Secretary of State to the governor; but, during the British Regency, the practice began of granting the equivalent of the royal assent to Manx legislation by Orders in Council, which continues to this day, though limited to exceptional cases since 1981. In 1981, an Order in Council delegated to the lieutenant governor the power to grant royal assent to bills passed by Tynwald. The lieutenant governor must however refer any bill impacting on reserved powers (defence, foreign relations, nationality law, the relationship between the island and the United Kingdom, and any matters relating to the monarch) to the British government for advice, on which he is required to act. The above procedures are not sufficient to cause an Act of Tynwald to come into the full force of law. By ancient custom, an Act did not come into force until it had been promulgated at an open-air sitting of the Tynwald, historically held on Tynwald Hill at St John’s on St John’s Day (24 June), but, since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1753, on 5 July (or on the following Monday if 5 July is a Saturday or Sunday).
Promulgation originally consisted of the reading of the Act in English and Manx, but after 1865 the reading of the title of the Act and a summary of each section was sufficient. This was reduced in 1895 to the titles and a memorandum of the object and purport of the Act, and since 1988 only the short title and a summary of the long title have been read. An emergency procedure enabling an Act to come into force at the same moment as the receipt of the equivalent of the royal assent, when it is being announced at an ordinary sitting of the Tynwald, subject to its being promulgated within 12 months, was introduced in 1916; since 1988, this has been the normal procedure, but an Act ceases to have effect unless promulgated within 18 months after the equivalent of the royal assent is announced in the Tynwald. Since 1993, the Sodor and Man Diocesan Synod of the Church of England within the Province of York has had the power to enact measures making provision “with respect to any matter concerning the Church of England in the Island”. If approved by the Tynwald, a measure “shall have the force and effect of an Act of Tynwald upon the Royal Assent thereto being announced to the Tynwald”.
Between 1979 and 1993, the Synod had similar powers but limited to the extension to the Isle of Man of measures of the General Synod. Before 1994, the equivalent of the royal assent was granted by Order in Council, as for a bill, but the power to grant the equivalent of the royal assent to measures has now been delegated to the lieutenant governor. A Measure does not require promulgation.
British Overseas Territories
The governors (or the acting governors) of British overseas territories grant, withhold, or formally refuse the grant of their own Governor’s assent, under their own official personal authority as governors, for “colonial” or local legislation. Although the governor’s assent is also normally granted, this is altogether different in nature from the royal assent.
The Queen and Justice
In the earliest times, the Sovereign was a key figure in the enforcement of law and the establishment of a system of justice. Nowadays the Sovereign retains a symbolic role as the figure in whose name justice is carried out, and law and order are maintained, but is not involved in the actual administration of justice. The independence of the legal system and the Sovereign’s role as the source of justice have developed over many centuries. In late Anglo-Saxon times, the concept of the Sovereign as the ‘Fount of Justice’ grew in importance as it helped to ensure that a single system of justice prevailed over competing for local, civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Ethelbert’s reign (560-616) saw the first law code written in the vernacular. Kings such as Alfred the Great (reigned 871-99) extended the law codes by codifying community custom, administrative regulations, and ancient law.
Successive kings preserved and adapted the body of English laws that had been accepted by the community and which past kings had published, and case law supplemented these law codes. This accumulated legislative power placed responsibilities on the king as a dispenser of justice to ensure order and punish crime. From William the Conqueror (reigned 1066-87) onwards, Royal justice was more effectively enforced by the king’s appointment of local sheriffs, travelling justices, and other officials to administer justice in the Sovereign’s name throughout the kingdom. A chronicler of 1179 wrote of Henry II (reigned 1154-89): ‘he appointed wise men from his kingdom and later sent them through the regions of the kingdom assigned to them to execute justice among the people … This he did in order that the coming of public officials of authority throughout the shires might strike terror into the hearts of wrongdoers.’
The Royal courts were therefore at the centre of the administration of justice in both civil and criminal cases, and Sovereigns themselves took an active part in their own courts, with the king sometimes presiding over the proceedings. By the fifteenth century, the central courts had settled at Westminster, and the Courts of Justice remained housed at Westminster Hall (built-in 1097 and renovated in 1394) until 1882. However, there were limits to Royal enforcement of justice or ‘the king’s peace’. These included the geographical distance of the more remote shires (particularly on the troubled borders of the Welsh Marches and Scotland). There was independent jurisdiction in ‘palatine counties’, where Royal powers were granted in the franchise to an individual. There were also ecclesiastical jurisdictions and, above all, the Sovereign’s reliance on local barons and gentry to uphold the law in the regions, liable to break down in times of civil war.
As Parliament’s legislative role grew and day-to-day power came to be exercised by Ministers in Cabinet, so the Sovereign’s role in actually administering justice declined. The Bill of Rights (1689) (in Scotland, the Claim of Right) confirmed the basic constitutional principle that the Sovereign no longer had any right to administer justice. The Sovereign’s responsibilities regarding the judiciary also waned. Under the Act of Settlement (1701), judges were to hold office during good behaviour rather than by the Sovereign’s will. Judges could be removed by the Sovereign on the advice of Ministers, either following an address presented by both Houses of Parliament or without an address in cases of official misconduct or conviction of a serious offence. The Act, therefore, established judicial independence which exists today.
The task of administering justice in the UK is carried out by members of a judiciary acting in The Queen’s name. The Queen does not herself judge any case nor does she play any part in the judicial process. But she has a symbolic role. By the coronation oath, and by common law and various statutes, the Sovereign is required to cause law and justice with mercy to be administered to all. In the United Kingdom, all jurisdiction, therefore, derives from the Crown. The courts are The Queen’s courts; the judges are Her Majesty’s judges and derive their authority from the Crown; criminal prosecutions are brought in the name of the Sovereign against those charged; the prisons are Her Majesty’s Prisons. In previous decades prisoners used to be detained ‘at Her Majesty’s pleasure’. In the area of law, as in her other public actions, The Queen acts solely on the advice of her Ministers. For example, although The Queen appoints senior judges, she does so on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Queen also exercises the prerogative of mercy, by which the Sovereign may, for example, grant free or conditional pardons or remit penalties, on the advice of her Ministers.
The Scottish legal system developed separately from the legal system in England, and the Sovereign plays a different role in it to that in England and Wales. The Crowns of England and Scotland were not united until 1603 when the Scottish King James VI ascended the English throne. Until the Act of Union of 1707 (which established the Parliament of Great Britain) Scotland had her own Parliament. In the Act of Union, the continued existence of a separate legal system in Scotland was expressly provided for. The system of a rule introduced to England by William the Conqueror was brought to Scotland by King David I (reigned 1124-53), and there too emerged the idea of the king as the fountain of justice.
In his reign, King David’s court heard important cases and appeals from the lower courts. Justiciars appeared as the King’s delegates for the administration of justice and they went on the circuit to deal locally with cases not heard by the King’s Court. The office of Sheriff (appointed by and acting on behalf of the King) was also established by David I, and lesser cases were heard from time to time in the Sheriff’s Court in various places throughout Scotland. The Scottish Parliament evolved sometime in the thirteenth century. It originally existed as a Supreme Court and was derived from the King’s Court sitting with counsel for discussion. In the administration of criminal justice, the office of King’s Advocate emerged in the fifteenth century. The King’s Advocate was entitled to appear in cases to represent the King’s interests in securing law and order (at that time all but the most serious crimes were pursued by the injured party).
By an Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1587, the Advocate was authorised to ‘pursue slaughters and other crimes although the parties be silent or would otherwise privily agree’. The system of public prosecution in Scotland surviving to this day was created, allowing the Advocate to prosecute regardless of the private interests of the parties. The Lord Advocate (or Her Majesty’s Advocate), as he is now known, is appointed by The Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. He is responsible for virtually all prosecutions in Scotland (which are on behalf of the Crown). As in England, the role of The Queen in judicial matters has become symbolic. The Claim of Right of 1689 established the independence of the judiciary and provided for judicial office to be held during good behaviour (as the Act of Settlement did in England) rather than by the will of the Sovereign. Today, Scotland’s two most senior judges, the Lord President, and the Lord Justice Clerk, are appointed by The Queen on the recommendation of the Scottish First Minister. Other judges of the Supreme Court and Sheriffs are also appointed by The Queen on the recommendation of the First Minister.
People often wonder whether laws apply to The Queen since they are made in her name. Given the historical development of the Sovereign as the ‘Fount of Justice’, civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law. Acts of Parliament do not apply to The Queen in her personal capacity unless they are expressly stated to do so. However, The Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law. Under the Crown Proceedings Act (1947), civil proceedings can be taken against the Crown in its public capacity (this usually means proceedings against government departments and agencies, as the elected Government governs in The Queen’s name).
In the case of European Union law, laws are enforced in the United Kingdom through the United Kingdom’s national courts. There is, therefore, no machinery by which European law can be applied to The Queen in her personal capacity. However, it makes no difference that there is no such mechanism, as The Queen will in any event scrupulously observe the requirements of EU law. As a national of the United Kingdom, The Queen is a citizen of the European Union, but that in no way affects her prerogatives and responsibilities as the Sovereign.
In the earliest times, the Sovereign was a key figure in the enforcement of law and the establishment of legal systems in different areas of the UK. As such the Sovereign became known as the ‘Fount of Justice’. While no longer administering justice in a practical way, the Sovereign today still retains an important symbolic role as the figure in whose name justice is carried out, and law and order are maintained. Although civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law, The Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law.
The Queen and Religion
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 the 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.
The Church of England and the monarch’s relation to it was established through a series of Parliamentary Acts in the 1530s, which brought about the English Reformation. Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic Church by denying papal claims to ecclesiastical or any other jurisdiction, and by declaring himself rather than the Pope as Supreme Head of the Church in England. The Sovereign’s relationship to the Church of Scotland is different. Since 1707, the British Monarch has been required by the Treaty of Union to preserve the Church of Scotland, Scotland’s established Church. The Queen is therefore not the Supreme Governor of the Church of Scotland, but an ordinary member.
The Queen and the Church of England
“The Sovereign holds the title ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. There are many examples of the relationship between the established Church and the State. Archbishops and bishops are appointed by The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister, who considers the names selected by a Church Commission. They take an oath of allegiance to The Queen on appointment and may not resign without Royal authority. The connection between Church and State is also symbolised by the fact that the ‘Lords Spiritual’ (consisting of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and 24 diocesan bishops) sit in the House of Lords. Parish priests also take an oath of allegiance to The Queen. The General Synod (including the bishops, elected representatives from the clergy, and the laity) is the supreme authority of the Church of England. The Queen opens the Synod after the elections in the dioceses every five years.
Since 1919, the Synod (formerly called the Church Assembly) has had the power to pass Measures on any matter concerning the Church of England. Following acceptance of the Measures by both Houses of Parliament (which cannot amend them), they are submitted for Royal Assent and become law. In addition to legislating for the Church by Measure, the General Synod has the power to legislate by Canon in its own domestic affairs such as worship and doctrine, but The Queen’s assent is required for the promulgation of such Canons. Such assent is given on the Home Secretary’s advice. In his or her coronation oath, the Sovereign promises to maintain the Church. The Sovereign must be in communion with the Church of England, that is, a full confirmed member. The Preface to the 39 Articles of the Church of England describes the monarch as ‘being by God’s Ordinance, according to Our just Title, Defender of the Faith and … Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The Queen and the Church of Scotland
“Its supreme authority is the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, presided over by a Moderator chosen each year by the Assembly itself. The monarch takes an oath to preserve the Church of Scotland at the meeting of the Privy Council immediately following his or her accession. The Crown is represented at the Assembly, sometimes by the monarch in person, but more often by a Lord High Commissioner appointed each year by The Queen. Provided that it acts within the law of the land, the Assembly has the power to pass resolutions which can have effect without Royal Assent.
The Queen and other Faiths
“Modern Britain is a multi-cultural, multi-faith society, made up of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs and people of other faiths. The Commonwealth is also made up of peoples with different religious beliefs. The Queen’s role as Head of State and Head of Commonwealth is to respect and recognise these various faiths and to promote tolerance and understanding between people of different religions. This is reflected in The Queen’s Christmas and Commonwealth broadcast speeches, which have often addressed the theme of religious tolerance. In her Christmas Message in 2004, for example, The Queen remarked: “Everyone is our neighbour, no matter what race, creed or colour.”
Members of different denominations faiths are represented at major Royal ceremonial occasions with a religious dimension – for example, weddings, funerals and services of thanksgiving. The Queen has also hosted a number of events that bring representatives of all denominations and faiths together – for example, a reception at Buckingham Palace for leaders of different religions in 2002. Although Supreme Governor of the Church of England, throughout her reign The Queen has recognised other denominations within the Christian faith, attending various ecumenical gatherings and services. During the course of her visits throughout the UK and overseas, The Queen has visited the places of worship of many different faiths, meeting religious leaders and worshippers.
In 2002 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh visited Highgate Hill Murugan Hindu Temple in North London. In the same year, The Queen met worshippers at a community mosque in Scunthorpe. In 2006 The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh attended a reception to mark the 350th anniversary of the Jewish Community in Great Britain at St James’s Palace, London. In 2008 The Queen visited the Green Mosque during a State visit to Turkey. The Prince of Wales has long called for an acknowledgement of the strengths of other religious traditions, and for greater mutual understanding amongst the adherents of the world’s different faiths. The Prince’s efforts to foster a greater understanding between Islam and the West have attracted particular attention. His Royal Highness has been Patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies since 1993. The Prince of Wales has also demonstrated his respect for the other faiths by visiting their holy places and places of worship, including the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara Sikh Temple in Southall, which opened in June 2003 and the Bevis Marks synagogue in central London.
The Queen and the Armed Forces
Her Majesty, the Queen as Sovereign is Head of the Armed Forces. Throughout history, Kings and Queens have had strong links with the Armed Forces. Armies have defended and attacked territories on behalf of their rulers and have looked to them for guidance and inspiration in times of war and peace since ancient times. The Queen and the family which supports her have a substantial investment in the Armed Forces as both Head of the Armed Forces, Patrons and members of the Armed Forces themselves. Her Majesty is not just the Head of the Armed Forces, but also the wife, mother and grandmother of individuals either having served or are currently serving, in the Armed Forces. The Queen is the only person to declare war and peace. This dates back to when the Monarch was responsible for raising, maintaining and equipping the Army and Navy. Today, this power can only be exercised on the advice of Ministers. On enlistment, the Army and Air Force Acts require members of the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines to take an oath of allegiance to the Monarchy as Head of the Armed Forces.
Members of the Royal Navy have never been required to swear an oath – the service was formed hundreds of years ago and its existence stems from the Sovereign’s prerogative. The Queen takes a keen interest in all the Armed Forces, both in the United Kingdom and in the Commonwealth. She undertakes regular visits to Service Establishments and ships, to meet servicemen and women of all ranks, and their families, both at home and overseas. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family hold various appointments and honorary ranks in the Armed Forces. Such appointments include special relationships with certain ships, and honorary colonels (known as Royal Colonels) in Army regiments and Corps, and honorary ranks connected with Royal Air Force stations. The Queen meets regularly with the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Single Service Chiefs. Her Majesty also keeps in touch with the work and interests of the Services through her Defence Services Secretary, a serving officer who is also a member of the Royal Household, who acts as the official link.
The first British Sovereigns were the military commanders, rulers and administrators with the best fighting forces behind them. Their role was hands on: they were fighters as well as military strategists, and many were present on the battlefield. In 1066 King Harold died on the battlefield: hit by an arrow and then mowed down by the sword of a mounted knight, whilst the soon-to-be new king, William I ‘The Conqueror’ directed his troops. Over time, rulers have taken part from a safer distance, leaving the day-to-day business of warfare to experienced commanders and involving themselves more in strategic matters rather than risk death in the field. This did not necessarily prevent some of them from being great leaders, motivating their troops as they fought for King or Queen and Country. In 1588 on the eve of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth I addressed her troops in a rousing and oft-quoted speech:
‘I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king – and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which, rather than any dishonour should grow by me, I myself will take up arms – I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.’
In the centuries since, Monarchs have evolved this ‘general, judge, and rewarder’ into a more politically neutral, motivational one. Members of the Royal Family are encouraged to serve in the Armed Forces and to develop special relationships to better understand its ongoing work and culture. Today The Queen and the family which supports her have a substantial investment in the Armed Forces as both Head of the Armed Forces, Patrons and members of the Armed Forces themselves. The last British Sovereign to have seen action in battle was The Queen’s father, George VI. As a 20-year-old Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, he fought in the battle of Jutland in 1916.
Royal Family in the Armed Forces
The Queen holds the position of Colonel-in-Chief of numerous regiments in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth. Her Majesty is supported by other Members of the Royal Family who have special relationships, such as honorary colonelcies (known as Royal colonels), with various Army regiments and corps. On official visits, members of the Royal family often wear their regiment’s uniform or other objects, such as regimental brooches. They are also worn on special occasions, such as Remembrance Sunday.
Members of the Royal Family have personal experience of life in the Armed Forces. As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen joined the Auxillary Territorial Service in 1945, becoming the first female member of the Royal Family to be a full-time active member of the Services. The Duke of Edinburgh served in the Royal Navy from 1939 to 1952, seeing active service throughout the Second World War. The Prince of Wales also served in the Royal Navy and also trained in the Royal Air Force. The Duke of York served for over 20 years as an officer in the Royal Navy before leaving the Service in 2001. He flew as a second pilot in Sea King Helicopters on anti-submarine and transport duties during the Falklands conflict in 1982. Prince William served as a regimental officer in the British Army before undertaking attachments to The Royal Air Force and The Royal Navy. In September 2008 it was announced that he would train to become a full-time pilot with the Royal Air Force’s Search and Rescue Force (SARF). Prince Harry is also currently focusing on his military career. He is an officer in the British Army and a Lieutenant in the Blues and Royals, which, together with the Life Guards, forms The Household Cavalry.
Royal Navy and Royal Marines
The Queen holds the position of Lord High Admiral in the Royal Navy and is supported by other Members of the Royal Family who have special relationships with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. These relationships are either an honorary position or a serving officer. Regular visits to naval bases and ships strengthen the relationships. The Duke of Edinburgh holds the rank of Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, and the Royal New Zealand Navy, he is Admiral of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets and Captain-General of the Royal Marines. In his younger years, Prince Philip served with the Royal Navy rising to the rank of Commander. He was mentioned in dispatches in 1941.
The Prince of Wales holds the rank of Admiral in the Royal Navy and is Commodore-in-Chief for Plymouth. He served in the Royal Navy where he took command of his own ship in 1976. Prince William holds the rank of Sub Lieutenant and is Commodore-in-Chief for Scotland and Submarines. The Prince undertook an attachment with the Royal Navy in 2008. The Duke of York holds the rank of Captain and is Commodore-in-Chief for the Fleet Air Arm. Prince Andrew served for over 20 years in the Royal Navy where he saw active service as part of the task force that sailed to the South Atlantic to regain the Falkland Islands in 1982. The Earl of Wessex is Commodore-in-Chief for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Prince Edward spent three years in the Royal Marines as a University Cadet. Princess Royal holds the rank of Rear Admiral as Chief Commandant for Women in the Royal Navy. She has Special Relationships with HMS Talent and HMS Albion and is Commodore-in-Chief for Portsmouth. Prince Michael of Kent holds the rank of Honorary Rear Admiral Royal Naval Reserve and is Commodore-in-Chief of the Maritime Reserve.
As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945, becoming the first female member of the Royal Family to be a full-time active member of the Armed Services. The Duke of Edinburgh holds the rank of Field Marshal in the British Army, Field Marshal in the Australian Military Forces, and Field Marshal in the New Zealand Army. The Prince of Wales holds the rank of General in the British Army. The Duke of Kent holds the rank of Field Marshal in the British Army. The Duke of Kent graduated from Sandhurst in 1955 as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Greys. He then served with his regiment at home and overseas in a military career that spanned 21 years. Prince Michael of Kent holds the rank of Major (Retired). Prince Michael graduated from Sandhurst in 1961 and was commissioned into the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own) in 1963. His military career spanned 20 years and included a number of appointments on the Defence Intelligence Staff. Prince Harry is currently training to become a pilot with the Army Air Corps having been commissioned as an army officer in front of Her Majesty The Queen at Sandhurst in April 2006 and joined the Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals). In February 2008, the Prince returned home to the UK from Afghanistan after completing more than two months of active service with the British Army. Prince William was commissioned as an army officer in front of Her Majesty The Queen at Sandhurst in December 2006 and joined the Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals) where he held the rank of Lieutenant.
The Royal Air Force
The Queen has strong links with the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom and with Commonwealth Air Forces. Her Majesty is supported by other Members of the Royal Family who hold honorary ranks in connection with Royal Air Force stations. Some members of the Royal family also hold pilot licenses. The Duke of Edinburgh holds the rank of Marshal of the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom, Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force, and Marshal of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Prince Philip took RAF instruction in 1952, using Chipmunk and Harvard trainers, and subsequently a twin-engined Oxford. He made his first solo flight on 20th December 1952 and was presented with RAF wings on 4th May 1953. The Prince of Wales holds the rank of Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Air Force. In 1971 he spent six months at the Royal Air Force College at Cranwell learning to fly jet aircraft and obtaining his RAF wings. Prince William holds the rank of Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. In April 2008, the Prince received his RAF wings from his father The Prince of Wales at RAF Cranwell after completing an intensive 12-week flying course. In September 2008 it was announced that he will train to become a full-time pilot with the Royal Air Force’s Search and Rescue Force (SARF). The Duke of Gloucester holds the rank of Honorary Air Marshal in the Royal Air Force. The Duke of Kent holds the rank of Honorary Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Air Force.
Military Honours and Awards
Members of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces can be awarded via the UK Honours system for exceptional gallantry, achievement or service. They are eligible for the military divisions of civilian honours as well as for decorations and medals for gallantry and distinguished service which are exclusive to the Armed Forces. Nominations for these awards are recommended to The Queen via the Ministry of Defence. Usually, a commanding officer will write a citation nominating an individual. This recommendation is then passed up the military chain of command for consideration. For the two highest awards: the Victoria Cross and the George Cross, recommendations are further endorsed by the VC Committee, comprising the Permanent-Under Secretary and Service Chiefs of Staff, and the George Cross Military Committee, which is a subcommittee of the Honours and Decorations Committee. Civilians are also eligible for some of the following awards:
The Victoria Cross – The first British medal to be created for bravery, the Victoria Cross ranks alongside the George Cross as the nation’s highest award for gallantry. It is awarded only in exceptional circumstances: “for most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.”
The George Cross – Instituted in 1940 by The Queen’s father King George VI, the George Cross ranks with the Victoria Cross as the nation’s highest award for gallantry. It recognises actions of supreme gallantry in circumstances for which the Victoria Cross was not appropriate. It may be awarded to civilians, as well as members of the Armed Forces for acts of gallantry not in the presence of the enemy, including, for example, military explosive ordnance disposal personnel. It is awarded “for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger.”
The Distinguished Service Order – Instituted in 1886, it recognises outstanding leadership during active operations.
The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross – Since 1993 it has been awarded in recognition of an individual act or acts of conspicuous gallantry during active operations against the enemy.
The George Medal – Instituted in 1940 like the George Cross, the George Medal is awarded to civilians for acts of great bravery, but not so outstanding as to merit consideration for the George Cross. The GM can also be awarded to military personnel for acts of bravery not in the face of the enemy.
The Distinguished Service Cross, Military Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross recognise acts of bravery during combat operations respectively at sea, on land and in the air “for gallantry during active operations against the enemy.”
Air Force Cross – The Air Force Cross is awarded “for gallantry while flying but not on active operations against the enemy.”
The Queen’s Gallantry Medal – Can be awarded to civilians or military personnel “for exemplary acts of bravery.”
Mention in Despatches – The oldest form of recognition of gallantry within the UK Armed Forces. Reserved gallantry during active operations. Recipients do not receive a medal or insignia at an Investiture, but instead, their citation is published in the London Gazette.
The Queen’s Commendation for Bravery and Queen’s Commendation for Bravery in the Air – These awards mark specific acts of gallantry shown during non-active operations.
The Royal Red Cross – The Royal Red Cross is only awarded to members of the Nursing Services, and is given “for exceptional devotion and competency in the performance of actual nursing duties.”
Royal Red Cross 2nd Class – Again, only awarded to members of the Nursing Services for “special devotion and competency in the performance of actual nursing duties.”
Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service – Recognises meritorious service during, or in support of, operations.
The Elizabeth Cross – Instituted in 2009, and granted to the next of kin of Armed Forces personnel killed on operations or as a result of terrorism in a mark of national recognition for their loss.
Military divisions of civilian orders: Members of the Armed Forces may be considered for the military divisions of The Order of the British Empire. Military officers may also be considered for the military divisions of The Order of the Bath. The Elizabeth Cross and Memorial Scroll will not just be granted to families who have lost loved ones in the recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; The Queen’s recognition will also be available to the families of those who died in conflicts dating back to 1948, including the Korean War, the Falklands conflict and operations in Northern Ireland. Eligible personnel to be remembered in this way are those who were serving with or former members of the Regular and Reserve Armed Forces or The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). Please visit the Ministry of Defence website for more information about eligibility and how to apply for the award. Next of kin will receive the Elizabeth Cross – a sterling silver emblem in the shape of a cross over a wreath – plus a Memorial Scroll signed by The Queen which will bear the name of the person who died. The Elizabeth Cross is made of hallmarked silver and is in the form of a cross with a laurel wreath passing between the arms. The arms of the Cross bear floral symbols representing England (Rose) Scotland (Thistle), Ireland (Shamrock) and Wales (Daffodil). The centre of the cross bears the crowned Cypher of The Queen. The reverse of the cross is engraved with the name of the Service person in whose memory it is granted. The Memorial Scroll is on parchment style paper, headed with the Royal Coat of Arms and the following words: “This Scroll Commemorates … who gave his/her life for Queen and Country on …” The scroll bears the signature of Her Majesty The Queen in the upper left corner.
In a broadcast made on 1 July 2009, The Queen announced the introduction of the Elizabeth Cross, saying,
‘This seems to be a right and proper way of showing our enduring debt to those who are killed while actively protecting what is most dear to us all’.
The Queen's Christmas Broadcast
The first Christmas Broadcast was delivered by George V in 1932 and since then has evolved into an important part of the Christmas Day celebrations for many in Britain and around the world.
The Christmas Broadcast is an intrinsic part of Christmas Day festivities for many people across the Commonwealth. Each Broadcast carefully reflects current issues and concerns and shares The Queen’s reflections on what Christmas means to her and to many of her listeners. Over the years, the Christmas Broadcast has acted as a chronicle of global, national and personal events which have affected The Queen and her audience.
The Christmas message was started by The Queen’s grandfather, King George V. King George had reigned since 1910, but it was not until 1932 that he delivered his first Christmas message. The original idea for a Christmas speech by the Sovereign was mooted in 1932 by Sir John Reith, the visionary founding father of the BBC, to inaugurate the Empire Service (now the BBC World Service). Originally hesitant about using the relatively untried medium of radio in this way, The King was reassured by a visit to the BBC in the summer of 1932 and agreed to take part. And so, on Christmas Day, 1932, King George V spoke on the ‘wireless’ to the Empire from a small office at Sandringham. The transmission was an exercise of contemporary logistic brilliance. Two rooms at Sandringham were converted into temporary broadcasting rooms. The microphones at Sandringham were connected through Post Office landlines to the Control Room at Broadcasting House. From there connection was made to BBC transmitters in the Home Service, and to the Empire Broadcasting Station at Daventry with its six short-wave transmitters.
The General Post Office was used to reach Australia, Canada, India, Kenya, and South Africa. The time chosen was 3.00 pm – the best time for reaching most of the countries in the Empire by short waves from the transmitters in Britain. In the event, the first Broadcast started at five past three (twenty-five minutes to four according to the King’s ‘Sandringham Time’) and lasted two and a half minutes. The Broadcast was preceded by an hour-long programme of greetings from all parts of the Empire. The text of the first Christmas speech was written by poet and writer Rudyard Kipling and began with the words:
“I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all.”
The King acknowledged the unifying force of technology in his historic speech:
“I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all; to men and women so cut off by the snows, the desert, or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them.”
As the sound of a global family sharing common interests, the Broadcast made a huge impact on its audience of 20 million. Equally impressed, George V made a Broadcast every Christmas Day subsequently until his death in 1936.
George V’s last Christmas Broadcast in 1935 came less than a month before his death and the King’s voice sounded weaker. He spoke of his people’s joys and sorrows, as well as his own, and there was a special word for his children. Early Christmas BroadcastsKing George V’s eldest son and the new king, Edward VIII, never delivered a Christmas Broadcast, as his reign lasted less than a year. The task fell to King George VI, King Edward’s younger brother, who made his first broadcast in December 1937 in which he thanked the nation and Empire for their support during the first year of his reign.
Though the Christmas Broadcast was already popular by this time, it had still not yet become the regular tradition it is today. Indeed, there had been no broadcasts in 1936 or 1938. It was the outbreak of war in 1939 that firmly established the Royal Christmas Broadcast. With large parts of the world now facing an uncertain future, King George VI spoke live to offer a message of reassurance to his people. He dressed in the uniform of the Admiral of the Fleet, sitting in front of two microphones on a table at Sandringham. It was to be a landmark speech and was to have an important effect on the listening public as they were plunged into the uncertainty of war: “A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”
The war-time Christmas Broadcasts played a large part in boosting morale and reinforcing belief in the common cause. When the war ended, the Broadcasts – with their sentiments of unity and continuity – continued as a matter of course throughout the subsequent decades of change.
King George VI’s final Christmas Broadcast was marked by the illness that had plagued the King through his last years. The 1951 Broadcast was the only Broadcast that King George VI recorded rather than delivering live.
The King was only able to manage it in intervals, but his voice came over strongly. He spoke of his recovery from illness and the goodwill messages he had received: “From my peoples in these islands and in the British Commonwealth and Empire – as well as from many other countries – this support and sympathy has reached me and I thank you now from my heart…”
The BBC report at the time also noted the continuation of tradition: She used the same desk and chair as her father King George VI and his father King George V had done. In clear, firm tones she thanked her subjects for their “loyalty and affection” since her accession to the throne 10 months ago and promised to continue the work of her father and grandfather to unite the nations of the British Commonwealth and Empire. She asked them to pray for her on coronation day next summer.
Throughout her reign, The Queen has made a Broadcast every year except one. No Christmas Broadcast took place in 1969 because a repeat of the documentary Royal Family was already scheduled for the holiday period. Public concern at this apparent break with tradition prompted The Queen to issue a written message of reassurance that the Broadcast would return in the following year, so popular had it become. The first televised message was broadcast live in 1957. The advent of television during The Queen’s reign has given an added dimension to her Broadcasts. It has allowed viewers to see The Queen in her own residences, decorated for Christmas like many homes across the world.
The Queen: A Rare Interview
In a rare and enticing interview, Her Majesty discusses her role as Monarch, her training, her work, duties, and life married to the Crown. As Queen, she allows us an exclusive insight into the life of not just a Queen, but as head of a family and a hard-working Head of State.
The Silver Jubilee: 1952 – 1977
The Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II marked the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the thrones of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms. It was celebrated with large-scale parties and parades throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth throughout 1977, culminating in June with the official “Jubilee Days”, held to coincide with the Queen’s Official Birthday. The anniversary date itself was commemorated in church services across the land on 6 February 1977 and continued throughout the month. In March, preparations started for large parties in every major city of the United Kingdom, as well as for smaller ones for countless individual streets throughout the country.
No monarch before Queen Elizabeth II had visited more of the United Kingdom in such a short span of time (the trips lasted three months). All in all, the Queen and her husband Prince Philip visited a total of 36 counties. The trip started with record crowds gathering to see the Queen and Prince Philip in Glasgow, Scotland, on 17 May. After moving to England (where a record one million spectators came to greet the couple in Lancashire) and Wales, the Queen and Prince Philip wrapped up the first of their trips with a visit to Northern Ireland. Among the places visited during the national trips were numerous schools, which were the subject of a television special hosted by presenter Valerie Singleton.
Later in the summer, the Queen and Prince Philip embarked on a Commonwealth visit that first brought them to island nations such as Fiji and Tonga, following up with longer stints in New Zealand and Australia, with a final stop in Papua New Guinea before going on to the British holdings in the West Indies. The final stop on the international tour was a trip to Canada, in which Prince Charles joined the couple to greet the crowds.
On 6 June, the Queen lit a bonfire beacon at Windsor Castle, the light of which spread across the night in a chain of other beacons throughout the whole country. On 7 June, crowds lined the route of the procession to St Paul’s Cathedral, where the royal family attended a Service of Thanksgiving alongside many world leaders, including United States President Jimmy Carter, and Prime Minister James Callaghan as well as all of the living former Prime Ministers (Harold Macmillan, The Lord Home of the Hirsel, Sir Harold Wilson and Edward Heath). The service was followed by lunch in the Guildhall, hosted by the Lord Mayor of the City of London Peter Vanneck. At the reception, the Queen was quoted as saying:
“When I was twenty-one I pledged my life to the service of our people and I asked for God’s help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.”
After the luncheon, the procession continued down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where an estimated one million people lined the pavements to see the family wave to onlookers. A further 500 million people around the Commonwealth watched the day’s events on live television. On 7 June, streets and villages threw elaborate parties for all their residents, and many streets strung bunting (the little flags were usually modelled in pattern after the Union Flag) from rooftop to rooftop across the street. In addition to parties, many streets decorated motor vehicles as historical events from Britain’s past, and drove them about town, organising their very own parades. In London alone there were over 4000 organised parties for individual streets and neighbourhoods. Throughout the entire day, onlookers were greeted by the Queen many times as she made several appearances for pictures from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
On 9 June, the Queen made a Royal Progress trip via boat down the River Thames from Greenwich to Lambeth, in a re-enactment of the famous progresses taken by Queen Elizabeth I. On the trip, the Queen officially opened the Silver Jubilee Walkway and the South Bank Jubilee Gardens, two of numerous places named after the festivities. In the evening, she presided over a fireworks display and was taken subsequently by a procession of lighted carriages to Buckingham Palace, where she greeted onlookers yet again from her balcony.
Various places were named after the Jubilee. The under-construction Fleet line of the London underground was renamed the Jubilee line, and given a silver line colour, though it did not open until 1979. Other places named after the Jubilee were the Silver Jubilee Walkway and the Jubilee Gardens in South Bank, London. The Silver Jubilee Bridge – connecting Runcorn and Widnes across the Mersey – was also renamed in honour of this jubilee. Apart from names, the Jubilee also saw the borough of Derby granted the status of a city. Australian artist, Paul Fitzgerald, was commissioned to complete the only official portrait of the Queen during the Silver Jubilee year. Similar parties and parades were planned for the Golden Jubilee in 2002. the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012, a 100 m (330 ft) by 70 m (230 ft) print of a photograph of the British Royal Family taken during her Silver Jubilee celebrations at Buckingham Palace was erected in front of the Sea Containers House under renovation. Tower Bridge was repainted in a commemorative colour scheme of red, white, and blue for the Silver Jubilee and has retained the design ever since.
The Ruby Jubilee: 1952 – 1992
Her Majesty did not mark the Ruby Anniversary of her succession due to a series of complicated factors that spread turmoil throughout her life during what should have been a celebratory year. 1992 was a year that the Queen does not look back on fondly and has termed the year, her “Annus Horribilis”. There were no formal events held to mark the Ruby Jubilee of Her Majesty. Instead, The Queen outlined the year in a speech on the 4oth anniversary of her succession, which is known as the “Annus Horribilis Speech”. “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.” – Her Majesty The Queen.
on 24 November 1992, The Queen gave a speech at Guildhall to mark the 40th anniversary of her Accession. In it, The Queen referred to recent events as part of an ‘annus horribilis’.
My Lord Mayor,
Could I say, first, how delighted I am that the Lady Mayoress is here today?
This great hall has provided me with some of the most memorable events of my life. The hospitality of the City of London is famous around the world, but nowhere is it more appreciated than among the members of my family. I am deeply grateful that you, my Lord Mayor, and the Corporation, have seen fit to mark the fortieth anniversary of my Accession with this splendid lunch, and by giving me a picture that I will greatly cherish. Thank you also for inviting representatives of so many organisations with which I and my family have special connections, in some cases stretching back over several generations. To use an expression more common north of the Border, this is a real ‘gathering of the clans’.
1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis’. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so. Indeed, I suspect that there are very few people or institutions unaffected by these last months of worldwide turmoil and uncertainty. This generosity and whole-hearted kindness of the Corporation of the City to Prince Philip and me would be welcome at any time, but at this particular moment, in the aftermath of Friday’s tragic fire at Windsor, it is especially so. And, after this last weekend, we appreciate all the more what has been set before us today. Years of experience, however, have made us a bit more canny than the lady, less well versed than us in the splendours of City hospitality, who, when she was offered a balloon glass for her brandy, asked for ‘only half a glass, please’.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing. A well-meaning Bishop was obviously doing his best when he told Queen Victoria, “Ma’am, we cannot pray too often, nor too fervently, for the Royal Family”. The Queen’s reply was: “Too fervently, no; too often, yes”. I, like Queen Victoria, have always been a believer in that old maxim “moderation in all things”. I sometimes wonder how future generations will judge the events of this tumultuous year. I dare say that history will take a slightly more moderate view than that of some contemporary commentators. Distance is well-known to lend enchantment, even to the less attractive views. After all, it has the inestimable advantage of hindsight.
But it can also lend an extra dimension to judgement, giving it a leavening of moderation and compassion – even of wisdom – that is sometimes lacking in the reactions of those whose task it is in life to offer instant opinions on all things great and small. No section of the community has all the virtues, neither does any have all the vices. I am quite sure that most people try to do their jobs as best they can, even if the result is not always entirely successful. He who has never failed to reach perfection has a right to be the harshest critic.
There can be no doubt, of course, that criticism is good for people and institutions that are part of public life. No institution – City, Monarchy, whatever – should expect to be free from the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, not to mention those who don’t. But we are all part of the same fabric of our national society and that scrutiny, by one part of another, can be just as effective if it is made with a touch of gentleness, good humour and understanding.
This sort of questioning can also act, and it should do so, as an effective engine for change. The City is a good example of the way the process of change can be incorporated into the stability and continuity of a great institution. I particularly admire my Lord Mayor, the way in which the City has adapted so nimbly to what the Prayer Book calls “The changes and chances of this mortal life”. You have set an example of how it is possible to remain effective and dynamic without losing those indefinable qualities, style and character. We only have to look around this great hall to see the truth of that.
Forty years is quite a long time. I am glad to have had the chance to witness, and to take part in, many dramatic changes in life in this country. But I am glad to say that the magnificent standard of hospitality given on so many occasions to the Sovereign by the Lord Mayor of London has not changed at all. It is an outward symbol of one other unchanging factor which I value above all – the loyalty given to me and to my family by so many people in this country, and the Commonwealth, throughout my reign. You, my Lord Mayor, and all those whose prayers – fervent, I hope, but not too frequent – have sustained me through all these years, are friends indeed. Prince Philip and I give you all, wherever you may be, our most humble thanks. And now I ask you to rise and drink the health of the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London.
The Golden Jubilee: 1952 – 2012
The Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II was the international celebration held in 2002 marking the 50th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the thrones of seven countries, upon the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952, and was intended by the Queen to be both a commemoration of her 50 years as monarch and an opportunity for her to officially and personally thank her people for their loyalty. Despite the deaths of her sister, Princess Margaret, and mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, in February and March 2002 respectively, and predictions in the media that the anniversary would be a non-event, the jubilee was marked with large-scale and popular events throughout London in June of the same year, booked by events throughout the Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth attended all of the official celebrations as scheduled, along with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh; over twelve months, the royal couple journeyed more than 40,000 miles (64,000km) to the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, then around the United Kingdom, and wrapped up the jubilee year in Canada. Numerous landmarks, parks, buildings, and the like, were also named in honour of the golden jubilee and commemorative medals, stamps, and other symbols were issued.
Celebrations for Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee took place throughout the United Kingdom between May and July 2002. In the lead-up to those festive weeks, the British media—The Guardian, in particular—predicted that the jubilee would be a failure, arguing that Britain was no longer interested in the monarchy; a pervading sense of apathy amongst the populace seemed to confirm this. However, the predictions were proven wrong, especially during the official jubilee weekend, when people numbering in the hundreds of thousands turned out to participate in the fêtes. These festivities culminated in the 4 June event on The Mall in London, when over one million attended the parade and flypast. The Daily Mail stated in its editorial: “How the sour anti-Royalists in The Guardian newspaper and elsewhere have been confounded. They were convinced that the occasion would be a flop, that the House of Windsor was no longer capable of inspiring the loyalties it once did and that anyway the concept of royalty was passe in cool Britannia.”
It was on 3 March that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh returned to London from Australia. Eight days later, on Commonwealth Day, the Commonwealth Secretariat unveiled at Buckingham Palace a portrait of Elizabeth, painted by Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy that had been commissioned to mark the Queen’s 50 years as Head of the Commonwealth; the work now hangs at Marlborough House, with a study kept as part of the Queen’s collection at St James’s Palace. At the end of the month, however, the Queen was dealt another blow when her mother died on 30 March; the Commonwealth realms observed a period of mourning, and on 9 April, the day of her funeral, more than one million people filled the area outside Westminster Abbey and along the 23-mile (37 km) route from central London to the Queen Mother’s final resting place beside her husband and younger daughter in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Plans for the Golden Jubilee in the United Kingdom went ahead as planned, and, after a dinner hosted by Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street for her and all her living former British Prime Ministers (Sir John Major, Baroness Thatcher, Sir Edward Heath, and The Lord Callaghan of Cardiff), the Queen officially launched the celebrations in the UK with a speech to both houses of the British parliament at Westminster Hall on 30 April, marking the fifth time in five decades that Elizabeth II addressed her British parliament on her own account. The Queen spoke of 50 unforgettable years and the changes to British life and society in that time, and elaborated that the monarchy must change also; Elizabeth said she had “witnessed the transformation of the international landscape through which [the United Kingdom] must chart its course” and declared her “resolve to continue, with the support of [the Royal Family], to serve the people… to the best of [her] ability through the changing times ahead.”
For the Queen’s goodwill visits, which commenced on 1 May, two to three days were spent in each corner of England; the Queen and the Duke first stopped in Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset before travelling to Tyne and Wear, then finally to Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. On 13 May, the couple were received in Northern Ireland and visited such areas as County Fermanagh, Cookstown, and Omagh. Then, throughout much of mid-May, the royal couple were in London devoting much time to the promotion of the arts, attending the Chelsea Flower Show, dedicating the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, and attending a reception at the Royal Academy of Arts. The jubilee trips recommenced on 23 May with a six-day trip to Scotland; the royals first stopped in Glasgow, and then travelled on to Edinburgh, Dundee, Stornoway and Aberdeen, and, following the Jubilee weekend in London, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh on 7 June toured West Sussex, spent three days in Wales, touring Anglesey, Llanelli, and Cardiff. The next month, the royal couple made two-day trips to the West Midlands, Yorkshire (where the Queen visited the set of the soap opera Emmerdale), and the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk, as well as undertaking a three-day goodwill trip to Liverpool and Manchester, where the Queen opened the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The Queen closed out July by touring the East Midlands and ended her domestic tour by visiting Lancashire.
Amongst several other events independently organised to celebrate the Jubilee in June 2002 was the British Army’s staging at Portsmouth of a special parade of 6,000 personnel from all three branches of the British Armed Forces, and the Queen’s bodyguards mounted a conjoined parade, wherein 300 members of the Gentlemen at Arms, Yeoman of the Guard, and Yeoman Warders all marched together for the first time in the centuries since their respective foundations. Elizabeth also hosted a banquet for all of Europe’s reigning kings and queens, one for all her incumbent Governors-General, and garden parties at both Buckingham Palace and Holyrood Palace for people born on Accession Day 1952. Around the country, street parties were organised, for which some 40,000 toolkits were distributed.
Golden Jubilee Weekend
The Golden Jubilee Weekend took place between 1 and 4 June 2002 in London, for which the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh left Scotland on 29 May to make final preparations. On the first evening, the Saturday, the Prom at the Palace took place in the gardens of Buckingham Palace and highlighted classical music; out of the two million who applied for tickets, 12,500 people were selected to attend, making the event the largest ever held on the royal property. The crowds were entertained by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, and guest vocalists included Kiri Te Kanawa, Thomas Allen, Angela Gheorghiu, and Roberto Alagna.
The following day, the Queen and her husband attended a church service at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, while their family were present at thanksgiving services elsewhere in the United Kingdom The Prince of Wales and his sons, Princes; William and Harry, in Swansea; The Earl and Countess of Wessex in Salisbury; and Princess Royal in Ayr.
After time on 3 June touring Eton and Slough, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh returned to London and the former at 1:00 pm launched the nationwide BBC Music Live Festival, in which more than 200 towns and cities across the United Kingdom publicly played the Beatles song “All You Need Is Love”. During the day, street parties were held around the country, and that evening, the Queen, the Duke, and other members of the immediate Royal Family, made themselves present at another concert on the grounds of Buckingham Palace; this fête, called Party at the Palace, showcased achievements in pop music over the previous 50 years, with headlining acts including Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Cliff Richard, and Tony Bennett. Queen guitarist Brian May commenced the event by playing his arrangement of “God Save the Queen” from the roof of the palace, and Paul McCartney concluded the night with such numbers as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Hey Jude”, which were each performed before and after the Queen lit the National Beacon at the Victoria Memorial, the last in a string of 2,006 beacons to be lit in a chain throughout the world, echoing Queen Victoria’s own Golden Jubilee in 1887. 12,000 guests were allowed into the concert, while an additional one million people thronged The Mall to watch and listen to the festivities on giant television screens and join in with the palace audience’s singing from outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, and a further 200 million watched the televised event around the world.
On 4 June, the entire royal family attended the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, to which the Queen rode in the Gold State Coach, followed by lunch at the Guildhall. There the Queen addressed the crowd and expressed pride at the Commonwealth’s achievements, both during her reign as queen and throughout time; Elizabeth was quoted as saying: “Gratitude, respect and pride, these words sum up how I feel about the people of this country and the Commonwealth—and what this Golden Jubilee means to me.” The jubilee procession then started along The Mall in the early afternoon; in addition to entertainers performing for the Queen, numerous floats were decorated to illustrate British life through the years of Elizabeth’s reign and driven through The Mall. The parade concluded with 5,000 adults and children from the 54 member-states of the Commonwealth of Nations marching in their various national costumes before the Queen and presenting to her a “rainbow of wishes”, consisting of handwritten notes from school children across the Commonwealth. In front of more than one million people, the Royal Family assembled on the balcony of the Centre Room of Buckingham Palace and watched a flypast consisting of every type of Royal Air Force aircraft in service (27 in all), Concorde, and the Red Arrows. There was only one publicly noted negative event in relation to the jubilee when approximately 40 activists, mostly drawn from the anarchist Movement Against the Monarchy, were arrested during a protest in the run-up to the Jubilee Weekend.
The Longest Reign
On 9 September 2015, at 17:30 BST Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II had reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes – surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. There were no formal celebrations, no parties or musical celebrations planned. It was very much business as usual for Her Majesty, as she spent the day in Scotland, not diverting from the normal dairy of duties which had been scheduled well in advance. Speaking about her new milestone in becoming the longest reigning sovereign in British history, The Queen stated that the title as “not one to which I have ever aspired”.
The BBC reported the days events as follows:
The Queen has thanked well-wishers at home and overseas for their “touching messages of kindness” as she becomes Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
Speaking in the Scottish Borders, the 89-year-old monarch said the title was “not one to which I have ever aspired”.
At 17:30 BST she had reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes – surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
David Cameron said the service the Queen had given was “truly humbling”.
Dressed in turquoise with her trusty black handbag at her side, the Queen spoke briefly to the gathered crowds earlier.
“Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones – my own is no exception – but I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness,” she said.
In the day’s main events:
- The Queen and Prince Philip travelled by steam train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank, where she formally opened the new £294m Scottish Borders Railway
- They were accompanied by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who praised the Queen’s “dedication, wisdom and exemplary sense of public service”
- In London, a flotilla of historic vessels, leisure cruisers and passenger boats took part in a procession along the Thamesand HMS Belfast sounded a four-gun salute
The exact moment the Queen became the longest-reigning sovereign is unknown. Her father, George VI, passed away in the early hours of 6 February 1952, but his time of death is not known.
Her Majesty's Milestone
Business in the Commons was postponed for half an hour so that MPs, led by Mr. Cameron, could pay tribute to the Queen.
The prime minister said she had been a “rock of stability” in an era when so much had changed, and her reign had been the “golden thread running through three post-war generations”.
He said it was “typical of the Queen’s selfless sense of service” that she thought today should be a normal day.
Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said it was “no exaggeration” to say the Queen was “admired by billions of people all around the world”.
Ministers are to present the Queen with a bound copy of cabinet papers from the meeting in 1952 when Sir Winston Churchill’s government approved the content of her first Queen’s Speech.
In the House of Lords, leader Baroness Stowell said the Queen had served the country with “unerring grace, dignity and decency”, adding: “And long may she continue to do so”.
There have been glowing tributes and much talk about the significance of this moment. No such words were uttered by the subject of all the attention.
She undertook a run-of-the-mill engagement on a far from run-of-the-mill day. And in her brief remarks – her lengthy reign hasn’t lessened her aversion to making speeches – she displayed some classic British understatement.
Overtaking her great-great-grandmother wasn’t something she’d ever aspired to, she said. She was simply the beneficiary of a long life.
In Scotland – and indeed in other parts of the United Kingdom – that life and her reign have been celebrated very publicly.
Privately, later, the Queen will mark the moment she enters the record books. Prince Philip will be with her – her husband of 67 years has been the one constant in a reign of sometimes dizzying change.
Buckingham Palace has released two official photographs to mark the occasion, taken by Mary McCartney in the Queen’s private audience room.
This is where she holds weekly audiences with prime ministers of the day, and receives visiting heads of state and government.
The Queen is taking her traditional summer break at this time of year at her private Scottish home, Balmoral.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are in Scotland on holiday and are expected to have dinner with the Queen at Balmoral later.
Queens of the modern age
- Victoria became queen at 18, while Elizabeth was 25
- Elizabeth II rides in the same coach as Victoria did for the annual State Opening of Parliament
- Both queens were shot at by lone gunmen while out riding near Buckingham Palace
- Elizabeth loves the private royal estate at Balmoral, which was bought by Victoria
- Victoria ruled over an empire of 400 million people. Elizabeth is head of state for 138 million people
Queen Victoria became queen at the age of 18 and ruled for 63 years, seven months, and two days.
Queen Elizabeth’s reign has included 12 prime ministers, two more than served under Victoria.
Media captionDuke of York: “From her perspective, it is business as usual”
One of those prime ministers, Conservative Sir John Major, rejected any suggestion the Queen had been too passive as head of state: “The monarchy wouldn’t be as popular if they were part of politics – they’re above and beyond it.
“But when the Queen meets her prime minister she has the opportunity to question, to ask, to counsel. Nobody knows and no prime minister is going to tell you exactly what happens at those meetings. So those who say she’s been too passive, how can they possibly know?”
The Queen is Head of the Commonwealth and sovereign of 15 Commonwealth realms in addition to the UK, and the organisation’s Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, sent his congratulations.
“As a symbol of continuity during decades of unprecedented change, and by drawing our people together in their rich diversity, Her Majesty has embodied all that is best in the Commonwealth,” he said.
“With vision and dedication, her example has encouraged successive generations of leaders and citizens to embrace the promise of the future.”