Monarchy – What powers does the Queen have?
The Crown, which represents both the Sovereign (the person on whom the Crown is constitutionally conferred) and the Government, is the symbol of supreme executive power. The Crown is vested in the Queen, but in general its functions are exercised by Ministers responsible to Parliament and thus Britain is governed by Her Majesty's Government in the name of the Queen. However, the Queen's involvement is still required in many important acts of government.
The Queen summons, prorogues (discontinues until the next session without dissolving) and dissolves Parliament. She normally opens the new session of Parliament with a speech from the throne which is written for her by the Government and outlines her Government's programme. Before a Bill becomes law the Queen must give it her Royal Assent, which is announced to both Houses of Parliament.
The Queen can, on ministerial advice, pardon or show mercy to those convicted of crimes. In law the Queen as a private person can do no wrong: she is immune from civil or criminal proceedings and cannot be sued in courts of law. This immunity is not shared by other members of the royal family.
The Queen has the power to confer peerages, knighthoods and other honours. She normally does this on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, although a few honours are conferred by the Sovereign personally. The Queen makes appointments to many important state offices, on the advice of the Prime Minister or the relevant Cabinet Minister.
Foreign diplomatic representatives in London are accredited to the Queen and she has the power to conclude treaties, to declare war and to make peace, to recognise foreign states and governments and to annex and cede territory.
The Queen presides over meetings of the Privy Council. At these, among other things, Orders in Council made under the Royal Prerogative or under statute are approved. The Royal Prerogative mainly comprises executive government - powers controlled by constitutional conventions (rules which are not part of the law, but which are regarded as indispensable to the machinery of government). In nearly all cases acts involving the Royal Prerogative are performed by Ministers who are responsible to Parliament and can be questioned about policies. Parliament has the power to abolish or restrict a prerogative right. In addition to being informed and consulted about all aspects of national life, the Queen is free to put forward her own views, in private, for the consideration of her Ministers.
Why does the Queen have two birthdays?
The Queen was born on 21 April, but it has long been customary to celebrate the Sovereign's birthday on a day during the summer. Since 1805 the Sovereign's 'official' birthday has been marked by the Trooping the Colour ceremony, normally held on the second Saturday in June.
This is a ceremony which originated when it was essential for soldiers to recognise the flag or 'Colour' of their regiment so that they could follow it into battle. Each year one of the five regiments of the foot guards (Grenadiers, Coldstream Guards, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards) take turns to display their Colour in the ceremony.
The ceremony begins with the Queen leaving Buckingham Palace escorted by the Household Cavalry. She rides down The Mall to Horse Guards Parade and inspects the 500 guardsmen. The Colour is trooped by being carried along the ranks of guardsmen, and the Colour party then leads the guards on a march past the Queen, accompanied by the massed bands of the foot guards. No particular annual ceremony is held on the Queen's true birthday, although the Union Flag is flown on public buildings and the national anthem is sung.
Who is next in line to the throne?
Line of Succession:
- The Prince of Wales (b. 1948)
- Prince William of Wales (b. 1982)
- Prince Henry of Wales (b. 1984)
- The Duke of York (b. 1960)
- Princess Beatrice of York (b. 1988)
- Princess Eugenie of York (b. 1990)
- Prince Edward (b. 1964)
- The Princess Royal (b. 1950)
- Peter Phillips, son of the Princess Royal (b. 1977)
- Zara Phillips, daughter of the Princess Royal (b. 1981)
What is the Commonwealth?
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of independent states which originated in the progressive dismantling of the British Empire after 1945. It works to promote such principles as democracy, economic development and international understanding, mainly through intergovernmental consultations and the Commonwealth organisations. There are no legal or constitutional obligations involved in membership. The Queen is still Head of State of a number of Commonwealth states, where she is represented by the Governor-General.
The Commonwealth Games is a multi-sport gathering of competitors from Commonwealth countries. The Games are held every four years. Manchester will host the Games in 2002.
Where are Britain's Overseas Territories?
There are 14 British overseas territories, mostly with considerable degree of self-government, including their own legislature and a civil service. Britain has general responsibility for their defence, internal security and foreign relations. British policy is to give independence to those overseas territories that want it, but not to force it on those which do not.
The territories are: Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn Islands (Ducie, Henderson and Oeno); South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; St Helena; St Helena Dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha); and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In 1898 China granted Britain a 99-year lease for 92% of Hong Kong. The lease expired in July 1997 and Hong Kong was returned to the People's Republic of China under the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. Under this agreement Hong Kong is able to maintain a high degree of autonomy, including independent finances, for 50 years as a Special Administrative Region of China.
The texts presented here have been placed with friendly approval of the British embassy on non-commercial basis. You find further information about Great Britain and the UK on the web pages of the British embassy named below.
Contact:British Embassy, Wilhelmstr. 70-71,
10117 Berlin, Germany Tel +49 (0)30 20457-0