The King and the Crown of UK

The King and the Crown in UK. In nearly days all powers of the government were centered in the man who wore the crown the state cap of royalty. In the course of history those powers have been almost entirely transferred from the King as a person to a complicated impersonal organization called the Crown.


It does not mean the exit of the monarch from the body politic of the country. The King is still there as head of the State and he wears, as before, the diadem or the crown. Now, as then, the King is the Chief Executive and the supreme legislative power rests with the King-in-Parliament.

His Majesty is, as ever, the fountain of honour. He is the commander of the military farces of the realm by land, sea and air. Even postmen deliver His/Her Majesty’s mails. The King, in short, is still the source of all authority, the ‘Great Leviathan’ embodying in his own person the sovereignty, the dignity and the unity of the State.

Such are the legal powers of the monarch. But a legal truth is very often a political untruth in Britain. Down to 1688, the King was an efficient factor in the Constitution. He ruled as well as reigned, Thenceforward it became otherwise. The King/Queen still reigns, but he/she has gradually ceased to rule. And the fact of the Constitution today is that the King/Queen personally has nothing to do with any affairs of Government, The actual exercise of powers and rights connected with the office of the King/Queen belong to the Crown.

The Crown is not a living tangible person. It is an artificial contrivance; an abstract concept. Sir Sidney Low calls it

‘‘a convenient working hypothesis.’’

Sir Maurice Amos says,

“The crown is a bundle of sovereign powers, prerogatives and rights-a legal idea.’’

Historically the rights and powers of the Crown are the rights and powers of the King/Queen. Legally this is still in general the case. But Parliament has now enchained the King/Queen and the Constitution requires these powers and rights to be exercised, in substance, not by the King/Queen personally.

They are exercised in the King’s/Queen’s name, as the personal bearer of the powers and rights comprised in the Crown, by Ministers who derive their authority from Parliament and are solely responsible to Parliament. This somewhat intangible synthesis of authority is what we call the Crown.

The Crown is, thus, a subtle association of King or Queen, Ministers and Parliament and all three combined make an abstract concept of supreme authority. The King/Queen is its physical embodiment whereas Ministry, a creature of Parliament, is its most concrete visible embodiment.

There are two main stages which stand conspicuous in the transfer of powers from the King/Queen as a person to the Crown as an institution. The first is what we may call the ‘‘institutionalising’’ of the King. Kingship in Anglo-Saxon days was elective. Succession to the throne was not determined by hereditary principle.

Every monarch reigned personally, and independently of his predecessors and, consequently, when a King died there was an interregnum or break in government till another was established as anew King. After William, the Duke of Normandy came to the English throne in 1066, but essentially in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries title to the throne became hereditary and the next in line succeeded to the rights and privileges connected with royalty. The result was the emergence of the institution of the kingship or the monarchy; a continuous political system which remained uninterrupted by the coming and going of individual monarchs.

A vital distinction was, in this way, made between the person and the office of the monarch. The distinction is now reflected in the maxim of the British Constitution: The King is dead; long live the King. This announcement, made at the time of the Royal demise, means in the words of Blackstone, Henry, Edward or George may die, but the King survives them all , that is, the King as a natural person may die, but long live the  Office (the Crown) which one monarch passes on to another. The Crown, as an institution, never dies; it is permanent. There is no interregnum between the death of one Sovereign, and the accession of another. Immediately on the death of his or her predecessor the new Sovereign is proclaimed at an Accession Council.

The distinction between the monarch as an individual and the King/Queen as an institution paved the way for the transfer of political functions from a personality to an institution and as the chance would have it, it began with King John. The pace was slow and the process was not fully complete till the middle of the nineteenth century. But the constitutional struggles of the seventeenth century transferred final authority from the King to Parliament and thereafter led by logical evolution to government by Ministers responsible to Parliament.

The whole of this process has been beautifully explained in a fairy tale and it runs once upon a time there was a king who was very important and who did very big and very important things. He owned a nice shiny Crown, which he would wear on specially grand occasion, but most of the time he kept it on a red velvet cushion. Then somebody made a Magic. The Crown was carefully stored in the Tower; the King moved over to the cushion and was trans formed into a special kind of Crown with a capital letter.

The name given to the Magic is the Constitutional Development. And the course of the. Constitutional development, during the past nine centuries, had been that most cf the functions which were at one time performed by the monarch are now exercised on the advice of Ministers, though still tn the King’s name, George Ponsonby, speaking in the House of Commons (June 11, 1812), said that it is an essential principle of the Constitution that the servants of the Crown shall be alone responsible. When a King speaks on political questions, he always speaks as the mouthpiece of his Ministry.

The Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII, began the radio address on the day after his abdication with these words. At long last I am able to say a few word of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not constitutionally been possible for me to speak.

To sum up, the King is a natural person and he wears the crown, the state-cap of royalty. But when we use a capital letter in writing the word Crown, it stands for the Kingship as an institution. The distinction between the King and the Crown, thus, becomes obvious.

Broadly speaking, it is two-fold. First, the King is a person, the Crown is an institution. The King as a person dies or may abdicate or may even be dethroned whereas the Crown as an institution is permanent ; it is neither subject to death nor abdication nor dethronement.

This has been succinctly explained  by Kerr. He says, Nobody toasts the Crown or prays God to save it, people pray to God to save the King. Secondly, the King does not exercise the powers which belong to the Crown on his own initiative and authority. They are exercised by the King at the behest of those who exercise.the will of the people, that is, Ministers and Parliament make a synthesis of supreme authority and it is called the Crown. The Crown is the key-stone of the country’s constitutional structure.

Title and Succession.

The events of 1688- 89 finally established the supremacy of Parliament and determined that the Sovereign’s right to rule rested upon the consent of the governed as expressed through Parliament. The basic Act in the matter of title to the Crown is the Act of Settlement passed by Parliament in 1701. It provided that the Crown shall be hereditary i in the line of the Princess Sophia of Hanover, so long as it remained Protestant. The succession is now vested in the House in Windsor, a name adopted during World War I to relieve the House of Hanover of any suggestion of German connections.

The principle of hereditary is determined by the rule of primogeniture at Common Law. The basic rules are that an elder line is preferred to a younger and that, in the same line, a male is preferred to a female. If there are no sons, the daughters in order of their seniority succeed to the Throne. In any event the heirs must be Protestants.

If all Protestant heirs are extinct or if the are be no heir within the prescribed degrees of relationship to succeed, Parliament is competent to bestow the Crown on another family and thereby start a new dynasty. But succession cannot now be altered, under a provision of the Statute of Westminster, 1931, except by common consent of the member nations of the Commonwealth which owe allegiance to the Crown.

The Royal Marriages Act of 1872 provides that until the age of twenty-five, the consent of the King is necessary to a marriage that might affect the succession to the Throne. After twenty five no consent is required, except a year’s notice of Privy Council. But Parliament may disapprove such a marriage. The issue arose with respect to the possibility of a marriage between Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth, and a commoner, Peter Townsend, who had divorced his wife.

The Princess finally gave up the idea of marriage. When the heir to the throne !s a minor (under 18 years of age) or whenever the reigning sovereign becomes physically or mentally incapacitated a regency is set up in conformity with the terms of Regency Acts passed by Parliament.

The latest of these Acts, the Regency Act, 1953, laid down that the first potential regent should be the Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and thereafter the Princess Margaret and then those in succession to the Throne who are of age.

In The Event of the sovereign’s partial incapacity or absence abroad, provision is made for the appointment of Counselors of State (generally speaking, the wife or husband of the Sovereign, and the four adult persons next in succession to the Sovereign) to whom the Sovereign may delegate by Letters Patent certain royal function, But Counselors of State may not, for instance, dissolve Parliament, except on the express instructions of the Sovereign, nor create peers.

The title of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth depends on the Abdication Act, 1936. King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 on the issue. His Majesty’s marriage with Mrs. Simpson. The Duke of York, then, next in succession to the throne, succeeded thereto as George VI. George VI had no son and his elder daughter Princess Elizabeth, became Queen in 1952 upon the death of her father.

Royal privileges and immensities.

The Sovereign enjoys numerous personal privileges and immensities. He may acquire, hold and dispose of property of all kind precisely in the same manner as any private citizen. But the King is above law. He cannot be called to account for his private conduct in any court of law or by any legal process, not even, as Dicey humorously observed, if he were to shoot his own Prime-Minister. He is exempt from arrest. He cannot be made a defendant in a law-suit, his goods cannot be seized by officers of Jaw in default of any kind of payment, and no judicial processes can be served against him so long as a palace remains a royal residence.

The monarch receives a large annual grant from the State treasury. This grant is made available by Parliament in the form of an appropriation for the Civil list. The Civil List is  granted by an Act of Parliament to the Sovereign for the duration of his or her reign and for a period of six months afterwards On March 1982 the Chancellor of the exchequer announced an increase of 8.1 per cent pay rise of the Royal family.

Queen Elizabeth’s income from public funds to cover her expenses as monarch, thus, rose from £3.26 million to £5.54 million. The first rise of £ 3.26 million was made by the Conservative Government in 1980. On both the occasions the rise angered some members of the Opposition Labour Party in the House of Commons.

In 1971 the Queen asked Parliament for an increase in her annual grant. It evoked public criticism and Richard Crossman, an influential Minister in the last Labour government, described the Queen’s request for more money as impertinent.

He voiced his opinion, as Editor of The New Statesman weekly in an article, denouncing the Queen as a ‘‘tax dodger.’’ Crossman’s principal target of attack were the Queen’s private wealth and tax exemptions. He observed that the Queen inherited assets conservatively valued at more than £50 million.

But on the top of all this and unlike any other multi-millionairess, the expansion of her private fortune has been accelerated by public tax-privileges granted to her precisely because she is not a private person, yet she still asks for more. The Daily Mirror reported in its issue of June 1, 1971 that its readers had voted overwhelmingly against giving Queen Elizabeth a pay increase.

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