The Queen, The Crown, The Monarch, The Sovereign
The Queen (also
referred to as the Crown or the sovereign, the Monarch or The Crown) holds her position through
heredity; she is not elected. Queen Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of
George VI, who had no sons, and she became Queen when her father died in
“The Crown” has three meanings
Firstly, it is the headgear guarded by the Beefeaters in the Tower of
London. It is worn by the monarch on state occasions as a badge of royal
office, rank and power. Actually, there are several crowns and the one
worn by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament is the Imperial
Crown, and an older Crown is used only for coronations.
Secondly, the “Crown” also means the Queen, the Interpretation Act 1889
says that references to the sovereign means the Crown.
Thirdly, the Crown refers to the government; the monarch as the head of a
legal body, consisting of Ministers of the Crown, the members of ‘Her
The legal basis of the monarchy is from the fact that the monarchy has
legally existed from before
time immemorial. From the monarchy flowed the body of
laws, principles, precedents, customs and conventions that we now call the
constitution. The courts and Parliament developed from the monarchy.
The Crown and government
The monarch may not reject the advice ministers give. It is a
“convention” that the monarch does not tell Ministers what to do. They are
only servants and agents of the monarch in name only.
herself remains impartial and never makes any public comment about
politics, but can "encourage and warn" the Prime Minister whom she
meets once a week. The Queen personally is reputed to be well informed
about political matters. (There have been 11 prime ministers during her
What actually happens is that the monarch acts only on the advice of the
Ministers. Walter Bagehot (19 century political commentator) reminded us
that the Monarch has, "‘the right to be consulted, the right to
encourage and the right to warn".
M v Home Office  HL
The Home Secretary, a
Minister of the Crown was held to be in contempt of court. The Home
Secretary failed to comply with a court undertaking and not to deport a
teacher who was applying for judicial review of a refusal to grant him
The minister had been personally guilty of contempt. The Crown and the
Home Office could not be held liable for contempt. The ruling did not
alter the position that Injunctions do not lie against the Crown.
Head of State
The Queen is the Head of State. The Glorious Revolution of 1688
transferred power to make the sovereign a
constitutional monarch, not an
Roman Catholics are not allowed to become the sovereign
because of the Act of Settlement 1700 and by the Bill of Rights 1689.
The Queen performs many formal acts of government and in many social
functions. This role is formal, ceremonial and ornamental.
Head of the Church
The monarch is also the head of the Church of England, known as the
The sovereign is Head of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth is a very loose organisation of countries which were
formerly under British rule. Some still acknowledge the Queen as the Head
of State. A device started in 1950 to change the Commonwealth to
The monarchy extends to a number of independent countries within the
Commonwealth, e.g. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, but her role is
performed by the Governor-General.
As Head of the Commonwealth, the monarch attends the regular meetings of
Commonwealth Prime Ministers, she also broadcasts a Christmas message.
Head of the Armed services
The Queen is head of the armed services and officers hold the Queen’s
The Head of the Courts
The Queen is the "Fount of Justice" and as such is the head of the courts.
But in the same way that she is denied access to the House of Commons, she
does not enter a court when it is in session. She appoints judges.
The courts are the Queen’s courts (“Her
Majesty's Court Service” [from 2005]), judges are the Queen’s judges, and
the Crown Prosecution Service brings prosecutions in the name of the
Queen. Tony Blair wanted to remove the word 'Crown' from the
Crown Prosecution Service.
Senior barristers are Queen's Counsel.
Neither civil nor criminal proceedings can be taken against the Sovereign.
Even though she is exempt from the Law the Queen her activities are
carried out strictly lawfully.
The Constitutional Position of the Crown is by Convention. The monarch is
the formal head of Government, and has powers known as the “Royal
The Crown’s Personal Prerogative Powers
include appointing the prime minister (contrary to popular opinion the
prime minister is not automatically in post by virtue of an election),
dissolution of Parliament and the Royal Assent to Bills. Queen Anne
in 1708 was the last monarch to refuse to consent to a Bill.
Ministerial Prerogative Powers.
These are not exercised by the monarch but by ministers. These
include some of the most important functions of government, such as
decisions on armed conflict and the conclusion of international treaties.
Over many years, such powers have come to be delegated by Sovereigns to
Ministers, and they may be exercised without parliamentary approval or
Ministerial Prerogative has its origins in the historic absolute power of
the monarch, which ended in the execution of Charles I. Government
Prerogative is used for example, for appointing senior officials,
international affairs and emergencies. The courts have said that
they will not recognise any further claims for prerogatives in BBC v
practice government ministers by “Order in Council”
exercise these powers. William Hague vividly described the Privy Council
as “the cloak that covers” a
variety of important activities.
The use of these powers has frequently been questioned, particularly the
power of the Prime Minister to take the country to war without the need to
consult anyone. Consultation into The Governance
of Britain started in 2007, full details here
In 2004, the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee
produced a report called
Taming the Prerogative: Strengthening Ministerial Accountability to
The report concludes:
"While recognising that such powers are
necessary for effective administration, especially in times of national
emergency, the Report considers whether they should be subject to more
systematic parliamentary oversight. It examines the arguments for scrutiny
of some of the most significant prerogative powers, and concludes that the
case for reform is unanswerable."
Opens and Prorogues Parliament
The Queen summons the two Houses of Parliament, prorogues (ends a session
of Parliament) and dissolves Parliament in order that an election may be
held, using the Royal Prerogative. Otherwise, the Crown for practical day
to day purposes powerless, except for personal gifts such as honours.
"The Queen in Parliament", oddly, means the Commons, Lords and The Crown
The Blair government showed an indifference to the constitutional role of The
Crown, frequently undermining the Queen's position. There are many
examples of lack of respect in the book THE TRIUMPH OF THE POLITICAL
CLASS by Peter Oborne; some examples are reproduced