The announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have welcomed a son has been greeted with much speculation. Will Kate practice attachment parenting? Will he be greeted with as devoted a group of would-be brides as the so-dubbed “Harry hunters” that are doing their best to snag the hand (and heart) of the last single British prince?

Here at Hippo, we’re asking different questions. In this heyday of democracy and equality, what exactly sets the royals apart? What powers do they still have that the average British citizen does not? As we’ve found out, the answer is quite a lot. Without further ado, here are five powers the constitutional British monarchy still has the ability to exercise when and if they chose to do so.


1. The monarch can choose the prime minister.

Although the post is democratically elected and the reigning monarch of England has the ceremonial duty of selecting whichever minister is in the majority, according to the letter of English law, the prime minister can be both appointed and dismissed by the monarch. Apologists for the continuation of the monarchy agree that while in theory, the monarch may choose to exercise this power, the result in a twenty-first century Britain of using it in a way other than ceremonial would be catastrophic and as such, highly unlikely.


2. The monarch can veto laws brought by parliament.

An illuminating 2013 article in the Guardian explains, “ministers and civil servants are obliged to consult the Queen and Prince Charles in greater detail and over more areas of legislation than was previously understood.” The article reveals that secret papers have been recently released, demonstrating the scope and breath of the recent applications of this controversial and secretive power of veto.


3. The monarch retains “crown” immunity.

Not only is the reigning monarch considered completely above the law and immune from all criminal and civil actions, this immunity also extends to servants of the crown including prime ministers.


4. The monarch formally reigns over sixteen realms considered part of the British Commonwealth as well as fourteen Overseas Territories.

Though the sun has set on the once majestic and mighty British Empire, the trappings of past glory remain. The monarch of Great Britain retains sovereignty as well as a surprising parcel of powers, including confirming elected governments of or over the following countries: Antigua, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and of course – the United Kingdom.


5. Allegiance from members of parliament, bishops of the Church of England, police officers and soldiers goes not to the government of Great Britain but directly to the monarch alone.

Although the distinction may seem pedantic, residents of the United Kingdom or commonwealth countries are not considered citizens. Aside from the word “citizen” on British passports, there is no legal document or declaration that grants citizenship to residents of the United Kingdom. Rather, they are subjects to the crown and whichever monarch reigns. All officers of the government, military and police forces included, swear their allegiance to the Crown alone.

Image credit: Michael Gwyther-Jones via flickr

About The Author

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Anna Redmond is the author of The Golden Arrow, a fantasy political thriller which draws on historical traditions of holy sex to create a society where women use sex for magic and power. She is also curator and co-founder of Hippo Reads.