That dark underbelly of the British establishment – the monarchy – has once again been under the spotlight in recent days. Journalists from The Guardian have uncovered (shock horror!) that the Queen is a notorious meddler in the affairs of Parliament.
It turns out that on no less than 1,062 occasions, civil servants saw it as their “humble duty” to seek the Queen’s consent for proposed laws before they were allowed to go before Parliament. Moreover, it would seem from the newspaper’s investigations that old Queen Liz has either threatened to or has actually withheld her consent on multiple occasions.
What are the bills in question? Well, any bills that could affect the Queen’s interests or those of her estate, the Duchy of Lancaster. Her spawn, Prince Charles, has demanded the same courtesy for any proposed legislation that would affect his not insubstantial interests.
The bills ‘vetted’ over the years include a 1968 road safety bill, which excludes the royal estates; a 2006 animal welfare bill, excluding inspectors from royal premises; and a proposed transparency law, which the monarch succeeded in again excluding herself from, ensuring the vast scale of her private wealth remains a secret.
Her estates sound like a veritable paradise for joyriders, animal abusers, and freeloaders! With Prince Philip cruising around the roads of Sandringham, it must be wilder than the lawless streets of San Andreas out there. Who knows what horrors the Queen’s corgis and horses are subjected to?
For the unfortunate residents of the Duchy of Cornwall (the estate of Prince Charles, a territory taking in much of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, and most of Dartmoor), the exemptions are a little more serious. Unable to buy the properties they are living in, they live instead as feudal leaseholders of Charles himself.
Of course he did.#QueensConsent#RoyalConsent
— Lesley (@EnglishFolkfan) February 9, 2021
For the Royal Household, this is another unwelcome shaft of light onto the shady machinations of the British constitution. But the real powers of the monarch are in fact unlimited, extending far beyond the ability to withhold consent from individual laws.
In an emergency situation, the monarch can legally dismiss governments and take full possession of the armed forces.
As Lord Mountbatten – ably portrayed by the actor Charles Dance in The Crown – noted in a reenactment of the very real coup plot hatched in 1968 against the Wilson Labour government:
“The Crown has at its disposal unique constitutional powers, which could [make such a coup] possible. In 1834, William IV used them to dismiss his government in the face of opposition from the House. And in 1920, the Emergency Powers Act was passed, which gave the sovereign power in certain circumstances to declare a state of emergency by proclamation.
“Meaning our Queen could dissolve Parliament and appoint a new government, and a prime minister as well. She’s also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces – they swear allegiance to her and not to Parliament – so could count on their support to see it through.
“She is our Caesar.”
No wonder the Tory culture secretary called for Netflix to slap a ‘fiction’ warning on the series. For the establishment, this televised drama is far too close for comfort to the truth!