Topics: Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon Pages: 5 (3215 words) Published: October 28, 2014
The monarchy The appearance The position of the monarch in Britain is a perfect illustration of the contradictory nature of the constitution. From the evidence of written law only, the Queen has almost absolute power, and it all seems very undemocratic. The American constitution talks about government of the people for the people by the people. There is no law in Britain which says anything like that. In fact, there is no legal concept ofthe people at all. Every autumn, at the state opening of Parliament, Elizabeth II, who became Queen in 1952, makes a speech. In it, she says what my government intends to do in the coming year. And indeed, it is her government, not the peoples. As far as the law is concerned, she can choose anybody she likes to run the government for her. There are no restrictions on whom she picks as her Prime Minister. It does not have to be somebody who has been elected. She could choose me she could even choose you. The same is true for her choices of people to fill some hundred or so other ministerial positions. And if she gets fed up with her ministers, she can just dismiss them. Officially speaking, they are all servants of the Crown (not servants of anything like the country or the people). She also appears to have great power over Parliament. It is she who summons a Parliament, and she who dissolves it before a general election (see chapter 10). Nothing that Parliament has decided can become law until she has agreed to it. Similarly, it is the Queen, and not any other figure of authority, who embodies the law in the courts. In the USA, when the police take someone to court to accuse them of a crime, the court records show that the people have accused that person. In other countries it might be the state that makes the accusation. But in Britain it is the Crown. This is because of the legal authority of the monarch. And when an accused person is found guilty of a crime, he or she might be sent to one of Her Majestys prisons. Other countries have citizens. But in Britain people are legally described as subjects - subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. Moreover, there is a principle of English law that the monarch can do nothing that is legally wrong. In other words. Queen Elizabeth is above the law. The house of Windsor Windsor is the family name of the royal family. The press sometimes refers to its members as the Windsors. Queen Elizabeth is only the fourth monarch with this name. This is not because a new royal family took over the throne of Britain four reigns ago. It is because George V, Elizabeths grandfather, changed the family name. It was Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but during the First World War it was thought better for the king not to have a German-sounding name. 78 7 The monarchy Princess Margaret The Queen Prince Charles The Queen Mother Prince Philip The royal family Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died at the age of 101 in 2002, the year of the present Queens Golden Jubilee. Her tours of bombed areas of London during the Second World War with her husband, King George VI, made her popular with the British people. She remained the most consistently popular member of the royal family until her death. Queen Elizabeth II was born in 1926 and became Queen in 1952 on the death other father, George VI, who had reigned since 1936 (when his elder brother, Edward VIII, gave up the throne). She is one of the longest-reigning monarchs in British history. She is widely respected for the way in which she performs her duties and is generally popular. Prince Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh, married the present Queen in 1947. In the 1960s and 1970s, his outspoken opinions on controversial matters were sometimes embarrassing to the royal family. Princess Margaret, the Queens younger sister, died in 2002. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, was born in 1948. As the eldest son of...
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