As originally conceived, a Constitutional Monarch was quite a powerful figure, head of the executive branch even though his or her power was limited by the Constitution and the elected parliament. Some of the framers of the US Constitution may have conceived of the president as being an elected Constitutional Monarch, as the term was understood in their time, following Montesquieu’s account of the separation of powers. The present concept of constitutional monarchy developed in the United Kingdom, where it was the democratically elected parliaments, and their leader, the prime minister, who had become those who exercised power, with the monarchs voluntarily ceding it and contenting themselves with the titular position. In many cases even the monarchs themselves, while still at the very top of the political and social hierarchy, were given the status of “servants of the people” to reflect the new, egalitarian view.
In Britain, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 led to a Constitutional Monarchy restricted by laws such as the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701, although limits on the power of the monarch (‘A Limited Monarchy’) are much older than that, as seen in our Magna Carta. Today the monarchy in Britain is politically neutral and by convention the role is largely ceremonial.
The British Constitution is an unwritten document, unlike the constitution in America or the European Constitution, and as such, is referred to as an uncodified constitution, in the sense that there is no one single document that can be referred to as the constitution of the United Kingdom. The British Constotution is very unique, and can be found in a variety of different documents, some dating as far back as the Magna Carta in 1215.
Throughout the centuries, Britain’s kings and queens have built or bought palaces to serve as family homes, workplaces and as centres of government. Some of these are still being used today as official Royal residences and many can be visited by the general public. The residences still standing today can be roughly divided into three categories:
– Official Royal residences
– Private Estates
– Unoccupied Royal residences
Every year the Royal Family as a whole carries out over 2,000 official engagements throughout the UK and worldwide. These engagements may include official State responsibilities. Members of the Royal Family often carry out official duties in the UK and abroad where The Queen cannot be present in person.
Commonwealth Realm is a country which has The Queen as its Monarch. These Sovereign nations are also members of the Commonwealth of Nations which have the Royal line of succession in common with other Realms. Since 1992, there are 16 Commonwealth Realms.
There are 15 Commonwealth Realms in addition to the UK:
- New Zealand
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Papua New Guinea
- St. Christopher and Nevis
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Solomon Islands
- St. Lucia
- The Bahamas
The Commonwealth of Nations is an organisation of 53 independent states made up mostly of former colonies that were part of the British Empire. The Commonwealth is headed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, however this position is not a hereditary one. 16 nations in The Commonwealth share Queen Elizabeth II as their Head of State, although each of these nations are governed separately – United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. These are known as the ‘Commonwealth Realms’.
The Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey) and the Isle of Man are not part of the United Kingdom, but are dependent territories of the English Crown. Both have their own forms of self-administration, although the United Kingdom government is responsible for certain areas of policy. The Queen has a special relationship with both Crown dependencies, and is known there by unique titles.
Symbols of the Monarchy can be found almost everywhere in the United Kingdom. From the money we use, to the flags we fly, to the stamps we adhere to our leteters, the symbols of our Monarchy are everywhere. There are many more symbols of Monarhcy which you may or may not know of, some of which are attached to the very every day products that we purchase, use and eat. Our Crown is seen in many different ways, whilst many of these symbols are found in places you would least expect them. This section will help you identify the great symbols of our Monarchy.