British monarchy

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Queen of the United Kingdom
Coat of arms of the British monarch (left the English version, right the Scottish version)
Queen's coat of arms
Queen Elizabeth II
Reigning Queen
Elizabeth II
since February 6, 1952
Official seat Administrative headquarters: St James's Palace ( London )

official residence: Buckingham Palace ( London ) and Holyrood Palace ( Edinburgh )

Term of office for lifetime
Creation of office March 24, 1603 ( personal union )
May 1, 1707 ( real union )
Coronation through Archbishop of Canterbury
Final coronation June 2, 1953
Salutation Your Majesty
Crown Prince Charles, Prince of Wales

The British monarchy is the parliamentary monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland . The current monarch has been Queen Elizabeth II since February 6, 1952. She and her close family members perform various official, ceremonial and representative functions. The queen theoretically has the powers of a constitutional monarch , but due to a centuries-old custom no longer exercises her sovereign rights independently, but exclusively in accordance with the requirements of parliament and government. Because of this, it is de facto a parliamentary monarch . The existence of the Isle of Man and Channel Islands crown holdings does not change this status either, as they are not legally part of the United Kingdom.

By the year 1000 the kingdoms of England and Scotland had developed out of several small early medieval kingdoms. Anglo-Saxon rule ended in 1066 during the Norman conquest of England . In the 13th century England absorbed the Principality of Wales and the Magna Carta began the process of the monarch's gradual disempowerment. In 1603 the Scottish King James VI ascended . as James I. the English throne, whereby both kingdoms were ruled in personal union. From 1649 to 1660 there was a brief republican phase with the Commonwealth of England . The Act of Settlement passed in 1701 , which is still in force today, excluded Catholics or persons married to Catholics from the line of succession. In 1707 England and Scotland united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain . The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created in 1801 through the merger with the Kingdom of Ireland .

The British monarch was the nominal head of the British Empire , which at the time of its greatest expansion comprised a quarter of the land area of ​​the earth. In 1922 the Irish Free State split off, in which the monarch remained head of state until 1949. With the end of the British Empire after World War II, the British monarch assumed the ceremonial title of head of the Commonwealth of Nations , a loose association of the United Kingdom and the former colonies. 15 independent states, known as the Commonwealth Realms , continue to share the same head of state with the United Kingdom. However, each of these states forms a legally independent kingdom.

The office and its meaning

Constitutional and political role

The monarch has a high symbolic value as a "sign of national unity" and is the head of state according to the unwritten British constitution . Oaths of allegiance are made on him and his rightful descendants, not on parliament or the nation. God Save the Queen (or God Save the King for a male monarch) is the British national anthem . In addition, the portrait of the monarch appears on postage stamps, coins and banknotes.

The monarch's political powers are in practice severely limited by laws, common law, and precedents . In the past, the monarch was authorized to issue his own decrees, to conclude international treaties or to declare war, regardless of parliament , but today he can only exercise these sovereign rights in accordance with the advice and with the consent of the prime minister or other ministers. Thus acts of state in the name of the crown, even if made by the monarch personally, are dependent on decisions made by others. This right is often used by the government to pass laws bypassing parliament, for example when Great Britain joins the European Economic Community or declares war in the Falklands War . How far these rights may extend is a matter of dispute - and was the subject of political debates during Brexit , for example .

The independent constitutional powers of the monarch have therefore been largely restricted to impartial functions such as honors since the 19th century. In 1867, the constitutional theorist Walter Bagehot , in his work The English Constitution, described the monarchy as the “dignified part” of the state, while the government and parliament were the “working part”. Whether and to what extent the monarch can or should actually exercise his rulership rights in exceptional circumstances is controversial. Any unsolicited act of this kind has the potential to cause a constitutional crisis .

Whenever necessary, the monarch is responsible for the appointment of a new prime minister and all other ministers. The latter happens at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, who thus controls the government. In accordance with unwritten common law of constitutional nature, the monarch must appoint the person with the support of the House of Commons , usually the leader of the majority party. The Prime Minister takes over his office in a private audience with the monarch; this process is also referred to as kissing hands .

If neither party achieves an absolute majority, which is rare in UK majority voting, two or more parties form a coalition which then agree on a candidate for prime ministerial office. If no agreement is reached, the number of options for the monarch increases in theory. Still, it is customary to choose a member of the largest party. The monarch can theoretically dismiss the prime minister, but in practice his term of office only ends if he is defeated, lost a majority in parliament, resigns or dies.

Sovereign rights

The English Bill of Rights of 1689 restricted the monarch's power

The executive power of the crown is described with the collective term Royal Prerogative ( sovereignty ). Due to the numerous restrictions, the monarch exercises his sovereign rights only on the advice of ministers who are responsible to parliament. In most cases it is the Prime Minister or the Privy Council , the latter now being controlled by the cabinet. The monarch has weekly meetings with the prime minister. He is free to express his opinion, but ultimately has to accept the decisions of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (provided that they have a majority in the House of Commons). According to Walter Bagehot, the monarch in a constitutional monarchy has three rights: "the right to be heard, the right to encourage and the right to warn."

Although the sovereign rights are far-reaching and the exercise of which does not require the consent of Parliament, they are nonetheless limited. Numerous sovereign rights are no longer applied, have in fact been transferred to the Prime Minister or have been permanently transferred to Parliament. For example, the monarch is not allowed to raise or collect new taxes. Such an action requires the approval of Parliament. According to a parliamentary report from 2002, “the Crown cannot introduce new sovereign rights” and parliament can pass a law to revoke any sovereign rights.

It is the sovereign right of the monarch to convene, adjourn and dissolve parliament. Each parliamentary session begins with the convening of the monarch. It follows the opening of parliament (State Opening of Parliament) , he in the hall of the House of Lords , the Queen's speech holds while posting the legislative goals of the government. The adjournment usually occurs one year after the start of the session and formally ends it. The dissolution, which ends a legislative period, is followed by elections for all seats in the lower house. The timing of the dissolution is influenced by various factors. A legislative term may not last longer than five years; under the Parliament Act of 1911, the dissolution is automatic.

As a rule, however, the Prime Minister chooses the moment that promises the best prospects for his party. According to the 1950 Lascelles Principles (named after Alan Lascelles, George VI's private secretary ), the monarch can theoretically refuse to dissolve parliament, but the conditions under which such an action would be justified are unclear. Before a law passed by both chambers of parliament can come into force, the formal approval of the monarch ( Royal Assent ) is required. In theory, the monarch can give or refuse consent, but the latter has not happened since 1707 when Queen Anne rejected a law on vigilante groups in Scotland.

There is a similar relationship with the regional governments of Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland . The monarch appoints the First Minister of Scotland (First Minister of Scotland) according to the nomination by the Scottish Parliament and the First Minister of Wales (First Minister of Wales) in accordance with the nomination by the Welsh Parliament . In matters relating to Scotland he acts on the advice of the Scottish Government. As the autonomy in Wales is less extensive, the monarch acts on Welsh affairs on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of the United Kingdom. The monarch can veto any law passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly if the Northern Ireland Minister deems it unconstitutional.

In theory, the monarch can regulate state administration, issue passports, declare war, make peace, lead troops and negotiate and ratify agreements, alliances and international agreements. However, an agreement must not affect UK law; in this case a parliamentary resolution is necessary. The monarch is commander in chief of the armed forces , consisting of the British Army , Royal Navy and Royal Air Force . He accredits ambassadors and high commissioners and receives foreign diplomats.

The British monarch awards orders such as the Order of Merit

The monarch is referred to as the " fount of justice ". However, he is not personally present in court cases; instead, all legal activities are carried out on his behalf. The common law says that he can do no wrong (can do no wrong) and, consequently, in the event of a crime can not be sued in its own name. The Crown Proceedings Act of 1947 allows civil actions against the monarch in his public capacity (that is, against the government). Lawsuits against the monarch as a private person, on the other hand, cannot be brought in court. The monarch also exercises the “sovereign right of mercy” (prerogative of mercy) and can issue pardons or reduce sentences.

As the " fount of honor" , the monarch also awards all honors and dignities of the United Kingdom. The crown creates all titles of nobility , appoints all members of knight orders , grants all knighthoods and other honors. Although titles of nobility and other honors are bestowed on the advice of the Prime Minister, some honors are considered personal gifts from the monarch. Consequently, he appoints sole competence the members of the Order of the Garter , the Order of the Thistle , the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of Merit .

With the Great Reich Seal (Great Seal of the Realm) important official documents be authenticated, including Adel patents (letters patent) , proclamations and decrees implementing new elections (writs of election) . The great imperial seal is in the care of the Lord Chancellor . For any matters relating solely to Scotland or Northern Ireland, which are Great Seal of Scotland (Great Seal of Scotland) and the Great Seal of Northern Ireland (Great Seal of Northern Ireland) used.

Role in the Commonwealth

  • Today's Commonwealth realms
  • Former Commonwealth realms
  • The British monarch is not only the monarch of the United Kingdom, but also of 15 other Commonwealth Realms . Although his constitutional rights in each of these countries are practically identical to those in the United Kingdom, he has no political or ceremonial duties as head of state there. Instead, he is represented by a governor general . In each country, the governor general acts solely on the advice of the prime minister and cabinet. As a result, the UK government has no influence over the policies of Commonwealth Realms. Current Commonwealth Realms, in addition to the United Kingdom, are the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda , Australia , Bahamas , Barbados , Belize , Grenada , Jamaica , Canada , New Zealand , Papua New Guinea , Solomon Islands , St. Lucia , St. Kitts and Nevis , St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Tuvalu .

    Once upon a time, every member state of the Commonwealth of Nations was also a Commonwealth Realm. However, when India chose a republic as its form of government in 1950, the country still remained a member of the Commonwealth, even though the British monarch is no longer the head of state. Since then he has been considered the "Head of the Commonwealth" in all member states , be he head of state or not. This position is purely ceremonial and does not include any political power.

    The British monarch is directly responsible for the crown estates that are not part of the United Kingdom. In the Channel Islands , he carries the title Duke of Normandy (Duke of Normandy) and is in the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey each by a Lieutenant Governor (lieutenant governor) represented. On the Isle of Man he bears the title of Lord of Mann , where he is also represented by a lieutenant governor.

    Religious role

    The British monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England , the official state church of England. As such, he has the right to appoint archbishops and bishops on the advice of the Prime Minister, who will select from a list of names compiled by the Church's Nomination Committee. The role of the monarch is limited to that of the church patron. The most senior cleric, the Archbishop of Canterbury , is the spiritual leader of the Church of England and all other Anglican churches . In the Church of Scotland the monarch is an ordinary member. However, he has the right, Lord High Commissioner (Lord High Commissioner) to appoint the General Assembly. In the Church in Wales and in the Church of Ireland , the monarch has no formal role as neither are recognized state churches.


    English monarchy

    There were monarchs on the island of Great Britain even before the Roman invasion ; these Celtic "reges" (Latin plural for "kings") allied themselves with the Romans or were subjugated by them. After the final retreat of the Romans at the beginning of the 5th century, the so-called dark centuries followed , the transition from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages . Immigrant Angles , Saxons and Jutes pushed the Celtic tribes to the edges of the island. The peoples united to form the Anglo-Saxons founded several kingdoms, the seven most powerful being referred to as the heptarchy . Each kingdom had its own monarch and at times one of these kings was so powerful that it dominated the others. However, there was no “British monarchy” as it is today. Bretwalda was thus more of a prestigious honorary title with which no real power was associated.

    The Bayeux Tapestry deals with the Norman invasion

    After the raids of the Vikings and their subsequent settlement, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex rose to become the dominant English kingdom in the 9th century. Alfred the Great secured the supremacy of Wessex, gained control of western Mercia and assumed the title of "King of the English". His grandson Æthelstan was the first to rule a united kingdom, the borders of which roughly corresponded to those of modern England, although the various parts of the country retained a strong regional identity. In the 11th century England stabilized more and more, despite various wars with the Danes, who ruled for a generation. The conquest of England by the Normans in 1066 was both politically and in social terms, a significant event. William I continued the centralization begun by the Anglo-Saxons as the feudal system developed.

    William I was followed by two of his sons, William II and Henry I. The latter made a momentous decision by declaring Matilda , his only surviving child, to be heir to the throne. After Henry's death in 1135, his nephew Stephen asserted his claim to the throne. With the support of most of the barons, he came to power. Stephen's reign was weak, however, so Matilda could challenge him. England fell into a period of chaos known as " The Anarchy ". Stephen clung to power, but compromised and accepted Matilda's son, later King Henry II , as heir to the throne. In 1154 he became the first ruler of the House of Plantagenet (also called House of Anjou).

    Richard the Lionheart

    The rule of most of the Plantagenet kings was marked by unrest and conflicts between the monarch and the nobility. Henry II was confronted with rebellions by his own sons, the future kings Richard I "Lionheart" and John . Nevertheless, Henry managed to expand his empire. Of particular note is the conquest of Ireland , which previously consisted of a multitude of competing kingdoms. Henry gave the island to his younger son John, who subsequently ruled as Lord of Ireland . After Henry's death, his elder son Richard succeeded the throne, but he was out of the country for most of his reign and was involved in the Third Crusade . His brother John followed him.

    John's reign was marked by clashes with the barons who urged him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 , which guaranteed the rights and freedoms of the nobility. Soon after, further clashes resulted in a civil war known as the First War of the Barons . The war ended abruptly when John died in 1216 and his nine year old son Henry III. became the successor. The barons led by Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester , later rose again against the rule of the king, which led to the Second Barons' War. This conflict ended with a clear victory for the royalists and the execution of numerous rebels. The king had previously consented to convene the first parliament in 1265.

    Edward II

    The next monarch, Edward I , was far more successful in maintaining royal power. He conquered Wales and extended English influence to parts of Scotland . However, his successor Edward II was defeated in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn , whereupon the Scots won their complete independence. Edward II was also involved in conflicts with the nobility. He was ousted by his wife Isabella in 1327 and then murdered. His son Edward III. claimed the French throne and started the Hundred Years War .

    The campaigns of Edward III. were mostly successful and led to the conquest of further French territories. Under his rule, the parliament, which was divided into two chambers, also developed further. In 1377 Richard II , his then ten-year-old grandson, succeeded the throne. Like many of his predecessors, he was involved in conflicts with the nobility because he wanted to unite as much power as possible in one hand. When he led a campaign in Ireland in 1399, his cousin Henry Bolingbroke seized power. Richard was captured and murdered the following year.

    Henry Bolingbroke, now King Henry IV, was the grandson of Edward III. and son of John of Gaunt . It is for this reason that his dynasty is known as the House of Lancaster . For most of his reign, Henry was busy uncovering conspiracies and fighting rebellions. Its success is mainly due to the military capabilities of his son, the future King Henry V. due. His rule began in 1413 and was largely free of internal conflicts, which allowed him to focus on the ongoing Hundred Years War. He was militarily successful, but he died completely unexpectedly in 1422, whereupon his son Henry VI. who was still a toddler at the time, succeeded the throne. This gave the French the opportunity to shake off English rule.

    The unpopularity of Henry's regent and his warlike wife Margaret of Anjou , later his own ineffective leadership, weakened the House of Lancaster. Richard Plantagenet , head of the House of York and descendant of Edward III, asserted his claim to the throne and thus started the Wars of the Roses . Although Richard died in 1460, his son Edward IV led the House of York to victory in 1461. The Wars of the Roses continued during the reign of Edward and his brother Richard III. continue on. Eventually the conflict ended in 1485 with the victory of the House of Tudor, a sideline of the House of Lancaster, at the Battle of Bosworth . Richard III was killed in battle; Henry Tudor ascended the throne as King Henry VII and founded the House of Tudor .

    The end of the Wars of the Roses marks an important milestone in the history of the English monarchy. Most of the nobility had either fallen on the battlefield or been executed; many noble possessions were lost to the royal family. In addition, the feudal system disintegrated and the armies controlled by the barons proved redundant. The Tudor monarchs were able to assert their absolute claim to power and the conflicts with the nobility came to an end. The power of the crown reached its peak under the reign of the second Tudor king, Henry VIII . England changed from a weak kingdom to a major European power. Religious tensions led to the break with the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church and the formation of the Church of England . Another milestone was the formal union of Wales with England between 1535 and 1542.

    Henry's son, the young Edward VI. , continued the Reformation . His early death in 1553 triggered a crisis of succession to the throne. He had wanted to prevent his Catholic half-sister Mary I from coming to power and in his will he made Jane Gray his heir, although no woman had ruled the country before. Their rule lasted only nine days. Mary overthrew Jane Gray with the support of public opinion, revoked the proclamation to the queen, had her rival executed and described herself as the rightful heir to the throne. Mary wanted with all her might to reintroduce the Catholic faith and had countless Protestants executed. After her death in 1558, Elizabeth I took the throne and led England back to Protestantism. Under their rule, England rose to become a world power thanks to the victory in the Anglo-Spanish War, the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the colonization of North America .

    Scottish monarchy

    See also: List of rulers of Scotland , History of Scotland

    Scottish royal flag

    When the Romans withdrew from the island of Great Britain, there were three main tribes in Scotland : The Picts in the northeast, the Britannians in the south (including in the Kingdom of Strathclyde ) and the Gael or Scots in the western Kingdom of Dalriada . In 843, the Scottish king Kenneth MacAlpin took over the Pictish crown. He is considered the founder of the united Scotland and the House of Alpin . Over time, the Scottish Empire expanded as other territories like Strathclyde were conquered.

    The early Scottish monarchs were in accordance with the tanistry chosen -Brauch, whereby various lines of the house MacAlpin peeled off each other in power. As a result, there were often violent clashes between the rival lines of the dynasty. From 942 to 1005 there were no fewer than seven kings who were either murdered or died on the battlefield. Malcolm II abolished the Tanistry system in 1005, had numerous opponents eliminated and thus consolidated his position of power. His grandson Duncan I was the first hereditary monarch of Scotland in 1034. In 1040 Duncan was killed in a battle by Macbeth , who in turn was killed in 1057 by Duncan's son Malcolm Canmore . After the murder of Macbeth's stepson Lulach, Malcolm ascended Canmore as Malcolm III. the Scottish throne and established the House of Dunkeld .

    David I. (left) and Malcolm IV.

    To make his victory possible, Malcolm had resorted to English help, which marked the beginning of a long era of English influence in Scottish politics. After his death in 1093 there were a series of wars of succession between Malcolm's sons on the one hand and Malcolm's brother Donald III. on the other hand. From 1107 on, Scotland was for a short time divided into two parts, according to King Edgar's last will . This was the kingdom between his older son I. Alexander and his younger son David I. split. After Alexander's death in 1124, David inherited the northern half of the empire and Scotland was reunited. David in 1142 was followed by Malcolm IV. , On these, William the Lion .

    William ruled for 49 years from 1165, making him the longest ruler of all Scottish monarchs. He took part in the rebellion against the English King Henry II. However, the rebellion failed and William was captured by the English. In order to obtain his release, he had to recognize the English king as supreme liege lord . Richard I agreed in 1189 to dissolve the agreement and in return asked for a large sum of money to finance the Crusades . William died in 1214. His son Alexander II and his grandson Alexander III. tried to conquer the Outer Hebrides , which were still under the rule of Norway . During the reign of Alexander III. failed in 1263 under Håkon IV. a Norwegian campaign to western Scotland . The Peace of Perth , signed in 1266, confirmed Scottish rule over the Outer Hebrides and other disputed territories.

    Alexander's unexpected death in 1286 triggered a far-reaching crisis of succession to the throne. The English King Edward I, who had been appointed as arbitrator, chose Alexander's three-year-old Norwegian granddaughter Margarete . When she died on the crossing to Scotland in 1290, 13 aspirants made their claim to the throne . A court under the leadership of Edward I appointed John Balliol as his successor. However, the English king treated him as a vassal and meddled in internal Scottish affairs. When Balliol broke the oath of allegiance to England in 1295, Edward's troops conquered large parts of Scotland. In the first years of the Scottish War of Independence that followed, Scotland had no monarch until Robert the Bruce proclaimed himself king in 1306.

    James IV.

    With the Declaration of Arbroath , the Scots proclaimed their independence in 1320, which England confirmed with the Agreement of Edinburgh and Northampton in 1328 . But only a year later Robert died and the English invaded Scotland again in 1332 to appoint Edward Balliol , the supposedly "rightful" heir of John Balliol, as monarch. After further armed conflicts, Scotland was able to regain its independence in 1336 under David II , the son of Robert the Bruce.

    David II was followed in 1371 by Robert II of the Stewart (later Stuart) house. Under his rule and that of his son Robert III. the royal power steadily decreased. When Robert III. In 1406 died, the country had to be ruled by regents because his son James I had been captured by the English.

    Mary Stuart

    After paying a large ransom, James I returned to Scotland in 1424. In order to restore his authority, he used very force and executed many of his opponents. James II continued his father's purging policy. James III died in 1488 in a battle against insurgent dukes, after which James IV ascended the throne.

    In 1513 James IV wanted to take advantage of the absence of the English King Henry VIII and conquer England. However, his troops suffered a crushing defeat in the Battle of Flodden Field . The king and many high-ranking nobles perished. Since the successor Jacob V was still a toddler, rulers ruled the country. James V waged another devastating war against England in 1542 and died that same year. Heir to the throne was his six-day-old daughter Mary Stuart , regents ruled the country again.

    Catholic Mary ruled during a time of religious tension. Following the efforts of the Reformers to bring John Knox to life , Parliament ruled that only a Protestant could lay claim to the Scottish throne. Mary married her Catholic cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley , in 1565 . After his assassination in 1566, she entered into an even more controversial relationship with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell , who was widely believed to be Lord Darnley's murderer. The nobility rebelled against the queen and forced her to abdicate. She fled to England, Elizabeth I had her captured and later executed. The Scottish crown went to Mary's son James VI. who was still a toddler and raised Protestant.

    Personal union and republican phase

    James VI. (or James I) was the first monarch to rule England, Scotland and Ireland

    With the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, the rule of the House of Tudor ended because they had no descendants. They were followed by the Scottish monarch James VI. , who now ruled England as James I. Although England and Scotland were linked in personal union (James I referred to himself as "King of Great Britain" from 1604), they remained separate kingdoms. James' son Charles I was regularly involved in conflicts with the English Parliament. It was about the distribution of power between the Crown and Parliament and above all about the right to raise taxes. From 1629 to 1640 he ruled alone without ever convening parliament. Charles voluntarily collected taxes and passed controversial laws, many of which were directed against the Scottish Presbyterians and the English Puritans . The conflict between the royal house and parliament reached its climax in 1642 when the English Civil War broke out.

    The war ended in 1649 with the execution of the king, the abolition of the monarchy, and the establishment of a republic known as the Commonwealth of England . In 1653, Oliver Cromwell , the most important military and political leader, seized power, made himself lord protector and ruled as a kind of military dictator. He remained in power until his death in 1658, when he was succeeded by his son Richard Cromwell . The new lord protector showed little interest in governing and resigned after a short time. The lack of a clear rule led to unrest and the desire for the re-establishment of the monarchy spread among the people. The restoration took place in 1660 when Charles II , son of the executed Charles I, was made king.

    James II

    The precursors of modern political parties emerged under Charles's rule. The king had no legitimate children, so his Roman Catholic brother James, Duke of York was heir to the throne. Efforts were made in Parliament to exclude James from the line of succession. The " abhorrers" were against the exclusion and formed the Tories , while the "petitioners" (petitioners) , who supported the exclusion, joined together to form the Whigs . However, the Exclusion Bill did not receive a majority. Charles dissolved Parliament several times because he feared the law could still be passed. After the dissolution of parliament in 1681, he ruled as an absolutist monarch until his death in 1685. The Catholic James II pursued a policy of religious tolerance and thereby incited the wrath of many Protestant subjects. Resistance arose to his decisions to create a standing army, promote Catholics to high political and military offices, and arrest Church of England clerics who opposed his policies. Then a group of Protestant nobles invited James' daughter Mary II and her husband William III. of Orange-Nassau to depose the king. William arrived in England on November 5, 1688, while James was confronted with the infidelity of numerous Protestant officials and fled. Parliament excluded James' Catholic son, James Francis Edward Stuart, from the line of succession. William and Mary were declared joint heads of state for England, Scotland and Ireland.

    The ousting of James has become known as the Glorious Revolution and was one of the most important milestones in the expansion of parliamentary power. The Bill of Rights , passed in 1689, affirmed the primacy of Parliament and established that the English people had certain rights, in particular the freedom from taxes levied without the consent of Parliament. The law also required future monarchs to be Protestant. It was also determined that only the children of William and Mary or Mary's sister Anne could lay claim to the throne. Mary died childless in 1694, making William sole monarch. In 1700 there was another crisis after all of Princess Anne's children had died and she was now the only person in line to the throne. Fearing that James II or one of his Catholic relatives would reassert their claim, Parliament passed the Act of Settlement in 1701 . A distant Protestant aunt Williams, Sophie von der Pfalz , was appointed heir to the throne. Shortly after the law was passed, William died, making his sister-in-law Anne Queen.

    After the unification of the kingdoms

    See also: History of the United Kingdom

    Queen Anne

    After Anne's accession to the throne, succession to the throne was soon a political issue again. The Scottish Parliament was annoyed that the English Parliament had arbitrarily declared Sophie of the Palatinate to be heir to the throne. It passed the Act of Security and threatened to dissolve the personal union of Scotland and England. The English parliament, in turn, responded in 1705 with the Alien Act , threatening to collapse the Scottish economy by excluding it from free trade . As a result, the Scottish Parliament was forced to adopt the Act of Union 1707 . With this law England and Scotland were united to the Kingdom of Great Britain , whereby the rules set out in the Act of Settlement continued to apply to the succession to the throne.

    George III

    After Anne, who died in 1714, George I succeeded the throne, founder of the House of Hanover and son of Sophie von der Pfalz, who had also died a few weeks earlier. George consolidated his position of power with the suppression of two Jacobite uprisings in 1715 and 1719. The new monarch was far less active in government affairs than most of his predecessors and instead devoted himself to the administration of his German possessions. This resulted in a shift in power to the ministers, in particular to Robert Walpole , who is considered the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. The rise in power of the Prime Minister and his cabinet continued under the reign of George II . In 1746 the Catholic Stuarts were finally defeated. Under George III. the American colonies were lost, but British influence increased in the rest of the world. With the Act of Union 1800 , the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created .

    From 1811 to 1820, George III. insane, in his place his son, who later became King George IV , ruled as Prince Regent. During the reign and later during his own reign, the king's power steadily declined. His successor William IV was no longer able to effectively restrict the power of parliament. After political differences, he dismissed William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne , Prime Minister of the Whig Party in 1834 , and instead appointed Robert Peel of the Tory Party. The king had no choice but to reinstate Lord Melbourne as the Whigs won the elections that followed. Since then, no monarch has appointed or dismissed a prime minister against the will of the democratically elected parliament. In addition, the Reform Act 1832 was passed, with which the many rotten boroughs disappeared. Further laws gradually led to more voters and to a stronger legitimation of the House of Commons as the more important part of Parliament.

    Queen Victoria

    The final step towards a constitutional monarchy was taken during the long reign of Queen Victoria . According to the Lex Salica , as a woman, she was not allowed to rule over the Kingdom of Hanover , which ended the personal union of the United Kingdom with Hanover. The Victorian era was marked by rapid technological progress and the rise of Great Britain to the leading world power, the British Empire . As a sign of British rule over India, she was given the title of Empress of India in 1876 . Republican movements received a boost, in part in response to Victoria's ongoing grief and prolonged retreat following the death of her husband Albert von Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1861.

    Victoria's son Edward VII became the first monarch of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family in 1901 . However, his son George V changed the family name in 1917 because of the anti-German mood in the population during the First World War in Windsor . In 1922 Ireland separated into Northern Ireland (which remained part of the United Kingdom) and the independent Irish Free State . Five years later the state name was changed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    From empire to community of nations

    Until 1926, the Dominions and Crown Colonies were subordinate to the United Kingdom. The Balfour Declaration gave the Dominions full self-government. This gave the Dominions an equal status vis-à-vis the motherland and thus effectively created several kingdoms with the same monarch. The 1931 Statute of Westminster confirmed this concept. As a result, George V was King of the United Kingdom, Canada , Australia , New Zealand and other states.

    Edward VIII

    Edward VIII caused a scandal in 1936 when he tried to marry the divorced American Wallis Simpson , although the Church of England refused to remarry divorced people. He renounced the crown and abdicated. The parliaments of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth of Nations complied with his request . Edward VIII and any children of his new wife were excluded from the line of succession and the crown went to his brother George VI. over. He stayed at home during the Second World War and did not seek refuge in Canada from the war events, which led to a surge in popularity. George VI. was also the last monarch to bear the title of "Emperor of India" when India gained independence in 1947.

    On George VI. followed in 1952 by his daughter Elisabeth II , who still rules today. During her reign, support for the republican movement rose at times, especially because of the poor image of the British royal family caused by negative events such as the death of Princess Diana . Opinion polls in the recent past show, however, that loyalty to the monarchy continues unabated among large sections of the population. According to the succession to the throne of April 24, 2018, Elizabeth II was first followed by Prince Charles , then Prince William , his son George , then Charlotte and the newborn Louis Arthur Charles . Prince Harry slipped to sixth place in line to the throne that day.


    See also: Coronation of British monarchs , succession to the throne (United Kingdom)

    Succession is governed by various laws including the Bill of Rights of 1689, the Act of Settlement of 1701, and the Act of Union 1707 . The rules for succession can only be changed by a parliamentary resolution, and the parliaments of all Commonwealth Realms must give their consent. An individual is not permitted to give up his or her succession to the throne.

    The monarch is crowned in Westminster Abbey, as here Charles II.

    At the time of the monarch's death, the heir immediately and automatically succeeds him without the need for confirmation or further ceremony. Thus the meaning of the saying “The king is dead, long live the king!” Is clarified. The succession is publicly proclaimed by the Accession Council , which gathers at St James's Palace . After a reasonable period of mourning, the new monarch is crowned at Westminster Abbey , usually by the Archbishop of Canterbury . A coronation is not absolutely necessary for ruling, the ceremony usually takes place several months after the accession to the throne.

    After the accession to the throne, the monarch rules until his death. The monarchs are not allowed to abdicate unilaterally. The only one who voluntarily renounced the crown was Edward VIII. In 1936. To do this, Parliament had to pass a special law called His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 . The last monarch to cede power against his will was James II , who fled into exile in 1688 during the Glorious Revolution .


    Sophie of the Palatinate

    The succession to the throne follows the principle of primogeniture . Male blood relatives used to have priority over women: sons inherited before daughters, the firstborn before younger siblings of the same sex. Daughters have been treated equally since 2013 . The Act of Settlement limits the succession to the throne to the natural and legitimate descendants of Sophie von der Pfalz (1630–1714), Electress of Braunschweig-Lüneburg and granddaughter of James I.

    The Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement also contain restrictions of a religious nature, introduced because of the distrust of the English and Scots towards the Roman Catholic Church . Only people who are of the Protestant denomination are entitled to the throne. Persons who are of the Roman Catholic denomination or who marry a Catholic are excluded from the line of succession. A person excluded from the line of succession is considered “naturally dead” in this sense and the restrictions do not apply to his or her legitimate offspring. In 2011 it was decided that future monarchs would no longer lose their right to the throne by marrying a Roman Catholic person. This change went into effect in March 2015 when all affected Commonwealth kingdoms ratified the change. Since the king is head of the state church, the restriction on one's own beliefs remained.


    See also: Regency Act , Council of State

    Before his accession to the throne, King George IV was Prince Regent

    According to the Regency Act of 1937 and 1953, power is exercised by a Reichsverweser (regent) when the monarch has either not yet reached the age of 18 or when he is physically or mentally incapable of doing so. A physical or mental impairment must be determined by at least three of the following people; the spouse of the monarch, the Lord Chancellor , the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and the Master of the Rolls . Confirmation from three or more of the above is also necessary to end the reign and thus allow the monarch to return to power.

    If a reign is necessary, the next suitable person in the line of succession automatically becomes regent, unless he or she is a minor himself or is unable to do so. The regent must be at least 21 years of age (18 in the case of the direct heir to the throne) and a British citizen residing in the United Kingdom. So far the last regent was the future King George IV , who from 1811 to 1820 took over the official business from his mentally ill father George III. took over.

    In the event of a temporary illness or a stay abroad, the monarch can delegate his duties at short notice to the State Council , consisting of the spouse and four subsequent suitable persons in the line of succession. The current Councilors of State are the Duke of Edinburgh , the Prince of Wales , the Duke of Cambridge , Duke of Sussex and the Duke of York .


    Parliament financed the expenses of the monarch with public funds, as list Civil ( Civil List ) and Grants in-aid- are called (Assistance Grants). The aid grants are used to finance the maintenance of the royal residences (Property Services Grant-in-aid) and the travel expenses of the royal family (Royal Travel Grant-in-aid) . The civil listing covers most other expenses, including staff costs, state visits, public appearances, and official entertainment. Parliament resizes the civil list every ten years, but any unspent funds can be carried over to the next ten-year period.

    Once the monarch covered all official expenses from the proceeds of his inheritance, including the income from the Crown Estate (royal estates). In 1760, George III renounced . on the hereditary income; since then the expenses have been covered with the civil list. More recently, the income from the royal lands has exceeded the income from the civil list and grants several times over. In fiscal 2007-08, revenue from the royal estates was £ 211 million , while the total of the civil list and grants was £ 40 million. The Crown Estate, managed by HM Treasury , is valued at around £ 6 billion.

    In addition to the Crown Estate, the lands and assets of the Duchy of Lancaster are also held in trust. The income from the Duchy of Lancaster does not go to the treasury, but is used for expenses that are not covered by the civil list. The Duchy of Cornwall is a similar estate administered on behalf of the monarch's eldest son. The monarch is required to pay indirect taxes such as VAT , and since 1993 the queen has voluntarily paid personal income taxes and capital gains taxes on her personal income. The civil list and aid grants are not considered income and are used only for official expenses.

    Estimates of the monarch's wealth vary depending on whether they include personal property or property held in trust. For example, the Royal Collection , the art collection of the royal family, is not part of the monarch's private assets, but is administered by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The Forbes magazine estimated in 2008 the assets of the Queen to 650 million US dollars, although no official figures are available. In 1993, David Ogilvy, 8th Earl of Airlie , then Lord Chamberlain , described estimates of £ 100 million as "grossly exaggerated".


    Buckingham Palace is the main residence of the monarch
    Holyrood Palace is the official residence in Scotland

    The official main residence of the British monarch is Buckingham Palace in the City of Westminster , a borough of London . Most state banquets, appointments, royal baptisms and other ceremonies take place here. Windsor Castle , the largest inhabited castle in the world, is located in Windsor , Berkshire and is used as a residence on weekends, over Easter and during the Ascot horse races . The official residence of the monarch in Scotland is the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh , better known as Holyrood Palace . The monarch stays there for at least a week each year and when attending state events in Scotland.

    The Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London were the main residences of the English monarch until 1530 , when King Henry VIII "acquired" the Palace of Whitehall by having it as a gift from Cardinal Wolsey. Whitehall was destroyed to the ground by fire in 1698, after which the court moved to St James's Palace . Although Buckingham Palace has served as the London residence since 1837, St. James's remained of paramount importance and is now the ceremonial and administrative center of the court. For example, foreign ambassadors are accredited to the Court of St. James’s . St James's Palace also serves as the residence of members of the royal family and is the meeting place of the Accession Council .

    Other residences of the royal family members are Clarence House and Kensington Palace . The palaces are owned by the crown, held in trust for future rulers and cannot be sold by the monarch. Two palaces belong to the monarch's personal property: Sandringham House , a country estate in the English county of Norfolk , is usually inhabited from Christmas until the end of January. In August and September the monarch resides at Balmoral Castle , a castle in the Scottish county of Aberdeenshire .

    Ruler title

    The full ruler title of the reigning monarch is:

    "Elizabeth the Second, by the grace of God Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and your other countries and empires, head of the Commonwealth, defender of the faith"
    (Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith) .

    The title “Head of Commonwealth” is the personal choice of the queen and not an integral part of the ruler's title. Pope Leo X awarded King Henry VIII the title of Fidei defensor (“Defender of the Faith”) in 1521 for his support for the papacy during the early years of the Reformation . However, Henry VIII later renounced the Roman Catholic Church and founded the Church of England . Pope Paul III withdrew this title from him, but parliament passed a law that allowed its further use.

    The monarch is addressed as His Majesty or Her Majesty ("his / her majesty"). The form Britannic Majesty ("Britannic Majesty") appears on international agreements and on passports to distinguish the British monarch from foreign heads of state. King wives ( Queen consort ) and King widows (Queen dowager) are also referred to as Majesty , but not the spouses of female monarchs ( Prince consort : Prince Consort). For this reason, the husband of reigning Queen, which is Duke of Edinburgh , just as "Royal Highness" ( Royal Highness called).

    The ordinal numbers of the monarchs only take into account the rulers since the Norman invasion in 1066. If only one monarch has used a particular name, no ordinal number is added. For example, Queen Victoria is never referred to as Victoria I. Since the unification of England and Scotland in 1707, ordinal numbers have been based exclusively on the earlier English kings, not the Scottish ones. In 1953 Scottish nationalists sued the new Queen's right to be called Elizabeth II on the grounds that there was never an Elizabeth I in Scotland. In the case of MacCormick vs. Lord Advocate , however, was dismissed by the Court of Session , the highest Scottish civil court. The court found that choosing a name was the queen's private affair and also complied with the rights of rule. Prime Minister Winston Churchill noted, however, that this rule is not binding and that the higher ordinal number should be used in the future.

    Traditionally, there is a signature of the monarch from his own king name (without atomic number), followed by a R . This letter stands for rex or regina (king and queen in Latin ). Consequently, the reigning Queen signs with "Elizabeth R". From 1877 to 1948 the monarchs also added the letter I for imperator or imperatrix , due to their status as Emperor or Empress of India . So Victoria signed "Victoria RI".

    badges and flags

    The coat of arms of the United Kingdom , which is also the coat of arms of the royal family and national coat of arms, has existed in its current form since Queen Victoria's accession to the throne in 1837. In the first and fourth squares, it shows three striding golden lions on a red background (England), in the second Square a red upright lion on a golden background (Scotland) and in the third square a golden harp on a blue background (Ireland or Northern Ireland). Bearers of the coat of arms are the lion and the unicorn. The motto is: Dieu et mon droit ( French for “God and my law”). In Scotland, the monarch uses a slightly modified coat of arms in which the first and fourth squares represent Scotland, the second square England and the third square Northern Ireland. The motto is: Nemo me impune lacessit ( Latin for “Nobody anger me with impunity”). The coats of arms are the unicorn and the lion.

    The official flag of the monarch in the United Kingdom is the Royal Standard , which features the coats of arms of the constituent states. The Royal Standard used in Scotland is the Scottish version of the royal coat of arms. The flag is only hoisted on buildings and vehicles in which the monarch is present; otherwise the Union Flag flies . The Royal Standard never blows half-mast because there is always a monarch; in the event of death, his successor automatically takes over the office.

    See also


    • Mike Ashley : The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens . Robinson Publishing, London 1998, ISBN 1-84119-096-9 (directory of all British monarchs including their predecessor states).
    • John Cannon, Ralph Griffiths: The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2000, ISBN 0-19-289328-9 (Illustrated History of the British Monarchy).
    • Antonia Fraser (Ed.): The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England . Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1975, ISBN 0-297-76911-1 (biographies of the English and British monarchs).
    • Alison Weir: Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy . Pimlico, London 1996, ISBN 0-7126-7448-9 (Genealogy of British Monarchs).
    • VCRAC Crabbe: Understanding Statutes . Routledge Cavendish, London 1994, ISBN 1-85941-138-X .
    • Rodney Brazier: Ministers of the Crown . Clarendon Press, London 1997, ISBN 0-19-825988-3 .

    Web links

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    1. A similar situation arose in Canada in 1926 , when Governor General Lord Byng refused to dissolve Parliament on the advice of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King , thereby triggering the King Byng affair .
    This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 4, 2005 in this version .