Regency Act

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The Regency Act is a series of laws passed by the British Parliament that regulate the appointment of a regent if the British monarch is no longer able to exercise his office or has not yet reached the age of 18. Prior to 1937, Regency Acts were only enacted when needed. However, in 1937 a permanent law came into force. With this also the State Council was formed, which represents the monarch in the event of a short-term absence outside the kingdom.

The only Regency Act that actually came into effect was that of 1811. At that time, George, Prince of Wales , took office from his father, George III. who had gone insane. The Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent until his father's death and in 1820 ascended the throne as George IV himself.

Regency Act 1728

The first Regency Act passed by the British Parliament was that of 1728. The law stipulated that Queen Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach should take over the reign in the event of the death of her husband, King George II . The law had become necessary because George was elector of Hanover and paid a visit to his homeland.

Regency Act 1751

In 1751 Friedrich Ludwig von Hannover , the eldest son of King George II and heir to the throne, died . This made his eldest son George, Prince of Wales , the new heir to the throne. The prince was only twelve years old at the time of his father's death. Had the king died during the next six years, the new monarch would have been a minor.

Parliament passed the Regency Act 1751. It stipulated that George's mother Augusta von Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg would rule as regent. In addition, the formation of a Council of Regency was planned for this case, which should stand by Princess Augusta and serve as a kind of brake. The exercise of certain sovereign rights such as declarations of war or the conclusion of peace treaties would have required a majority in the Council.

Regency Act 1765

In 1760 the still childless George III climbed . the throne, his possible successor would have been his brother Edward, Duke of York and Albany . However, the new king soon married and became a father multiple times. In 1765 there were three children in the highest positions of the line of succession. Parliament passed a Regency Act again, so that a regent would be ready after the monarch's death. According to this law, either his wife Sophie Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz or his mother Augusta von Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg should rule. In this case, too, the creation of a Regency Council was planned.

Regency Bill 1789

The Regency Bill of 1789 was a bill to appoint George, Prince of Wales as regent, since his father, George III. showed the first signs of mental illness. At that time there was no legal basis for the appointment of a regent and the king was temporarily unable to give his consent to the law. Parliament decided that the Lord Chancellor should affix the Great Seal himself so that the law can come into force. However, the king had recovered in time before the law could finally be passed. The king's increasing mental problems in the following years demonstrated the need for such a law. The king, however, refused to pass a law while he was reasonably sane.

Regency Act 1811

At the end of 1810, after the death of his youngest daughter Amelia , King George III passed through. again a phase of weakness of mind. Parliament decided to resubmit the 1789 bill. Without the consent of the king, the Lord Chancellor gave the nominations for the Lord Commissioners the Great Seal of the Empire. On behalf of the King, the Lord Commissioners gave their approval to the law called the Regency Act 1811, which was passed by Parliament on January 10, 1811.

Parliament curtailed some of the Prince Regent's rights. However, these restrictions ended one year after the law came into force. What was special about this Regency Act was that it did not provide for a Regency Council. One of the reasons was that the Prince Regent was heir to the throne anyway and would take over full rights after his father's death.

From February 5, 1811, the Prince of Wales ruled with full royal power for his maddened father.

Regency Act 1831

In 1830 rule passed to William IV , the third eldest son of George III. However, William IV had no legitimate sons and given the advanced age of his wife Adelheid von Sachsen-Meiningen , the birth of a child was unlikely. The possible heir to the throne, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent , was only twelve years old. Victoria's father had passed away and Parliament distrusted George III's younger sons. If the king had died before Victoria's 18th birthday, her mother Victoire von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld would have been appointed regent.

Lord Justices Act 1837

In 1837, Princess Victoria of Kent succeeded her late uncle and became Queen Victoria . At that time she was 18 years old, unmarried, childless and without an heir. The next in line to the throne was Ernst August Prince of Hanover , who succeeded William IV in the Kingdom of Hanover , as the Lex Salica forbade Victoria from becoming Queen of Hanover. Ernst August left the United Kingdom to take up office in Hanover. The heir to the throne would stay abroad until the queen married and a legitimate child was born. If Victoria had died prematurely, Ernst August would certainly have returned to Great Britain, but with the means of transport available at the time, this would have taken a few weeks.

In order to ensure the proper functioning of the government in such a case, the parliament passed the Lord Justices Act 1837. It did not provide for the appointment of a regent, since the arrival of the new monarch could be expected within a reasonable time. Instead, individuals like the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chief Justice were to take over some of the monarch's duties for this brief period of time. In contrast to a regent, however, they should not have dissolved parliament or given titles of nobility.

Regency Act 1840

In 1840, Queen Victoria had married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and had a daughter (later the German Empress Victoria ). The Queen could be expected to become multiple mothers, but the children would have been minors for at least 18 years. In the event of the death of Princess Victoria, a new regime would have been necessary for the regency. The Lord Justices Act of 1837 could not be applied to the Queen's children since they lived in the United Kingdom. Parliament therefore passed the Regency Act 1840, which provided Prince Albert as a possible regent until the oldest child would have reached the age of majority. The law was quite controversial at the time. The British mistrusted Prince Albert at the time and he was generally unpopular in Parliament.

Regency Act 1910

In 1910, Queen Victoria's grandson, George V, had become King. However, his children were all under 18 years old. Parliament passed a new Regency Act. The possible regent would have been George's wife Maria von Teck . Here, too, there was no provision for the creation of a Regency Council.

Regency Act 1937

In 1937 George VI ascended the throne, with his eldest daughter Elizabeth II as the most likely successor ( Heiress Presumptive ). However, she was only eleven years old, which made a new Regency Act necessary.

Instead of enacting a law that specifically only refers to the succession of George VI. related, Parliament passed the Regency Act 1937, a law that would apply to all future monarchs. It repealed the Lord Justices Act of 1837 and created a new body, the Council of State . In the event of a stay abroad or a temporary illness of the monarch, the latter should take over the official duties.

The law required that the regent, the next in line to the throne, be at least 21 years of age, a British citizen residing in the United Kingdom and qualify for the line of succession under the Act of Settlement . The Council of State should be composed of the monarch's spouse and the next four persons over 21 years of age in line to the throne. At the time the law went into effect, Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester , would have been made regent had Elizabeth ascended the throne prematurely.

Regency Act 1943

This law modified the Regency Act of 1937. It stated that a council of state who was also absent during the monarch's absence would not be invited to the meetings. It also stipulated that the heir to the throne only had to be 18 years old to be a member of the State Council.

Regency Act 1953

King George VI died in 1952 and was replaced by his daughter Elizabeth, the Duchess of Edinburgh, who now ruled as Elizabeth II . Their eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales , was not yet 18 years old, but the law would allow the automatic appointment of a regent over the age of 21 should this be necessary. In this case it would have been Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester . Despite this, Parliament changed the law again and decided that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh , would be the possible regent in the event of a minor succession to the throne. The new law also removed the anomaly that a monarch may take the throne at the age of 18 but not rule as regent. In addition, it was made possible for the Queen Mother to become State Councilor again.

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