We have been led to believe that much of the power that was once held by the monarchy has been transferred to the Parliament and that the King is mostly a figurehead. However, the government is still referred to as His Majesty's Government.

What governmental powers does the Monarch (the King currently) actually hold, in practice, rather than in theory?


1 Answer 1


The specific limits of the Monarch's royal prerogative have never been formally codified, and thus are somewhat ill defined. The Department of Constitutional Affairs produced the below listing of them in 2003, though it isn't necessarily definitive.

  • The appointment and dismissal of ministers
  • The summoning, prorogation and dissolution of Parliament (removed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 and reinstated by the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022)
  • Royal assent to bills
  • The appointment and regulation of the civil service
  • The commissioning of officers in the armed forces
  • Directing the disposition of the armed forces in the UK
  • Appointment of King's Counsel
  • Issue and withdrawal of passports
  • Prerogative of mercy
  • Granting honours
  • Creation of corporations by Charter
  • The making of treaties
  • Declaration of war
  • Deployment of armed forces overseas
  • Recognition of foreign states
  • Accreditation and reception of diplomats

Theoretically, these powers are held by the Monarch. In practice, these are the powers held by the Cabinet and they're "used" by the Monarch on their advice.

Any of these powers can be removed or otherwise modified by an act of Parliament, which would happen in short order if any Monarch decided to attempt to ignore the Cabinet and seriously utilize their theoretical powers.

  • 8
    How parliament have remove them if it can be dissolved by the queen at any moment?
    – Anixx
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 2:23
  • 4
    I think your answer would benefit from a source that backs up your final paragraph. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 12:30
  • 11
    @SteveMelnikoff: "constitutional convention" is a nice euphemism for "we don't really have a constitution". :-) Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 22:54
  • 2
    The real reason is probably "because the population would become very anti-monarchy if the monarch started independently using her political powers". Though, theoretically all MPs must swear an oath to defend the monarch, before they are allowed to take their seat in the Commons (that's why Gerry Adams never took his seat). Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 20:13
  • 6
    Worthy of note (as this list was compiled in 2003) -- as of 2011 (and the passage of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act) "The ... dissolution of Parliament" is no longer a Royal Prerogative.
    – owjburnham
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 17:15

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