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 Queen is mostly a figurehead. However, the government is still referred to as Her Majesty's Government.

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


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)
  • 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 Queen'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.

  • 7
    How parliament have remove them if it can be dissolved by the queen at any moment?
    – Anixx
    Apr 10 '13 at 2:23
  • 3
    I think your answer would benefit from a source that backs up your final paragraph. Apr 10 '13 at 12:30
  • 1
    @Anixx: because constitutional convention dictates that the Queen does as her ministers and Parliament advise - even if that means giving up her own powers. Apr 10 '13 at 15:15
  • 5
    @SteveMelnikoff: "constitutional convention" is a nice euphemism for "we don't really have a constitution". :-) Apr 10 '13 at 22:54
  • 5
    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
    May 10 '17 at 17:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .