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?


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
  • 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.

  • 5
    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. – SoylentGray 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. – Steve Melnikoff Apr 10 '13 at 15:15
  • 5
    @SteveMelnikoff: "constitutional convention" is a nice euphemism for "we don't really have a constitution". :-) – Martin Schröder 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

We have been lead 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 figure head.

This is wrong. Even if the Queen did not use their powers against the desire of the Cabinet and Parliament, it was mostly because the Cabinet and the Parliament do not express wishes contrary to the will of the Queen. If they did, they would be dissolved.

So bearing in mind the real powers invested in the Queen, they just follow her line, which she expresses softly, in private conversations with ministers.

Great Britain is in fact an absolute monarchy with some elections allowed (similar say, to Qatar or Saudi Arabia), with a claim that the Queen is just a figurehead being a successful propaganda tool.

  • 6
    This answer could benefit greatly from some sources that back this up. – SoylentGray Apr 10 '13 at 12:29
  • 4
    -1 I'm afraid this is wrong on several counts. Briefly: the Queen's opinions are kept secret; the government and parliament are free to do what they want. They do NOT "just follow her line"; the UK is a constitutional monarchy, with limits on government actions, and cannot be compared to absolute monarchies. – Steve Melnikoff Apr 10 '13 at 15:13
  • 1
    @DJClayworth - There have been many examples where the Royal family has had the press censored not because of any untrue statements but because the truth was unflattering to the royal family. – SoylentGray Apr 10 '13 at 20:00
  • 1
    @YannisRizos - I am not talking about that. There are times the queen comes out and declares that he Press can not report on something about the family with threat of imprisonment, and dissolution of the organisation. It happened a few years ago, though the declaration drew more interest than the original story did and being a world wide internet probably did more to disseminate the boring story than if it had been on front page of the Times. – SoylentGray Apr 11 '13 at 12:46
  • 5
    @Chad Heh, you aren't giving me much to go on, "unflattering" could be used to describe everything the British press ever wrote about Charles. – yannis Apr 11 '13 at 14:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.