The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy, as belonging to the sovereign and which have become widely vested in the government.It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and vested in a monarch with regard to the process of governance of the state, are carried out.
In most constitutional monarchies, prerogatives can be abolished by Parliament as the courts apply the constitutional near-absolute of the supremacy of Parliament. In the Commonwealth realms this draws on the constitutional statutes at the time of the Glorious Revolution when William III and Mary II were invited to take the throne.
In the United Kingdom the remaining powers of the royal prerogative are devolved to the head of the government which for more than two centuries has been the Prime Minister; the benefits, equally, such as mineral rights in all gold and silver ores, vest in (belong to) the government.
In Britain, prerogative powers were originally exercised by the monarch acting, without an observed requirement for parliamentary consent (after its empowerment in certain matters following Magna Carta). Since the accession of the House of Hanover these powers have been, with minor exceptions in economically unimportant sectors, exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet, who are accountable to Parliament, exclusively so, except in matters of the Royal Family, since at least the time of William IV.
Typically in liberal democracies that are constitutional monarchies as well as nation states, such as those of Denmark, Norway, or Sweden, the royal prerogative serves in practice as a prescribed ceremonial function of the state power.
Today, prerogative powers fall into two main categories:
Some key areas of government are carried out by the royal prerogative but its usage is falling as functions are progressively made statutory.
In Australia, the royal prerogative is vested specifically in the Governor-General for military affairs, rather than the monarch, and is defined by the Constitution.
In Canada, the royal prerogative is, for the most part, the same as that in the United Kingdom, as constrained by constitutional convention,although its exercise is usually through the federal governor general or the lieutenant governors of the provinces in their respective privy councils. The royal prerogative in Canada is largely set out in Part III of the Constitution Act, 1867, particularly section 9.
As foreign affairs are a matter of royal prerogative,the power to declare war and deploy the armed forces belongs to the Crown, though only in its federal Cabinet (the federal government), as outlined in sections 9 and 15 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Neither legislation nor any other type of parliamentary approval, beyond budgetary matters, is required for such actions, though the Cabinet has on occasion consulted parliament before engaging Canada or extending Canada's involvement in a conflict. Additionally, the federal and provincial crowns may ratify treaties, though only so far as they fall within the proper area of jurisdiction, according to sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Again, the endorsement of parliament is not necessary for these agreements to have force in an international sense, but the legislatures must pass treaties in order for them to have domestic effect. Proposed treaties have also occasionally been presented to parliament for debate before ratification. Members of Parliament have tabled bills seeking to curtail the use of the royal prerogative in foreign affairs by legislating a greater role for parliament, as have Senate standing committees, from time to time, called for the same.
The issuance of passports also remains within the royal prerogative in Canada. The terms for the issuing of passports by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Crown are set out in the Canadian Passport Order,issued by the Governor General-in-Council. The Canadian government has used the royal prerogative on two occasions to deny a passport to a Canadian citizen, Abdurahman Khadr and Fateh Kamel. Lawsuits filed at the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, and ultimately the Supreme Court of Canada did not find in favour of either Khadr, nor Kamel.
The royal prerogative in Canada extends also to the granting of honours, as explained by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in Black v. Chrétien (regarding Conrad Black's entitlement to an appointment to the House of Lords while a Canadian citizen).Other royal prerogatives, such as the prerogative of mercy, also exist in the Canadian context.
In the Kingdom of England (up to 1707), the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800), and the United Kingdom (since 1801), the royal prerogative was one of the central features of the realm's governance.
Constitutional theorist A. V. Dicey gives the standard definition of what prerogative powers as follows:
... the remaining portion of the Crown's original authority, and it is therefore ... the name for the residue of discretionary power left at any moment in the hands of the Crown, whether such power be in fact exercised by the King himself or by his Ministers.
The scope of the royal prerogative is difficult to determine due to the uncodified nature of the constitution. It is clear that the existence and extent of the power is a matter of the common law of England, making the courts the final arbiter of whether a particular type of prerogative exists or not. Nevertheless, certain prerogative powers have been widely acknowledged and accepted over time, while others have fallen out of use.
The royal prerogative is not constitutionally unlimited. In the Case of Proclamations (1611) during the reign of King James VI/I, English common law courts judges emphatically asserted that they possessed the right to determine the limits of the royal prerogative. Since the Glorious Revolution in 1688, which brought co-monarchs Queen Mary II and King William III to power, this interpretation of there being a separate and distinct power of the Judiciary has not been challenged by the Crown. It has been accepted that it is emphatically the province of the court(s) to say what the law is, or means. This is a crucial corollary and foundation to the concept of the judicial power; and its distinct and separate nature from the executive power possessed by the Crown itself, or its ministers.
Generally, the Crown retains all the power of the state in a Crown colony (even if in practice it is not directly exercised), which was later renamed ‘dependent territory’ in 1983 and has been known as ‘overseas territory’ since 2002. Thus the royal prerogative is in theory an unlimited, arbitrary authority.In British overseas territories however, each inhabited territory has a constitution by which the territory is governed locally.
The absoluteness of the royal prerogative in the colonies was however defeated in the case of Campbell v. Hall in 1774. This case decided that once a colony gained a representative assembly (or once the governor has been instructed to call one), the royal authority is limited to the familiar prerogatives; without the assembly's consent the Crown could not raise taxation nor change the law. Several of the colonies of the British West Indies thus became "settled colonies", and reverted to "crown colony" status only by Act of Parliament in the nineteenth century.
In August 2009 the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a UK dependency, was revested in the governor, on the advice of the Government of the United Kingdom, under an Order in Councilof 18 March 2009, which suspended and amended parts of the Islands' constitution, and vacated all the offices of ministers and the House of Assembly. This was not itself an exercise of the royal prerogative, as it was made under "the West Indies Act 1962 and of all other powers enabling Her to do so". However, in effect the order extended the royal prerogative in the Islands, vesting wide discretionary legislative and executive powers in Her Majesty's governor. The governor remains subject to the amended constitution, and in practice to the instructions of the Queen's Foreign Office in the UK.
In the case of the Chagos Archipelago, in 2000, the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that a local ordinance made by the Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory exiling the islanders was unlawful, a decision which was accepted by the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. That Order was legislation passed under authority given by the royal prerogative, not an exercise of the prerogative itself, and was overturned as being beyond the powers given. After this decision, the British government issued an Order in Council, a primary exercise of the royal prerogative, to achieve the same objective. This Order was also ruled unlawful by the High Court, a ruling upheld in the Court of Appeal. However, on Wednesday, 22 October 2008, the government won its appeal in the House of Lords against the previous rulings. The House decided by a three-to-two majority that the Order in Council was a lawful exercise of authority.In their speeches, the Law Lords admitted the government of the day was morally wrong to force out some 2,000 residents of the Chagos Archipelago, a British Crown colony, to make way for a US air base in the 1960s. Nevertheless, the majority could not find legal fault in the Order.
In the other Commonwealth realms, the royal prerogative can be or is specifically mandated to be exercised by the monarch's representative, the governor-general. The constitution of a Commonwealth realm may sharply limit the prerogative and many governmental acts which would be done under the prerogative in other countries are given effect by the constitution or Acts of Parliament in the Commonwealth realm.
The Spanish Constitution of 1978, Title II The Crown, Article 62, delineates the powers of the king, while Title IV Government and Administration, Article 99, defines the king's role in government.Title VI Judicial Power, Article 117, Articles 122 through 124, outlines the king's role in the country's independent judiciary. However, by constitutional convention established by Juan Carlos I, the king exercises his prerogatives having solicited government advice while maintaining a politically non-partisan and independent monarchy. Receiving government advice does not necessarily bind the monarch into executing the advice, except where prescribed by the constitution.
It is incumbent upon the King:
- a. to sanction and promulgate the laws;
- b. to summon and dissolve the Cortes Generales and to call elections under the terms provided in the Constitution;
- c. to call a referendum in the circumstances provided for in the Constitution;
- d. to propose a candidate for President of the Government and, as the case may be, appoint him or remove him from office, as provided in the Constitution;
- e. to appoint and dismiss members of the Government on the proposal of its President;
- f. to issue the decrees agreed upon by the Council of Ministers, to confer civil and military employments and award honours and distinctions in conformity with the law;
- g. to keep himself informed regarding affairs of State and, for this purpose, to preside over the meetings of the Council of Ministers whenever he deems opportune, at the request of the President of the Government;
- h. to exercise supreme command of the Armed Forces;
- i. to exercise the right to grant pardons in accordance with the law, which may not authorize general pardons;
- j. to exercise the High Patronage of the Royal Academies.
The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia is the representative of the Australian monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. As the Queen is concurrently the monarch of 15 other Commonwealth realms, and resides in the United Kingdom, she, on the advice of her prime minister, appoints a governor-general to carry out constitutional duties within the Commonwealth of Australia. The governor-general has formal presidency over the Federal Executive Council and is commander-in-chief of the Australian Defence Force. The functions of the governor-general include appointing ministers, judges, and ambassadors; giving royal assent to legislation passed by parliament; issuing writs for election; and bestowing Australian honours.
Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in others that is a separate step. Under a modern constitutional monarchy royal assent is considered to be little more than a formality; even in those nations which still, in theory, permit the monarch to withhold assent to laws, the monarch almost never does so, save in a dire political emergency or upon the advice of their government. While the power to veto a law by withholding royal assent was once exercised often by European monarchs, such an occurrence has been very rare since the eighteenth century.
An Order in Council is a type of legislation in many countries, especially the Commonwealth realms. In the United Kingdom this legislation is formally made in the name of the Queen by and with the advice and consent of the Privy Council (Queen-in-Council), but in other countries the terminology may vary. The term should not be confused with Order of Council, which is made in the name of the Council without royal assent.
In a parliamentary or semi-presidential system of government, a reserve power is a power that may be exercised by the head of state without the approval of another branch of the government. Unlike in a presidential system of government, the head of state is generally constrained by the cabinet or the legislature in a parliamentary system, and most reserve powers are usable only in certain exceptional circumstances. In some countries, reserve powers go by another name; for instance, the reserve powers of the President of Ireland are called discretionary powers.
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in which Queen Elizabeth II is the reigning constitutional monarch and head of state. Each realm functions as an independent co-equal kingdom from the other realms. As of 2019, there are 16 Commonwealth realms: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom. All 16 Commonwealth realms are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states. Elizabeth II is head of the Commonwealth.
The monarchy of New Zealand is the constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of New Zealand. The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, ascended the throne on the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952. Elizabeth's eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales, is heir apparent.
The King-in-Council or the Queen-in-Council, depending on the gender of the reigning monarch, is a constitutional term in a number of states. In a general sense, it would mean the monarch exercising executive authority, usually in the form of approving orders, in the presence of the country's executive council.
Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy and a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its reigning monarch and head of state since 1 November 1981. As such she is Antigua and Barbuda's sovereign and officially called Queen of Antigua and Barbuda.
The monarchy of Australia concerns the form of government in which a hereditary king or queen serves as the nation's sovereign and head of state. Australia is governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, largely modelled on the Westminster system of parliamentary government, while incorporating features unique to the Constitution of Australia. The present monarch is Elizabeth II, styled Queen of Australia, who has reigned since 6 February 1952. She is represented in Australia as a whole by the Governor-General, in accordance with the Australian Constitution and letters patent from the Queen, and in each of the Australian states, according to the state constitutions, by a governor, assisted by a lieutenant-governor. The monarch appoints the Governor-General and the governors, on the advice respectively of the Commonwealth government and each state government. These are now almost the only constitutional functions of the monarch with regard to Australia.
The monarchy of Jamaica is a constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Jamaica. The terms Crown in Right of Jamaica, Her Majesty in Right of Jamaica, or The Queen in Right of Jamaica may also be used to refer to the entire executive of the government of Jamaica. Though the Jamaican Crown has its roots in the British Crown, it has evolved to become a distinctly Jamaican institution, represented by its own unique symbols.
The monarch of Belize is the head of state of Belize. The incumbent Queen of Belize is Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 21 September 1981. The heir apparent is Elizabeth's eldest son, Prince Charles, though the Queen is the only member of the royal family with any constitutional role. She and the rest of the royal family undertake various public ceremonial functions across Belize and on behalf of Belize abroad.
The monarch of Barbados is the sovereign and head of state of Barbados. The current Barbadian monarch and head of state, since the independence if Barbados on 30 November 1966, is Queen Elizabeth II. As the sovereign, she is the personal embodiment of the Barbadian Crown. Although the person of the sovereign is equally shared with 15 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, each country's monarchy is separate and legally distinct. As a result, the current monarch is officially titled Queen of Barbados and, in this capacity, she, her husband, and other members of the Royal Family undertake public and private functions domestically and abroad as representatives of the Barbadian state. However, the Queen is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role. The Queen lives predominantly in the United Kingdom and, while several powers are the sovereign's alone, most of the royal governmental and ceremonial duties in Barbados are carried out by the Queen's representative, the governor-general.
The Monarchy of the Bahamas is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The current monarch and head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since the country became independent on 10 July 1973. The Bahamas share the Sovereign with the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen does not personally reside in the islands, and most of her constitutional roles are therefore delegated to her representative in the country, the Governor-General of the Bahamas. Royal succession is governed by the English Act of Settlement of 1701, as amended by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, with the latter statute reflecting the Perth Agreement, to which the Bahamas government acceded. The two acts are part of constitutional law.
The monarch of Grenada is the head of state of Grenada. The present monarch is Elizabeth II, who is also Sovereign of a number of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen's constitutional roles are mostly delegated to the Governor-General of Grenada. Royal succession is governed by the English Act of Settlement of 1701, which is part of constitutional law.
The monarchy of Papua New Guinea is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Papua New Guinea. The current monarch, since 16 September 1975, is Queen Elizabeth II. Although the person of the sovereign is equally shared with 15 other independent countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, each country's monarchy is separate and legally distinct. As a result, the current monarch is officially titled the Queen of Papua New Guinea and, in this capacity, she, her consort, and other members of the Royal Family undertake public and private functions domestically and abroad as representatives of the Papua New Guinean state. However, the Queen is the only member of the Royal Family with any constitutional role. The Queen lives predominantly in the United Kingdom and, while several powers are the sovereign's alone, most of the royal governmental and ceremonial duties in Papua New Guinea are carried out by the Queen's representative, the governor-general.
Saint Kitts and Nevis is a constitutional monarchy in which a monarch is head of state. The present monarch is Elizabeth II, who is also Sovereign of the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen's constitutional roles are mostly delegated to the Governor-General of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Royal succession is governed by the English Act of Settlement of 1701, which is part of constitutional law.
The monarchy of Saint Lucia is a system of government in which a hereditary, constitutional monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Saint Lucia. The present monarch of Saint Lucia is Elizabeth II, who is also the Sovereign of the Commonwealth realms. The Queen's constitutional roles are mostly delegated to the Governor-General of Saint Lucia.
The monarchy of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the constitutional system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, forming the core of the country's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The Crown is thus is the foundation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Vincentian government. While Royal Assent and the royal sign-manual are required to enact laws, letters patent, and orders in council, the authority for these acts stems from the Vincentian populace, and, within the conventional stipulations of constitutional monarchy, the sovereign's direct participation in any of these areas of governance is limited, with most related powers entrusted for exercise by the elected and appointed parliamentarians, the ministers of the Crown generally drawn from amongst them, and the judges and Justices of the Peace.
The monarchy of Tuvalu is a system of government in which a hereditary monarch is the sovereign and head of state of Tuvalu. The present monarch of Tuvalu is Queen Elizabeth II, who is also the Sovereign of 15 other Commonwealth realms. The Queen's constitutional roles are mostly delegated to the Governor-General of Tuvalu.
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity attached to the British monarch, recognised in the United Kingdom. The monarch is regarded internally as the absolute authority, or "sole prerogative", and the source of many of the executive powers of the British government.
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