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What are The Queen’s powers?

The Royal Prerogative are a set number of powers and privileges held by The Queen as part of the British constitution. Nowadays, a lot of these powers are exercised on Her Majesty’s behalf by ministers – things such as issuing or withdrawing passports that, without the Royal Prerogative, would require an act of parliament each time.

Over time, the prerogative powers have been used less and less though the important thing in our Constitutional Monarchy is that they still exist, they remain a means of protecting democracy in this country ensuring that no one can simply seize power.

Victorian constitutionalist Walter Bagehot defined The Queen’s rights as, the right ‘to be consulted, to encourage and to warn’ – but these rights are not the same as her powers, as we will now see.

The Queen’s prerogative powers vary and fall into different categories…

Political Powers

The Queen’s political powers nowadays are largely ceremonial, though some are actively used by The Queen such as at General Elections or are available in times of crisis and some are used by Ministers for expediency when needed.

  • Summoning/Proroguing Parliament – The Queen has the power to prorogue (suspend) and to summon (call back) Parliament – prorogation typically happens at the end of a parliamentary session, and the summoning occurs shortly after, when The Queen attends the State Opening of Parliament.
  • Royal Assent – It is The Queen’s right and responsibility to grant assent to bills from Parliament, signing them into law. Whilst, in theory, she could decide to refuse assent, the last Monarch to do this was Queen Anne in 1708.
  • Secondary Legislation – The Queen can create Orders-in-Council and Letters Patent, that regulate parts to do with the Crown, such as precedence, titles. Orders in Council are often used by Ministers nowadays to bring Acts of Parliament into law.
  • Appoint/Remove Ministers – Her Majesty also has the power to appoint and remove Ministers of the Crown.
  • Appointing the Prime Minister – The Queen is responsible for appointing the Prime Minister after a general election or a resignation, in a General Election The Queen will appoint the candidate who is likely to have the most support of the House of Commons. In the event of a resignation, The Queen listens to advice on who should be appointed as their successor.
  • Declaration of War – The Sovereign retains the power to declare war against other nations, though in practice this is done by the Prime Minister and Parliament of the day.
  • Freedom From Prosecution – Under British law, The Queen is above the law and cannot be prosecuted – she is also free from civil action.

Judicial Powers

The Queen’s judicial powers are now very minimal, and there is only really one which is used on a regular basis, with others having been delegated to judges and parliament through time.

  • Royal Pardon – The Royal Pardon was originally used to retract death sentences against those wrongly convicted. It is now used to correct errors in sentencing and was recently used to give a posthumous pardon to WW2 codebreaker, Alan Turing.

Armed Forces

The Queen’s powers in the Armed Forces are usually used on the advice of Generals and Parliament though some functions are retained by The Queen herself nowadays.

  • Commander-in-Chief – The Queen is commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and all members swear an oath of allegiance to The Queen when they join; they are Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.
  • Commissioning of Officers – The Queen’s powers include the commissioning of officers into the Armed Forces and also removing commissions (when members of the Armed Forces salute and officers, they are saluting The Queen’s commission).
  • Disposition of the Forces – The organisation and disposition of the Armed Forces are part of the Royal Prerogative; the crown technically controls how the Armed Forces are used.


One of the main prerogative powers that are still used personally by The Queen these days is the power to grant honours. As all honours derive from the Crown, The Queen has the final say on knighthoods, peerages and the like.

  • Creation of Peerages – The Queen may create a peerage for any person – whether a life peerage or hereditary one, though hereditary peerages haven’t been issued for decades outside of the Royal Family.
  • Font of Honour – It is The Queen’s prerogative power to create orders of knighthood and to grant any citizen honours. From the Royal Victorian Order to the Order of the Garter.

Miscellaneous Powers

Other powers Her Majesty holds include:

  • Control of Passports – The issuing and withdrawal of passports are within the Royal Prerogative – this is often used by ministers on behalf of The Queen. All British passports are issued in The Queen’s name.
  • Requisitioning of Ships – This power allows a ship to be commandeered in Her Majesty’s name for service to the realm. This power was used on the QE2 to take troops to the Falklands after the Argentine invasion in 1982.

  • Royalwatcher1

    Does the sovereign really use her power regarding honours ? We know that Garter/Thistle/Merit appointments are decided ony by her majesty, but I guess that the queen may turn down honours proposals, and that leakages aren`t supposed to happen.

    Is it true that the queen have developed a personally restrictive approach regarding the creation of hereditary titles ? The PM did nominate individuals for hereditary honours until the Harold Wilson era, then it stopped with a few exceptions during the Thatcher era. I`m surprised that Cameron hasn`t revived the herditary peerage, since he is a traditional tory politican. Maybe we get a couple of creations in his resignation honours list.

    • robert

      The last hereditary peerage granted was Harold Macmillan who was created Earl of Stockton. It used to be traditional to grant a peerage to long-serving prime ministers. The last baronetcy was granted to Denis Thatcher. It is highly unlikely that any new hereditary peers will be created, except for royal dukedoms. Although the PM makes recommendations for honours, the Queen exercises her right to give counsel and warning. All PMs, Tory and Labour, pay great attention to her opinions.

      • Rhys Firth

        When someone as sharp and observant as HM is reigns for as long as she has, anyone with a modicum of sense listens carefully when she warns or advises…
        She’s pretty much seen it all before, if not in the UK somewhere within her commonwealth, and knows what is likely to happen more than some short sighted johnny-come-lately politician with a bright idea.

        • kai mitchell

          cant be that sharp endorsing child rape and child rapiests for over 50 years

  • Sarah Perky

    Can the Queen claim any nation she want’s to?

    • Andreas Persson Fondell

      Yes, but only within the commonwealth. She could for example claim Canada and Australia among others.

      • David L

        What utter rubbish!!! The Queen cannot “claim” Canada or Australia or any other Commonwealth country. These countries are independent nations with democratically elected governments. The Queen is simply the titular head of state because those countries have CHOSEN to retain her in that “figurehead” role. They could remove her as head of state any time they choose.

        • Heather

          Actually in Australia we can’t remove her at will. It requires a constitutional change, and it takes a majority of voters in a majority of states to remove her as head of state, and a new constitution drawn up. A very long and arduous process. We have a Governor General for a reason. She or he acts on behalf of the queen for example, signing laws after consultation with the government.

          • kai mitchell

            so do it already , look what the twats done to us

          • DavidL

            So you have to go through the ritual of a constitutional change, but that simply means that you vote for a republic and the process is begun. I know what it entails but the essential point is that if a majority of Australians want to get rid of the Queen as Head of State, then it can happen. I am just saying that the Queen is not Queen of Australia through personal choice or because she forces herself upon you in that role. Change would been down to Australia, not the Queen.

  • Chloe Howard

    Which part of it?

  • What about in business throughout the commonwealth- how much power is she entitled to?

    • Jeff

      Absolute power! She has the ability to rescind business licenses! Shire, it’s delegated to an authority writhin the government, but she can exercise her power, and it will not be challenged…. Ultimately, whoever controls the military has absolute power, and she controls the military, without question! Every military person in every Commonwealth realm pledges allegiance to the queen, not to the country!
      Anyone who believes the citizens live in a free country, with a “ceremonial monarchy” are nothing more than sheep in the herd.

      • Does she have the authority to order executions without due legal process or interfere in the distribution of private estate matters?

        • DavidL

          Of course not!!! She is not an absolute monarch – such as the Saudi King, only a constitutional monarch. She has no power to intervene in the law of the UK in such a way. The UK government abolished the death penalty in 1965. The queen cannot order executions – with or wthout due process (she couldn’t do so before the abolition either. Persons could only be sentenced to death by a judge after due process). What do you think this is, the Middle Ages? The last absolute monarch was probably Elizabeth I in the 16 Century. Where did you get such a crazy idea?

          • kai mitchell

            wrong!!!! go and use google

          • DavidL

            No, YOU are wrong. Although the Queen has certain powers she can only exercise them on the advice of the Government. And she has NO authority to break the law. She certainly cannot “order executions”. What a ridiculous idea. Nor has she the power to interfere with the distribution of private estate matters, as Christine Halasz-Lane asked above.

    • DavidL

      Don’t listen to Jeff. He is talking bull. I worked in the British Government for 40 years, so I do know a few things…The commonwealth nations are independent democracies. The queen does NOT run them or control them. Anyone who thinks she does has a thoroughly Hollywood idea of Royalty. Those countries have simply decided to retain the Queen as titular Head Of State. They could remove her as head of state any time they choose. The Queen does NOT issue or rescind business licences. That is the business of the government of the country concerned. As for the Queen being Head of the military, that is also an entirely misleading notion. Because the Queen is titular Head of State, the armed forces swear allegiance to her. BUT the directing of and issuing of orders too the armed forces are the business of the elected government officials (normally the Minister of Defence and his department) who give directions/orders to the military. The Queen has no direct involvement. “Jeff” is talking out of an orifice other than his mouth.

      • kai mitchell

        wrong!!! when a salute is given in any armed forces they are saluteing the queen, they are not saluteing the rank or the indvidual, and she is allowed to manipulate troops

        • DavidL

          As I said, the Queen is the titular head of the Armed Forces, but she does not in any way take part in the actual running of them. She could only declare war on the advice of Government Ministers. She could not do so of her own free will. She is a constitutional monarch, not an absolute monarch. She is NOT “allowed to manipulate troops”. The armed forces take their orders from the Government, not the Queen.

    • kai mitchell

      as much as she likes as she is free from any prosacuytion in any court what so ever, in other words she dose what the fuck she like with no rrecource, history tells thaat isnt that right Sir Savillie, ohh yeh she also has the right to dissolve parlement when she likes

  • Don Toniki

    I believe the HRH Queen Elizabeth the second is not the most powerful person in Britian But the World She is the Commander in Chief of all her Realms an we in NZ swear allegiance to the Queen not the Government.So All armed forces and police Fireman Air force Navy and other government officials are under her command.Although she has not exercised this authority she has this power.So stick that Ceremonial stuff a side and remember she rules.The biggest armies Navies Air Forces in the World.!!!!

    • James Kearney

      Well said.

    • Trivandrumite

      Lol. US, Russia, China, India, and Israel will all kick the Queens ass if she tries to go to war with any of them.

      • ddhcjd

        India is in the common wealth

        • ddhcjd

          plus uk are best friends with the usa

      • kai mitchell

        lets hope it dcomes soon

      • DavidL

        The Queen would not “decide to go to war” with anyone. She can only declare war on the advice of the Government. Where do you all get your ideas of the Queens authority from – Hollywood?

        • Slave of Queen-dom

          a slave like u wud never understand wht queen and freedom mean

    • DavidL

      Here we go again. Another idiot who actually thinks the Queen exercises actual power as Commander in Chief. It is a titular role. Yes, you swear allegiance to the Queen as the notional Commander in Chief, but in reality the Queen doesn’t actually “command” the Army, Navy and Air Force of the UK or any Commonwealth country, in the sense of giving out orders. That is the role of the Government. And the Queen can only declare war on another country on the advice of Government Ministers. Also, the Police and Fire Services are not “under her command”. Where did you get that idea. Police and Fire Chiefs are responsible responsible (in the UK, and I would think in NZ also) to their local authorities. The Queen has nothing to do with the running of the Police and Fire Services of NZ. Neither are Government Officials “under her command”. Some of them may be appointed “by the Queen” but, once again, that is nominal. She appoints (and removes) only on the advice of Government. Finally, as a constitutional, or figurehead, monarch she reigns, but she does NOT rule. You are thinking of absolute monarchs. The last one we had was Charles I, and the Government cut his head off in 1649…

  • Neetesh Sahu

    I wish i was born in this family…..
    sure next time with the name prince Richard !!! Mark it..!!!

  • Jeff

    Her majesty retains ultimate power over the United Kingdom, and largely over the Commonwealth realms. You should note in this article, items such as judicial powers are described as “having been delegated to judges and commisoners”. What that means is, the queen has the authority and power, she just so chooses to delegate the day to day decision making to subordinates, such as judges.
    Not unlike a corporate CEO would delegate responsibility to management, yet could overrule the managers decision at any time.
    Make NO MISTAKE ABOUT IT, the UK is RULED by an absolute monarchy! The fact that the monarch chooses to allow the people a voice, through parliament does not mean anything with regards to absolute control. Heck, the prime minister is chosen by the queen, she chooses to select the prime minister with the most support, and the prime minister is well aware of this fact! If the queen wants something done, all she needs to do is send a private letter, and it wi be done, for the power she weilds is absolute and she will not be challenged, period!
    The only thing standing in the way of the queen, would be an all out revolt of the citizenry, not unlike the same risk as any other time in history. Placate the people just enough to prevent all out revolt, and she has nothing that stands between her, and absolute power!

  • Ted Martin

    The “Pardon” issue is used here in the states a lot by the President and governors. Often used actually.

  • Marc Dobine

    Damn the Queen have a lot on her plate and has more power then the President here in the 50 states he got.

    • Noa Crimes

      Sir, I do believe you need to learn proper grammar.

    • Matt

      you sound retarded.

      • Damien

        He might well be retarded, which would make you almost equal considering your emotional retardation. If that is the case then you are forgiven for being tragically insensitive.

        • Matt

          blah blah blah, not politically correct blah. I didn’t say this at a Special Olympics ceremony. It’s an internet thread, so why don’t you come down off your high horse and have your testosterone levels checked because you’re clearly missing a pair of vital organs.

  • Kathy

    The “important thing in your democracy” is that she retains her prerogative powers as a means of ensuring no one seizes power from your democracy? Hell, she has seized the power. And you all allow it. It’s not a democracy, it’s an oligarchy.

    • LucaP

      it’s a kingdom…


      • Slavery under queen

        nop, Queen-dom

    • DavidL

      No, you fundamentally misunderstand the “power” of the monarchy. Once we had absolute monarchs who ruled as of right. Henry VIII and Charles I come to mind. Monarchs who thought they were chosen by God, and ruled accordingly. That came to an end after the English Civil War, when the defeated Charles I was beheaded by Parliament. Since that time the power of monarchs has been drastically reduced to the point where nowadays (in fact, for the last 200 years and more) we have had constitutional monarchs who have no real power at all. The so called powers that the Queen has, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, as Head of the Church of England (although not of the Church of Scotland, oddly), as the appointer of Prime Ministers and senior officials, etc., are only exercised on the advice of Government Ministers. Even the so-called power to veto Government Bills is essentially a myth, given that she is above politics. She has never, in her long reign, refused to sign a Bill. So tell me, how did she “seize the power”?

  • Yeremie

    In general who has more power a king or queen?

    • The reigning monarch holds the power, there is no difference. At present we have a Queen, there is no King.

  • Nick

    Technically, what happened re Iraq is that a bill was put before the parliament that would essentially transfer power to declare war from the monarchy (exercised solely through the PM of the day) to the Parliament as a whole. On the advice of the PM (then Tony Blair), she refused to give her assent. The Bill had not been debated in Parliament, and had not been voted on. If it had gone to a vote, it probably would not have gotten up anyway (given the elected Government of the day did not support it). In the end, the Parliament voted to declare war anyway, although that vote was non-binding on the PM and the Crown.

    Essentially, if that Bill had gotten up, a vote of Parliament would be required for any declaration of war by the UK, as opposed to being an executive action. The US, France, Germany, etc all formally place the power to go to war in the hands of Parliament/Congress. Most commonwealth countries have it with the Crown, then with the national Governor-General, and then by convention the elected Head of Government, rather than the elected Parliament as a whole.

    • Anno1121

      No no no. The declerstion to go to war is held by congress. The application of the armed forces is held by the president.

  • DavidL

    I see Nick has ably answered your query re. Iraq. Regarding the alleged 32 other occasions when you say the Queen withheld consent, please name them. If not all, then at least some…Such events would have excited sufficient public interest that there would have been fairly prominent comment in the Press, and I can recall none…

    • Steve

      Really? There’s been a lot of it in the press! She has disallowed any legislation from being enacted if those proposed laws affected her own interests and that of her family. Yes she has allowed the EU to take control without the people being consulted.

      • Ian Schwarzenegger

        The last queen to block a law was Queen Anne. Hundreds of years ago. You have no clue what you are talking about.

  • Slave of Queen-dom

    Under British law, The Queen is above the law and cannot be prosecuted – she is also free from civil action.

    wtf? is she god?

    • 65001

      The Courts are made by her power in times of old and are exercising the powers of the crown. The court cannot tell the Crown do pay or do anything as they would be using the Queens power to tell the Queen what to do. This is a legal concept named Sovereign Immunity and is in play. (Side note : America also has this same concept )

      • C

        But in America, if the president does something horribly wrong, Congress has the power to impeach the president, as in kick him out. This almost happened TWICE.

        • Dave Acklam

          3 times, technically.

          Clinton, Nixon, Andrew Johnson.

          Only 2 of the 3 resulted in formal proceedings: Nixon resigned before any action could be taken.

          • CPinSL

            Nixon was not impeached since he resigned BEFORE he could be impeached. By definition, impeachment is simply the Congressional hearings (trial) that can result in the removal from office.

            Only Johnson and Clinton were impeached (neither were removed from office).

        • Matt

          but, the president is a person, a representative if you will. The concept of sovereignty means that the queen (being the crown) is not a mere person, but is the government itself. So applying that to the US would mean that the government itself has sovereign immunity, not the representatives that make it up. And actually, in america, it is the people who are the sovereigns and we technically delegate our sovereignty to the government.

    • Damien

      No, she’s the Queen and God is a fictional higher purpose to many who believe. Have some respect for the living, she’s fought your corner all of your life.

  • KWB

    So according to this article, the monarchy doesn’t have any real power except….in times of “crisis”. What would constitute crisis? A potential change in the status quo of the current constitution? A threat to the monarchy? Perhaps then, a Prime Minister who wants to get rid of the monarchy when perhaps members of his own and the other political parties are adamantly against doing so and perhaps with the people divided on the issue with some (of whichever side of the argument), threatening violence – or being said to threaten violence? The point is that it’s the body who holds the power at a time of crisis that has real power. And swearing allegiance to the Queen is not an empty platitude. It is something done by the armed forces when they are out risking their lives. That bond is affirmed day after day after day. I would bet that if the Queen decided to take on any elected Prime Minister, that there’s more than half a chance she would end up with the backing of the army.

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