To mark the Prince of Wales’s 70th Birthday, Robert Hazell reflects on the difficult role of Heir to the Throne, with reference to the roles of heirs apparent in other Western European monarchies. This comparative material has been assembled as part of our preparation for a forthcoming conference on monarchies in western Europe, to be held next March.
The Prince of Wales is 70 years old today. At an age when most people are comfortably enjoying their retirement, Prince Charles is still preparing to assume the role for which he has been waiting almost all his life. He became heir to the throne in 1952, and so far his apprenticeship has lasted 67 years. In 2011 he became the longest serving heir apparent in British history, overtaking King Edward VII, who spent 59 years in the role.
That is one of the difficulties of being heir apparent: a very long and uncertain period of waiting. Another is that the role is unspecified. The constitution is silent about the role; so it is left to each heir apparent to make of it what they can. Some, like Edward VII, have pursued wine, women and song (and gambling, shooting and racing); others like Prince Charles have a more serious bent, and want to make a contribution to the public good. The difficulty is to find a way of contributing to public life without becoming embroiled in political controversy.Continue reading →
Last month Robert Hazell and Bob Morris published two reports about the next Accession and Coronation, which were discussed in a previous blog. Along the way they gathered a lot of extra information, which has now been published on the Monarchy pages of the Constitution Unit website. The following represents a selection of the most frequently asked questions.
1. Will Prince Charles become King Charles III?
Not necessarily. He is free to choose his own regnal title. King Edward VII chose Edward as his regnal title, although hitherto he had been known by his first name of Albert. King Edward VIII also chose Edward as his regnal title, although he was known to his family and friends as David. Prince Charles’s Christian names are Charles Philip Arthur George. Instead of becoming King Charles he might choose to become King George VII, or King Philip, or King Arthur, although Clarence House has denied this in the past.
2. Will the Duchess of Cornwall become Queen Camilla?
Under common law the spouse of a King automatically becomes Queen. But there are two possible reasons why Camilla, who is currently the Duchess of Cornwall, might not assume the title. The first is the argument voiced by the Daily Mirror and Mail Online, that Camilla cannot become Queen because her 2005 civil marriage to Prince Charles was not valid. The argument runs as follows: because the Marriage Acts from 1753 have explicitly excepted royal marriages from their provisions, the only valid marriage which a member of the royal family could contract in England was a religious marriage in the Church of England. The Lord Chancellor in 2005 defended the validity of the Prince’s civil marriage, as did the Registrar General. But if Camilla became Queen, it might provoke further legal challenges. Continue reading →
With Prince Philip now retired from his public role and Prince Harry set to marry an American actor in the spring, the royal family has entered 2018 in the midst of a period of change. Yet change is nothing new; the monarchy is constantly evolving.Bob Morris asks where does it now stand and what further changes may be expected? He also discusses the historical accuracy and cultural impact of the popular Netflix drama, ‘The Crown’.
As the monarchy enters 2018, unavoidable demographic effects are becoming more apparent. The Queen is now 91 and Prince Philip has announced his retirement from official duties at the age of 96. The Queen remains commendably diligent in her public duties, notching up nearly 300 engagements in 2017, although none of those took place abroad. There it is evident that the Prince of Wales (himself close now to 70) has increasingly taken up the burden, assisted principally by the Duke of York and the Princess Royal. As in recent years, the latter continues to be the busiest member of the family for domestic engagements.
There continue to be small, mostly low-voiced susurrations of speculation about whether the Queen will herself ‘retire’ in some way when, for example, she reaches her husband’s age; whether she will be succeeded by Prince William rather than by Prince Charles; whether the new king would remain Head of the Commonwealth; and at what point any of the fifteen Commonwealth states where the Queen remains monarch (known as the realms) will turn themselves into fully-fledged republics. Continue reading →
Taken from Michael White’s article in the Guardian
Professor Robert Hazell, head of University College London’s Constitution Unit, argues that the most powerful case that republicans could make for abolishing the ancient British monarchy – practical rather than theoretical – is “the serious burdens it places on the royal family”.
“The Queen is 86, an age when most people have retired; she’s been in the job for 60 years with no prospect of relief until she dies. She won’t ease up and she feels her coronation oath was a sacrament, so there is no question of abdication. It is a very heavy burden, for which we will be applauding her this weekend. She’s stuck on the treadmill.”
Prince Charles? “He’s 63, itself an age when most people are starting to contemplate retirement, yet he’s not actually started the job he’s spent his adult life preparing for. That is burdensome, too. There are other demands we make on them in terms of the human rights we now value. The Queen has no freedom of expression or religious belief: she must be an Anglican in England and become a Presbyterian when she crosses the Scottish border. She has no freedom to travel, which the rest of us take for granted, and royal marriages need approval. It may be gilded, but it’s still a cage,” concludes Hazell.
Prince Charles has once again been thrown into the spotlight thanks to Freedom of Information. Following an investigation by the Guardian which made full use of FOI, “a secretive constitutional loophole” was discovered which gives Prince Charles the right to veto legislation that might affect his private interests in relation to his role as Duke of Cornwall. The Guardian claims that since 2005 Prince Charles’ consent has been sought for bills on up to seventeen occasions. Funnily enough, neither the government nor Clarence House has revealed what real impact the veto has had.
The Prince’s veto is intrinsically linked to the Duchy of Cornwall, created in 1337 by Edward III to provide an income for the Monarch’s eldest son and heir. The Duke of Cornwall must consent to laws which might affect his estate. The reason behind this parliamentary procedure is that, if no heir existed, the Duchy would revert to the monarch and is therefore subject to royal prerogative. Whilst the veto seems archaic and out of place in our modern representative democracy, its recent exposure has not prompted any moves to decrease the Prince’s influence. According to Downing Street, there are no plans to change the 700 year old convention.
The FOI request
In stark comparison, a request for environmental information (EIR) has instigated a groundbreaking change for the Duchy with regard to FOI. In 2008 Michael Bruton requested information from the Duchy regarding the introduction of non-native oysters to the Port Navas Oyster Farm, a designated conservation area. Bruton wished to know which environmental assessments had been carried out to ensure that introducing the non-native oysters would not have a detrimental effect. The Duchy, claiming itself to be a private estate, refused to give the information.
In October 2011, three years after the initial request for information, an information tribunal ruled that the Duchy of Cornwall should in fact be classed as a Public Authority, thus becoming subject to FOI and finally allowing Bruton to acces the information he requested. The Duchy had in fact failed to carry out an environmental assessment of the oyster farm.
The ruling by the information tribunal is not however just a personal victory for Bruton. In classifying the Duchy of Cornwall as a Public Authority, the estate has been completely redefined. Primarily because much of the Duchy’s actions impact on the environment, they will no longer be considered confidential, as has been the case for the past 700 years. The decision therefore makes the Duchy generally more open to public scrutiny and challenges. The past couple of weeks have therefore seen Prince Charles’ role as Duke of Cornwall both upheld (with his right to veto remaining intact) and undermined (being no longer exempt from FOI/EIR). Whilst he considers whether to appeal the tribunal’s decision, perhaps he should be reminded that, as the saying goes: you win some, you lose some.