What governmental power does the Monarch hold in Great Britain in practice?



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?


Posted 2013-04-09T16:46:44.563

Reputation: 8 282


Possible duplicate of What personal decision-making powers does the British monarch retain in practice?

– JonathanReez – 2019-10-03T21:48:10.443


Related: Why don't British kings and queens veto laws?

– yannis – 2013-04-11T01:01:42.693



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.


Posted 2013-04-09T16:46:44.563

Reputation: 900

“Any of these powers can be removed or otherwise modified by an act of Parliament” — true, but if I understand correctly (and there’s a good chance I don’t), acts of Parliament don’t become law until they receive royal assent. So, in theory, the monarch could veto any law removing their power to veto any law. While we’ve got precedent for beheading monarchs who get too bolshy, and the monarch hasn’t refused royal assent since 1707 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/bbc_parliament/2327561.stm, https://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/royal-assent/), it could happen again.

– Paul D. Waite – 2018-07-10T09:08:48.973

1The real reason is probably "because the population would become very anti-monarchy if the monarch started independently using her political powers". Though, theoretically all MPs must swear an oath to defend the monarch, before they are allowed to take their seat in the Commons (that's why Gerry Adams never took his seat). – Robin Green – 2014-01-12T20:13:16.753


99 years ago, on easter, the Danish king dismissed the government and put in one of his own liking. It caused general strike and had the king not reversed his decision in a week, he'd probably be the last king. "Following the crisis, Christian accepted his drastically reduced role as symbolic head of state.", (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Crisis_of_1920) I belive the situation would be the same in UK, the queen only have the powers she have, because she doesn't use them.

– Lenne – 2019-04-06T23:16:16.573

7How parliament have remove them if it can be dissolved by the queen at any moment? – Anixx – 2013-04-10T02:23:42.727

3I think your answer would benefit from a source that backs up your final paragraph. – SoylentGray – 2013-04-10T12:30:37.283

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 – 2013-04-10T15:15:00.720

5@SteveMelnikoff: "constitutional convention" is a nice euphemism for "we don't really have a constitution". :-) – Martin Schröder – 2013-04-10T22:54:12.340

5Worthy 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 – 2017-05-10T17:15:19.627