Explained: Britain’s succession rules for a new sovereign

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip travel to Buckingham Palace in a semi-state landau along the procession route after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey in the central London, Britain April 29, 2011. REUTERS/Phil Noble/

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LONDON, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s monarch for more than seven decades, died on Thursday aged 96.

The following is an explanation of the rules of the British court regarding the accession of a new sovereign and a description of the powers and responsibilities of the monarch.

According to the British constitution, a sovereign accedes to the throne when his predecessor dies, even before being proclaimed to the people, and there is no interregnum.

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The new monarch is officially proclaimed king or queen by a special body called the Membership Council, to which the members of the Privy Council – a group of several hundred selected royal advisers, including cabinet members – are summoned.

A full session of the Privy Council is only convened upon the accession of a new sovereign or when the monarch announces his intention to marry, an event of great significance given the hereditary basis of the monarchy. Read more

Also invited to attend the Council of Accession which proclaims the new Sovereign are the Lords Spiritual and Temporal (i.e. Bishops of the Church of England who sit in the House of Lords, together with the Secular Peers of the kingdom) and the high commissioners of the nations of the Commonwealth. .

The coronation of the sovereign, which is in fact only a formal procedure of ratification, follows the accession after an interval of mourning. Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in June 1953, 16 months after the death of George VI.

The coronation takes place at Westminster Abbey in London in the presence of politicians, prominent public figures and representatives of countries from all over the world.

The sovereign reigns by grace of the Act of Establishment of 1701, which sets the rules of succession, decreeing that only Protestant descendants of a granddaughter of James I of England (Princess Sophie the Electress of Hanover ) can accede to the throne.

Until a new law in 2013, being married to a Roman Catholic also barred a royal from having a place in the line of succession. However, a Catholic still cannot become a monarch.

The 2013 legislation also removed the priority given to the male line, meaning any royal born on or after October 28, 2011 would not be discriminated against in succession to the throne because of their gender.

The late ruler’s wife plays no role in the succession, as the official role of the husband in the perpetuation of the dynasty ends with the act of procreation.

Except in the unique case of William III and Mary, who reigned jointly, the monarch reigns alone. The wives of royal men are accorded the rank and status of their husbands, while the male consorts of royal women have no automatic right to a title.

If the new sovereign is a minor, a regent appointed by the former king or queen is appointed to perform the official duties of the monarch until the new king or queen reaches maturity.

Traditionally, the sovereign is meant to personify the state he leads and symbolize a common bond between the countries that make up the United Kingdom. In law, the sovereign is the chief executive, an integral part of the legislature, head of the judiciary, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and supreme governor of the Church of England.

In effect, he or she automatically endorses government decisions and rules by the will of parliament. The monarch summons and prorogues parliament and invites the leader of the political party that won the general election to be prime minister and form a government.

In cases where there is a “suspended parliament”, with no party having an overall majority, the sovereign in the past could exercise personal judgment in choosing a leader, but now it is not expected that he is involved.

The British sovereign is also the head of the Commonwealth of nations from the British Empire and head of state of 14 other countries.

These are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines , Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

The monarchy is Britain’s oldest secular institution, with the royal family tracing its ancestry back to William the Conqueror in 1066 and even Egbert of Wessex, widely recognized as the first king of the English, in 829.

The sovereign is addressed as “”Your Majesty”.

Queen Elizabeth’s official title was “Her Most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth II, by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her other territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the faith”.

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Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Angus MacSwan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Explained: Britain’s succession rules for a new sovereign

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