The Sun Souvenir Royal Album

A commercial from 1988 for The Sun Souvenir Royal Album.

The Monarchy of the United Kingdom (commonly referred to as the British monarchy) is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories.

The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties. As a constitutional monarch, the Queen is limited to non-partisan functions such as bestowing honours. Though the ultimate executive authority over the government of the United Kingdom is still by and through the monarch’s royal prerogative, in practice these powers are only used according to laws enacted in Parliament or within the constraints of convention and precedent.

The British monarchy traces its origins from the kings of the Angles and the early Scottish kings. By the year 1000, the kingdoms of England and Scotland had resolved from the petty kingdoms of early medieval Britain. The last Anglo-Saxon monarch (Harold II) was defeated and killed in the Norman invasion of 1066 and the English monarchy passed to the Norman conquerors. In the thirteenth century, the principality of Wales was absorbed by England, and the Magna Carta began the process of reducing the political powers of the monarch. From 1603, when the Scottish king James VI inherited the English throne as James I, both kingdoms were ruled by a single monarch. From 1649 to 1660, the tradition of monarchy was broken by the republican Commonwealth of England that followed the War of the Three Kingdoms. In 1707, the kingdoms of England and Scotland were merged to create the Kingdom of Great Britain and, in 1801, the Kingdom of Ireland joined to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The British monarch became nominal head of the vast British Empire, which covered a quarter of the world at its greatest extent in 1921. In 1922, most of Ireland seceded from the Union as the Irish Free State, but in law the monarch remained sovereign there until 1949. After World War II, the declaration of Indian independence effectively brought the British Empire to an end. George VI and his successor, Elizabeth II, adopted the title Head of the Commonwealth as a symbol of the free association of the independent countries comprising the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1931, the unitary British monarchy throughout the empire was split into legally distinct crowns for each of the Commonwealth realms. At present, 15 other independent Commonwealth countries share the same monarch as the United Kingdom.


Constitutional role

In the uncodified Constitution of the United Kingdom legislative power is exercised by the two Houses of Parliament, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The Sovereign is the ceremonial Head of State. Oaths of allegiance are made to the Queen, and her lawful successors. God Save the Queen (or God Save the King) is the British national anthem, and the monarch appears on postage stamps, coins, and banknotes. As a constitutional monarch, the Sovereign’s role is largely limited to non-partisan functions, such as granting honours. This role has been recognised since the 19th century; the constitutional writer Walter Bagehot identified the monarchy in 1867 as the “dignified part” rather than the “efficient part” of government.

Whenever necessary, the Sovereign is responsible for appointing a new Prime Minister; the appointment is formalised at a ceremony known as Kissing Hands. In accordance with unwritten constitutional conventions, the Sovereign must appoint the individual who commands the support of the House of Commons, usually the leader of the party or coalition that has a majority in that House. In a “hung parliament”, in which no party or coalition holds a majority, the monarch has an increased degree of latitude in choosing the individual likely to command most support, but it would usually be the leader of the largest party. Since 1945, there has only been one hung parliament, following the February 1974 general election. After failed negotiations between the incumbent prime minister Edward Heath and Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, Heath resigned and Harold Wilson was appointed Prime Minister. Although Wilson’s Labour Party did not have a majority, they were the largest party. According to Lascelles Principles, if a minority government tried to dissolve Parliament to call an early election to strengthen its position, the monarch could refuse and allow opposition parties to form a coalition government. However, as Heath had already failed, when Wilson requested a dissolution later that year, the Queen granted his request. The resulting general election gave Wilson a small majority. The monarch may in theory unilaterally dismiss a Prime Minister, but in practice a Prime Minister’s term comes to an end only with death, resignation or electoral defeat. The last monarch to remove a Prime Minister was William IV, who dismissed Lord Melbourne in 1834.

Info gleaned from Wikipedia

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