King Charles’ Counsellors of State ‘under review’ says host
Prince William may need to deploy non-royals as Counsellors of State during his reign as it is highly likely he won’t be able to count on a large number of senior members of the Firm within a few decades, a constitutional expert has said. Author and lecturer in law at Bangor University Dr Craig Prescott considered the possible solutions King William and Queen Catherine may have to choose from after his accession to the throne when it comes to having enough Counsellors of State available – people able to stand in for him and carry out constitutional duties on his behalf whenever ill or outside of the country.
Referring to the debate on the Counsellors of State Bill which reached its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday, the expert told Express.co.uk: “The debate in the House of Lords on Monday was interesting because it did start to look longer into the future.
“In perhaps in 20 years or so, we may have a much smaller Royal Family, focused on William and Catherine as King and Queen, and their children, supported by Prince Edward. At this point Princess Anne will be in her 90s.
“At some stage, we may need to consider a different approach. It might be that we allow the heir to the throne to act alone, at least for certain functions.
“There are precedents of a sort, for example towards the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) held Privy Council meetings on her behalf as she travelled overseas.
Prince William is the heir to the throne
Kate and Prince William are two prominent working royals
“Another possibly might be to include non-royals amongst the pool of Counsellors of State, perhaps acting alongside a member of the Royal Family.
“This could involve retired Supreme Court judges, who like the Royal Family are politically impartial.
“Again, there are precedents, before the Regency Act was first passed in 1937, Counsellors of State were sometimes non-royals. For example in 1911, alongside Prince Arthur of Connaught, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord President of the Privy Council and the Lord Chancellor acted as Counsellors of State.
“It might be that in the long term, if there simply aren’t the members of the Royal Family available, we have to look at something along those lines. But this is perhaps something for the future, there’s no need to think about this just yet.”
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Prince William will accede to the throne after King Charles
King Charles can currently count on 10 full-time working members of the Firm, six of which are aged over 70s.
Given the advanced age of many senior royals and the fact that both Prince Harry and Prince Andrew are no longer performing public duties, William may be able to count only his wife Kate, his three children – Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis – and the Earl and Countess of Wessex in a few decades time as senior royals.
This could present an issue if the Royal Family will implement the plan announced on Monday not to draft any non-working members of the Firm as Counsellors of State.
Currently, who is eligible to be drafted as Counsellor of State is regulated by the Regency Act 1937 and 1953, which state the sovereign’s spouse and the next four people in the line of succession who are over the age of 21 – no matter their status within the Firm – can be chosen by the monarch as stands-in.
Princess Anne and Prince Edward may soon be added to the list of possible Counsellors of State
At least two Counsellors need to be drafted to carry out constitutional duties on behalf of the monarch.
However, Parliament is debating a new bill which would add to the pool of potential Counsellors available to King Charles both Princess Anne and Prince Edward.
Buckingham Palace informed the House of Lords via Lord True, the Lord Privy Seal, that, while this new Bill doesn’t exclude the current non-working royal who are also Counsellors – Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice – “in practice, working members – I repeat that – of the Royal Family will be called upon to act as Counsellors of State, and that diaries will be arranged to make this practicable”.
However, Labour peer Lord Berkeley proposed an amendment on Monday which proposed the Dukes of York and Sussex and “any other person who in the opinion of the Lord Chancellor has not in the immediately preceding two years taken royal duties on a regular basis” should be excluded from the role of stands-in for the sake of transparency.
Prince William may be able to count to a reduced number of working royals when he is King
Commenting on this amendment, Dr Prescott said: “Purely from a legal point of view, there’s little to be gained by removing Prince Harry and/or Prince Andrew.
“Even if they are removed, without appointing anyone else, in practice we will have Prince William, Prince Edward and Princess Anne as the active Counsellors of State.
“Largely the same effect could be achieved, and address the transparency point if Buckingham Palace issued a notice on their website stating that only those who perform public duties will act as a Counsellor of State.”