A version of this story appeared in the January 21 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
After the Queen’s actions to retire Prince Andrew last week, questions have been raised about his remaining constitutional duty.
As Counsellor of State he may still be called upon to pick up some of the Queen’s duties if she were temporarily out of action due to illness or if she was traveling.
Under the Regency Act 1937, the group that the monarch can empower are the next four in line to the throne who are over the age of 21.
Those royals are Princes Charles, William, Andrew and Harry (after skipping over the Cambridge and Sussex children due to their young age).
The late Prince Philip, as the sovereign’s spouse, would also have been included if he were still alive.
To activate the counsellors, the Queen issues a directive known as Letters Patent to formally grant authority to two or more counsellors so they can fulfill many of her daily duties that keep the state ticking over. For example, attending Privy Council meetings, signing routine documents and receiving new ambassadors to the UK. They aren’t allowed to do the big stuff such as appointing a Prime Minister or deal with Commonwealth matters – that would have to wait until she was back.
Reports emerged in the UK this week suggesting palace officials were considering removing Prince Andrew and Prince Harry from their crucial roles as they are no longer actively working for “the firm.” Harry isn’t even resident in the UK.
Buckingham Palace has not commented on the speculation, but constitutional experts say it makes sense because the Regency Act was drawn up with counsellors in mind that are senior royals already working closely with the sovereign and who understand the everyday duties of the monarch.