United Kingdom

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Posted by sonny 02/27/2009 @ 03:38

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A kingdom of style - San Francisco Chronicle
Raised in the United Kingdom, Rachel Eden - a former graphic designer and jewelry designer - moved to California nearly 20 years ago. In 2006, when she opened her shop in Jackson Square, she brought a little bit of her homeland to San Francisco....
Government debt swells as choices get harder - San Francisco Chronicle
Japan has lost its AAA credit rating, the United Kingdom may soon follow, and there is talk that the United States is headed fast down the same path. The markets fired a warning shot last week when the Treasury Department announced a huge sale of new...
Why S&P Lowered Its UK Debt Outlook - BusinessWeek
On May 21, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services revised its outlook on the United Kingdom to negative from stable. At the same time, the AAA long-term and A-1+ short-term sovereign credit ratings were affirmed. Rating outlooks assess the potential...
OECD says world economy "out of free fall" - Reuters
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) head Angel Gurria, clearly moving to dispel fears around investment ratings, told a Madrid conference: "A rating cut of the United Kingdom would be inexplicable." He acknowledged there was a...
With UK AAA Rating In Jeopardy, Is US Next? - Wall Street Journal Blogs
By Matt Phillips Brows are furrowing and told-ya-so's reverberating on both sides of the pond this morning, after S&P issued a formal warning that the United Kingdom could lose its cherished triple-A if the government doesn't move to rein in yawning...
Mandated HPV Vaccine at Question in UK - OpEdNews
In an effort to address an apparent increase in female cervical cancer, and bowing to the intense lobby activities of UK drug giant, glaxosmithkline for their "wonder drug" Cervarix, the British government began a program to vaccinate all secondary...
Vodafone Loses Tax Appeal with UK Tax Man - Cellular-News
Under UK tax legislation introduced in 1988, the profits of a foreign company in which a UK company owns a holding of more than 50% (known as a controlled foreign company, or CFC) are attributed to the resident company and subjected to tax in the UK,...
European shares hit by US, UK worry; commods fall - Reuters
Adding to investor nerves, Standard & Poor's cut its outlook on the United Kingdom to negative from stable, saying the country's debt burden may approach 100 percent of gross domestic product and stay at that level in the medium term....
UK Court Clears eBay in ... - InternetNews.com
By Kenneth Corbin: More stories by this author: A high court in the United Kingdom has ruled that eBay cannot be held accountable for the sale of counterfeit L'Oreal perfumes and face creams. The cosmetics maker had argued that knockoffs were rampant...
Local Urban Groovers Humbled by UK Invitation - The Zimbabwe Standard
URBAN groovers can finally claim that their genre is now getting the attention they have been craving, after some of its torch-bearers were invited to perform in the United Kingdom. Mafriq, bad boys Roki and Winky Dee will share the stage with Thomas...

Victoria of the United Kingdom

Queen Victoria -Golden Jubilee -3a cropped.JPG

Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was from 20 June 1837 the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and from 1 May 1876 the first Empress of India of the British Raj until her death. Her reign as the Queen lasted 63 years and seven months, longer than that of any other British monarch to date. The period centred on her reign is known as the Victorian era, a time of industrial, political, and military progress within the United Kingdom.

Though Victoria ascended the throne at a time when the United Kingdom was already an established constitutional monarchy in which the king or queen held few political powers and exercised its influence by the prime minister's advice, she still served as a very important symbolic figure of her time. The Victorian era represented the height of the Industrial Revolution, a period of significant social, economic, and technological progress in the United Kingdom. Victoria's reign was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire; during this period it reached its zenith, becoming the foremost global power of the time.

Victoria, who was of almost entirely German descent, was the granddaughter of George III and the niece of her predecessor William IV. She arranged marriages for her nine children and forty-two grandchildren across the continent, tying Europe together; this earned her the nickname "the grandmother of Europe". She was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover; her son King Edward VII belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

William IV was the father of ten illegitimate children by his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan, but had no surviving legitimate children. As a result, the young Princess Victoria, his niece, became heiress presumptive.

The law at the time made no special provision for a child monarch. Therefore, a Regent needed to be appointed if Victoria were to succeed to the throne before coming of age at the age of eighteen. Parliament passed the Regency Act 1830, which provided that Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, would act as Regent during the Queen's minority, if she acceded to the throne while still a minor. Parliament did not create a council to limit the powers of the Regent. King William disliked the Duchess and, on at least one occasion, stated that he wanted to live until Victoria's 18th birthday, so a regency could be avoided.

Princess Victoria met her future husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when she was just seventeen in 1836. But it was not until a second meeting in 1839 that she said of him: "...dear Albert... He is so sensible, so kind, and so good, and so amiable too. He has besides, the most pleasing and delightful exterior and appearance you can possibly see." Prince Albert was Victoria's first cousin; his father was her mother's brother, Ernst. As a monarch, Victoria had to propose to him and in 1840 they married. Their marriage proved to be very happy.

On 24 May 1837 Victoria turned 18, and the regency was avoided. On 20 June 1837, Victoria was awakened by her mother to find that William IV had died from heart failure at the age of 71. In her diary Victoria wrote, "I was awoke at 6 o'clock by Mamma ...who told me the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more, and had expired at 12 minutes past 2 this morning, and consequently that I am Queen..." Victoria was now Queen of the United Kingdom. Her coronation took place on 28 June 1838, and she became the first Monarch to take up residence at Buckingham Palace.

Under Salic Law, however, no woman could be heir to the throne of Hanover, a realm which had shared a monarch with Britain since 1714. Hanover passed to her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, who became King Ernest Augustus I. (He was the fifth son and eighth child of George III.) As the young queen was as yet unmarried and childless, Ernest Augustus also remained the heir presumptive to the throne of the United Kingdom until Victoria's first child was born in 1840.

At the time of her accession, the government was controlled by the Whig Party, which had been in power, except for brief intervals, since 1830. The Whig Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, at once became a powerful influence in the life of the politically inexperienced Queen, who relied on him for advice—some even referred to Victoria as "Mrs. Melbourne". However, the Melbourne ministry would not stay in power for long; it was growing unpopular and, moreover, faced considerable difficulty in governing the British colonies, especially during the Rebellions of 1837. In 1839, Lord Melbourne resigned after the Radicals and the Tories (both of whom Victoria detested at that time) joined together to block a Bill before the House of Commons that would have suspended the Constitution of Jamaica.

Victoria's principal adviser was her uncle King Leopold I of Belgium (her mother's brother, and the widower of Princess Charlotte). Queen Victoria's cousins, through Leopold, were King Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico.

The Queen then commissioned Sir Robert Peel, a Tory, to form a new ministry, but was faced with a débâcle known as the Bedchamber Crisis. At the time, it was customary for appointments to the Royal Household to be based on the patronage system (that is, for the Prime Minister to appoint members of the Royal Household on the basis of their party loyalties). Many of the Queen's Ladies of the Bedchamber were wives of Whigs, but Sir Robert Peel expected to replace them with wives of Tories. Victoria strongly objected to the removal of these ladies, whom she regarded as close friends rather than as members of a ceremonial institution. Sir Robert Peel felt that he could not govern under the restrictions imposed by the Queen, and consequently resigned his commission, allowing Melbourne to return to office.

The Queen married her first cousin, Prince Albert, on 10 February 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, London. Albert became not only the Queen's companion, but an important political advisor, replacing Lord Melbourne as the dominant figure in the first half of her life following Melbourne's death.

During Victoria's first pregnancy, eighteen-year-old Edward Oxford attempted to assassinate the Queen while she was riding in a carriage with Prince Albert in London. Oxford fired twice, but both bullets missed. He was tried for high treason, but was acquitted on the grounds of insanity. Despite the shooting, the first of the royal couple's nine children, named Victoria, was born on 21 November 1840.

Further attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria occurred between May and July 1842. First, on 29 May at St. James's Park, John Francis fired a pistol at the Queen while she was in a carriage, but was immediately seized by Police Constable William Trounce. Francis was convicted of high treason. The death sentence was commuted to transportation for life. Additionally, on 13 June 1842, Victoria made her first journey by train, travelling from Slough railway station (near Windsor Castle) to Bishop's Bridge, near Paddington (in London), in a special royal carriage provided by the Great Western Railway. Accompanying her were her husband and the engineer of the Great Western line, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The Queen and the Prince Consort both complained the train was going too fast at 20 mph (30 km/h), fearing the train would derail off the railway line. Then, on 3 July, just days after Francis's sentence was commuted, another boy, John William Bean, attempted to shoot the Queen. Prince Albert felt that the attempts were encouraged by Oxford's acquittal in 1840. Although his gun was loaded only with paper and tobacco, his crime was still punishable by death. Feeling that such a penalty would be too harsh, Prince Albert encouraged Parliament to pass the Treason Act 1842. Under the new law, an assault with a dangerous weapon in the monarch's presence with the intent of alarming her was made punishable by seven years imprisonment and flogging. Bean was thus sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment; however, neither he, nor any person who violated the act in the future, was flogged.

Peel's ministry soon faced a crisis involving the repeal of the Corn Laws. Many Tories—by then known also as Conservatives—were opposed to the repeal, but some Tories (the "Peelites") and most Whigs supported it. Peel resigned in 1846, after the repeal narrowly passed, and was replaced by Lord John Russell. Russell's ministry, though Whig, was not favoured by the Queen. Particularly offensive to Victoria was the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, who often acted without consulting the Cabinet, the Prime Minister, or the Queen.

In 1849, Victoria lodged a complaint with Lord John Russell, claiming that Palmerston had sent official dispatches to foreign leaders without her knowledge. She repeated her remonstrance in 1850, but to no avail. It was only in 1851 that Lord Palmerston was removed from office; he had on that occasion announced the British government's approval for President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte's coup in France without prior consultation of the Prime Minister.

The period during which Russell was Prime Minister also proved personally distressing to Queen Victoria. In 1849, an unemployed and disgruntled Irishman named William Hamilton attempted to alarm the Queen by firing a powder-filled pistol as her carriage passed along Constitution Hill, London. Hamilton was charged under the 1842 act; he pleaded guilty and received the maximum sentence of seven years of penal transportation.

In 1850, the Queen did sustain injury when she was assaulted by a possibly insane ex-Army officer, Robert Pate. As Victoria was riding in a carriage, Pate struck her with his cane, crushing her bonnet and bruising her. Pate was later tried; he failed to prove his insanity, and received the same sentence as Hamilton.

The young Queen Victoria fell in love with Ireland, choosing to holiday in Killarney in Kerry. Her love of the island was matched by initial Irish warmth towards the young Queen. In 1845, Ireland was hit by a potato blight that over four years cost the lives of over one million Irish people and saw the emigration of another million. In response to what came to be called the Irish Potato Famine (An Gorta Mór - Irish for "The Great Famine"), the Queen personally donated £2,000 sterling to the starving Irish people.

However, the policies of her minister Lord John Russell were often blamed for exacerbating the severity of the famine, which adversely affected the Queen's popularity in Ireland. Victoria was a strong supporter of the Irish; she supported the Maynooth Grant and made a point, on visiting Ireland, of visiting the seminary.

Victoria's first official visit to Ireland, in 1849, was specifically arranged by Lord Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—the head of the British administration—to try to both draw attention from the famine and alert British politicians through the Queen's presence to the seriousness of the crisis in Ireland. Despite the negative impact of the famine on the Queen's popularity she remained popular enough for nationalists at party meetings to finish by singing "God Save the Queen".

By the 1870s and 1880s the monarchy's appeal in Ireland had diminished substantially, partly because Victoria refused to visit Ireland in protest at the Dublin Corporation's decision not to congratulate her son, the Prince of Wales on both his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark and on the birth of the royal couple's oldest son, Prince Albert Victor.

Victoria refused repeated pressure from a number of prime ministers, lords lieutenant and even members of the Royal Family, to establish a royal residence in Ireland. Lord Midleton, the former head of the Irish unionist party, writing in his memoirs of 1930 Ireland: Dupe or Heroine?, described this decision as having proved disastrous to the monarchy and British rule in Ireland.

The Queen paid her last visit to Ireland in 1900, when she came to appeal to Irishmen to join the British Army and fight in the Second Boer War. Nationalist opposition to her visit was spearheaded by Arthur Griffith, who established an organisation called Cumann na nGaedhael to unite the opposition. Five years later Griffith used the contacts established in his campaign against the queen's visit to form a new political movement, Sinn Féin.

The Prince Consort died of typhoid fever on 14 December 1861 due to the primitive sanitary conditions at Windsor Castle. His death devastated Victoria, who was still affected by the death of her mother earlier that year. She entered a state of mourning and wore black for the remainder of her life. She avoided public appearances and rarely set foot in London in the following years. Her seclusion earned her the name "Widow of Windsor." She blamed her son Edward, the Prince of Wales, for his father's death, since news of the Prince's poor conduct had come to his father in November, leading Prince Albert to travel to Cambridge to confront his son.

Victoria's self-imposed isolation from the public greatly diminished the popularity of the monarchy, and even encouraged the growth of the republican movement. Although she did undertake her official government duties, she chose to remain secluded in her royal residences—Balmoral Castle in Scotland, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Windsor Castle.

As time went by Victoria began to rely increasingly on a manservant from Scotland, John Brown. A romantic connection and even a secret marriage have been alleged, but both charges are generally discredited. However, when Victoria's remains were laid in the coffin, two sets of mementos were placed with her, at her request. By her side was placed one of Albert's dressing gowns while in her left hand was placed a piece of Brown's hair, along with a picture of him. It was learned in 2008 that Victoria's body wore the wedding ring of John Brown's mother, placed on her hand after her death. Rumours of an affair and marriage earned Victoria the nickname "Mrs Brown". The story of their relationship was the subject of the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown.

In 1887, the British Empire celebrated Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Victoria marked the fiftieth anniversary of her accession on 20 June with a banquet to which 50 European kings and princes were invited. Although she could not have been aware of it, there was a plan—ostensibly by Irish anarchists—to blow up Westminster Abbey while the Queen attended a service of thanksgiving. This assassination attempt, when it was discovered, became known as the Jubilee Plot. On the next day, she participated in a procession that, in the words of Mark Twain, "stretched to the limit of sight in both directions". By this time, Victoria was once again an extremely popular monarch.

On 22 September 1896, Victoria surpassed George III as the longest-reigning monarch in English, Scottish, and British history. The Queen requested all special public celebrations of the event to be delayed until 1897, to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee. The Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, proposed that the Diamond Jubilee be made a festival of the British Empire.

The Prime Ministers of all the self-governing dominions and colonies were invited. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee procession included troops from every British colony and dominion, together with soldiers sent by Indian princes and chiefs as a mark of respect to Victoria, the Empress of India. The Diamond Jubilee celebration was an occasion marked by great outpourings of affection for the septuagenarian Queen. A service of thanksgiving was held outside St. Paul's Cathedral. Queen Victoria sat in her carriage throughout the service; she wore her usual black mourning dress trimmed with white lace. Many trees were planted to celebrate the Jubilee, including 60 oak trees at Henley-on-Thames in the shape of a Victoria Cross. The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War, and it remains to this day the highest British award for bravery.

Following a custom she maintained throughout her widowhood, Victoria spent the Christmas of 1900 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She died there from a cerebral hemorrhage and declining health on Tuesday 22 January 1901 at half past six in the afternoon, at the age of 81. At her deathbed she was attended by her son, the future King, and her eldest grandson, German Emperor William II. As she had wished, her own sons lifted her into the coffin. She was dressed in a white dress and her wedding veil. Her funeral was held on Saturday 2 February, and after two days of lying-in-state, she was interred beside Prince Albert in Frogmore Mausoleum at Windsor Great Park. Since Victoria disliked black funerals, London was instead festooned in purple and white. When she was laid to rest at the mausoleum, it began to snow.

Flags in the United States were lowered to half-staff in her honour by order of President William McKinley, a tribute never before offered to a foreign monarch at the time and one which was repaid by Britain when McKinley was assassinated later that year. Victoria had reigned for a total of 63 years, seven months and two days—the longest of any British monarch—and surpassed her grandfather, George III, as the longest-lived monarch three days before her death. She was subsequently surpassed by her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II on 21 December 2007.

Victoria's death brought an end to the rule of the House of Hanover in the United Kingdom. As her husband belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, her son and heir Edward VII was the first British monarch of this new house. Later, in 1917, her grandson King George V changed the house name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the (currently serving) House of Windsor.

Victoria outlived 3 of her 9 children, and came within seven months of outliving a fourth (her eldest daughter, Vicky, who died of spinal cancer in August 1901 aged 60. She outlived 11 of her 42 grandchildren (3 stillborn, 6 as children, and 2 as adults).

Queen Victoria's reign marked the gradual establishment of modern constitutional monarchy. A series of legal reforms saw the House of Commons' power increase, at the expense of the House of Lords and the monarchy, with the monarch's role becoming gradually more symbolic. Since Victoria's reign the monarch has had only, in Walter Bagehot's words, "the right to be consulted, the right to advise, and the right to warn".

As Victoria's monarchy became more symbolic than political, it placed a strong emphasis on morality and family values, in contrast to the sexual, financial and personal scandals that had been associated with previous members of the House of Hanover and which had discredited the monarchy. Victoria's reign created for Britain the concept of the "family monarchy" with which the burgeoning middle classes could identify.

Victoria was the first known carrier of haemophilia in the royal line. Since no haemophiliacs were among her known ancestors, hers was quite possibly an instance of spontaneous mutation, which account for about 33% of all haemophilia A and 20% of all haemophilia B cases. The sudden appearance of haemophilia in Victoria's descendants has led to suggestions that her true father was not the Duke of Kent but a haemophiliac. This belief is dismissed by geneticists, who consider it more likely that the mutation arose because Victoria's father was old (haemophilia arises more frequently in the children of older fathers). There is no documentary evidence of a haemophiliac man in connection with Victoria's mother, and as male carriers always suffer the disease, even if such a man had existed he would have been seriously ill. Evidence indicates Victoria passed the gene on to two of her five daughters: Princess Alice and Princess Beatrice. Her son, Prince Leopold, was affected by the disease. The most famous haemophilia victims among her descendants were her great-grandson, Alexei, Tsarevich of Russia, and Alfonso, Prince of Asturias and Infante Gonzalo of Spain, the eldest and youngest sons of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Victoria Eugenie (Victoria's granddaughter).

Queen Victoria experienced unpopularity during the first years of her widowhood, but afterwards became extremely well-liked during the 1880s and 1890s. In 2002, the BBC conducted a poll regarding the 100 Greatest Britons; Victoria attained the eighteenth place.

The design of the Queen's head on the first postage stamp was based upon the 1837 Wyon City medal engraved by a famous coin engraver William Wyon. The design of Queen Victoria's head is based on a sitting when she was a princess aged 15. Victoria also started the tradition of a bride wearing a white dress at her wedding. Before Victoria's wedding a bride would wear her best dress of no particular colour.

Internationally Victoria was a major figure, not just in image or in terms of Britain's influence through the empire, but also because of family links throughout Europe's royal families, earning her the affectionate nickname "the grandmother of Europe". For example, three of the main monarchs with countries involved in the First World War on the opposing side were either grandchildren of Victoria's or married to a grandchild of hers. Eight of Victoria's nine children married members of European royal families, and the other, Princess Louise, married Marquess of Lorne, a future Governor-General of Canada.

Victoria and Albert had 42 grandchildren and their current descendants number into the hundreds. As of 2009, the European monarchs and former monarchs descended from Victoria are: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (as well as her husband), King Harald V of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Juan Carlos I of Spain (as well as his wife), and the deposed kings Constantine II of Greece (as well as his wife) and Michael of Romania. The pretenders to the thrones of Serbia, Russia, Prussia and Germany, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Hanover, Hesse, Baden and France (Legitimist) are also descendants.

Several places in the world have been named after Victoria, including two Australian States (Victoria and Queensland), the capitals of British Columbia (Victoria), and Saskatchewan (Regina), the capital of the Seychelles, Africa's largest lake, and Victoria Falls.

Victoria Day is a Canadian statutory holiday celebrated on the last Monday before or on 24 May in honour of both Queen Victoria's birthday and the current reigning Canadian Sovereign's birthday. While Victoria Day is often thought of as a purely Canadian event, it is also celebrated in some parts of Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh and Dundee, where it is also a public holiday.

Queen Victoria remains the most commemorated British monarch in history, with statues to her erected throughout the former territories of the British Empire. These range from the prominent, such as the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace—which was erected as part of the remodelling of the façade of the Palace a decade after her death—to the obscure: in the town of Cape Coast, Ghana, a bust of the Queen presides, rather forlornly, over a small park where goats graze around her. Many institutions, thoroughfares, parks, and structures bear her name.

There is a statue of Queen Victoria in Victoria Square in Adelaide, capital city of the Australian state of South Australia; in Queen's Square in Brisbane, capital city of the Australian state of Queensland; and in the Domain Gardens in Melbourne, the capital of the Australian State of Victoria. In Perth, capital city of Western Australian a marble statue stands in King's Park overlooking the city surrounded by canon used at the Battle of Waterloo. A bronze statue of Queen Victoria stands in the main street of the city of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia. At Bangalore, India, the statue of the Queen stands at the beginning of MG Road, one of the city's major roads. Statues erected to Victoria are common in Canada, where her reign was coterminous with the confederation of the country and the creation of several new provinces. A bas-relief image of Victoria is on the wall of the entrance to the Canadian Parliament, and her statue is in the Parliamentary library as well as on the grounds.

Queen Victoria invited Martha Ann Ricks, on behalf of Liberian Ambassador Edward Wilmont Blyden, to Windsor Castle on 16 July 1892. Martha Ricks, a former slave from Tennessee, had saved her pennies for more than fifty years, to afford the voyage from Liberia to England to personally thank the Queen for sending the British navy to patrol the coast of West Africa to prevent slavers from exporting Africans for the slave trade. Martha Ricks shook hands with the Queen and presented her with a Coffee Tree quilt, which Queen Victoria later sent to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition for display. A mystery remains as to where the Coffee Tree quilt is today. The royal Victoria Teaching Hospital In The Gambia is also named after the Queen.

As the male-line granddaughter of a King of Hanover, Victoria also bore the titles of Princess of Hanover and Duchess of Brunswick and Lunenburg. In addition, she held the titles of Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess in Saxony etc. as the wife of Prince Albert.

Victoria's coat of arms was not uniform throughout the United Kingdom: Quarterly, I and IV Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland). This same coat of arms has been used by every subsequent British monarch.

Victoria's Royal Cypher was the first to be used on a postbox. The letters are VR interlaced, standing for "Victoria Regina". Although Victoria eventually used the cypher VRI ("Victoria Regina Imperatrix") when she became Empress, this never appeared on postboxes. Victoria's cypher was the only one to appear on postboxes without a crown above it.

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Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Churchill waves to  the Crowds After Announcing the Surrender of Germany 1945  The inherent flexibility of the office  of Prime Minister allowed Lloyd George and Churchill to assume, albeit temporarily, almost dictatorial powers during the Great War and World War II.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the political leader of the United Kingdom and the Head of His/Her Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister and Cabinet (consisting of all the most senior government department heads) are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament (of which they are members), to their political party, and ultimately the electorate.

The Prime Minister is the head of the UK Government and is ultimately responsible for the policy and decisions of Government.

As head of the UK Government the Prime Minister also oversees the operation of the civil service and Government agencies, appoints members of the Cabinet, and is the principal Government figure in the House of Commons.

The United Kingdom does not have a codefied constitution. The position of Prime Minister is the result of political evolution, rather than legislation. Modern Prime Ministers have few statutory powers but, provided they can command the support of their parliamentary party, they can control both the legislature (the House of Commons) and the executive (the Cabinet) and hence wield considerable de facto powers.

The current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is Gordon Brown, who came to power after a party leadership election in June 2007.

The modern Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wields broad executive and legislative powers. The incumbent leads a major political party, commands a majority in the House of Commons (the Legislature), and is the leader of the Cabinet (the Executive). Under the British system, there is a unity of powers rather than separation as in other democracies. Called "royal prerogatives", many of these powers are still formally vested in the Head of State, the Sovereign. In practice, they were devolved to the Prime Minister as incumbents gradually acquired, after 1688, a dominant position in the constitutional hierarchy vis-à-vis the Sovereign, the Houses of Commons and Lords in Parliament, and the Cabinet.

The Premiership was not intentionally created like other democratic heads of government. The office is not defined by a codified Constitution, but by customs known as conventions that evolved as Sovereigns, Parliament, Prime Ministers and the Cabinet reacted to events and resolved issues as they arose.

Until the 20th century, the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Sovereign, Parliament, and Cabinet was – and to a large extent still is – defined by conventions. The Premiership developed in the shadow of the Monarchy, competing with it for executive authority. Before the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Sovereign was both Head of State and Government. Afterwards, Parliament allowed the Sovereign to remain Head of State, but gradually placed day-to-day governance under its control. It did not, however, create a formal mechanism by which to wield these executive powers.

The position of Prime Minister filled this void. Evolving slowly and erratically behind the scenes, Parliament transferred executive powers to the Cabinet led by First Lord of the Treasury, who became known unofficially as the Prime Minister. During the same period, Parliament deferentially maintained the legal fiction that the Sovereign retained the power to govern directly, giving little formal recognition to the position of Prime Minister.

This arrangement makes it appear that Britain has two executives: the Prime Minister and the Sovereign. The concept of "the Crown" resolves this paradox. The Crown symbolises the state’s authority to govern: to make laws and execute them, impose taxes and collect them, sign treaties, declare war and make peace. Before 1688, the Sovereign wore the Crown and exercised the powers it symbolizes. Afterwards, Parliament gradually made Sovereigns give up these powers and forced them assume a neutral political position. They placed the Crown in "commission", entrusting its authority to responsible Ministers (the Prime Minister and Cabinet), accountable for their policies and actions to Parliament and the people. Although the Sovereign still wears the Crown, Parliament has removed her from everyday governance, leaving her in practice with three constitutional rights: to be kept informed, to advise, and to warn.

Since the Premiership was not intentionally created but evolved, there is no exact date when the process began. A meaningful starting point, however, is 1688 when James II fled England. The throne being vacant, the Parliament of England confirmed William and Mary as England's joint constitutional monarchs, enacting legislation that limited their authority and that of their successors: the Bill of Rights (1689), the Mutiny Bill (1689), the Triennial Bill (1694), the Treason Act (1696) and the Act of Settlement (1701). Known collectively as the Revolutionary Settlement, these acts transformed the constitution, shifting the balance of power from the Sovereign to Parliament. Unknown at the time, they also provided the basis for the evolution of the Prime Minister.

The Revolutionary Settlement gave the Commons control over finances and legislation and, thereby, changed the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature. Meeting every year (rather than irregularly at the Sovereign’s summons as in centuries past), Parliament became a permanent feature of political life. Sovereigns could not live on their own income. For want of money, they had to summon Parliament annually and could no longer dissolve or prorogue it without its advice and consent. The veto prerogative fell into disuse because Sovereigns feared that if they denied legislation, Parliament would deny them money. No Sovereign has denied royal assent since Queen Anne vetoed the Scottish Militia Bill in 1708.

Treasury officials and other department heads were drawn into Parliament serving as liaisons between the Sovereign and Parliament. In this new capacity, Ministers had to present and defend the government's policies, and negotiate with Members to gain the support of the majority; they had to explain the government’s financial needs, suggest ways of meeting them and give an account of how money had been spent, particularly in the House of Commons since it held the purse strings. The Sovereign’s representatives became so important and attended Commons sessions so regularly that they were given reserved seats at the front, known as the Treasury Bench. This is the beginning of "unity of powers": the Sovereign's Ministers (the Executive) became leading members of Parliament (the Legislature). Today, the Prime Minister (First Lord of the Treasury), the Chancellor of the Exchequer (responsible for the budget) and other senior members of the Cabinet sit on the Treasury bench and present policies in much the same way Ministers did late in the 17th century.

After the Revolution, there was a constant threat that non-government members of Parliament would ruin the country's finances by proposing ill-considered money bills. Vying for control over the budget to avoid chaos, the Crown's Ministers – those who sit on the Treasury Bench – gained an advantage in 1706 when the Commons informally declared, "That this House will receive no petition for any sum of money relating to public Service, but what is recommended from the Crown." Seven years later, on June 11, 1713, this non-binding rule became Standing Order 66: that “the Commons would not vote money for any purpose, except on a motion of a Minister of the Crown.” Standing Order 66 remains in effect today, essentially unchanged for three hundred years.

Empowering Ministers with sole financial initiative had an immediate and lasting impact. Apart from achieving its intended purpose – to stabilise the budgetary process – it naturally gave the Crown a leadership role in the Commons, and, just as naturally, the Lord Treasurer assumed a leading position among Ministers. The power of financial initiative was not, however, absolute. Only Ministers might initiate money bills, but Parliament now reviewed and consented to them. Standing Order 66 therefore represents the beginnings of Ministerial responsibility and accountability.

Because the Head of the Treasury had a natural leadership position in Parliament and the government, the term "Prime Minister" first appears at this time as an unofficial title for those who held that office. Jonathan Swift, for example, wrote in 1713 about "those who are now commonly called Prime Minister among us", referring to Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin and Robert Harley, Queen Anne's Lord Treasurers and chief ministers. From this time, every head of the Sovereign's government – with one exception in the 18th century and one in the 19th – has been either Lord High Treasurer or, more commonly, First Lord of the Treasury.

The modern Prime Minister is the leader of a major political party with millions of followers. In the general election of 1997, for example, 13.5 million people voted for the Labour Party led by Tony Blair; 9.6 million for the Conservative Party, led by John Major, the incumbent Prime Minister; and, 5.2 million for the Liberal Democrat Party led by Paddy Ashdown. Generally agreeing on policies, party leaders and their supporters suppress their differences of opinion at the polls for the sake of gaining a majority of seats in the Commons and being able to form a government.

The first political parties appeared during the Exclusion Crisis of 1678–1681. The Whigs, who believed in limited Monarchy, wanted to exclude James Stuart from succeeding to the throne because he was a Catholic, and espoused absolutist ideas about the powers of Kingship. The Tories, who believed in the "Divine Right of Kings", defended James' hereditary claim. These parties would dominate British politics for over 150 years, the Whigs generally being more liberal; the Tories more conservative. Indeed, in the 19th century, the Whigs evolved into the Liberal Party; the Tories, the Conservative. Even today, Conservatives are often called "Tories".

Political parties were not as organised in the 17th century as they would become in the 19th and 20th. They were more like factions with "members" drifting in and out, collaborating temporarily on issues when it was to their advantage, then disbanding when it was not. A major deterrent to the development of opposing parties was the idea that there could only be one: the “King’s Party”. To oppose the King’s party was disloyal, even treasonous. This idea lingered throughout the 18th century. Nevertheless, it became possible at the end of the 17th century to identify Parliaments and Ministries as being either "Whig" or "Tory" in composition.

The modern Prime Minister is also the leader of the Cabinet. A convention of the constitution, the modern Cabinet is a group of about twenty ministers who formulate policies. For example, former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s first Cabinet from 1997 – 2001 consisted of 22 members. As the temporary political heads of government departments – such as foreign affairs and education – Cabinet Ministers ensure that policies are carried out by permanent civil servants. Although the modern Prime Minister selects Ministers, the Sovereign, by custom, still officially appoints them. With the Prime Minister as its leader, the Cabinet forms the "executive branch" in the British system.

The term "Cabinet" first appears after the Revolutionary Settlement to describe those ministers who conferred privately with the Sovereign. The growth of the Cabinet as the executive council met with widespread complaint and opposition because its meetings were often held in secret, and it excluded the ancient, once powerful Privy Council from the Sovereign's circle of trusted advisers, reducing it to an honorary body.

The nascent Cabinet included the Treasurer and other department heads who sat on the Treasury bench as it does today. However, it might also include, depending on the Sovereign's preferences, household officers (such as the Master of the Horse) and even members of the royal family who held no office and had neither skills in governance nor political influence.

Early in his reign, William (1688-1702) preferred "Mixed Ministries" choosing his ministers from both the Tory and Whig parties to get all points of view and dilute the power of each. This approach did not work well. His Cabinets had no recognised leader and Ministers tended to bicker with each other and work at odds in the execution of policies. This has been the case ever since. Mixed Ministries or Coalitions have rarely been effective under the British system, except in times of crisis like the Great War (1914–1918) and the Second World War (1939–1945).

Mixed Ministries having failed, William formed a homogeneous Whig ministry in 1697 known as the Junto. Nominally led by Robert Spencer, (Earl of Sunderland) but in fact led by the King himself, the Junto is often cited as the first true Cabinet because its members were all Whigs, reflecting the composition of the Commons which was also Whig.

Anne (1702-1714) followed this pattern but she preferred Tory Cabinets. This approach worked well as long as Parliament was also predominantly Tory. In 1702, the Tories dominated the Commons. However, in 1705, the Whigs made considerable gains; then in 1708, they obtained a majority. Yet, Anne did not call on the Whigs to form a government; she refused to admit that politicians could force themselves on her as Ministers merely because their party had a majority. She never parted with an entire Ministry or accepted an entirely new one regardless of the results of an election. Consequently, although Anne's chief ministers Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin and Robert Harley led their Cabinets and were called "Prime Minister" by some, they had difficulty executing policy in the face of a generally hostile Parliament. It was not until the 1830s that political reality established the constitutional convention that the Sovereign must select Prime Ministers and the Cabinet from the party whose views reflect those of the majority in Parliament.

Both William and Anne appointed and dismissed Cabinet members; they attended meetings, guided discussions, made decisions, and followed up on actions. Relieving the Sovereign of these responsibilities and gaining control over the Cabinet's composition was an essential part of evolution of the Premiership.

Establishing the convention that Sovereigns do not attend Cabinet meetings began soon after the Hanoverian Succession. Although George I (1714–1727) attended regularly at first, after 1717 he withdrew, partly because he did not speak English, but mostly because he was bored with the discussions. George II (1727–1760) occasionally presided at Cabinet meetings. His grandson, George III (1760–1820), is known to have attended only two during his 60 year reign. Thus, the convention that Sovereigns do not attend Cabinet meetings was establish primarily through royal indifference to the everyday tasks of governance. The Prime Minister became responsible for calling meetings, presiding, taking notes, and reporting to the Sovereign. These simple executive tasks naturally gave the Prime Minister ascendancy over his Cabinet colleagues, and identified him as their leader.

Although they rarely attended Cabinet meetings, the first three Hanoverian Sovereigns did insist on their prerogatives to appoint and dismiss ministers and to direct overall policy even if only from outside the Cabinet. It was not until late in the 18th century that Prime Ministers gained control over Cabinet composition and government policies (see Section 4.1 below).

The office of the modern Prime Minister is still largely a convention of the constitution; its legal authority is derived primarily from the fact that the Prime Minister is also First Lord of the Treasury. The connection of these two offices – one a convention, the other a legal office – began with the Hanoverian Succession in 1714.

When George I succeeded to the English throne in 1714, his German ministers advised him to leave the office of Lord High Treasurer vacant because those who had held it in recent years (referring to Godolphin and Harley) had grown overly powerful, in effect, replacing the Sovereign as head of the government. They also feared that a Lord High Treasurer would undermine their own influence with the new King. They therefore suggested that instead he place the office in "commission', meaning that a committee of five ministers would perform its functions together. Theoretically, this dilution of authority would prevent any one of them from presuming to be the head of the government. The King agreed and created the Treasury Commission consisting of the First Lord of the Treasury, the Second Lord, and three Junior Lords.

No one has been appointed to the Lord High Treasureship since 1714; it has remained in commission for three hundred years. The Treasury Commission ceased to meet late in the 18th century but has survived, albeit with very different functions: the First Lord of the Treasury is now the Prime Minister, the Second Lord is the Chancellor of the Exchequer (and actually in charge of the Treasury), and the Junior Lords are government Whips maintaining party discipline in the House of Commons; they no longer have any duties related to the Treasury.

Since the office was not created, there is no "First" Prime Minister as there is a first Prime Minister of Canada. However, the honorary appellation "First" Prime Minister is traditionally given to Sir Robert Walpole who became First Lord of the Treasury in 1721 and remained in office for 21 years.

In 1720, the South Sea Company, created to trade in cotton, agricultural goods and slaves, collapsed, causing the financial ruin of thousands of investors and heavy losses for many others including members of the royal family. King George I called on Robert Walpole, well-known for his political and financial acumen, to handle the emergency. With considerable skill and some luck, Walpole acted quickly to restore public credit and confidence, and lead the country out of the crisis. A year later, the King appointed him First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons making him the most powerful minister in the government. Ruthless, crude, and hard-working, he had a "sagacious business sense" and was a superb manager of men. At the head of affairs for the next two decades, Walpole stabilised the nation's finances, kept it at peace, made it prosperous, and secured the Hanoverian Succession.

Walpole demonstrated for the first time how a chief minister – a Prime Minister – could be the actual Head of the Government under the new constitutional framework. First, recognising that the Sovereign could no longer govern directly, he nevertheless insisted that he was nothing more than the "King's Servant" and worked tirelessly to maintain the confidence of the Sovereign, sometimes resorting to bribery. Second, recognising that real power had shifted to the Commons, he conducted all of the nation's business there and made that chamber dominant over the Lords in all matters, not only finances. Third, recognising that the Cabinet had become the executive and must speak with one voice, he dominated the other members and demanded their complete, united support for his policies. Fourth, recognising that political parties were the source of ministerial strength, he led the Whig party and used every means – persuasion, threats, patronage, and bribery – to maintain discipline throughout the country, as well as the Commons, especially during elections. In the Commons, he insisted on the support of all Whigs members, especially those who held office. Finally, he set an example for future Prime Ministers by resigning his offices in 1742 when he no longer had the confidence of a majority, even though he still retained the confidence of the Sovereign.

For all his contributions to the position, Walpole was not a Prime Minister in the modern sense. The King chose him as his Prime Minister, not Parliament; and, the King chose the other Cabinet members, not Walpole. Walpole set an example not a precedent, and few actually followed his example. For over 40 years after Walpole's fall in 1742, there was widespread ambivalence about the position. In some cases, the Prime Minister was a figurehead with power being wielded by one or more other individuals; in others there was a reversion to the "chief minister" model of earlier times in which the Sovereign actually governed. Furthermore, many thought that the title "Prime Minister" usurped the Sovereign's constitutional position as "head of the government" and that it was an affront to other ministers because they were all appointed by and equally responsible to the Sovereign.

In 1905 the position was given some official recognition when the "Prime Minister" was named in the order of precedence, outranked, among non-royals, only by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, The Moderator of the Church of Scotland and by the Lord Chancellor.

The first Act of Parliament to mention the Premiership was the Chequers Estate Act on 20 December 1917. This law conferred the Chequers Estate owned by Sir Arthur and Lady Lee, as a gift to the Crown for use as a country home for future Prime Ministers.

Unequivocal legal recognition was finally given in the Ministers of the Crown Act (1937) which made provision for paying a salary to the person who is both "the First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister". Explicitly recognising two hundred years' of ambivalence, the act states that it intended To give statutory recognition to the existence of the position of Prime Minister, and to the historic link between the Premiership and the office of First Lord of the Treasury, by providing in respect to that position and office a salary of . . . The Act made a distinction between the "position" (Prime Minister) and the "office" (First Lord of the Treasury), emphasising the unique political character of the former. Nevertheless, the brass plate on the door of the Prime Minister's home, 10 Downing Street, still bears the title of "First Lord of the Treasury", as it has since the 18th century.

Despite the reluctance to legally recognise the position of Prime Minister, ambivalence toward it began to wane in the 1780s because of the chronic difficulties associated with most governments during the preceeding two decades. As noted previously, George III (1760–1820) is known to have attended only two Cabinet meetings. However, during the first twenty years of his reign, he tried to be his own "prime minister" by controlling general policy from outside the Cabinet, appointing and dismissing ministers on his own authority, meeting privately with individual ministers, and giving them instructions. These practices caused confusion and dissention in Cabinet meetings, especially during the dysfunctional ministries of the Earl of Chatham from 1766-1768 and the Duke of Grafton from 1768-1770 when no one, not even the King, seemed to be in charge.

In 1782, the Marquess of Rockingham reasserted the Prime Minister's control over Cabinet composition and policies. After the failure of the Lord North's war against the American colonies, Rockingham assumed the Premiership "on the distinct understanding that measures were to be changed as well as men; and that the measures for which the new ministry required the royal consent were the measures which they, while in opposition, had advocated." He and his Cabinet were united in their policies and would stand or fall together. Furthermore, Rockingham refused to accept anyone into the Cabinet who did not agree. Outrage by this challenge to his prerogative, George threatened to resign but in the end reluctantly agreed out of necessity: he had to have a government and Lord North's ministry no longer had the confidence of Parliament.

From this time, there was a growing recognition that there was a need for the position of Prime Minister and the title was more commonly used, if only unofficially. Associated initially with the Whigs, even the Tories started to accept it. Lord North, for example, who had said the office was "unknown to the constitution", reversed himself in 1783 when he said, "In this country some one man or some body of men like a Cabinet should govern the whole and direct every measure." In 1803, William Pitt the Younger, also a Tory, suggested to a friend that "this person generally called the first minister" was an absolute necessity for a government to function, and expressed his belief that this person should be the minister in charge of the finances.

The Tories' wholesale conversion started in 1784 when Pitt was confirmed as Prime Minister in a landslide election victory. For the next 17 years until 1801 (and again from 1804 to 1806), Pitt, the Tory, was Prime Minister in the same sense that Walpole, the Whig, had been earlier. Thus, the Tories, for practical political reasons, finally accepted the constitutional changes implied in the Revolutionary Settlement.

Their conversion was reinforced after 1810. In that year, King George III, who had suffered periodically from mental instability (due to a blood disorder now known as porphyria), became permanently insane and spent the remaining 10 years of his life confined to Windsor Castle, unable to discharge his duties. The Prince Regent, also named George, was restricted from using the full powers of Kingship. The Regent became King George IV in 1820, but during his 10 year reign was indolent and frivolous. Consequently, for 20 years the British throne was virtually vacant and Tory Cabinets led by Tory Prime Ministers filled the void, governing virtually on their own.

The Tories were in power for almost 50 years, except for a short Whig ministry from 1806 to 1807. Lord Liverpool was Prime Minister for 15 years from 1812 to 1827. Together, he and Pitt held the position for 34 years. Under their leadership, Cabinet government became a permanent convention of the constitution. Although many subtle issues about its inner workings and its relationship to the Sovereign remained to be settled, the Cabinet system of government is essentially the same today as it was in 1830.

Under this system. sometimes called the Westminster System, the Sovereign is Head of State and the titular head of Her Majesty's Government. She selects as her Prime Minister the person who is able to command a working majority in the House of Commons, and invites him to form a government in a formal ceremony called Kissing Hands. As the actual Head of Government, the Prime Minister selects his Cabinet, choosing its members from among those in Parliament who agree or at least generally agree with his intended policies. He then recommends them to the Sovereign who confirms his selections by formally appointing them to their respective offices. Led by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet is collectively responsible for everything the government does. The Sovereign does not confer with its members privately about policy or attend its meetings. She has only three constitutional rights: to be kept informed, to advise, and to warn. Consistent with her right to be kept informed, the Sovereign reviews state papers and meets regularly with the Prime Minister, usually weekly, when she may advise and warn him regarding the proposed decisions and actions of Her Government.

The expression "His Majesty's Opposition" was coined during this period of Tory ascendancy. In 1826, John Cam Hobhouse, Lord Broughton, announced in the Commons that he opposed the report of a Bill. As a joke, he said, "It was said to be very hard on His Majesty's ministers to raise objections to this proposition. For my part, I think it is much more hard on His Majesty's Opposition to compel them to take this course." The phrase caught on and has been applied ever since to the second largest party in the Commons. Sometimes translated as the "Loyal Opposition", it acknowledges the legitimate existence of the two party system, and aptly describes an important constitutional concept: opposing the King's government is not treason; reasonable men can oppose the government's policies and still be loyal to the nation, the Sovereign and constitutional monarchy.

Today, the leaders of "Her Majesty's Opposition" (the "Loyal Opposition") sit in the Commons on the front bench opposite the Treasury Bench, to the Speaker's left. They form a "Shadow Government", complete with a "Shadow Prime Minister" (or "Leader of the Opposition", the 2nd largest party), ready to assume office if the government of the day falls or loses the next election. Although accepted as a convention of the constitution for over 100 years, the position of Leader of the Opposition was not given statutory recognition until the Ministers of the Crown Act of 1937. The current Shadow Prime Minister is David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party.

British Prime Ministers have never been elected directly by the public. They have all become Prime Minister indirectly because firstly, they were members of either the Commons or Lords; secondly, they were the leader of a great political party; and, thirdly, they either inherited a majority in the Commons, or won more seats than the opposition in a general election.

Since 1722, most Prime Ministers have been members of the Commons; since 1902, all have had a seat there. Like other members, they are elected initially to represent only a constituency. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, for example, represented Sedgefield in County Durham from 1983 to 2007. He became Prime Minister because he was elected Labour Party leader in 1994 and then led the party to victory in the 1997 general election, winning 418 seats compared to 165 for the Conservatives and gaining a majority in the House of Commons.

Neither the Sovereign nor the House of Lords had any meaningful influence over who was elected to the Commons in 1997 or in deciding whether or not Blair would become Prime Minister. Their detachment from the electoral process has been a convention of the constitution for almost 200 years.

Prior to the 19th century, however, they had significant influence, using to their advantage the fact that most citizens were disenfranchised and seats in the Commons were allocated disproportionately. The system at that time was based on legislation passed in 1429 and virtually unchanged for 400 years. In 1832, only 440,000 met the voter qualifications in a population of 17 million. Although populations shifted, representation in the Commons remained the same. Consequently, some constituencies were over-represented; others under-represented. Some large towns, like Liverpool, had no representation at all. Furthermore, the Crown and Lords, through patronage, corruption and bribery, personally “owned” about 30% of the seats; representatives from these “pocket” or “rotten boroughs” were elected through the influence of the Crown or a Lord.

In 1830, Charles Grey, a life-long Whig, became Prime Minister determined to reform the electoral system. For two years, he and his Cabinet (including four future Prime Ministers – Melbourne, Russell, Palmerston and Derby – and one former one, Goderich) fought resolutely to pass what has come to be known as the Great Reform Bill of 1832.

The greatness of the Great Reform Bill lay less in substance than symbolism. Substantively, it only increase the franchise 65% to 717,000 with the middle class receiving most of the new votes. The representation of 56 rotten boroughs was eliminated completely and half the representation of 30 others; the freed up seats were distributed to boroughs created for previously disenfranchised areas. However, many rotten boroughs remained and the Bill did not transfer political power completely to the people; it still excluded millions of working class men and all women.

Symbolically, however, the Bill exceeded all expectations and is now ranked with Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by Parliament.

First, the Great Reform Bill eliminated the Sovereign from the election process and the choice of Prime Minister. Slowly evolving for 100 years, this convention was finally confirmed in 1834 when King William IV dismissed Melbourn as Premier, but then had to recall him when Robert Peel, the King's personal choice, could not form a working majority. Since then, no Sovereign has tried to impose a Prime Minister on Parliament against its will.

Second, the Bill reduced the Lords' power by eliminating many of their pocket boroughs and creating new boroughs where they had no influence. Weakened, they were unable to prevent the passage of more comprehensive electoral reforms in 1867, 1884, 1918 and finally, 1928, when universal equal suffrage was achieved. Ultimately, this erosion of political power would lead to the Parliament Act of 1911 that marginalised their role in the legislative process. It also led to the 20th century convention that a Prime Minister cannot sit in the House of Lords; the last to do so was Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, from 1895 to 1902.

Grey's character and bearing during the Reform Bill crisis changed the Premiership. Often called the first "modern Prime Minister", he set both an example and a precedent for his successors. He assumed clear leadership over the Cabinet; he was, as Bagehot said in 1867 of the Prime Minister's status, primus inter pares, "first among equals". Using his Whig victory as a mandate for reform, Grey was unrelenting in the pursuit of this goal, using every Parliamentary devise to achieve it. And, although gracious and respectful toward the King, he made it clear that the Sovereign's constitutional duty was to acquiesce to the will of the people and Parliament.

The Loyal Opposition acquiesced too. There was some talk among disgruntled Tories that they would repeal the Bill once they regained a majority. But in 1834, Robert Peel, the new Conservative leader, put a stop to it when he proclaimed in his Tamworth Manifesto that the Bill was "a final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question which no friend to the peace and welfare of this country would attempt to disturb". Thus, Peel affirmed a convention of the constitution that promotes stability in the British system: the Parliament of the day must respect the settlement of constitutional issues made by previous Parliaments.

The Premiership was a somewhat reclusive office prior to 1832. The incumbent worked regularly with his Cabinet and other government officials; he occasionally met with the Sovereign, and attended Parliament daily when it was in session during the spring and summer. He never went out on the stump to campaign, even during elections; while in office, he rarely spoke directly to ordinary voters about policies and issues.

After the passage of the Great Reform Bill, the nature of the position changed; Prime Ministers had to go out among the people. The Bill increased the electorate to 717,000. Subsequent legislation (and population growth) raised it to 2 million in 1867, 5.5 million in 1884 and 21.4 million in 1918. As the franchise increased, power shifted to the people and Prime Ministers assumed more responsibilities with respect to party leadership, organising existing members and attracting new ones. The introduction of the penny press and photography in the 19th century, and then radio, motion pictures, television, and the internet in the 20th reinforced this change. It naturally fell on Prime Ministers to motivate and organise their followers, explain party policies, and deliver its “message”. Successful political leaders had to have a new set of skills: to give a good speech, present a favourable image, and interact with a crowd. They became the "voice", the “face” and the "image" of the party and ministry.

In the next generation, none understood the change better than Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. Known affectionately by their nicknames “Dizzy” and the “Grand Old Man”, their colourful, sometimes bitter, personal and political rivalry over the issues of their time – Imperialism vs. Anti-Imperialism, expansion of the franchise, labour reform, and Irish Home Rule – spanned almost twenty years until Disraeli’s death in 1881. Documented by the penny press, photographs and political cartoons, their rivalry linked specific personalities with the Premiership in the public mind and further enhanced its status.

Each created a different public image of himself and his party. Disraeli, who expanded the Empire to protect British interests abroad, cultivated the image of himself as an "Imperialist", making grand gestures such as conferring the title "Empress of India" on Queen Victoria in 1876. Gladstone, who saw little value in the Empire, proposed an anti-Imperialist philosophy (later called "Little England"), and cultivated the image of himself as a "man of the people" by cutting down great oak trees with an axe as a hobby.

In addition to being the leader of a great political party and the head of Her Majesty’s Government, the modern Prime Minister is the leader of the House of Commons. From this commanding position, the Prime Minister directs the law-making process, enacting into law his party’s programme. For example, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose Labour party was elected in 1997 partly on a promise to enact a British Bill of Rights and to create devolved governments for Scotland and Wales, subsequently stewarded through Parliament the Human Rights Act (1998), the Scotland Act (1998) and the Government of Wales Act (1998).

From its first appearance in the 14th century, Parliament has been a bicameral legislature consisting of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Members of the Commons are elected; those in the Lords are not. Most Lords are called Temporal Lords with titles such as Duke, Marquess, Earl and Viscount. The balance are Spiritual and Law Lords (prelates of the Anglican Church and judges). For most of the history of the Upper House, Temporal Lords were great land owners who held their estates, titles and seats as an hereditary right passed down from one generation to the next in some cases for centuries. In 1910, for example, there were nineteen whose title was created before 1500.

Until 1911, Prime Ministers had to guide legislation through the Commons and the Lords and obtain a majority approval in both to translate it into law. This was not always easy because powerful political differences usually separated the chambers. Representing the landed aristocracy, the Temporal Lords were generally Tory (later Conservative); they wanted to maintain the status quo and resisted progressive measures particularly those that increased their taxes or threatened their power (such as extending the franchise). The party affiliation of members of the Commons was less predictable. During the 18th century, the its makeup varied because the Lords had considerable control over elections: sometimes Whigs dominated it, sometimes Tories. After the passage of the Great Reform Bill in 1832 by Grey's Whig government, the Commons gradually became more progressive, a tendency that increased with the passage of each subsequent expansion of the franchise.

In 1906, the Liberal party, led by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, won an overwhelming victory on a platform that promised social reforms for the working class in education, unemployment compensation, pensions, and health. With a majority of 379 seats compared to the Conservatives' 132, the Liberals could confidently expect to pass their legislative programme through the Commons. At the same time, however, the Conservative Party had a huge majority in the Lords; it could easily veto any legislation passed by the Commons that was against their political and financial interests.

Over the next five years, the Liberals in the Commons and the Conservatives in the Lords fought over one bill after another. The Liberals pushed through many parts of their programme, but the Lords vetoed or severely modified many others. When the Lords vetoed the "People's Budget" in 1909, the controversy moved almost inevitably toward a constitutional crisis.

In 1910, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith (Campbell-Bannerman retired and died in 1908) introduced a bill "for regulating the relations between the Houses of Parliament"; if passed into law, it would eliminate the Lords’ veto power over legislation. Passed by the Commons, the Lords rejected it. In a general election fought on this issue, the Liberals were weakened but with the support of the Labour Party and Irish Nationalists still had a comfortable majority. At Asquith’s request, King George V then threatened to create a sufficient number of new Liberal Peers to ensure the bill’s passage. Rather than accept a permanent Liberal majority, the Conservative Lords yielded, and the bill became law.

The Parliament Act 1911 established the supremacy of the Commons. It provided that the Lords could not delay for more than one month any bill certified by the Speaker of the Commons as a money bill. Furthermore, the act provided that any bill rejected by the Lords would nevertheless become law if passed by the Commons in three successive sessions provided that two years had elapsed since its original passage. The Lords could still delay or suspend the enactment of legislation but could no longer veto it. Subsequently the Lords “suspending” power was reduced to one year by the Parliament Act 1949.

Indirectly, the Act enhanced the already dominant position of Prime Minister in the constitutional hierarchy. The Lords are still involved in the legislative process and the Prime Minister must still guide legislation through both Houses, but the Lords no longer have the power to veto or even obstruct the will of the people as expressed in the Commons. Provided that he controls the Cabinet, maintains party discipline, and commands a majority in the Commons, the Prime Minister is assured of putting through his legislative agenda.

The role and power of the Prime Minister have been subject to much change in the last fifty years. There has gradually been a change from Cabinet decision making and deliberation to the dominance of the Prime Minister. As early as 1965, in a new introduction to Walter Bagehot's classic work The English Constitution, Richard Crossman identified a new era of "Prime Ministerial" government. Some commentators, such as the political scientist Michael Foley, have argued there is a de facto "British Presidency". In Tony Blair's government, many sources such as former ministers have suggested that decision-making was centred around him and Gordon Brown, and the Cabinet was no longer used for decision making. Former ministers such as Clare Short and Chris Smith have criticised the total lack of decision-making in Cabinet. On her resignation, Short denounced "the centralisation of power into the hands of the Prime Minister and an increasingly small number of advisers" The Butler Review of 2004 condemned Blair's style of "sofa government".

At the opposite extreme, however, Prime Ministers may dominate the Cabinet so much that they become "Semi-Presidents." Examples include William Ewart Gladstone, David Lloyd George, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair. The powers of some Prime Ministers waxed or waned, depending upon their own level of energy, political skills or outside events: Ramsay MacDonald, for example, was dominant in his Labour governments, but during his National Government his powers diminished so that he was merely the figurehead of the government. In modern times, Prime Ministers have never been merely titular; dominant or somewhat dominant personalities are the norm.

Ultimately, however, the Prime Minister will be held responsible by the nation for the consequences of legislation or of general government policy. Margaret Thatcher's party forced her from power after the introduction of the poll tax; Sir Anthony Eden fell from power following the Suez Crisis; and Neville Chamberlain resigned after being criticised for his handling of negotiations with Germany prior to the outbreak of World War II, and for failing to prevent the fall of Norway to the Nazi onslaught.

When commissioned by the Sovereign, a potential Prime Minister's first requisite is to "form a Government" – create a Cabinet and Ministry that has the support of the House of Commons, of which they are expected to be a member. The Prime Minister then formally kisses the hands of his Sovereign, whose royal prerogative is thereafter exercised solely on the advice of the Prime Minister and Her Majesty's Government ("HMG"). The Prime Minister has weekly audiences with the Sovereign, whose functions are constitutionally limited "to advise, to be consulted, and to warn"; the extent of the Sovereign's ability to influence the nature of the Prime Ministerial advice is unknown, but presumably varies depending upon the personal relationship between the Sovereign and the Prime Minister of the day.

The Prime Minister will appoint all other cabinet members (active Privy Councilors) and ministers, although consulting senior ministers on their junior ministers, without any Parliamentary or other control or process over these powers. At any time he may obtain the appointment, dismissal or nominal resignation of any other minister; he may resign, either purely personally or with his whole government; or obtain the dissolution of Parliament, precipitating the loss of all MPs' seats and salaries and a General Election (Ministers will remain in power pending the election of the new House of Commons). The Prime Minister generally co-ordinates the policies and activities of the Cabinet and Government departments, acting as the main public "face" of Her Majesty's Government.

Although the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces is legally the Sovereign, under constitutional practice the Prime Minister, with the Secretary of State for Defence whom he may appoint or dismiss, holds power over the deployment and disposition of British forces, and the declaration of war. The Prime Minister can authorise, but not directly order, the use of Britain's nuclear weapons and the Prime Minister is hence forth a Commander-in-Chief in all but name.

The Prime Minister makes all the most senior Crown appointments, and most others are made by Ministers over whom he has the power of appointment and dismissal. Privy Counsellors, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, senior civil servants, senior military officers, members of important committees and commissions, and other officials are selected, and in most cases may be removed, by the Prime Minister. He also formally advises the Sovereign on the appointment of Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England, but his discretion is limited by the existence of the Crown Nominations Commission. The appointment of senior judges, while constitutionally still on the advice of the Prime Minister, is now made on the basis of recommendations from independent bodies.

Peerages, knighthoods, and other honours are bestowed by the Sovereign only on the advice of the Prime Minister. The only important British honours over which the Prime Minister does not have control are the Orders of the Garter, Thistle, and Merit, and the Royal Victorian Order, which are all within the "personal gift" of the Sovereign.

The Prime Minister appoints Ministers known as the "Whips", who use his patronage to negotiate for the support of MPs and to discipline dissenters of the government parliamentary party. Party discipline is strong since electors generally vote for parties rather than individuals. Members of Parliament may be expelled from their party for failing to support the Government on important issues, and although this will not mean they must resign as MPs, it will usually make re-election difficult. Members of Parliament who hold ministerial office or political privileges can expect removal for failing to support the Prime Minister. Restraints imposed by the Commons grow weaker when the Government's party enjoys a large majority in that House, or in the electorate. In general, however, the Prime Minister and their colleagues may secure the Commons' support for almost any bill by internal party negotiations with little regard to opposition MPs.

However, even a government with a healthy majority can on occasion find itself unable to pass legislation. For example, on January 31, 2006 Tony Blair's Government was defeated over proposals to outlaw religious hatred; and, on November 9, 2005 it was defeated over plans which would have allowed police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge. On other occasions, the Government alters its proposals in order to avoid defeat in the Commons, as Tony Blair's Government did in February 2006 over education reforms.

Formerly, a Prime Minister whose government lost a Commons vote would be regarded as fatally weakened, and his whole government would resign, usually precipitating a General Election. In modern practice, when the Government party generally has an absolute majority in the House, only the express vote "that this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government" is treated as having this effect; dissentients on a minor issue within the majority party are unlikely to force an election with the probable loss of their seats and salaries, and any future in the party.

Likewise, a Prime Minister is no longer just "first amongst equals" in HM Government; although theoretically his Cabinet might still vote him out, in practice he progressively entrenches his position by retaining only personal supporters in the Cabinet. In periodical reshuffles, the Prime Minister can sideline and simply drop from the cabinet Members who have fallen out of favour: they remain Privy Councillors, but the Prime Minister decides which of them are summoned to meetings.

Throughout the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister outranks all other dignitaries except the Royal Family, the Lord Chancellor, and senior ecclesiastical functionaries (in England and Wales, the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York; in Scotland, the Lord High Commissioner and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; in Northern Ireland, the Anglican and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church).

Although it wasn't required, Tony Blair also said these words after he was re-elected in 2001 and 2005.

At present the Prime Minister receives £127,334 in addition to a salary of £60,277 as a Member of Parliament. Until 2006 the Lord Chancellor was the highest paid member of the government ahead of the Prime Minister. This reflected the Lord Chancellor's position at the top of the judicial pay scale, as British judges are on the whole better paid than British politicians and until 2005 the Lord Chancellor was both politician and the head of the judiciary. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 stripped the Lord Chancellor of his judicial functions and his salary was reduced below the Prime Minister's.

The Prime Minister traditionally resides at 10 Downing Street in London and is also entitled to use the country house of Chequers in Buckinghamshire.

The Prime Minister is customarily a member of the Privy Council; thus, they become entitled to prefix "The Right Honourable" to their name. Membership of the Council is retained for life. It is a constitutional convention that only a Privy Counsellor can be appointed Prime Minister, but invariably all potential candidates have already attained this status. The only occasion when a non-Privy Councillor was the natural appointment was Ramsay MacDonald in 1924, but the issue was resolved by appointing him to the Council immediately prior to his appointment as Prime Minister.

According to the now defunct Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Prime Minister is made a Privy Counsellor as a result of taking office and should be addressed by the official title prefixed by "The Right Honourable" and not by a personal name. This form of address is employed at formal occasions but is rarely used by the media. Tony Blair, the previous Prime Minister, was frequently referred to in print as "Prime Minister Blair" (incorrect), "Mr Blair", "Tony Blair" or "Blair". Colleagues sometimes referred to him simply as "Tony". He was usually addressed as "Prime Minister". Since 'Prime Minister' is a position, not a title, he/she should be referred to as "the Prime Minister" or (e.g.) "Mr. Blair".

It is customary for the Sovereign to grant a Prime Minister some honour or dignity when that individual retires from politics. The honour commonly, but not invariably, bestowed on Prime Ministers is membership of the United Kingdom's most senior order of chivalry, the Order of the Garter. The practice of creating retired Prime Ministers Knights of the Garter has been fairly prevalent since the middle-nineteenth century. On the retirement of a Prime Minister who is Scottish, it is likely that the primarily Scottish honour of the Order of the Thistle will be used instead of the Order of the Garter, which is generally regarded as an English honour.

It has also been common for Prime Ministers to be granted peerages upon their retirement which elevates the individual to the House of Lords upon his retirement from the Commons. Formerly, the peerage bestowed was usually an earldom (which was always hereditary), with Churchill offered a dukedom. However, since the 1960s, hereditary peerages have generally been eschewed, and life peerages have been preferred, although in the 1980s Harold Macmillan was created Earl of Stockton on retirement. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher accepted life peerages. However, neither Edward Heath nor John Major accepted peerages of any kind on stepping down as MPs. Margaret Thatcher's son Mark is a baronet, which he inherited from his father Denis, but this is not a peerage.

Of the nineteen Prime Ministers since 1902, eight have been created both peers and Knights of the Garter; three were ennobled but not knighted; three became Knights of the Garter but not peers; and five were not granted either honour— in two cases due to their death while still active in politics; two others declined honours.

1 Entirely in Southwest Asia; included here because of cultural, political and historical association with Europe. 2 Partially or entirely in Asia, depending on the definition of the border between Europe and Asia.

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Monarchy of the United Kingdom

The union of Great Britain and Ireland into the United Kingdom occurred in 1801 during the reign of King George III.

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.

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.

Some of the government's executive authority is theoretically and nominally vested in the Sovereign, and is known as the Royal Prerogative. The monarch acts within the constraints of convention and precedent, only exercising prerogative on the advice of ministers responsible to Parliament, often through a body called the Privy Council. In practice, prerogative powers are only exercised on the Prime Minister's advice—the Prime Minister, and not the Sovereign, exercises control. The monarch holds a weekly audience with the Prime Minister. The monarch may express his or her views, but, as a constitutional ruler, must ultimately accept the decisions of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet (providing they command the support of the House). In Bagehot's words: "the Sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy ... three rights—the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn." Although the Royal Prerogative is extensive and parliamentary approval is not formally required for its exercise, it is limited. Many Crown prerogatives have fallen out of use or have been permanently transferred to Parliament. For example, the monarch cannot impose and collect new taxes; such an action requires the authorisation of an Act of Parliament. According to a parliamentary report, "The Crown cannot invent new prerogative powers", and Parliament can override any prerogative power by passing legislation.

The Royal Prerogative includes the powers to appoint and dismiss ministers, regulate the civil service, issue passports, declare war, make peace, direct the actions of the military, and negotiate and ratify treaties, alliances, and international agreements. However, a treaty cannot alter the domestic laws of the United Kingdom; an Act of Parliament is necessary in such cases. The monarch is commander in chief of the Armed Forces (the Royal Navy, the British Army, and the Royal Air Force), accredits British High Commissioners and ambassadors, and receives diplomats from foreign states.

It is the prerogative of the monarch to summon, prorogue and dissolve Parliament. Each parliamentary session begins with the monarch's summons. The new parliamentary session is marked by the State Opening of Parliament, during which the Sovereign reads the Speech from the Throne in the Chamber of the House of Lords, outlining the Government's legislative agenda. Prorogation usually occurs about one year after a session begins, and formally concludes the session. Dissolution ends a parliamentary term, and is followed by a general election for all seats in the House of Commons. Again, these powers are always exercised on the Prime Minister's advice. The timing of a dissolution is affected by a variety of factors. No parliamentary term may last more than five years; at the end of this period, a dissolution is automatic under the Parliament Act 1911. However, the Prime Minister normally chooses the most politically opportune moment for his or her party. Per the Lascelles Principles, the Sovereign may theoretically refuse a dissolution, but the circumstances under which such an action would be warranted are unclear. Before a bill passed by the legislative Houses can become law, the Royal Assent (the monarch's approval) is required. In theory, assent can either be granted (making the bill law) or withheld (vetoing the bill). In reality, assent is always granted; the last monarch to withhold assent was Anne in 1707.

The monarch has a similar relationship with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Sovereign appoints the First Minister of Scotland on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament, and the First Minister of Wales on the nomination of the National Assembly for Wales. In Scottish matters, the Sovereign acts on the advice of the Scottish Government. However, as devolution is more limited in Wales, in Welsh matters the Sovereign acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the United Kingdom. The Sovereign can veto any law passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, if it is deemed unconstitutional by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The Sovereign is deemed the "fount of justice"; although the Sovereign does not personally rule in judicial cases, judicial functions are performed in his or her name. For instance, prosecutions are brought on the monarch's behalf, and courts derive their authority from the Crown. The common law holds that the Sovereign "can do no wrong"; the monarch cannot be prosecuted for criminal offences. The Crown Proceedings Act 1947 allows civil lawsuits against the Crown in its public capacity (that is, lawsuits against the government), but not lawsuits against the monarch personally. The Sovereign exercises the "prerogative of mercy", which is used to pardon convicted offenders or reduce sentences.

The monarch is the "fount of honour", the source of all honours and dignities in the United Kingdom. The Crown creates all peerages, appoints members of the orders of chivalry, grants knighthoods and awards other honours. Although peerages and most other honours are granted on the advice of the Prime Minister, some honours are within the personal gift of the Sovereign, and are not granted on ministerial advice. The monarch alone appoints members of the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of Merit.

Following Viking raids and settlement in the ninth century, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex emerged as the dominant English kingdom. Alfred the Great secured Wessex, achieved dominance over western Mercia, and assumed the title "King of the English". His grandson Athelstan was the first king to rule over a unitary kingdom roughly corresponding to the present borders of England, though its constituent parts retained strong regional identities. The 11th century saw England become more stable, despite a number of wars with the Danes, which resulted in a Danish monarchy for one generation. William, Duke of Normandy's conquest of England in 1066 was crucial in terms of both political and social change. The new monarch continued the centralization of power begun in the Anglo-Saxon period, while the Feudal System continued to develop.

William I was succeeded by two of his sons: William II, then Henry I. Henry made a controversial decision to name his daughter Matilda (his only surviving child) as his heir. Following Henry's death in 1135, one of William I's grandsons, Stephen, laid claim to the throne, and took power with the support of most of the barons. Matilda challenged his reign; as a result England descended into a period of disorder known as the Anarchy. Stephen maintained a precarious hold on power but agreed to a compromise under which Matilda's son Henry would succeed him. Henry accordingly became the first monarch of the Angevin, or Plantagenet, dynasty as Henry II in 1154.

The reigns of most of the Angevin monarchs were marred by civil strife and conflicts between the monarch and the nobility. Henry II faced rebellions from his own sons, the future monarchs Richard I and John. Nevertheless, Henry managed to expand his kingdom. Upon Henry's death, his elder son Richard succeeded to the throne; he was absent from England for most of his reign, as he left to fight in the Crusades. He was killed besieging a castle, and John succeeded him. John's reign was marked by conflict with the barons, particularly over the limits of royal power. In 1215, the barons coerced the king into issuing the Magna Carta (Latin for "Great Charter") to guarantee the rights and liberties of the nobility. Soon afterwards further disagreements plunged England into a civil war known as the First Barons' War. The war came to an abrupt end after John died in 1216, leaving the Crown to his nine-year-old son Henry III. Later in Henry's reign, Simon de Montfort led the barons in another rebellion, beginning the Second Barons' War. The war ended in a clear royalist victory, and in the death of many rebels, but not before the king had agreed to summon a parliament in 1265.

The next monarch, Edward I, was far more successful in maintaining royal power, and was responsible for the conquest of Wales. He attempted to establish English domination of Scotland. However, gains in Scotland were reversed during the reign of his successor, Edward II, who also faced conflict with the nobility. Edward II was, in 1311, forced to relinquish many of his powers to a committee of baronial "ordainers"; however, military victories helped him regain control in 1322. Nevertheless, in 1327, Edward was deposed and then murdered by his wife Isabella. His 14-year-old son became Edward III. Edward III claimed the French Crown, setting off the Hundred Years' War between England and France. His campaigns conquered much French territory, but by 1374 all the gains had been lost. Edward's reign was also marked by the further development of Parliament, which came to be divided into two Houses. In 1377, Edward III died, leaving the Crown to his 10-year-old grandson Richard II. Like many of his predecessors, Richard II conflicted with the nobles by attempting to concentrate power in his own hands. In 1399, while he was campaigning in Ireland, his cousin Henry Bolingbroke seized power. Richard was imprisoned and murdered, and Henry became king.

Henry IV was the grandson of Edward III and the son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; hence, his dynasty was known as the House of Lancaster. For most of his reign, Henry IV was forced to fight off plots and rebellions; his success was partly due to the military skill of his son, the future Henry V. Henry V's own reign, which began in 1413, was largely free from domestic strife, leaving the king free to pursue the Hundred Years' War in France. Although he was victorious, his sudden death in 1422 left his infant son Henry VI on the throne, and gave the French an opportunity to overthrow English rule. The unpopularity of Henry's counsellors, and his own ineffectual leadership, led to the weakening of the House of Lancaster. The Lancastrians faced a challenge from the House of York, so called because its head, a descendant of Edward III, was Richard, Duke of York. Although the Duke of York died in battle in 1460, his eldest son Edward led the Yorkists to victory in 1461. The Wars of the Roses, nevertheless, continued intermittently during the reigns of the Yorkists Edward IV, Edward V, and Richard III. Ultimately, the conflict culminated in success for the Lancastrian branch, led by Henry Tudor, in 1485, when Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field.

Now as King Henry VII, Henry Tudor neutralised the remaining Yorkist forces, partly by marrying Elizabeth of York, a Yorkist heir. Through skill and ability, Henry re-established absolute supremacy in the realm, and the conflicts with the nobility that had plagued previous monarchs came to an end. The reign of the second Tudor king, Henry VIII, was one of great political change. Religious upheaval and disputes with the Pope led the monarch to break from the Roman Catholic Church and to establish the Church of England (the Anglican Church). Wales, which had been conquered centuries earlier but had remained a separate dominion, was annexed to England under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542. Henry VIII's son and successor, the young Edward VI, continued with further religious reforms but his early death in 1553 precipitated a succession crisis. He was wary of allowing his Catholic elder half-sister Mary to succeed, and therefore drew up a will designating Lady Jane Grey as his heiress. Jane's reign however lasted only nine days; with tremendous popular support, Mary deposed her, and declared herself the lawful Sovereign. Mary I pursued disastrous wars in France and attempted to return England to Roman Catholicism, in the process burning Protestants at the stake as heretics. She died in 1558, and was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I. England returned to Protestantism, and continued its growth into a major world power by building its navy and exploring the New World.

In Scotland, as in England, monarchies emerged after the withdrawal of Rome in the early fifth century. The three groups that lived in Scotland at this time were the Picts in the north, the Britons in the south, including the Kingdom of Strathclyde, and the Gaels or Scotti (who would later give their name to Scotland), of the Irish province of Dál Riata in the west. Kenneth MacAlpin is traditionally viewed as the first king of a united Scotland (known as Scotia to writers in Latin, or Alba to the Scots). The expansion of Scottish dominions continued over the next two centuries, as other territories such as Strathclyde were conquered.

Early Scottish monarchs did not inherit the Crown directly; instead the custom of tanistry was followed, where the monarchy alternated between different branches of the House of Alpin. As a result, however, the rival dynastic lines clashed, often violently. From 942 to 1005, seven consecutive monarchs were either murdered or killed in battle. In 1005, Malcolm II ascended the throne having killed many rivals. He continued to ruthlessly eliminate opposition, and when he died in 1034 he was succeeded by his grandson, Duncan I, instead of a cousin, as had been usual. In 1040, Duncan suffered defeat in battle at the hands of Macbeth, who was killed himself in 1057 by Donald's son Malcolm. The following year, after killing Macbeth's stepson Lulach, Malcolm ascended the throne as Malcolm III.

With a further series of battles and deposings, five of Malcolm's sons as well as one of his brothers successively became king. Eventually, the Crown came to his youngest son, David. David was succeeded by his grandsons Malcolm IV, and then by William the Lion, the longest-reigning King of Scots before the Union of the Crowns. William participated in a rebellion against King Henry II of England but when the rebellion failed, William was captured by the English. In exchange for his release, William was forced to acknowledge Henry as his feudal overlord. The English King Richard I agreed to terminate the arrangement in 1189, in return for a large sum of money needed for the Crusades. William died in 1214, and was succeeded by his son Alexander II. Alexander II, as well as his successor Alexander III, attempted to take over the Western Isles, which were still under the overlordship of Norway. During the reign of Alexander III, Norway launched an unsuccessful invasion of Scotland; the ensuing Treaty of Perth recognised Scottish control of the Western Isles and other disputed areas.

Alexander III's unexpected death in a riding accident in 1286 precipitated a major succession crisis. Scottish leaders appealed to King Edward I of England for help in determining who was the rightful heir. Edward chose Alexander's three-year-old Norwegian granddaughter, Margaret. On her way to Scotland in 1290, however, Margaret died at sea, and Edward was again asked to adjudicate between 13 rival claimants to the throne. A court was set up and after two years of deliberation, it pronounced John Balliol to be king. However, Edward proceeded to treat Balliol as a vassal, and tried to exert influence over Scotland. In 1295, when Balliol renounced his allegiance to England, Edward I invaded. During the first ten years of the ensuing Wars of Scottish Independence, Scotland had no monarch, until Robert the Bruce declared himself king in 1306. Robert's efforts to control Scotland culminated in success, and Scottish independence was acknowledged in 1328. However, only one year later, Robert died and was succeeded by his five-year-old son, David II. On the pretext of restoring John Balliol's rightful heir, Edward Balliol, the English again invaded in 1332. During the next four years, Balliol was crowned, deposed, restored, deposed, restored, and deposed until he eventually settled in England, and David remained king for the next 35 years.

David II died childless in 1371 and was succeeded by his nephew Robert II of the House of Stuart. The reigns of both Robert II and his successor, Robert III, were marked by a general decline in royal power. When Robert III died in 1406, regents had to rule the country; the monarch, Robert III's son James I, had been taken captive by the English. Having paid a large ransom, James returned to Scotland in 1424; to restore his authority, he used ruthless measures, including the execution of several of his enemies. He was assassinated by a group of nobles. James II continued his father's policies by subduing influential noblemen but he was killed in an accident at the age of thirty, and a council of regents again assumed power. James III was defeated in a battle against rebellious Scottish earls in 1488, leading to another boy-king: James IV. In 1513, James IV launched an invasion of England, attempting to take advantage of the absence of the English King Henry VIII. His forces met with disaster at Flodden Field; the King, many senior noblemen, and hundreds of soldiers were killed. As his son and successor, James V, was an infant, the government was again taken over by regents. James V led another disastrous war with the English in 1542, and his death in the same year left the Crown in the hands of his six-day-old daughter, Mary. Once again, a regency was established. Mary, a Roman Catholic, reigned during a period of great religious upheaval in Scotland. Due to the efforts of reformers such as John Knox, a Protestant ascendancy was established. Mary caused alarm by marrying a fellow Catholic, Lord Darnley, in 1565. After Lord Darnley's assassination in 1567, Mary contracted an even more unpopular marriage with the Earl of Bothwell, who was widely suspected of Darnley's murder. The nobility rebelled against the Queen, forcing her to abdicate. She fled to England, and the Crown went to her infant son James VI, who was brought up as a Protestant. Mary was imprisoned and later executed by the English Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth's death in 1603 ended Tudor rule in England. Since she had no children, she was succeeded by the Scottish monarch James VI, who was the great-grandson of Henry VIII's older sister. James VI ruled in England as James I after what was known as the "Union of the Crowns". Although England and Scotland were in personal union under one monarch—James I became the first monarch to style himself "King of Great Britain" in 1604—they remained separate kingdoms. James I's successor, Charles I, experienced frequent conflicts with the English Parliament related to the issue of royal and parliamentary powers, especially the power to impose taxes. He provoked opposition by ruling without Parliament from 1629 to 1640 (the "Eleven Years' Tyranny"), unilaterally levying taxes, and adopting controversial religious policies (many of which were offensive to the Scottish Presbyterians and the English Puritans). In 1642, the conflict between King and Parliament reached its climax and the English Civil War began. The war culminated in the execution of the king, the overthrow of the monarchy, and the establishment of a republic known as the Commonwealth of England. In 1653, Oliver Cromwell, the most prominent military and political leader in the nation, seized power and declared himself Lord Protector (effectively becoming a military dictator, but refusing the title of king). Cromwell ruled until his death in 1658, when he was succeeded by his son Richard. The new Lord Protector had little interest in governing; he soon resigned. The lack of clear leadership led to civil and military unrest, and for a popular desire to restore the monarchy. In 1660, the monarchy was restored when Charles I's son Charles II was declared king.

Charles II's reign was marked by the development of the first modern political parties in England. Charles had no legitimate children, and was due to be succeeded by his Roman Catholic brother, James, Duke of York. A parliamentary effort to exclude James from the line of succession arose; the "Petitioners", who supported exclusion, became the Whig Party, whereas the "Abhorrers", who opposed exclusion, became the Tory Party. The Exclusion Bill failed; on several occasions, Charles II dissolved Parliament because he feared that the bill might pass. After the dissolution of the Parliament of 1681, Charles ruled as an absolute monarch until his death in 1685. When James succeeded Charles, he pursued a policy of offering religious tolerance to Roman Catholics, thereby drawing the ire of many of his Protestant subjects. Many opposed James's decisions to maintain a large standing army, to appoint Roman Catholics to high political and military offices, and to imprison Church of England clerics who challenged his policies. As a result, a group of Protestants known as the Immortal Seven invited James II's daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange to depose the king. William obliged, arriving in England on 5 November 1688 to great public support. Faced with the defection of many of his Protestant officials, James fled the realm and William and Mary (rather than James II's Catholic son) were declared joint Sovereigns of England, Scotland and Ireland.

James's overthrow, known as the Glorious Revolution, was one of the most important events in the long evolution of parliamentary power. The Bill of Rights 1689 affirmed parliamentary supremacy, and declared that the English people held certain rights, including the freedom from taxes imposed without parliamentary consent. The Bill of Rights required future monarchs to be Protestants, and provided that, after any children of William and Mary, Mary's sister Anne would inherit the Crown. Mary died childless in 1694, leaving William as the sole monarch. By 1700, a political crisis arose, as all of Anne's children had died, leaving her as the only individual left in the line of succession. Parliament was afraid that the former James II or his supporters, known as Jacobites, might attempt to reclaim the throne. Parliament passed the Act of Settlement 1701, which excluded James and his Catholic relations from the succession and made William's distant Protestant cousin Sophia, Electress of Hanover, second in line to the throne. Soon after the passage of the Act, William III died, leaving the Crown to his sister-in-law Anne.

After Anne's accession, the problem of the succession re-emerged. The Scottish Parliament, infuriated that the English Parliament did not consult them on the choice of Sophia of Hanover, passed the Act of Security, threatening to end the personal union between England and Scotland. The Parliament of England retaliated with the Alien Act 1705, threatening to devastate the Scottish economy by restricting trade. The Scottish and English parliaments negotiated the Act of Union 1707, under which England and Scotland were united into a single Kingdom of Great Britain, with succession under the rules prescribed by the Act of Settlement.

In 1714, Queen Anne was succeeded by the son of the deceased Sophia of Hanover, George I, who consolidated his position by defeating Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1719. The new monarch was less active in government than many of his British predecessors, but retained control over his German kingdoms, with which Britain was now in personal union. Power shifted towards George's ministers, especially to Sir Robert Walpole, who is often considered the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, although the title was not then in use. The next monarch, George II, witnessed the final end of the Jacobite threat in 1746, when the Catholic Stuarts were completely defeated. During the long reign of his grandson, George III, Britain's American colonies were lost, but British influence elsewhere in the world continued to grow, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was created by the Act of Union 1800.

From 1811 to 1820 George III suffered a severe bout of what is now believed to be porphyria, an illness rendering him incapable of ruling. His son, the future George IV, ruled in his stead as Prince Regent. During the Regency and his own reign, the power of the monarchy declined and by the time of his successor, William IV, the monarch was no longer able to effectively interfere with parliamentary power. In 1834, William dismissed the Whig Prime Minister, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, and appointed a Tory, Sir Robert Peel. In the ensuing elections, however, Peel lost. The King had no choice but to recall Lord Melbourne. During William IV's reign the Reform Act 1832, which reformed parliamentary representation, was passed. Together with others passed later in the century, the Act led to an expansion of the electoral franchise, and the rise of the House of Commons as the most important branch of Parliament.

The final transition to a constitutional monarchy was made during the long reign of William IV's successor, Victoria. As a woman, Victoria could not rule Hanover, which only permitted succession in the male line, so the personal union of the United Kingdom and Hanover came to an end. The Victorian era was marked by great cultural change, technological progress, and the establishment of the United Kingdom as one of the world's foremost powers. In recognition of British rule over India, Victoria was declared Empress of India in 1876. However, her reign was also marked by increased support for the republican movement, due in part to Victoria's permanent mourning and lengthy period of seclusion following the death of her husband in 1861.

Victoria's son, Edward VII, became the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1901. In 1917, the next monarch, George V, changed "Saxe-Coburg and Gotha" to "Windsor" due to the anti-German sympathies aroused by the First World War. George V's reign was marked by the separation of Ireland into Northern Ireland, which remained a part of the United Kingdom, and the Irish Free State, an independent nation, in 1922.

During the twentieth-century, the Commonwealth of Nations evolved from the British Empire. Prior to 1926, the British Crown reigned over the British Empire collectively, the Dominions and Crown colonies being subordinate to the United Kingdom. The Balfour Declaration of 1926 gave complete self-government to the Dominions, effectively creating a system whereby a single monarch operated independently in each separate Dominion. The concept was solidified by the Statute of Westminster 1931, which has been likened to "a treaty among the Commonwealth countries". The monarchy thus ceased to be an exclusively British institution, although it is often still referred to as "British" for legal and historical reasons and for convenience. The monarch became separately monarch of the United Kingdom, monarch of Australia, monarch of Canada, and so forth. The independent states within the Commonwealth, known as the Commonwealth realms, would share the same monarch in a relationship likened to a personal union.

George V's death in 1936 was followed by the accession of Edward VIII, who caused a public scandal by announcing his desire to marry the divorced American, Wallis Simpson, even though the Church of England opposed the remarriage of divorcées. Accordingly, Edward announced his intention to abdicate; the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and of other Commonwealth realms granted his request. Edward VIII and any children by his new wife were excluded from the line of succession, and the Crown went to his brother, George VI. George served as a rallying figure for the British people during World War II, making morale-boosting visits to the troops as well as to munitions factories and to areas bombed by Nazi Germany. After the war George VI relinquished the title "Emperor of India", when India became independent in 1947, and became "King of India" instead.

At first, every member of the Commonwealth was a Commonwealth realm but when India became a republic in 1950, it would no longer share in a common monarchy. Instead, the British monarch was acknowledged as "Head of the Commonwealth" in all Commonwealth member states, whether realms or not. The position is purely ceremonial, and is not inherited by the British monarch as of right but is vested in an individual chosen by the Commonwealth Heads of Government.

Today, 16 of the 53 independent states within the Commonwealth, including the United Kingdom, remain Commonwealth realms and share the same monarch. The present monarch, Elizabeth II succeeded her father, George VI, in 1952. Like her recent predecessors, Elizabeth II continues to function as a constitutional monarch. During her reign, there has been some support for the republican movement, especially due to negative publicity associated with the Royal Family (for instance, following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales). Nevertheless, more recent polls show that a large majority of the British public support the continuation of the monarchy.

In the 12th century the only English pope, Adrian IV, authorized King Henry II of England to take possession of Ireland as a feudal territory nominally under papal overlordship. Celtic Christianity was not closely following Roman Catholic practices, and was accused of heretical beliefs. The pope wanted the English monarch to annex Ireland and bring the Irish church into line with Rome. Around 1170, King Dermot MacMurrough of Leinster was deposed by his arch-enemy King Rory O'Connor of Connaught. Dermot escaped to England and asked Henry for help. Henry let him use a group of Anglo-Norman aristocrats and adventurers, led by Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, to help him regain his throne. Dermot and his Anglo-Norman allies succeeded and he became King of Leinster again. de Clare married Dermot's daughter, and when Dermot died in 1171, de Clare became King of Leinster. Henry was afraid that de Clare would make Ireland a rival Norman state or a place of refuge for Anglo-Saxons, so he took advantage of the papal bull and invaded, forcing de Clare and the other Anglo-Norman aristocrats in Ireland and some Gaelic Irish chieftains to recognize him as their overlord. By 1541, King Henry VIII of England had broken with the Church of Rome and made England Protestant. The pope's grant of Ireland to the English monarch became invalid, so Henry summoned a meeting of the Irish Parliament to change his title from Lord of Ireland to King of Ireland.

In 1800, the Act of Union merged the kingdom of Great Britain and the kingdom of Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Ireland continued to be a part of the United Kingdom until 1922, when what is now the Republic of Ireland won independence as the Irish Free State. The Irish Free State was a separate Dominion from 1922 until 1949, when the Free State became a republic and severed all ties with the monarchy, while Northern Ireland remained within the Union, thus creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The sovereign is the Supreme Governor of the established Church of England. Archbishops and bishops are appointed by the monarch, on the advice of the Prime Minister, who chooses the appointee from a list of nominees prepared by a Church Commission. The Crown's role in the Church of England is titular; the most senior clergyman, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the spiritual leader of the Church and of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The monarch is an ordinary member of the Church of Scotland, but he or she holds the power to appoint the Lord High Commissioner to the Church's General Assembly. The Sovereign plays no formal role in the disestablished Church in Wales or Church of Ireland.

The relationship between the Commonwealth realms is such that any change to the laws governing succession to the shared throne requires the unanimous consent of all the realms. Succession is governed by statutes, such as the Bill of Rights 1689, the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Acts of Union, and by male-preference cognatic primogeniture, under which sons inherit before daughters, and elder children inherit before younger ones of the same sex. The rules of succession may only be changed by an Act of Parliament; it is not possible for an individual to renounce their right of succession.

The Act of Settlement restricts the succession to the natural legitimate descendants of Sophia of Hanover (1630–1714), a granddaughter of James I. The Bill of Rights and Act of Settlement include religious restrictions, which were imposed because of the English and Scots' distrust of Roman Catholicism during the late 17th century. Only individuals who are Protestants may inherit the Crown. Catholics and spouses of Catholics are prohibited from succeeding. An individual thus disabled from inheriting the Crown is deemed "naturally dead" for succession purposes, and the disqualification does not extend to the individual's legitimate descendants. In recent years there have been efforts to remove the religious restrictions and to give equal rights to males and females, but at present the provisions remain in effect.

Upon the death of the Sovereign, his or her heir immediately and automatically succeeds (hence the phrase "The King is dead. Long live the King!"), and the accession of the sovereign is publicly proclaimed by an Accession Council that meets at St. James's Palace. The monarch is crowned in Westminster Abbey, normally by the Archbishop of Canterbury. A coronation is not necessary for a sovereign to reign, indeed the ceremony usually takes place many months after accession to allow sufficient time for its preparation and for a period of mourning.

After an individual ascends the throne, he or she reigns until death. The only voluntary abdication, that of Edward VIII, had to be authorised by a special Act of Parliament, His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936. The last monarch involuntarily removed from power was James VII and II, who fled into exile in 1688 during the Glorious Revolution.

The Regency Acts allow for regencies in the event of a monarch who is a minor or who is physically or mentally incapacitated. When a regency is necessary, the next qualified individual in the line of succession automatically becomes regent, unless they themselves are a minor or incapacitated. Special provisions were made for Queen Elizabeth II by the Regency Act 1953, which stated that the Duke of Edinburgh (the Queen's husband) could act as regent in these circumstances.

During a temporary physical infirmity or an absence from the kingdom, the sovereign may temporarily delegate some of his or her functions to Counsellors of State, the monarch's spouse and the first four adults in the line of succession. The present Counsellors of State are: The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, Prince William of Wales, Prince Henry of Wales and The Duke of York.

Parliament meets much of the sovereign's official expenditure from public funds, known as the Civil List and the Grants-in-Aid. An annual Property Services Grant-in-Aid pays for the upkeep of the royal residences, and an annual Royal Travel Grant-in-Aid pays for travel. The Civil List covers most expenses, including those for staffing, state visits, public engagements, and official entertainment. Its size is fixed by Parliament every 10 years; any money saved may be carried forward to the next 10-year period.

Until 1760 the monarch met all official expenses from hereditary revenues, which included the profits of the Crown Estate (the royal property portfolio). King George III agreed to surrender the hereditary revenues of the Crown in return for the Civil List, and this arrangement persists. In modern times, the profits surrendered from the Crown Estate have by far exceeded the Civil List and Grants-in-Aid provided to the monarch. For example, the Crown Estate produced £200 million for the Treasury in the financial year 2007–8, whereas parliamentary funding for the monarch was £40 million during the same period. The Crown Estate is one of the largest property owners in the United Kingdom, worth over £7.3 billion.

Like the Crown Estate, the land and assets of the Duchy of Lancaster are held in trust. The revenues of the Duchy form part of the Privy Purse, and are used for expenses not borne by the Civil List. The Duchy of Cornwall is a similar estate held in trust to meet the expenses of the monarch's eldest son. The sovereign is subject to indirect taxes such as value added tax, and since 1993 the Queen has paid income tax and capital gains tax on personal income. The Civil List and Grants-in-Aid are not treated as income as they are solely for official expenditure.

Estimates of the Queen's wealth vary, depending on whether assets owned by her personally or held in trust for the nation are included. For example, the Royal Collection is not the personal property of the monarch but is administered by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. Forbes magazine estimated her wealth at $650 million in 2008, but no official figure is available. In 1993, the Lord Chamberlain said estimates of £100 million were "grossly overstated".

The Sovereign's official residence in London is Buckingham Palace. It is the site of most state banquets, investitures, royal christenings and other ceremonies. Another official residence is Windsor Castle, the largest occupied castle in the world, which is used principally at weekends, Easter and during Royal Ascot, an annual race meeting that is part of the social calendar. The Sovereign's official residence in Scotland is the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. The monarch stays at Holyrood for at least one week each year, and when visiting Scotland on state occasions.

Historically, the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London were the main residences of the English Sovereign until Henry VIII acquired the Palace of Whitehall. Whitehall was destroyed by fire in 1698, leading to a shift to St James's Palace. Although replaced as the monarch's primary London residence by Buckingham Palace in 1837, St James's is still the senior palace and remains the ceremonial Royal residence. For example, foreign ambassadors are accredited to the Court of St. James's, and the Palace is the site of the meeting of the Accession Council. It is also used by other members of the Royal Family.

Other residences include Clarence House and Kensington Palace. The palaces belong to the Crown; they are held in trust for future rulers, and cannot be sold by the monarch. The Queen also owns two private estates as personal property: Sandringham House in Norfolk, and Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The present Sovereign's full style and title is "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith". The title "Head of the Commonwealth" is held by the Queen personally, and is not vested in the British Crown. Pope Leo X first granted the title "Defender of the Faith" to King Henry VIII in 1521, rewarding him for his support of the Papacy during the early years of the Protestant Reformation, particularly for his book the Defence of the Seven Sacraments. After Henry broke from the Roman Church, Pope Paul III revoked the grant, but Parliament passed a law authorising its continued use.

The Sovereign is known as "His Majesty" or "Her Majesty". The form "Britannic Majesty" appears in international treaties and on passports to differentiate the British monarch from foreign rulers. The monarch chooses his or her regnal name, not necessarily his or her first name—King George VI, King Edward VII and Queen Victoria did not use their first names. The ordinal used for the monarch takes into account only monarchs since the Norman conquest of England. If only one monarch has used a particular name, no ordinal is used; for example, Queen Victoria is not known as "Victoria I". The question of whether numbering of ordinals is based on previous English or Scottish monarchs was raised in 1953 when Scottish nationalists challenged the Queen's use of "Elizabeth II", on the grounds that there had never been an "Elizabeth I" in Scotland. In MacCormick v. Lord Advocate, the Scottish Court of Session ruled against the plaintiffs, finding that the Queen's title was a matter of her own choice and prerogative. The Home Secretary told the House of Commons that monarchs since the Act of Union had consistently used the higher of the English and Scottish ordinals. The Prime Minister confirmed this practice, but noted that "neither The Queen nor her advisers could seek to bind their successors". According to Debrett it was announced that future monarchs would apply this policy. Traditionally, the signature of the monarch includes their regnal name but not ordinal, followed by the letter R, which stands for rex or regina (Latin for king and queen, respectively). The present monarch's signature is "Elizabeth R". From 1877 until 1948 reigning monarchs added the letter I to their signatures, for imperator or imperatrix (emperor or empress in Latin), due to their status as Emperor or Empress of India. For example, Queen Victoria signed as "Victoria RI" from 1877.

The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom are "Quarterly, I and IV Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or ; II Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules ; III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent ". The supporters are the lion and the unicorn; the motto is "Dieu et mon droit" (French for "God and my Right"). In Scotland the monarch uses an alternative form of the arms in which quarters I and IV represent Scotland, II England, and III Ireland. The motto is "Nemo me impune lacessit" (Latin for "No-one provokes me with impunity"); the supporters are the unicorn and lion.

The monarch's official flag in the United Kingdom is the Royal Standard, which depicts the Royal Arms. It is flown only from buildings, vessels and vehicles in which the Sovereign is present; elsewhere, the Union Flag is flown. The Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast because there is always a sovereign: when one dies, his or her successor becomes the sovereign instantly.

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Source : Wikipedia