9 Things Queen Elizabeth II Can Do That People Often Have No Idea She Is That Powerful
If you think that Queen Elizabeth II only goes to high-class parties, sips her British tea in the afternoons, gives money to charity, and rocks her colorful outfits, let us tell you that you are totally wrong. The reigning monarch in the UK has some real government power that we don't even think of.
But the remaining question is to what extent she can influence the nation and the Commonwealth countries. Well, it turns out the answer is: a lot! Queen Elizabeth II can do at least nine jaw-dropping things that require a lot of ruling power. Keep on reading, so you know exactly what we are talking about!
1. The opening of the Parliament
For the ones that are not familiar with how politics works in the UK, the British Parliament is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, overseas territories, and the Crown dependencies. This means it is the highest governing figure and thereby has the ultimate power over all the other political bodies.
The parliamentary year starts in May with a series of elaborate and stepped-in-tradition events. One of the most important ones is the State Opening, which takes place at the Palace of Westminster, and guess who is the one in charge of inaugurating it? You're right! It is the Queen.
The monarch dons the Imperial State Crown, while the members put on ceremonial robes, and judges wear their wigs. Elizabeth also gives the Queen's Speech outlining plans and future legislation. The event is so momentous because it gathers the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Queen in one place.
2. Legitimization of laws
As we previously stated, the Parliament has legislative power and is the body in charge of bills. However, it is Elizabeth the one who signs off any legal proposal before it formally goes into effect. This approval is well-known as the "royal assent".
The Royal assent sometimes involves elaborate ceremonies held at the Palace of Westminster, depending on the case, but most of the times, it is typically granted less ceremonially through letters patent. Another option is appointing Lords Commissioners to announce the assent. However, Elizabeth II has the right to give it or not.
Nevertheless, this capability is not something that the Queen can play with at her whim. Surprisingly, the last time a ruler did not grant the royal assent was in 1708. Queen Anne, Elizabeth's ancestor, determined to decline a bill because it could have restored the Scottish army. So far, Elizabeth II hasn't exercised this right.
3. Appointment of Ministers to the Crown
As a country with representative democracy, most government officials are selected through the vote. However, there is an exception to the rule when it comes to Ministers to the Crown, which involves advisors and cabinet officials, just to name a few.
The Ministers to the Crown are the politicians in charge of advising the sovereign on the exercise of the Crown prerogatives; therefore, Queen Elizabeth has the right to appoint them, and her choices are usually from already existing members of Parliament. But this ability is not the monarch's solely; the Prime Minister can also do so.
4. Criminals' forgiveness
In the UK, if you commit a crime, you will undoubtedly go to jail. Nevertheless, earning the royal pardon can prevent you from being behind bars. Prince Charles' mother can grant her mercy to any person that has been convicted of a crime if she sees fit by reducing sentences or freeing them completely.
The origin of this royal pardon dates back to the times when the death penalty was in force. Therefore, the forgiveness of a king or queen was to provide an exemption from the now-abolished sentence. Although it is not common these days, the monarch has exercised this right.
The first time was in 2001 when two inmates in a South Wales penitentiary center saved the life of one of the prison's workers that had been attacked by a wild boar. They were working on a farm when the animal attacked the manager of the place. Elizabeth II decided that their heroic deed had earned them less time in jail.
The second instance was in 2013 when she also gave post-mortem pardon to Alan Turing, who was a computer scientist and mathematician with high influence in his field. However, he was convicted after the Second World War under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.
5. Emission of passports
Although she does not emit them directly, every passport that ministers issue is on her behalf, meaning that if you are a British citizen, you have to thank the Queen for your traveling document. Of course, issuing them implies that the Queen can also withdraw them, so when abroad, be careful not to do anything that discredits the Crown.
On the other hand, the monarch doesn't need one when traveling abroad. According to The Atlantic, "as a British passport is issued in the name of Her Majesty, it is unnecessary for The Queen to possess one." So don't expect to see one in the monarch's luggage when she travels.
6. Leading the troops
We could never imagine the long-lasting monarch wearing a military uniform, and even though she does not need it, she is still the Commander in Chief of the entire armed forces. She has the whole right, but it is not everyone's cup of tea, especially at the age of 92.
Perhaps, that is why she can delegate the responsibility at will, and that is precisely what she did. She vested de facto power in the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defense; however, she is still the ultimate military authority. Thus, before joining them, every soldier swears an oath of allegiance to her.
7. War declaration
Well, we feel entirely relieved that the Queen hasn't exercised this particular power. Can you imagine if Elizabeth II declared war on another country? Gladly, she has never done it, but she is actually the sole person in the entire country with that right only in the case of all-out warfare.
Apart from that, she needs the consent of Parliament, the Prime Minister, and other government groups. This is not something typical, and the last one to do so was her father, King George VI, but it was against Nazi Germany of 1939, so he had excellent reasons to use this power.
8. Dissolution of the Parliament
If appointing ministers and opening sessions is not enough, wait until you read what else Elizabeth II could do. If she wants, the monarch could make everyone in the House of Commons redundant and have elections to choose new members. However, this power was removed since the approbation of 2011's Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
Of course, we cannot miss the impact this decision could have on government activities, but it wouldn't disrupt all political operations because it can't affect the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Furthermore, Britons would loathe such a resolution. Hence, she's never used her right, and the last time it occurred was in 1830.
9. Granting of honorary titles
This power is very cool since it means that Her Royal Highness can bestow a wide range of honors on individuals that have done a distinctive deed such as charity work, contributions to science and other fields, or those who have been somewhat British role models.
There are many honors though, but the most common ones are "Sir" and "Dame" which have been awarded to celebs such as singer Elton John, actress Maggie Smith, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, and actor Patrick Stewart. The titles do not grant any type of power, but they do make your name stylish!
Elizabeth II has also knighted North American Presidents. Ronald Reagan was 40th president of the United States and the first one who the Queen conferred the recognition of Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath thanks to this contribution to the British government under Mrs. Thatcher.
After Reagan, the next one to receive such high honor was the 41st President of the US, George H.W. Bush. He was bestowed with the same knighthood that Reagan to due to his close relationship with Britain’s Conservative government during the gulf war.
We bet you were shocked to find out that the British monarch is such a vital person in the government with critical and intriguing abilities that could change the fate of the nation. Which of these powers surprised you the most? Let us know in the comment section, and do not hesitate to share this fantastic article with royal-loving friends.