'Lawless': Laws that Royals Don't Care To Follow And Why It Matters
Those days of British monarchs having the freedom to do as they please are over, but unlike the rest of us, the royal family is still very different. For starters, simple commoners are subject to all the laws of the land. While royals are still required to follow most of the rules that govern the rest of us, there are a few sections of legislation that frankly don't apply to them.
It may seem beneficial when it comes to being above the law, but it isn't quite as fun as you might think, and it definitely isn't enough to surpass the responsibilities that come with royal status. Many of these privileges only apply to the reigning monarch but don't extend to her husband or to her family, and they are more about guarding the Crown than they are about giving royals unique perks. Let's take a closer look at what these Royals can get away with.
They can legally break the speed limit
Ok, they can't drive recklessly or race down the highway, but it does mean that there are times they can have their driver break the speed limit. A Department for Transport representative explained to The Sun that, under U.K. law:
"Speed limits do not apply to any motor vehicle being used for police, fire and rescue authority, ambulance or Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) purposes, if observing the speed limit would be likely to hinder the use of the vehicle for the purpose for which it is being used on that occasion."
Since the royal family, which includes the prime minister, are driven by police while conveying official royal business, they have some freedom to break the speed limit under this law. However, this right doesn't apply to them when they're on their own. In 2001, Princess Anne was fined £400 for driving 93 mph in a 70 mph zone.
The Queen is the only person who doesn't need a passport when traveling
We know how much hassle it is when applying for a passport. Not only do you have to fill out a stack of paperwork and pay a fee, but you also have to get that perfect picture. Sadly, if you're planning on traveling to another country, you won't be able to do so without that handy little booklet, unless you're the queen of England.
Queen Elizabeth II is the only person in the world who can travel wherever she wants without carrying proof of citizenship. Since the passport is issued in her name, it makes it irrelevant for the Queen to carry one. According to the royal website, each U.K. passport bears the following text:
"Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary."
The Queen does not need a driver's license
Could you imagine driving around without a license? The fact is, the Queen is never asked for her ID since she is one of the most recognizable people in the world. Since proving her identity may be a bit tricky, this is a good thing because the Queen doesn't have a passport and doesn't even have a driver's license.
The Queen has been behind the wheel since she was a teenager but, as the monarch, she is not required to pass a driving test or have a license in order to drive. That sounds rather dreamy for most of us, don't you agree? This privilege is one that only applies to the monarch — the rest of the family has to go through their driving test, pass with flying colors, and carry a license just like everyone else.
The Queen herself along with her husband, Prince Philip, helped her children learn to drive in preparation of their tests, which they passed. This is one of the perks that the Queen doesn't take much advantage of, though. She mostly restricts her driving to her private estates.
They don't need to use surnames
Unlike most people who go by a first, middle, and last name, many members of the royal family don't need to use a last name at all. Before 1917, they didn't even have such a thing, but that year King George V decided that the family name would be Windsor.
So, the current family name of Queen Elizabeth II's descendants is Mountbatten-Windsor, where Mountbatten is Prince Philip's surname, but they don't have to use it if their title is "His Royal Highness Prince" or "Her Royal Highness Princess."
Whenever they do use a last name, they can decide on something other than their actual last name, such as their family's territorial designation. As sons of the Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry enrolled in the military under the names William Wales and Harry Wales.
While the royal family doesn't need it, they make up for it with a long list of given names. For example, Prince Charles' full given name is Charles Philip Arthur George, and the Queen's is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. Now that is indeed a mouthful!
The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to them
The U.K.'s Freedom of Information Act (FOI) allows people to request access to public sector organization records. Anyone in the world regardless of their age or nationality can request information under the act. The organizations that the public are allowed to request information from includes local councils, schools, government departments, the police, and publicly owned companies.
The act is intended to implement some transparency into the workings of the government to build trust between them and the people. Seen as the royal family is part of the government, you'd certainly think they would also fall under the Freedom of Information Act, but they do not.
Politicians and civil servants must produce information about what they do in an official role if an FOI request is filed, but the monarchy is not committed to. Their exemption means keeping their private issues from the public behind closed walls, so anyone wanting to know what the royal family does with public funds are out of luck. It also prevents people from understanding just how much the royal family influences government policy.
Custody goes to the monarchy
When you have a baby, naturally, your child is your sole responsibility until they are 18 years of age, or varying depending on the country. However, if you're a royal, the law works a bit differently. No matter how amazing you are at raising your kids, they can be taken away from you at any time by the Queen as the reigning monarch automatically has custody of minor grandchildren.
"This goes back to King George I [who ruled in the early 1700s], and the law's never been changed," royal expert Marlene Koenig told News.com.au. "He did it because he had a very poor relationship with his son, the future King George II, so they had this law passed that meant the King was the guardian of his grandchildren."
While it doesn't seem likely that Queen Elizabeth II would actually take a child away from their parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana did confer with her before taking Prince William and Prince Harry on trips. "Technically, they needed permission for travel," said Koenig. "The Queen has the last word on parenting decisions like that."
The Queen is exempt from civil and criminal proceedings
Theoretically speaking, the Queen could get away with murder. While the royal family is not truly above the law, the official royal website states that "civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under U.K. law."
This means that while the law does apply to Queen Elizabeth II, she could break one of the laws and there wouldn't be much that anyone could do about it. This is a bonus that could definitely be dangerous in the wrong hands.
Fortunately, the Queen recognizes that with great power comes great responsibility. The royal website assures us that "The Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law."
No taxing the Royal Crown
Another perk of being royal is that you don't have to pay taxes, right? Well, not really. The Crown is legally exempt from paying income tax, and multiple members of the royal family have portions of their income exempt from taxes if the money they earn is related to their royal duties.
For example, The Prince of Wales is not restricted to pay taxes on his income from the Duchy of Cornwall which produces millions of pounds of revenue each year. The duchy was actually created in the 14th century to provide the heir to the throne with an income, which is why it is tax exempt.
Prince Charles does, however, willingly pay income tax on the duchy. The Queen, who receives her income primarily from the government and from private estates, has also voluntarily paid taxes since 1992. Salary not related to the Crown, such as investment profits Prince William and Harry earn from their late mother's estate, are fully taxable.
It is unconstitutional for the Queen to vote
Most citizens who are 18 or older and are registered to vote can do so in U.K. elections. For royals, however, voting is a bit complicated. The Queen stays out of political matters entirely and doesn't mention elections, let alone vote in them. "Although not prohibited by law, it is considered unconstitutional for the Monarch to vote in an election," says the U.K. parliament website.
The Queen isn't the only royal who refrains from voting. A Buckingham Palace spokesperson told Newsweek that "senior members" of the royal family also don't vote, although this is "by convention" rather than by law. They, like the Queen, prefer to remain politically neutral. While there's no specific number on how many royals don't vote, the spokesperson said that the list definitely includes Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton.
Serving jury duty does not apply to them
In England, skipping out on jury duty results in a substantial fine of £1,000. There's no way to avoid jury duty if you're summoned, although you're allowed to delay service one time under certain circumstances. Jurors are not paid for their time, although they can be reimbursed for some food or transportation costs as well as childcare costs and lost earnings.
We can plainly see how serving jury duty can prove as difficult for people, especially if they have to take time off work and arrange for child care. Members of the royal family, however, can merely excuse themselves because they are royal. For some time, this exemption pertained to anyone in the royal household, including servants.
In 2003, however, members of Parliament persuaded the government to abolish the exemptions for members of the royal household and the extended family. So, the only members of the household who can be excused from jury duty today, are the Queen and her immediate family.
Purchasing a TV license is not necessary
If you want to watch live TV in England, or even pre-recorded programs as they're being aired, you'll have to buy a license. The license costs £150.50 per year, per household and is a separate expense from cable fees. Watching TV without a license can result in a fine of up to £1,000, plus any legal costs incurred.
In 2013, journalist Gordon McIntosh wrote to the British Broadcasting Corporation, which issues the licenses, to ask if the royal palaces must also pay for a TV license. If they didn't pay the fee, would they be forced to pay a fine? The BBC refused to reveal details about whether or not the palaces are obligated to have a license.
According to the BBC, the information is personal and consequently does not need to be revealed to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. McIntosh appealed the decision, but a tribunal ruled in favor of the BBC. So, for now, the question whether or not being royal exempts you from needing a TV license will remain unanswered.
What did you think about these rules that the Royals are exempt from? Did you know that they had these freedoms? Let us know what your thoughts are in the comments section below. Remember to share this with your friends and family and keep up-to-date with us for more exciting news on the British Royals.
Source: The List