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In the United Kingdom, Counsellors of State are senior members of the British Royal Family to whom the monarch, currently Elizabeth II, delegates certain state functions and powers when not in the United Kingdom or unavailable for other reasons (such as short-term incapacity or sickness). Any two Counsellors of State may preside over Privy Council meetings, sign state documents, or receive the credentials of new ambassadors to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

While the establishment of a regency carries with it the suspension of the monarch from the personal discharge of the royal functions, when Counsellors of State are appointed, both the sovereign and the counsellors can—the Counsellors within the limits of their delegation of authority—discharge the royal functions. Thus, the monarch can give instructions to the Counsellors of State or even personally discharge a certain royal prerogative when the counsellors are in place. The Counsellors of State and regents always act in the name and on behalf of the sovereign.

The Counsellors of State do not assume the discharge of the royal functions automatically when the sovereign is unavailable. Instead, when an instance of travel abroad or temporary unavailability occurs, the monarch must sign specific letters patent delegating the royal functions (or some of the royal functions) to the Counsellors of State and fixing the duration of the delegation. The monarch may at any time amend or revoke the said letters patent.

Contents

HistoryEdit

The first Counsellors of State were created in 1911 by an Order in Council of George V, and this process was repeated on each occasion of the King's absence or incapacity. The Regency Act 1937 established in law those individuals that could serve as Counsellors of State. The Counsellors of State are the consort of the monarch and the first four people in the line of succession who meet the qualifications. These qualifications are the same as those for a regent: they must be at least 21 years old (except the heir-apparent or presumptive, who need only be 18 years old), they must be domiciled in Britain, and they must be a British subject. One exception was made for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (see below).

Since the passage of the Regency Act 1937, the only persons to have been Counsellors of State while not a queen consort, prince, or princess were George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood; Alastair Windsor, 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (although Windsor had been a prince between 1914 and 1917 and never served in practice during his short tenure); and Maud Carnegie, Countess of Southesk (who was entitled to, but did not use the style of princess). Prior to that, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council, the Prime Minister, and the Archbishop of Canterbury had been appointed to the position by George V.

List of current Counsellors of StateEdit

As of May 2019, the Counsellors of State are:[1]

Image Name Period Relation Change
  Charles, Prince of Wales
(b. 1948)
14 November 1966 – present Son
(Heir-apparent)
Replaced Prince Richard of Gloucester upon reaching the age of majority (18)
  Prince William
(Duke of Cambridge since 2011)
(b. 1982)
21 June 2003 – present Grandson
(Direct heir)
Replaced Anne, Princess Royal upon reaching the age of majority (21)
  Prince Harry
(Duke of Sussex since 2018)
(b. 1984)
15 September 2005 – present Grandson Replaced Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex upon reaching the age of majority (21)
  Prince Andrew
(Duke of York since 1986)
(b. 1960)
19 February 1981 – present Son Replaced Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester upon reaching the age of majority (21)

Past Counsellors of StateEdit

The following is a list of all the people eligible to have served as a Counsellor of State, since the passage of the Regency Act 1937, in chronological order. Note that this list contains the dates not of when they served, but when they were eligible to serve.

George VIEdit

Image Name Period Relation Change
  Queen Elizabeth
(1900–2002)
1937 – 6 February 1952 Consort Passage of the Regency Act 1937
  Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
(1900–1974)
1937 – 6 February 1952 Brother
  Prince George, Duke of Kent
(1902–1942)
1937 – 25 August 1942 Brother
  Mary, Princess Royal
(1897–1965)
1937 – 6 February 1952 Sister
  Princess Arthur of Connaught, Duchess of Fife
(1891–1959)
1937 – 21 April 1944 Cousin
Alistair Windsor, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
(1914–1943)
Never served
25 August 1942 – 26 April 1943 First cousin
once removed
Replaced Prince George, Duke of Kent upon his death
  Maud Carnegie, Countess of Southesk
(1893–1945)
26 April 1943 – 7 February 1944 Cousin Replaced Alastair Windsor, Duke of Connaught upon his death
George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood
(Viscount Lascelles 'til 1947)
(1923–2011)
7 February 1944 – 21 August 1951 Nephew Replaced Maud Carnegie, Countess of Southesk upon reaching the age of majority (21)
  Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh
(b. 1926)
21 April 1944 – 6 February 1952 Daughter Replaced Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife upon reaching the age of majority (18)
  Princess Margaret
(1930–2002)
21 August 1951 – 6 February 1952 Daughter Replaced George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood upon reaching the age of majority (21)

Elizabeth IIEdit

Image Name Period Relation Change
  Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
(b. 1921)
6 February 1952 – 2 August 2017[citation needed] Consort Accession to the throne of Elizabeth II
  Princess Margaret
(Countess of Snowdon from 1961)
(1930–2002)
6 February 1952 – 10 March 1985 Sister
  Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
(1900–1974)
6 February 1952 – 10 June 1974 Uncle
  Mary, Princess Royal
(1897–1965)
6 February 1952 – 25 December 1957 Aunt
George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood
(1923–2011)
6 February 1952 – 9 October 1956 Cousin
  Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
(1900–2002)
19 November 1953 – 30 March 2002[2] Mother Passage of the Regency Act 1953
  Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
(b. 1935)
9 October 1956 – 26 August 1965 Cousin Replaced George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood upon reaching the age of majority (21)
  Princess Alexandra of Kent
(b. 1936)
25 December 1957 – 18 December 1962 Cousin Replaced Mary, Princess Royal upon reaching the age of majority (21)
  Prince William of Gloucester
(1941–1972)
18 December 1962 – 15 August 1971 Cousin Replaced Princess Alexandra of Kent upon reaching the age of majority (21)
  Prince Richard of Gloucester
(b. 1944)
26 August 1965 – 14 November 1966 Cousin Replaced Prince Edward, Duke of Kent upon reaching the age of majority (21)
  Princess Anne
(Princess Royal since 1987)
(b. 1950)
15 August 1971 – 21 June 2003 Daughter Replaced Prince William of Gloucester upon reaching the age of majority (21)
  Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester
(b. 1944)
10 June 1974 – 19 February 1981 Cousin Replaced Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester upon his death
  Prince Edward
(Earl of Wessex since 1999)
(b. 1964)
10 March 1985 – 15 September 2005 Son Replaced Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon upon reaching the age of majority (21)

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Counsellors of State". Royal.uk. Retrieved 31 January 2019. These are currently The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry and The Duke of York.
  2. ^ Queen Elizabeth lost her position as Counsellor of State when she was widowed. However, the Regency Act 1953 made a special exception, including her as a Counsellor of State.