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How Powerful Is Queen Elizabeth?

September 23, 2019


– You might think that Queen
Elizabeth II has fake power, but that woman owns
every swan in the Thames, so eat your words. (regal music) Now, the Queen does have a
certain number of quirky powers, like the fact that she
owns all of the dolphins in British waters, technically, and also, she can drive
without a driver’s license. The days of royal decree are gone, but that doesn’t mean that her influence is solely limited to showing up to events and waving in monochromatic outfits. First of all, she has an
important symbolic role as the Head of State of the United Kingdom’s
constitutional monarchy. She also has a certain
amount of technical powers that she chooses not to
exercise for very good reasons. This is something known
as the Royal Prerogative. So, let’s talk about one of those powers, which is something
called the royal assent. Now, bills are created, at this point, but the House of Commons
and the House of Lords. That’s who actually does the governing of the United Kingdom. But technically, a bill only becomes law with something called royal
assent from the Queen. That means that, effectively,
she technically could veto these bills by
withholding her royal assent. Now, the last monarch to actually do that was Queen Anne in 1708. Queen Elizabeth II’s role
in Parliament at this point is largely opening it every year, and wearing the big, fancy
state crown and the ermine robes and doing the whole ceremony, and if she actually were
to withhold royal assent on one of these bills, it would likely immediately
trigger a constitutional crisis. Parliament would be obliged to step in, and it would not be very good for the monarchy’s continued existence. The Queen is also the commander-in-chief. She technically commands all the soldiers within the British Armed Forces. She could also, if she really
wanted to, command the troops to do something like
call in an air strike. However, if she did call in an air strike, the government would presumably stop that. She generally delegates
these responsibilities to the Prime Minister or the
Secretary of State for Defense, but she alone has the power to declare war in the United Kingdom. The last monarch to actually declare war in the United Kingdom was
her father, King George VI. So, maybe you’re sensing a theme here. There’s a number of things
she can technically do, but she actually can’t, because again, total constitutional crisis. So, then there’s sort
of a general grab-bag of other powers she has over citizens. She can create knights and dames. She can pardon criminals. She can appoint ministers to the crown, although the Prime
Minister can do that, too. She cannot be prosecuted, and she’s also the head
of the Church of England. The Queen does have real power, but she’s not really trying to use it to do something like get away with murder. She’s 93, she doesn’t really
like to get overtly political, she mostly wants to
stomp around Belle Moral in her galoshes at this point. But the Queen is able
to have a bagpiper play in the wee hours of every
single morning to wake her up, and no one has overthrown
her yet for doing that, and that, my friends, is real power. (regal music)

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