posted on Nov, 4 2007 @ 04:19 PM
Essentially, Chris, you're right - the Queen is just a figurehead. She can't use these powers without permission from the elected government, or her
position as a constitutional monarch would become untenable and she'd have to advocate (with the possible consequence that the United Kingdom became
a United Republic - doesn't quite have the same ring to it
She does have theoretical powers (as Stu pointed out) but these are only exercised on 'advice' from the Prime Minister (i.e. the Prime Minister
tells her to). Powers include dissolving Parliament (for a General Election to take place), making a speech each year to set out the government's
legislative agenda when Parliament is opened (which is written by the Cabinet - if you're interested, the next one is on Tuesday 6th November),
formally appointing the Prime Minister (though she rarely has any real choice in this), and declaring war (but Britain hasn't formally declared war
on anyone since the Second World War, as far as I can recall).
Every law passed by Parliament has to be signed by the monarch too before it becomes official (the 'Royal Assent') - it was actually Queen Anne who
was the last monarch to refuse to do this in 1708 over a bill related to the militia in Scotland but this was on advice from her Cabinet. She didn't
do it unilaterally.
There are plans to take away a fair number of these powers (e.g. declaring war) and give them to Parliament which are likely to be enacted before the
next election - but even if Labour lose an election before they get round to it, it's likely that the Conservatives will continue the proposed
I don't think having a Royal Family prevents Britain from being a democracy - it's such a wide ranging term that it can encompass all kinds of
different political systems. We still elect our government and have all the rights and liberties associated with the concept of democracy (free
speech, free press, free expression and so forth). When you think about it, a fair number of democratic nations have a figurehead monarch (many of
which share Elizabeth II with Britain!): Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Luxembourg and Norway to
name some examples. I don't think anyone would really contend that these nations are not democracies... in addition, Australia, Canada and New
Zealand all have governments based on the British model too.