Political System of the UK

What is the constitutional monarchy?

Monarchy is the oldest form of government in the United Kingdom

In a monarchy, a king or queen is Head of State. The British monarchy is known as a constitutional monarchy. This means that, while The Sovereign is Head of State, the ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament.

The Queen's Role

Although the British Sovereign no longer has a political or executive role, she continues to play an important part in the life of the nation.

As Head of State, The Monarch undertakes constitutional and representational duties which have developed over one thousand years of history. In addition to these State duties, The Monarch has a less formal role as 'Head of Nation'. The Sovereign acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognises success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.

The Queen and Parliament

The Queen has an important formal and ceremonial relationship with Parliament.

The phrase 'Crown in Parliament' is used to describe the British legislature, which consists of the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Of these three different elements, the Commons, a majority of whom normally supports the elected Government of the day, has the dominant political power.

The role of the Sovereign in the enactment of legislation is today purely formal, although The Queen has the right ‘to be consulted, to encourage and to warn’ her ministers via regular audiences with the Prime Minister.

The Sovereign’s assent is required to all bills passed by Parliament in order for them to become law.

In the annual State Opening of Parliament ceremony, The Queen opens Parliament in person, and addresses both Houses in The Queen's Speech. Neither House can proceed to public business until The Queen's Speech has been read.

When a Prime Minister wishes to dissolve Parliament and call a general election, he or she is obliged to seek the permission of the Sovereign to do so. For this purpose, the Prime Minister usually travels to Buckingham Palace before announcing a general election.

The Queen's role in Parliament is:

Assenting to Bills passed by Parliament, on the advice of Ministers;

Giving audiences to Ministers, at which Her Majesty may be consulted, encourage and warn;

Opening each new session of Parliament;

Proroguing or dissolving Parliament before a general election.

The Queen and Government

The Queen has a special relationship with the Prime Minister, the senior political figure in the British Government, regardless of their political party.

Although she is a constitutional monarch who remains politically neutral, The Queen retains the ability to give a regular audience to a Prime Minister during his or her term of office, and plays a role in the mechanics of calling a general election.

The Queen gives a weekly audience to the Prime Minister at which she has a right and a duty to express her views on Government matters. If either The Queen or the Prime Minister are not available to meet, then they will speak by telephone.

These meetings, as with all communications between The Queen and her Government, remain strictly confidential. Having expressed her views, The Queen abides by the advice of her ministers.

The Queen also plays a part in the calling of a general election. The Prime Minister of the day may request the Sovereign to grant a dissolution of Parliament at any time.