The Monarchy and the Constitution

The Monarchy and the Constitution

The Monarchy and the Constitution

The Monarchy and the Constitution


In the increasingly questioning world of the 1990s, the role of the monarchy in a democracy is again coming under scrutiny. Its critics argue that the monarchy is a profoundly conservative institution which serves to inhibit social change; that it has outlived its usefulness; that it symbolizes and reinforces deference and hierachy; and that its radical reform is therefore long overdue. Rejecting these arguments Vernon Bogdanor makes a powerful case for the positive role that monarchy plays in modern democratic politics. Ranging across law, politics, and history he argues that far from undermining democracy, the monarchy sustains and strengthens democratic institutions; that constitutional monarchy is a form of government that ensures not conservatism but legitimacy. The first serious examination of the political role of the monarchy to appear in many years, this book will make fascinating reading for all those interested in the monarchy and the future of British politics.


The Monarchy and the Constitution seeks to answer the question: 'How does monarchy function in a modern democracy?' The British Constitution is, as Dicey noticed, a 'historic' constitution, the product not of design but of spontaneous development. Of all our institutions, the monarchy is perhaps the one that lies most deeply rooted in our history. Understanding of constitutional monarchy must begin, therefore, with an account of its development through the centuries.

Constitutional monarchy is a monarchy regulated by rules. These rules are of two types. There are, first, rules regulating the sovereign in his or her personal capacity--rules regulating who shall exercise authority. Secondly, there are rules regulating the sovereign in his or her constitutional capacity, as head of state, in relation both to the executive--the appointment of a prime minister--and to the legislature--the granting or refusal of a dissolution of parliament. These are rules regulating how the royal authority should be exercised. Analysis of these rules shows that the personal prerogatives of the sovereign remain very much alive and could again become of importance in a constitutional crisis. Three such constitutional crises are analysed--the conflict over the House of Lords in 1910, the Home Rule crisis of 1914, and the abdication in 1936.

One of the main reasons why the sovereign has rarely been called upon to exercise his or her powers in Britain in the twentieth century is that the two-party system and an electoral system which generally yields a clear majority for one party have made royal intervention unnecessary. But the two-party system is contingent and not inherent in the constitution. In the case of a hung parliament, the sovereign might well have to adopt a more active role; and hung parliaments could become frequent were Britain to adopt proportional representation, a change that is by no means inconceivable.

In addition to appointing a prime minister and dissolving parliament, the sovereign holds two further roles of constitutional significance, roles which can be understood only in the light of . . .

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