The Nature of the Crown: A Legal and Political Analysis

By Maurice Sunkin; Sebastian Payne | Go to book overview

13
Constitutional Reform and the Crown

RODNEY BRAZIER


INTRODUCTION

The constitutional notion represented by the term 'the Crown' is a slippery one, and will remain hard to pin down despite the best efforts of the contributors to this book. Plainly, it embraces constitutional monarchy, and any fundamental reform of the British constitution could include the abandonment of that monarchy.1 But I am not going to address that possibility here.2 This is not because constitutional monarchy is immune to the reformer's zeal. The monarchy is not off limits to change just because it is ancient, or because consideration of alternatives might be taken as a personal attack on the Queen. Nor do I take this stance solely because all the main political parties are opposed to republicanism.3 That attitude of the parties, however, does reflect their assessment of general public opinion: obviously, if there were significant support for republicanism there would be votes in it, and political parties like to garner votes. But despite the recent problems of some members of the royal family, the Queen as Head of State continues to command widespread acceptance and respect. In view of that, a detailed analysis of a republican alternative would be little more than an academic exercise, and one which would detract from other aspects of the Crown which require consideration, and in several respects change.

The Queen could be affected indirectly by more general constitutional reform. What is her view of possible change to the constitution, particularly any that would affect her rights? Common sense dictates that the Queen, sitting at the centre of constitutional life, must be keenly interested in ideas which affect the constitution, and especially any which might alter the settlement to which she succeeded in 1952. At least three bricks in that constitutional edifice are being poked at by politicians and others,

____________________
1
For arguments to that end see S. Haseler, Britain's Ancien Regime: The Need for a New Constitutional Settlement ( 1991), and The End of the House of Windsor: Birth of a British Republic ( 1993); T. Nairn, The Enchanted Glass: Britain and its Monarchy ( 1988).
2
I have considered some of the republican arguments in my Constitutional Reform ( 2nd edn., 1998), 126-130.
3
The attitude of the parties to reform of one aspect of the Crown, the royal prerogative, will be indicated below p. 361.

-337-

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