What is the role of the British Queen?
Until the end of the 17th century, British monarchs were executive monarchs – that is, they had the right to make and pass legislation. Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, the monarch has become a constitutional monarch, which means that he or she is bound by rules and conventions and remains politically impartial.
On almost all matters the Queen acts on the advice of ministers. While acting constitutionally, the Sovereign retains an important political role as Head of State, formally appointing prime ministers, approving certain legislation and bestowing honours. The Queen is not only the head of the legal system of Britain but also the commander-in-chief of all armed forces and the head of the Church of England. She participates in the summoning and dissolution of Parliament and her official approval is required before any bill becomes law. The Royal Assent is almost never refused, in accordance with contemporary constitutional conventions – the last occasion it was declined was in 1708 by Queen Anne.
She appoints the Prime Minister, judges, diplomats and bishops in the Church of England. She also has the symbolic power to declare war and make peace and conclude treaties.
The actual powers of the reigning monarch have been falling into disuse, with the government of the day exercising the powers of the Crown on the monarch’s behalf. Now, the monarch is expected to be politically neutral and act only on the advice of political ministers. Even so, the monarch is entitled to advise, warn and encourage ministers (both in Britain and in countries which acknowledge the British monarch as head of state, such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia).
Although the Queen’s constitutional role is rather symbolic, she performs a significant ceremonial role. She appears in the streets on great occasions and welcomes foreign monarchs or Heads of State. She also appears on television and her annual oration on Christmas Day has become an important feature of the season. She is a symbol of British stability and people love her and respect.
The British are famous for their attachment to tradition and The Queen is its integral part. They are interested in her life and treat her as a symbol of virtue.
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Do you know any royal ceremonies?
London is a royal city and has preserved its ceremonies and traditions for hundreds of years. The most traditional ceremonies and most popular attractions are the Trooping of the Colour and the Changing of the Guard. The State Opening of Parliament is an event which cannot take place without the presence of the Queen. Dating back to Medieval London, this ceremony marks the beginning of the new parliamentary year and features peers and bishops in traditional robes and a royal procession involving the State Coach. On the day of the Opening, the Queen travels from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament in the State Coach (a gold carriage). Once the Queen arrives at Parliament the union flag is lowered and replaced by the royal standard. The Queen, wearing her crown and ceremonial robes then processes through the Royal Gallery to take her place on the throne in the House of Lords, from where she sends her messenger to summon the MPs. When he arrives at the House of Commons, the door is slammed in his face, symbolizing the right of the Commons to freedom from interference. He must then knock three times to gain entry and deliver his summons. The Queen sits on a throne in the House of Lords and reads the ‘Queen’s Speech’.
- pass legislation – uchwalać ustawy
- significant – znaczący, ważny, istotny