King Charles’ Counsellors of State ‘under review’ says host
Kate, Princess of Wales, could carry out a whole new set of duties alongside her husband Prince William if the number of Counsellors of State is increased, one constitutional commentator has said. Dr Craig Prescott, lecturer in Law at the University of Bangor, discussed how ministers and Palace officials may tackle the issue of having three non-working members of the Firm out of five currently filling the posts of Counsellors for King Charles III.
Given at least two Counsellors at a time can be drafted to carry out the monarch’s constitutional duties whenever he is abroad or temporary ill, Dr Prescott speculated Prince William, who is already one of the royals who can fill this post, may be joined by his wife Kate if the law regulating this system is amended.
Appearing on the webinar ‘Planning for the next Coronation, and the new Reign’ organised by UCL’s Constitution Unit, Dr Prescott said it might “be quite nice” if the Prince and Princess of Wales “acted together”.
He said: “The most straightforward solution is simply to add to the pool of Counsellors of State other members of the Royal Family, who may well be further down the line of succession but still conduct public duties.
“Obvious candidates include Princess Anne and Prince Edward, you may even think about the Duke of Gloucester perhaps.
“Because the original idea behind the 1937 Act was to have a pool of Counsellors of State to have the necessary flexibility.
Kate may become Counsellor of State if the Regency Act 1937 is changed, an expert suggested
Prince William was created Prince of Wales in September
“Adding a few others would allow Prince William to travel overseas at the same time as the King, perhaps on shorter visits to further some of his own interests, or the Earthshot Prize, or whatever that may be. It simply would make managing their diaries easier.
“And specifically adding members of the Royal Family would, in a sense, follow the precedent from 1953, when the Regency Act of that year made the Queen Mother Counsellor of State for the rest of her life, because when George VI died lost the status as she was no longer the wife of the monarch.
“And so, you may even think about adding others, such as perhaps the Princess of Wales.
“One feature of the Regency Act is that, in practice, two are required to act and so for some matters it might be quite nice if the Prince and Princess of Wales acted together, for example accepting letters of credence from ambassadors. So there can be more flexibility.”
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King Charles III delivering the Queen’s Speech in May
Prince Harry is one of the Counsellors of State
Before the death of Queen Elizabeth II, royal commentators were already arguing in favour of removing Andrew, who stepped back from public duties in November 2019 after his disastrous interview with Newsnight, and Harry, who relocated to California with his family after relinquishing his senior role within the Firm in the spring of 2020, from the post, given their non-working status.
The accession to the throne of Charles added Camilla, the Queen Consort, and Princess Beatrice, another non-working member of the Firm, to the existing Counsellors.
Dr Prescott argued that, if the Regency Act 1937 which regulates the Counsellors of State role was to be changed in the way he described, there would be “no need to specifically remove Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princess Beatrice”.
He added: “It would simply be the case that there would always be others to act instead.”
The expert also said he believes the law should be amended to add more Counsellors before King Charles embarks in an extended tour abroad, as that will likely spark the need to deploy people in this role.
Prince Andrew is no longer a full-time working royal
By law, Counsellors of State include the sovereign’s spouse and the next four people in the line of succession aged over 21 – no matter their status within the Firm.
Among the duties they can carry out are attending Privy Council meetings, signing routine documents and receiving the credentials of new ambassadors to the UK.
Most recently, the late monarch issued Letters Patent to nominate the now King Charles and Prince William as her Counsellors in May, so they could attend the State Opening of Parliament in lieu of her absence and deliver the Queen’s Speech.
While it had been previously reported the Palace didn’t consider the matter of the Counsellors of State urgent, changing the law appears to have gained momentum over the past few weeks.
The Daily Mail reported sources on Wednesday claiming ministers and Palace officials are working on plans giving the new King the power to draw, when needed, from a wider pool of potential Counsellors in order to be able to always choose working royals for the post.
Elizabeth II, a source claimed, “could see the need for some reforms, while not wishing to exclude the Dukes of Sussex or York”.